I have had an interest in the Air Camper and its designer for 25 years now and with the 80th anniversary of this design upon us, I have finally done something I never thought I would – I have purchased one.
My particular example was built in 2001 by a man who has been building and flying wood and fabric (De Havilland) aircraft since 1946. In fact he maintains that if it isn’t wood and fabric and it isn’t a tail dragger and it isn’t powered by a Gypsie motor, then it ain’t a real aeroplane.
Well the Air Camper meets most of those requirements, although this one is powered by a modified 4 cylinder 100 hp Subaru EA81 car motor.
The Pietenpol I bought was based at Emu Park, just East of Rockhampton in Queensland. It took me 2 hours to fly there from Sydney on a commercial flight and almost 11 hours to fly it back! The total trip distance was 623 nm. Not far in a proper touring aircraft, but in a Piet, it is quite a journey I can assure you.
The first leg was the shortest, just 75nm to Thangool where I had my first refuel so that I could fly the 137nm next leg. I flew ‘on top’ to Chinchilla for another refuel. Then I had a real rough ride under the convective clouds all the way to Goondiwindi. This is on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. From there I pressed on direct to Gunnedah.
I had to divert around a couple of really big storms on the way to Gunnedah and then had to stay there overnight as a huge storm front to the south completely blocked any further progress. That was the end of day one – just over 8 hours of flying.
The following day I departed Gunnedah and I had the most perfect weather for the first 100nm or so - then about 50nm north of Somersby (about an hours drive North from Sydney), I had to descend and track between higher terrain and low cloud. At the end of the 2 hour and 50 minute flight, I landed at Somersby, the new home for this unique, but simple, vintage style aircraft.
Since then I have changed the tail skid for my own designed castoring tail wheel that I am able to lock from the cockpit for takeoff and landing. I have done some paint work to the front cowl and in time will repaint the fuselage and the cockpit. I also intend to replace the instrument panel to make it look as good as many of the ones I have seen in your newsletters.
Please keep up the good work. The examples you guys build and show in your newsletters are a real inspiration and a large part in helping me decide to get one.