Pietenpol Air Camper
In the late 1970's and early 1980's, John was living on Lopez Island ... an isolated community served by the Washington State Ferry system.
He knew he could not afford to buy an airplane (to get on and off the island without being dependent on the ferry system) ... so, he decided he would build one!
John purchased a set of plans to build a replica 1933 Pietenpol Air Camper. As small communities go, he ran into a few "nay-sayers" who warned him that he would NEVER be able to build the airplane to actually fly. So, John being John ... he HAD to prove them wrong!
*Read the article published in The Island Record on December 10th, 1982.
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 locals.
*Read the article published in The Island Record in 1983.
By the end of the summer of 1983, John had decided to move off island and back to the "mainland" where his former wife and then 7-year old daughter were living in Anacortes, WA.
John rented hangar space from a friend who was also interested in the progress John was making on his Pietenpol.
Meanwhile, John and his former wife reconciled and re-married in November of that year. The Pietenpol became a family project and everyone participated in the goal of getting the airplane completed in order to see her fly!
*Read the article published in Anacortes American on June 20th, 1984.
Word reached Lopez Island that John's airplane was going to make its maiden flight on 28 July 1984 at the Bayview Regional Airport in Burlington, Washington.
It was a bright, warm, sun-shiny 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.
After an exciting but uneventful maiden flight, piloted by John's friend, Elton Hanneman, the Pietenpol was parked on the tarmac beside Elton's Model "A" Ford truck.
Many photographs were taken that day. A large group gathered in the hangar to talk to John and get close to this airplane that so many people had said would "NEVER fly!"
*Read the article published in Anacortes American on August 22nd, 1984.
After completing the construction of this Pietenpol Air Camper, John and some of his friends flew the little airplane all around Skagit, San Juan and Whatcom counties for almost one year.
After several exciting adventures in the little, open cockpit, aircraft, John decided it was time to sell it and move on to bigger things.
A young man from New York purchased the airplane on the condition that John deliver it to Wisconsin where the young man was headed for the tenth annual Pietenpol Fly-In.
In July 1985, John built 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, and 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 to Washington ... and 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 airplane almost every weekend for a number of years before selling the little bird to a friend.