A Pietenpol Journey Aircraft Story

A Pietenpol Journey
Eleven years, four months and twenty-two days. That's the time from the cutting of the first wood for a rib, to the first flight of my Pietenpol Air Camper. But, every day spent building resulted in something accomplished. Sometimes it was just figuring out the best way to build a component. Some days resulted in a major jump forward, but just about every day, I felt like I'd finished something. And that's the way to build an airplane; finish a task every day and take satisfaction in it. Most builder stories talk about how they built the fuselage first, then wings, then firewall forward, and I could reel off the progression of the project. But the skills I learned, the great friends I made and the things I learned about myself now seem more important than just the details of the construction.

As much as I enjoy flying the Piet, and I have put almost 80 hours on it in seven months, I realize now how much I enjoyed, and miss, the building process. It truly is a journey. Some trips are made just to get from Point A to Point B, and are soon forgotten. But everyone has memories of trips made that will be with them for the rest of their lives, travels that were much more about the journey than the ultimate destination. That's how I look at the journey of building the Pietenpol.

So, I could bore you with the details of how I built the wings, and the changes I made to bring the airplane up to the reality of 21st century flying, but I'd rather talk about how I learned to make a weld that looked like little overlapping dimes - occasionally; and how great that spruce smelled when planing down a leading edge. I'd talk about how exciting it is when you've attached the fabric to the wing structure, and you see the hot iron start to pull it down tight across the structure. And, I'd have to say something about that incredible feeling when the wheels give that last bump on the grass and then you realize that you're airborne - flying a machine you created with your hands and brains.

December 1, 1999 to May 22, 2011. Not quite a fifth of my lifetime. But, I'm young enough to do it again, and hope I'm fortunate to be able to.

Matt Paxton
Fairfield, VA