In late 1979 and the early 1980's John found himself living on Lopez Island once again. He was not overly fond of the Washington State ferry system which dictated when he could leave the island ... or return to it as well. He decided since he could not afford to BUY an airplane, which would allow him to move about more freely ... he would BUILD one instead.
John purchased a set of plans to build a replica 1933 Pietenpol Air Camper. Over the next few months he encountered more than one 'nay-sayer' who earnestly warned him that he would NEVER be able to build such an airplane to actually FLY. Anyone who truly knows John though, knew he HAD to prove them all wrong!
1933 Pietenpol Air Camper
John continued working on his Pietenpol project and began to draw a number of interested 'followers; who would stop by periodically to view the progress he was making on his dream.
The newspapers seemed especially interested in sharing his progress with the entire county.
By the fall of 1983, John had moved back to the 'mainland' where his former wife and then 7-year old daughter were living. He and his former wife had reconciled and were making their home in Anacortes as they prepared to remarry that November.
John rented hangar space from a friend who was also interested in the progress John was making on his Pietenpol which had now become a "family" project. Everyone participated in the goal of getting the airplane completed in order to see her fly!
Just as had happened on Lopez Island, the local newspaper got word of the project and stopped by regularly to see what progress was being made.
Word reached Lopez Island that John's airplane was going to make its maiden flight on 28 July 1984 at the Skagit Regional Airport in Burlington, Washington.
It was a bright, warm, sunshiny day and the turnout to witness the event was overwhelming!
There was never an official count taken, but the closest estimates were nearly eighty people lined up along the runway of the small community airport that day.
John with his friend and test pilot Elton Hanneman, standing beside the replica 1933 Pietenpol Air Camper John built.
John confers with Elton as they prepare to start the Pietenpol for her maiden flight.
The uneventful maiden flight by John's friend Elton Hanneman, was just the beginning of many hours of flight this little bird made over the Skagit Valley the next few months. There were flights made up to Whatcom county to the north, and west over the water to San Juan county where Lopez Island is located.
Several of John's friends flew the open cockpit airplane, including his High School flight instructor Jim Higginson.
After several exciting adventures in the little open cockpit aircraft over the next year ... including a local Fly-In and Airshow ... John decided it was time to sell it and move on to bigger things.
Watching the Anacortes airshow from the shade cast by the wing of the Pietenpol ~ July 13, 1985
A young man from New York purchased the airplane on the condition John deliver it to Wisconsin where the young man was headed for the tenth annual Pietenpol Fly-In.
John agreed and set to work building a special rack that he attached to the family car to carry the 29-foot, one-piece, wing. He rented a car trailer upon which he placed the fuselage. Then he and his young family drove non-stop, across the United States to deliver the airplane to the new owner at Brodhead, Wisconsin.
When the Fly-In came to an end, John and his family headed north and west back to Washington state while Karl (the new owner) flew the Pietenpol north and east to his home in New York.
Karl and the Pietenpol became regulars at Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome where he flew the little plane almost every weekend for more than ten years before selling the little bird to a friend.
On New Year's Day 2011 John discovered this ad on Barnstormers.com:
PIETENPOL AIR CAMPER • $13,800 • PRICE REDUCED • Model “A” Ford powered Pietenpol Air Camper. This 1984 airplane is in the colors light blue and silver and in the configuration of the first Air Camper built in 1929. This authentic example is covered in cotton with original instruments, tailskid, woven cables and Curtiss Jenny wheels. For over a decade it had flown in the airshows at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Covered in cotton in 1990. A newly overhauled model A engine with only 63.3 hours is installed. Total time on airframe is 344 hours. Airplane located in upstate NY. • Contact Karl Erickson, Friend of Owner – located Rockport, ME USA •Telephone: 207-xxx-xxxx • Posted December 31, 2010 •
What a fun little stroll down "Memory Lane". When John spoke with Karl he was informed that "All of the structure is yours with the exception of the landing gear and the details [instruments, turnbuckles, tail-skid, etc.]. Being the purist, the field where it's at never liked tail-skids on their manicured grass ..."
Amazing, after all these years and all the 'nay-sayers' who told John he couldn't build an airplane that would fly! Yet here she is! Still flying and looking for a new owner 27-years after her maiden flight!