Corvair Powered Pietenpols
The Corvair and the Pietenpol are a natural match. Bernie Pietenpol was the first man ever to fly a Corvair engine, and was the single greatest promoter of
the engine for its first 25 years powering aircraft. His work with affordable engines, first pioneering the Model A and later the Corvair, has earned him
the undying respect of generations of homebuilders. In 1966, he redrew his Air Camper plans specifically to optimize it for the Corvair. His brief notes and
pictures guided most of the early flyers of the engine through their conversion. His ultra simple conversion is flight proven through several decades and
was the foundation from which my work grew.
Father-son team of Gary and Shad Bell flew in their Pietenpol to Brodhead 2008 and 2009. They have been members of the Corvair movement for a long time, having
attended Corvair College #7. Also above is the Pietenpol of Kurt Shipman, a 35-year-old airline pilot. His Piet took five years to build, and displays outstanding
workmanship. Kurt is a very easygoing guy. Randy Bush has also been in the Corvair movement a number of years. He took seven years to build his aircraft, and stuck
with it through thick and thin. The name on the cowl is a composite of the names of his three daughters. Randy's outgoing, friendly personality is typical of
people in the Pietenpol community.
Bernie was a steadfast advocate for the Corvair. Every single aircraft he constructed after 1960 used a Corvair engine. He was successful enough to use any
engine he wanted, and he chose the Corvair as the optimum engine for the aircraft he designed. There can be no better endorsement.
Above, Grace in The Last Original with Tom Brown. This plane belongs to Bill Knight and resides at Brodhead. Tom Brown is probably the highest time
Corvair pilot in the World with nearly 1,500 hours.
Today, the highest time aircraft in the fleet of Corvair powered planes are Pietenpols that began flying in the 1970s with Bernie-style conversions. A number of
these aircraft have more than 1,000 hours aloft. Engines with marginal performance or unsatisfactory characteristics never log time like this.
We have personal experience with these conversions. My Pietenpol's original configurartion was very similar, and my wife Grace has flown in The
Last Original, Bernie Pietenpol's personal aircraft.
My Pietenpol was a workhorse of test flying. From Day One, I have never sold a part that I have not personally flown behind. My Pietenpol saw numerous configuration
changes, including three different motor mounts, front and rear starters, a hand prop engine, magneto ignition, dual plugs and several cooling systems. Testing
all these configurations gives me perspective from which to comment on Corvair installations with Authority.
Fifteen years ago, I began expanding the envelope of Corvair engine installations with items like electric start, and experimentation of heavy duty components in
search of a 30% power increase over a modest Corvair conversion. While 30% may not sound like a lot, I can assure anyone that it is a very sizable task when the goal
is to retain reliability and affordability. At the end of this process, my Pietenpol emerged as a changed aircraft.
Its top speed went from the high 70s to over 100 mph. The difference in the rate of climb was dramatic. But the primary difference was the ease of starting
afforded by Electric Start.
My Proudest Day In Aviation. Grace and I with friends and my Pietenpol in front of the old Brodhead sign at the Pietenpol Reunion in 2000. We had just flown up
from Florida, and spent a great day with friends old and new, with my mother and father on hand. This single day made years of work in the hangar worthwhile.
Many fans of the design saw my aircraft between 1998 and 2000 at Sun 'N Fun and at Brodhead and Oshkosh 2000. Although we lost the aircraft in
a serious but non-fatal accident, my wife and I maintain very strong ties to the Pietenpol community. Many of our best and oldest friends in aviation are builders
and flyers in the design. Pietenpols and the people who love them have provided some of my greatest hours in aviation. We attend the Pietenpol Reunion
at Brodhead every year, and it remains our favorite spot in all of aviation.
Although the Pietenpol is among the oldest of homebuilt designs, it continuously attracts new generations of builders. Ryan Mueller and his wife Jess, seen here at a
Corvair Open House, are halfway through their Corvair powered Pietenpol project.
It is with great satisfaction that we have watched a number of very nice Pietenpols emerge from the shops of our customers. In 2009, three of these aircraft flew
to Brodhead and went on to be displayed at show center of AirVenture Oshkosh. These aircraft feature most of our conversion parts including our
Ignition System, Prop Hub, Starter Kit and Intake Manifold.
Our work with Pietenpols is not stagnant. Our new Universal Exhaust System fits the design, and we have patterns for the Motor Mount and Cowling as they appeared
on our own aircraft. We are glad to assist anyone in the building of their own Pietenpol, so they can join the generations of homebuilders who have their efforts rewarded
with this timeless classic.