On a chilly Friday in October, I met a man with ambitions unlike anyone I have ever met before. Building an aircraft completely by hand from the ground up might not seem so astonishing at first; so marinate on that for just a minute. For 10 years, Jeffrey Faith has owned and traveled by way of a 1947 Cessna 120. This aircraft is fast enough for long distance travel says Mr. Faith, and with clear certainty he states that it is absolutely a blast to fly, nonetheless it bores him. So, in an eager search to rekindle his passion for flight, Jeffrey pursues a mission to once again find the adrenalin in which he seeks.
In 1928 Bernard H. Pietenpol designed a homebuilt version of the parasol fixed wing aircraft. The very first prototype became known as the Air Camper and it has proceeded to become an absolute sensation; one of the very first successful homebuilt airplanes ever created. By 1932 Bernard’s success was published in Flying and Gliding magazine, incorporating a step by step manual and reprints provided by the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) on how to build your own Pietenpol aircraft at home. In the 1920’s, although production throughout the United States was moving quite rapidly, we did not yet have means to make an aircraft from ideal or modern materials that might be seen in production today. The Air Camper was designed with an all wood airframe and it was typically composed of Sitka Spruce with either Birch or Mahogany plywood; this was developed to be considered a “value” aircraft (if you will). One of Bernard H. Pietenpol’s original goals with this airplane was to create a masterpiece that was not only affordable but also easy to construct and original. The Pietenpol Air Camper is not available in a kit; therefore each piece of plywood must be made by hand. As one might imagine, this is certainly no walk in the park. In order to produce an aircraft such as this, basic woodworking skills, hand tools and patience are nothing less than necessary.
Originally the Pietenpol Air Camper was designed to be powered by a Ford Model-A automobile engine; however, since 1929 several hundred have been built, and various engines have been procured and used. Due to the design of the aircraft, the Pietenpol Air Camper is typically considered to be “low and slow” with an average cruise speed of 65 mph.
In 2010 private pilot Jeffery Faith keeps himself busy and keeps his passion alive by building and producing handmade transportation. This includes a refurbished and modernized 1930’s model truck that he has since sold. This also includes an open-cockpit biplane known as a Ragwing Special. In fact, it was in this very biplane that Mr. Faith first soloed and acquired his license to pilot. He has since sold this masterpiece as well and is in hot pursuit for his next big project. As the pieces of Jeffrey’s puzzle were beginning to fall together he found a copy of the 1932 Flying and Glider Manual Magazine providing the EAA reprints for the Pietenpol Air Camper. Coincidentally, his neighbor had a spare Ford model-A engine; all Jeffrey could do at this point was to give the Pietenpol Air Camper a go. He missed his open-cockpit biplane, so let the games begin!