Chapter 1279

French Valley Airport (F70) - Murrieta, CA

Chapter Pietenpol Build

Our Chapter Pietenpol Aircamper Build





In 2005 the members of Chapter 1279 committed to build a Pietenpol Air Camper for our Saturday Builders Workshop. After seven and a half years of building the plane received it's Airworthiness Certificate in Oct. 2012. The Pietenpol is a wood and fabric covered two-place tandem high-wing tail-dragger styled originally designed in the late 1920s.


Build and Flight log follows

(reverse chronological order)



Update - August 31, 2014

The chapter pietenpol arrived back at French Valley Airport on Saturday, August 23rd.  All damage was evaluated and plan was put in place for repairs.  A new Vertical Stabilizer will need to be fabricated, covered, painted and remounted.  Both wings have miner damage to fabric/finish only and will be repaired.  A new prop is on order from Culver Props.  It was decided to replace the Stromberg carburetor with a overhauled MA-3SPA carb which has been purchased and is now being fitted.  A mixture control will need to be added to the control panel.  The electric fuel pump has been removed and modifications were made to the fuel lines.  A new front seat is being fabricated and will be installed soon.  It is expected that all repairs/modifications will be finished before the end of October.

Update - August 20, 2014

The Pietenpol was disassembled for shipment back to California on Tuesday August 19th and has been loaded for transport.  Peter Griffiths was on site and has reported that they left Guymon, OK early on the morning of August 20th for the long drive back to French Valley.  Peter stated that they expect to have the Pietenpol back in its home hangar by Saturday morning (August 23rd).

Update - July 28, 2014

Steve and Peter left French Valley for the scheduled flight out to Oshkosh on Sunday, July 20th and had a good first few days.  However, on Tuesday afternoon Peter experienced engine problems enroute from New Mexico to Guymon, OK.  While attempting the landing at Guymon, with a very rough running engine, and a sudden power surge just before touchdown the Pietenpol ended up on its top.  Peter maintained good control in keeping the Pietenpol straight down the runway centerline, but was unable to keep it from nosing over and flipping forward.  Only minor (mostly cosmetic) damage was caused, but the rudder top and the prop were damaged beyond field repair.  So, the flight to Oshkosh was cancelled, the Pietenpol was stored in a hangar at Guymond, and Steve and Peter continued on to Oshkosh by car.  They plan to rent a truck and bring the Pietenpol back to French Valley for repairs on their way home from Oshkosh.

We are all sorry the Pietnepol did not get to Oshkosh this year as planned, but are delighted that no injuries were experienced.  EAA Chapter 1279 members can look forward to a good presentation, along with a lot of good video, about the Pietenpol mishap as well a some personal reporting of the Oshkosh experience at the next Chapter meeting on August 30th.

Update - January 5, 2013

I am happy to report to all of you who have been following progress on the Pietenpol Air Camper project being built at the French Valley Airport by members of EAA Chapter 1279 that the airplane has made its maiden flight. On Saturday, January 5, 2013, long-time Pietenpol owner and pilot Scott Liefield made the trip from his home in Lancaster, California to the French Valley Airport near Temecula, California to do the honors (see photos below).

Construction on the airplane was completed in October. DAR John Shablow performed the final inspection on Saturday, October 29, 2012. As part of his inspection, John performed a formal weight and balance calculation before issuing the Certificate of Airworthiness. With all of the paperwork completed and the C of A in hand, the first flight was scheduled for Sunday, November 11. Unfortunately, an engine problem developed which delayed the first flight for a couple of months while we made the appropriate repairs.

By the first of the year everyone was satisfied that the airplane was ready to go. Scott and his father arrived early Saturday morning. We all did a thorough inspection of the airframe, making careful notes of anything that needed attention. With the engine cowling in place, we tied the tail down and started the engine. We warmed up the engine before running it up to full throttle for a full two minutes. It ran smoothly and all of the gauges were within normal operational limits. After a brief cockpit check, Scott climbed in, taxied the airplane onto the active runway, and took off. Staying within a mile or so of the field, Scott climbed to three thousand feet and checked the flying characteristics of the airplane. He later reported having to hold in some left rudder during the entire flight. This he thought could be eliminated by offsetting the leading edge of the vertical fin by a half inch. The airplane topped out at 88 miles per hour at full throttle in level flight with the engine turning 3,000 RPM. Scott said that stalls in the airplane were straight ahead with no tendency to fall off on a wing. It recovered normally with simple release of the back pressure.

After 30 minutes in the air, Scott returned and made, by his own account, one of his best landings in a long time. A perfect ending to a momentous event.

For those of us involved in the building process, it was a moment that brought smiles, hand shakes, and high fives all around. To those of you who have been following our progress through these regular updates or through our chapter website, we thank you for your interest and your encouragement.

Now we begin a new chapter in the history of Pietenpol Air Camper N1279Z. The airplane will continue to be based at French Valley and will forever be associated with EAA Chapter 1279. It is our hope that wherever we go with the airplane, it will provide inspiration to others pursuing their own dreams of building and flying their own airplane.

Blue skies!
Steve Williamson, Pres.










Update - November 5, 2012

Dear Friends and Members,

After seven and one-half years of effort by members of EAA Chapter 1279, our Pietenpol Air Camper is finally finished.  Our Airworthiness inspection was performed by DAR John Shablow on Saturday, October 27, 2012.  As part of his final inspection, John conducted a final Weight & Balance for the record.  Empty weight came out at 765 lbs. with no pilot and no fuel.  With 7 gallons of fuel in the fuselage tank (located just behind the firewall) and a 170 pound pilot (solo), the CG falls at 19.4 inches aft of the leading edge of the wing.  This is near the aft CG limit, but well forward of the center of lift in level flight.  Since the CG fell within the limits, John went ahead with the final inspection and paper work necessary to issue the Airworthiness Certificate for the airplane.  (See photos below)

Ownership of the airplane will be shared by Chapter 1279 president Steve Williamson and Chapter treasurer Peter Griffiths.  Thus, the airplane will remain at French Valley and continue to reflect its association with the French Valley chapter.

First flight is scheduled for Saturday, November 10, 2012 with long-time Pietenpol owner and pilot Scott Liefield doing the honors.  It was agreed by all that Scott's experience and expertise in Pietenpols would be invaluable in terms of evaluating and sharing his impressions of the handling characteristics of our airplane.

I would like to extend congratulations to all of the members who participated in the construction of this airplane over the past seven years.  And there have been many.  I also want to extend congratulations, and express my appreciation to chapter vice-president and Technical Counselor Art Froehlich, who was responsible for having introduced the concept of a Saturday morning Builders' Workshop which ultimately produced the Pietenpol Air Camper pictured below.

As I look back on this experience, I offer this final thought.  I genuinely and sincerely hope that this chapter's achievement will inspire other EAA chapter's all over the country to follow suit - for the benefit of their own members, for EAA as an organization, and for the aviation community at large.  Through our chapter's Saturday morning Builders' Workshop, dozens of EAA Chapter 1279 members went from "dreamers" to do'ers.  They gained the confidence, the skills, and the know-how to begin and/or proceed with their own building projects, and, as a by-product, added to the fleet the latest example of Bernard Pietenpol's venerable Pietenpol Air Camper.  Workshop participants can be proud of the fact they saw the project through to completion.  They made it to the "finish line."  The exciting thing is that the same line represents the "starting line" for a whole new adventure.  Blue skies and happy landings!!!

See the complete history of the construction of this project by visiting our chapter's website and clicking on the "Pietenpol" tab at the top of the page.

Steve Williamson

Update - October 29, 2012

Today, October 29, 2012 at 4:21 PM the Chapter Pietenpol project was officially signed off and legal to fly.  The flight test area is designated to be near Lake Riverside Estates.  Over the next several months initial taxi and test flights will be made and more reports will be written and posted to this web page.

Update - October 13, 2012

The Pietenpol project is expected to be completed on Saturday October 20, 2012, so come on out and enjoy helping with the final preparations.  If all goes well Saturday the Weight & Balance will be done on Monday October 22nd with the final FAA DAR inspection soon after.  Pietenpol ownership has been settled and final information should be available soon - probably by the October chapter meeting scheduled for October 28th.

Update - May 26, 2012

For all of you who have been following our progress on the Pietenpol Air Camper that has been under construction by our Saturday morning workshop crew for the past 7 years, you will be very happy to learn that we consider ourselves to be in the "home stretch," nearing the finish line.

Nearly all of 2011 was spent covering and rib lacing the wing, tail surfaces, and fuselage.  As you may remember from my last update, the final two weeks of last year were spent painting the whole project.  So we began this year by reassembling the airplane for the final time.  Our local DAR, John Shablow, advised us that we should get the paperwork started with FAA, as it could take up to 90 days to get it registered.  For the first step, we wanted to secure an N number for the airplane that would reflect the connection to our EAA chapter.  Unfortunately, N1279 was already taken.  In order to incorporate the "1279" chapter number, we would have to add a suffix.  So we chose "Z," just 'cause "79 Zulu" kind of rolls off the tongue when spoken over the radio.

This morning (Saturday, May 26, 2012) we preformed a preliminary "weight and balance" of the airplane (see photos below).  Empty weight of the airplane (with minimal work left to do on the engine and airframe) was measured at 727 lbs. (no fuel and no pilot).  It takes considerable focus on weight reduction to get the empty weight of a Pietenpol under 650 lbs.  And there are Piets with no electrical and no brakes that top 700 lbs empty weight.  With a full electrical system including starter motor, radio, and intercom, hydrolic brakes, and a stearable tailwheel, we were expecting to be around 800 lbs.  So we were delighted with an empty weight under 730 lbs.

With a 170 lb. pilot our calculations put the CG at 18.5 inches aft of the leading edge of the wing.  This falls within the CG design limits of 15" to 20" aft of the leading edge.  Nonetheless, simply moving the wing aft 1" would put the CG right in the middle of the CG range.  It is something worth considering.  I should stress, however, that these were only preliminary calculations using simple bathroom scales.  There are a few things left to do on the airplane.  So we will give it careful consideration before making any modifications to our current configuration.  Of course, the final weight and balance will be performed using aircraft scales when the airplane is "flight ready."

As you can see in the photos below we have added our chapter logo to the side of the fuselage as well as the N number on the tail.  We are not too far from taxi testing and first flight, so stay tuned.

Steve Williamson


Empty weight of N1279Z is 765 lbs.


DAR John Shablow performs CG calculations


Pietnepol Air Camper N1279Z


Dave McPhee and Dave Winsett measure the pilot location


Dave McPhee performs CG calculations with Art supervising


Final Configuration


"NX1279Z" ready for taxi


"Air Camper" valve covers were a gift from William Wynne


Update - April 2012

As of today, April 19, 2012, the radio installation is complete.  The radio is a XCOM 760 that has built in Intercom, PC programming interface, 100 Memory channels, NOAH weather channels, and VOR receive channels (no VOR Navigation).  Pilot and Co-Pilot headset jack have been installed and tested. The wiring is about 95% complete as is everything firewall forward.  Cowling and top cover plates have been primed and are ready to paint.  An attempt to bleed the brakes was made yesterday, but failed due to an inability to remove all air from the system  New bleeder valves have been made that should solve the problem.  Another attempt to bleed the brake system will be made this coming Saturday.  The wheels have been aligned and new bungee cord installed on each axle.  A preliminary Weight and Balance has been completed using the numbers from the weighing done at Oshkosh 2010.  Estimated weight additions since then were used to calculate the current estimate.  The weight and Balance figures look very good at this time and came in at or very near other flying Pietenpol's.  A final weight and balance will be done upon the completion of the aircraft.  A new Hobbs meter was donated and will be installed soon.  Completion of the engine installation was held up by the requirement of re-locating the carburetor about 1 1/2" forward to allow more firewall clearance.  That work is now in progress whit expected completion by end of April.


Update - February 2012

Things are happening quickly these days with our Pietenpol project.  On New Years Eve we transported the project from the painting facility near the Perris Valley Airport back to our hangar at French Valley.   We want to thank Chris Frisella, owner of Bone Head Composites, for generously offering us the use of his commercial paint booth for the two weeks it took to complete the painting process.  The Poly Fiber process required that we apply two coats of fabric sealer on everything; followed by three "cross coats" of silver UV protector on everything; and, finally, three coats of final color.  Each coat required drying time.  And, in the case of the silver coats, sanding between coats.  Wow, what a chore!  But it yielded great results.

The following Saturday we began the process of "final assembly."  We started by attaching the undercarriage and setting the fuselage on the gear.  Then we attached the tail feathers and bracing wires.

The next Saturday we attached the cabane struts and wing center section, then the wings and lift struts.  We all stood back and enjoyed the fact that the project was finally beginning to look like a finished airplane.

On the last Sunday of the month we were able to roll the airplane out to the terminal building to show it off at our monthly membership meeting.

The first weekend of February had us mounting the engine and rigging the tail.  (See photos below)

It is time to begin the paperwork in preparation for registration.  Since the airplane has been a group project through our chapter's Builders' Workshop Program, we wanted to chose an N number that included our EAA chapter number "1279."  Unfortunately, the simple number "N1279" was taken.  So, it was necessary to add a suffix.  A two-letter suffix like "FV" for French Valley resulted in too many characters.  We had to settle on a single-letter suffix.  There were several available.  We simply had to chose one that we thought would look appropriate when affixed to the airplane.  We chose the letter "Z" for no particular reason and sent in a request to FAA to reserve the number.  The next step was to order the Aircraft Registration Kit available through EAA Headquarters.  We are told by our DAR, John Shablow, that processing the paperwork through FAA takes about three months.  In the meantime, there is plenty of work that remains.  You know what builders say, "When you think your 90 percent finished, you've got about 90 percent to go!"  Maybe so, but at the current pace we can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.  After nearly seven years of construction, it appears that the airplane is indeed going to be finished and flying soon.

As always, we welcome visitors.  So come on out any Saturday morning and see our progress.  Or lend a hand, if you are so inclined.  I promise you, you will learn something.  And this is, after all, a learning process for all of us.

Steve Williamson


With the fuselage on the gear, Dave McPhee and
Dave Winsett attach the tail feathers.


Gear and tail feathers attached.


Wings attached


Update - January 2012

As we begin a new year, it is a good time to reflect on the phenomenal year we had in 2010.  The highlight of the year, of course, was the opportunity to take our project to the annual Pietenpol fly-in at Brodhead, Wisconsin and then to the annual EAA convention at Oshkosh.

Though the project is unfinished, we were confident that people would enjoy seeing the airframe and the workmanship that has gone into it. The reception we received at both events surpassed our wildest expectations (see photos below).  I believe that organizers at both events were stunned at the interest and enthusiasm among attendees for what is, of course, an unfinished project.

As it turns out, the public (especially other builders) were thankful for the opportunity to see what is under the covering.  We may see more of this kind of thing at these events in the future.

Lets take a quick look back at the year just past.  In January we had just completed the Pietenpol wings and installed the aileron control system.  However, we were still using some temporary aluminum wing struts provided by Jerry Trapp who then took on the task of building the finished struts.  Plans called for struts constructed from streamlined steel tubing which has become prohibitively expensive.  Jerry suggested aluminum struts and began to research the idea.  After careful consideration, we decided to proceed in this direction.

By March the struts were finished and we saw for the first time a completed airframe - varnished and ready for covering.  Oshkosh was just a couple of months away, so we began to consider the idea of showing it off before covering it. Thanks to the efforts of long-time chapter member Will Sparkman, we had just moved the project out of the cramped workshop into a full sized hangar at the north end.  The project could now remain fully assembled until it was necessary to disassemble it for covering.

The next several months were spent simply putting finishing touches on the airframe in preparation for an Oshkosh trip.  The trip to Brodhead and Oshkosh would not have been possible had it not been for the efforts of Tim and Betsy Carlisle.  The couple had no background or interest in aviation themselves, but wanted to support their son Brandon's interest.  When they heard of our desire to take the Piet to Oshkosh, they thought they could help.  They own a motorhome and trailer which they use for family vacations.  They were quite certain that Brandon would enjoy the Oshkosh experience, so they very generously offered to make it their annual family vacation.  Tim fabricated some wing hangers and tie-downs for the fuselage and we rolled it into the trailer for a test fit.  Everything fit and looked secure.  The trip was on.

Despite problems created by unusually severe weather this year, both events were successful.  I gave a presentation on Saturday at Brodhead on the Pietenpol project and our Builders Workshop program.  Late Saturday afternoon Pietenpol enthusiast and Corvair engine guru William Wynne performed a weight and balance calculation on our Piet and in the process gave an impromptu lesson on the process and its importance for the benefit of a small group of observers which had gathered.

At Oshkosh our Pietenpol project was the featured attraction of the newly dedicated "Homebuilder's Hangar."  It was prominently displayed and drew an immediate crowd.  Tech counselor and chapter vice president Art Froehlich was on hand Tuesday afternoon to answer questions following an hour-long presentation which included lots of photos of our members participating in our Builders Workshop program.  The week ended with William Wynne presenting us with a set of valve covers which came off of his own Corvair powered Pietenpol and were engraved with the words "Air Camper."  I was touched by his generous support and interest in our project.  It will make such a beautiful enhancement to the appearance of our finished engine.

In the last months of 2010 we removed the wings and tail in preparation for covering which we plan to begin on January 29 (weather permitting).  The covering process will be supervised by Art Froehlich and former president of EAA Chapter One and Poly-Fiber dealer Jan Johnson.

In the meantime, Jerry Trapp and Dave McPhee have been working hard on getting accessories bolted onto our Corvair engine and fabricating an aluminum cowl.  Their doing a terrific job.  It looks great!!!

Pietenpol owner/builder Mike Cuy of Ohio informs me that when he was at the same place in the construction of his Piet back in 1998, it took him about a year to get it finished and flying.  If that is true for us, then we should be finishing our own project sometime this year.

It's going to be a great year!!!

Our Builders Workshop is open every Saturday morning from 8 am to noon at the French Valley Airport.  Visitors are always welcome.  There is always work for those who would like to participate.

Come join the fun.  I'll see you there.

Steve Williamson


Cowl being fitted - June 25, 2011


Pietenpol assembled for showing at annual barbecue
June 25, 2011



Pietenpol assembled - June 25, 2011



Presentation at Brodhead.



William Wynne performing weight and balance.



Wynne giving weight and balance lesson.



Reception at Oshkosh.


Dave McPhee fitting cowling.



Cowl almost finished.


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