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Pietenpol Air Camper-Building the aircraft

"Bernard Pietenpol never lost sight of the cost of flying and showed his true genius in keeping it down - within reach of the common man”


The longerons are made of 1-inch by 1-inch Sitka spruce. All struts and braces are milled from 1 inch by 3/4-inch Sitka spruce. All wooden pieces are glued together and held in place with rectangular wood gussets cut from 1/8 inch aircraft grade plywood glued down with aircraft glue, and held in place by small aircraft brads while the glue is setting. The forward half of the fuselage is covered on both sides with -inch aircraft plywood. The plywood only extends from the firewall to back of the rear seat. Once the sides are assembled, they are up righted on a workbench and joined together with struts and braces cut to provide tapering from the rear seat to the tail where the two sides will join. Quarter-inch aircraft plywood is used for the floor of the cockpit, and firewall.


A turtle deck is created aft of the rear cockpit seat to facilitate crowning atop rear fuselage. This is accomplished by seven 1-inch x -inch Sitka spruce stringers set on edge to create what Mr. Pietenpol called a "streamlined appearance".


The wing is a one-piece wing without any dihedral. The wing spans 28 feet 2 inches, giving it 140 square feet. Also plans are available for a three-piece wing of the same length. Building a three-piece wing is recommended when building space is of value. The three-piece wing requires the additional building of a few extra wooden pieces, and metal fittings. The wing is built up with 28 ribs. The ribs are easily built in a homemade jig (no steaming required). Each rib is built out of -inch by -inch cap strip. This size cap strip is also used as rib struts, which hold the top rib cap strip to the bottom cap strip. All ribs are held together by 1/16-inch aircraft plywood gussets 1-inch by -inch. The ribs are hung on two 28-foot long Sitka spruce spars of identical size (4 -inch. x 1-inch x 28 foot). Each spar can be made of two 15-foot spars spliced together (very common). If you are building a three-piece wing, each spar is then made up of three smaller length spars, with no splicing required. Leading and trailing edges are made of Sitka spruce and are added.


The tail group (rudder, vertical and horizontal stabilizers) is built just like the fuselage and wings with Sitka spruce spars, wide cap strips, and plywood, gussets.


The choice is yours! When Mr. Pietenpol built his airships in the 1920’s and 30’s, Ceconite wasn’t invented. Grade A aero cotton was used. Today Ceconite works well. Newer technologies exist that also work very well (Stits process). The wing, fuselage, and tail feathers are covered. Interior of fuselage is finished with three coats of spar aero/marine varnish, sanding between coats.


Over time, Mr. Pietenpol built Air Camper’s with the Ford Model A engine, and a variety of lightweight aircraft engines; with appearances from Continental (A-65), Lycoming, Franklin, and yes, even the flat six boxer type Corvair auto engine (110hp).


The rudder is controlled by simple U-foot pedals attached to the cross members. The control cables are simply fastened to the control stick. All wing and tail feather fittings, and the landing gear are built of 4130 aircraft steel.


Of course there have been changes over the past 65+ years, but mainly to the powerplant. When Mr. Pietenpol used lightweight aircraft engines, or the Corvair engine, he added 6 inches of length to the fuselage. These, and all changes are reflected in the Air Camper plans. Plan on spending 600+ hours of wonderful fun and rewarding time building your Pietenpol Air Camper or Sky Scout!

This description taken from Pietenpol Family Site

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