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Pietenpol Air Camper – N12937

The Pietenpol Air Camper is a two place, tandem seat, open cockpit plans-built monoplane. A Ford Model A 4 cylinder engine converted for flight powers the aircraft. This is a wood aircraft constructed from spruce and plywood. All fittings are fabricated from steel flat stock. The motor mount, landing gear and wing struts require welding. The Air Camper was intentionally designed to be simply constructed with a minimum of tools. The wings are covered with fabric and varnished. Bernard Pietenpol designed the plane so that the average person in the 1930’s could build and fly it from almost any off-airport field. Even after seven decades, there are still loyal followers of the Pietenpol designs, building and flying low and slow open cockpit aircraft and having a great time doing it.

The Pietenpol Air Camper, N12937, is a tribute to the Golden Age of General Aviation starting in the 1920’s and continuing into the present. The plane and the man, Bernard H. Pietenpol (1901-1984) are flip sides of the same coin. Pietenpol had a dream to design a home-built airplane that would use commonly available materials and be powered by an auto engine, one that could be built for a few hundred dollars. Old number 12937, “The Granddaddy Pietenpol Air Camper”, was built in 1933 by Mr. Pietenpol and is considered the oldest existing Pietenpol-built aircraft in existence. In 1990, members of the Buckeye Pietenpol Assn. saved Air Camper N12937 from extinction by forming a corporation to preserve and display this important airplane.

The Air Camper has some interesting design features. Because of the downward thrust of the propeller, (the engine is angled downward 5 degrees) the plane has a short/slow take off run and landings are light on wheels. The beauty of the Air Camper design is that except for engine changes, more than 60 different engines have been adapted for use on the airplane, the basic plans behind the firewall do not need to change. This aircraft was the first to use the split axle landing gear and was the basis for the 1933 Improved Air Camper plan drawings by Orin Hoopman. Prior to that time, there were no formal drawings for the Air Camper except those published in 1932 FLYING AND GLIDER MANUAL.

The Air Camper came into its own as a home-built-from-scratch airplane in 1932 when Pietenpol proved to MODERN MECHANICS magazine that an auto engine could power a two-place airplane. MODERN MECHANICS then made the Pietenpol Air Camper a cover story and the rest is aviation history.

In 1994, Bernard H. Pietenpol was inducted into the EAA Homebuilder’s Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in designing a homebuilt aircraft and fostering the “scratch-built” airplane industry. In fact, Mr. Pietenpol is considered by many to be the “Father of Homebuilt Aircraft”.

This aircraft was researched by EAA volunteer, Jerry Kenney

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