Pietenpol's DIY airplane: "a common man's airplane"

Bernard Pietenpol wanted to build "a plane that was affordable and easy to construct for home builders." He designed and built the AirCamper which flew using an automobile engine... in 1928! The same plane can now be built for less than $2000 and there's a small cottage industry devoted to selling plans. Delicious Filmworks has just created a new short documentary about his vision.
800px-Pietenpol.air.camper.g-buco.arp.jpg"During the Great Depression, Bernard H. Pietenpol, with no more than an eighth-grade education, designed a "common-man's airplane" built with scavenged and hardware-store parts. Today his son and grandson carry on his legacy, and his airplane's simple design enjoys a popular following among people of all ages who share his dream of flight .
[via 10engines]


  1. My stepfather built one of these in the 1970s. It was either that or get his degree in mechanical engineering. He regretted not getting the degree, but I think he got way more joy out of the airplane than anyone could get from a degree. His log books list hundreds of passengers.

    He died a couple years back, and his plane was bought by a guy who will give you a ride in it. It’s in Willcox, AZ.

    Here’s the plane:

  2. kind of like a fischer classic kit-biplane, i suppose, but cheaper. similar aesthetic, anyway…in fact, i like it a little more.

    personally, i’d like the plans to build my own transavia pl-12 airtruk, the nerdiest of all small aircraft.

  3. Each fall in southern Wisconsin, the Pietenpol folks have a fly-in, and it’s quite a sight to see a field full of them. The Piet is “basic flying” at its best.

  4. Then there’s the $7000 or more of radio and navigation gear. On weekends there’s little diff between a metro general aviation field and a bee hive.

  5. Larry Linville (Frank Burns in MASH) designed, built and flew his own plane.

    But he did study aeronautical engineering.

  6. Perusing Aircraft Spruce’s avionics page ( http://www.aircraftspruce.com/menus/av/index.html ) I find:

    Cheapest ELT about $800
    Cheapest COM about $1050 (though a lot of cheaper Ham Radio handhelds can be programmed to work on aviation frequencies and are used by many pilots)
    Cheapest Transponder is around $1750

    You could probably work it all in for $3k. Used equipment? Probably half that.

  7. For the most part, if you’re willing to stay in Class G airspace, you don’t need any radios at all (the major exception is when you’re within 30 nautical miles of the center of a Class B–generally major commercial airports like O’Hare and LAX–in which case you only need the transponder). Add a COM and you’re good to go for anything below 18,000ft.

    In aviation, everything gets about 5x more expensive when you put it in the panel: iCom and Sporty’s both sell handheld NAV/COMs for around $300. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to had a Garmin 196, or similar.

  8. Oops, I meant “Add a COM to the transponder…” You certainly can’t go everywhere below 18k with just the COM.

  9. The Pl-12 is a wonderfuly ugly/cute antipodean sesquiplane, but not, I think, particularly suited to homebuilding.

  10. –And of course, my local airport is CGS (College Park, MD) so skimping on radios is NOT an option ’round here.

  11. Does anyone know of decent plans for free on the net? Since my teens I have dreamed of the used air-cooled VW motor, pine and plywood DIY airplane.

  12. rebdav: If paying ~$100 or so for plans is an impediment, you really shouldn’t be thinking about building a plane.

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