Introduction to Jake Schultz's Pietenpol Project.
Return to a simpler time by Jake Schultz (August 2009)
When I began my Pietenpol project earlier this year, there were various thoughts that I was considering at the time which led me to undertake such a journey. Foremost was my love to create - to bring something into being which only exists in my mind. Second was my love for vintage aircraft. By building a Pietenpol, an experimental homebuilt, I could essentially create the look and character of a vintage plane, yet have all the benefits of a newly constructed ship. Another stated fundamental goal was "to take a summer off and discover America by air…" More about that in a minute…
In terms of full disclosure, this is my second go at a Pietenpol project. The first did not get very far. I began it in 1989 and shortly thereafter transferred jobs with Boeing from one coast to the other. Once settled in, I took up building a Taylor Mini-Imp and was detoured again, this time with the project of writing a book about Molt Taylor's Aerocar based on his personal friendship and archives. In 2006 the book was published and after a few years of getting my shop and other things in order I was finally set to get serious about building a homebuilt. I decided to once again go for a Pietenpol.
I am rather familiar with the Pietenpol, it's design, and it's history. In fact, I flew to a Brodhead Fly-in roughly 30 years ago in one of Ed Wegner's beautiful vintage biplanes. During that weekend I also flew as a passenger in Virl Deal's Corvair-powered Pietenpol. What wonderful ways to step back in time.
My initial plan for my Pietenpol project was to use a Ford Model A engine, yet as I read more and more about other's experiences with that engine, there seemed to be a trend. It is a good powerplant for what it is, but there were numerous stories that seemed to go something like, "had the Model A, had four forced landings and replaced it with a Continental…" or, "had the Model A, flew it local for several years and donated it to a museum…" or, "have the Model A Piet, am looking to sell the plane for something with more power...", etc. So I thought about one of my fundamental goals, using the plane for a summer tour around America, and figured I should step up to a "modern engine."
In keeping with my desire for a vintage look and feel, I was not particularially drawn to the traditional flat-four aircraft powerplants. I had, however, been aware of the Rotec for many years. In fact, as a volunteer event photographer for the Arlington Fly-In, I had photographed the Rotec display as far back as 2001. About the same time as I was considering engine choices, Dick Navratil's Pietenpol graced the cover of Sport Aviation. What a beautiful plane and engine combination. The thing that really cemented my choice of a Rotec, however, was finding vintage photos of the Pietenpol that Bernard built in 1931 with a 65hp Velie radial engine. That was it. I decided to have my Piet be a "modern recreation" of that aircraft. (As a point of record, the airframe of that actual plane still exists and is due to undergo restoration by Frank Pavliga in Ohio.)
Left: 1931 Piet ith its 65 HP Velie radial.So it's been about eight months since the project began and it is moving along well. I purchased acompleted set of wings and fuselage from a local Air Museum (please click on the thumbnails to enlage the photo... ). They wereparting out the project because they had purchased a completed, flying Pietenpol and therefore no longer need the project. The wings and tail woodwork had been done by a local gentleman who took the project that far, and for various reasons, chose to not take the project further. Since I only wanted the wings and tail components, I sold the wooden fuselage to another gentleman who has nearly completed his wings.My intent all along was to build a steel-tube version of the Piet, even though the 1931 plane I am emulating had a wooden fuselage.
I created a CAD model of the fuselage to determine the dimensions of the truss members. Because I am making my fuselage 2 inches wider than the plans, all the taper dimensions are different. A CAD model makes it easier to determine these new dimensions and helps visualize the design. I also used this CAD file to create a small fuselage truss model. This model helps me verify that the diagonals connect to the right intersections on the frame. It's tricky otherwise, to build a fuselage truss upside down and backwards from the plans and get the diagonals correct.
I have also attached a rough cutaway drawing showing the Rotec on my Piet. Among other things, it depicts the modifications I made to the left side of the fuselage for a passenger door.
Well my engine gets shipped out later this week… can't wait…!
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as usual click to on the bordered thumb-nails to enlarge ...
July 2012: Jake shows the progress made on the fuselage:
March 2012: Welding and fitting the floor... Jake writes:
A brief update on my Pietenpol. I had Mike from "Ready Weld" come over a couple weeks ago for another marathon day - welding details onto the fuselage frame. I had previously jigged these tabs which attach the wood floor to the tubular-steel frame. With the tabs welded, I positioned and back-drilled the floorboards. Flight controls are next....!
October 2011: Controls, wings and tail featers ... Jake writes:
The summer was a tough time to make much progress because I had so many other things going on. I'm "back in the swing of things" now that fall has arrived.
Most of my efforts over the past few weeks have been directed towards the flight controls. I'm making them essentially to plans with a few refinements. For example, the plans depict the pilot and passenger sticks as simple straight 4130 tubing, but I made mine with a slight "s" curve to add a small element of design.
The biggest change recently, however, has been leasing my neighbor's garage so I can store the fuselage/wings in one bay while I build the airplane components in the garage bay next door. I've DOUBLED my shop area...!!!!!
Hope all is well down under, over, up, and all around.........!
August 2011 - Progress
From: Schultz, Jake Sent: Tuesday, 1 February 2011
Subject: 1 Pietenpol update... sent to Paul at Rotec Plant in Australia
Here is some progress from this past weekend. The welder was over ALL DAY Friday welding the cabaine strut ftgs., engine reinforcement ftgs., and wing strut ftgs. I mocked up the cabaine struts (with pine) and positioned a temporary wing center section. My center section will have to be made two inches wider than this one because I built my fuselage two inches wider than plans. One of these photos really shows off the beautiful ROTEC engine(!) and the other highlights my instrument panel. Engine gauges will go in the open holes on the left side. (Photo credit for the instrument panel shot goes to Jack Hein.)
Having lots of fun in the workshop/hangar/garage/cave/playroom...
Thanks for your continued EXCELLENT support...! Jake
Tuesday, 18 January 2011 (progress update)
Here is a bit about progress on my 1931 Pietenpol Air Camper replica project...
The month of December (2010) was busy with lots of non-Pietenpol related activities so I had to tell myself often that this project is a journey. I am not in a big hurry and so as long as I am enjoying the "time well spent in the workshop" then the on-going project is a success...!
Over the holiday break I completed the engine reinforcement fittings, cabaine strut fittings, and wing strut attach fittings which are now all clamped in place and ready for welding.
Next I was going to work on the passenger door yet I needed to understand the turtle-deck and cowling before I could do that, so I mocked-up the passenger and pilot areas with mat board. It is my desire to incorporate a bit of the appearance of a 1928 American Eagle biplane into the sheet metal cowling. (see Left American Eagle photo) A good friend of mine built the Grand Champion Oshkosh 1928 American Eagle which I flew in a number of times as a high-school age kid. That magnificent plane sadly burned up in a fire in Athol, Idaho a number of years ago but it lives on in my memories and will perhaps also live on a bit in my Pietenpol.
I made a quick trip to the local sheet-metal shop and had them shear up a whole dish full of tabs that will be welded to the fuselage. These tabs are where the cowlings, floorboards, and other items will be attached. The most recent work was determining the method of jigging these tabs in place and marking the locations for these tabs at the base of the turtle deck.
Having lots of fun in my little "airplane hangar"...!
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 - Email from Jake:
Jim, et al....
Hope all is well down under... Here is an update on my Pietenpol project -
which was originally written for our local EAA chapter newsletter...
Putting the bandsaw and press brake to work...
Work on my Pietenpol recently has focused almost exclusively small metal fittings. These parts are progressing well, yet because the original plans provide details only for the wooden fuselage, the metal fittings for the steel-tube version have to be "adapted" from the bolt-on design. (Use the same thickness of metal but revise the part from a bolt-on to a weld-on configuration...) Here are images showing a number of the fittings:
Frame & Fittings
This takes additional time (and research) and is slowing me down quite a bit. Once the part shapes are determined, however, the actual making of the pieces goes pretty quickly.
Left: The washers shown are being used as spacers until the fittings are tack welded in place. I saw them out fairly close to the layout lines with the metal-cutting band saw, then stack them up with double-sided tape and grind them all to the identical contour. I have also been using drill bits or metal pins to help hold the parts in alignment while they are ground to shape. (I'm not drilling a hole into my glove/hand as it may appear...!)
I could draw these parts in CAD and have them waterjet cut, but this is the "traditional" way and once I have the part shape determined, the cutting and grinding goes pretty fast. (You would not do them by hand if you were in "production", but for just a few parts the time it takes is almost a wash)
There are LOTS more little fittings to go but I'm enjoying the journey...!
Thursday, 2 September 2010:
Fri 4th July 2010: Wicker seats done.
Thu 25th March 2010: Progress report from Jake in pdf format
(You'll need Acrobat Reader to View or Download - its a free download from Adobe)
Thu 4th March 2010: Fuse welded up, test hang engine, wicker seats prep work ...
... progress made on seats ...
Wed 9th Dec 2009:
Thought I'd pass along a few photos to show the progress on my project...
The basic fuselage structure has been cut, fit, and tack-welded. The "cluster welding" and engine-mount details are being performed at a professional welding shop over the next two weeks. I'm looking forward to it's return when I can test-hang the ROTEC for the first time...!
Regards from Seattle...
Fri 21st August 2009: Jake: "...you may notice I am smiling...:-) Thanks...!!!!!!! Jake
Yesterday I took the day off to meet the FedEx truck and it was WELL worth the wait...!!! It took only five days from Australia to my driveway and upon removing the crate cover, I felt a sense of unveiling a sculpture - a work of art. The best part is that this "work of art" is more than that, it is an operational piece of craftsmanship. I now feel a stronger resolve than ever to step up the quality of my own workmanship on the rest of the plane - to have it live up to the quality of this amazing powerplant...!
There is a LONG way to go before I have something that looks and acts like an airplane, but I am one step closer and enjoying every minute. Thanks for everything Paul, Jim, Matthew, and Andrea.....!