In keeping with the developing “Pietenpol Week” theme, today Vern and I drove about 2 hours to the northern edge of Florida to make a house call on a Corvair powered Pietenpol that has been flying since 1977. The plane is the handiwork and pride of a builder named Pat Green. Even though I have known him for 15 years and we live in the same state, Pat and I don’t often have a chance to get together.
Above, Pat’s Pietenpol. It has more than 1,000 hours on Corvair power. The installation has always been very close to BHP’s plans externally, but internally Pat went to forged pistons and an OT-10 cam more than 10 years ago. He was flying long before I started working with Corvairs, but he was never reluctant to adopt any improvement that my testing revealed. His original conversion manual from us was one of the first 50 I had printed, I have known him that long.
Many years ago he flew the plane to Corvair College #9, where he was much appreciated by Piet builders in attendance. In the years since, we have been very busy and Pat was deeply involved in the hour by hour care of his late wife. After beating a few health issues of his own, Pat paid a visit to our hangar where he explained that his personal plan was to get back into flying full-time and really enjoy all the elements of it that he used to before greater responsiblity took priority. A key element of this was switching from a traditional Bernard Pietenpol hand prop/blower fan engine to one of our electric start systems. He had been hand starting the plane for 35 years, but being 77 and having had back problems, he thought going with key starting was a safety issue, and made the prospect of operating the plane solo a lot more appealing. From that point we made a plan for a house call and to get him a running start on a conversion to electronics doing the starting.
Above, a shot of the original BHP/blower fan conversion from an angle that illustrates why an engine set up this way doesn’t fit well with a high thrust line engine mount. engines with starters and J-3 eyebrow scoops can utilize a higher thrust line and still fit inside the shape of the fire wall. The Prop hub is an original BHP model. It is mounted by the original short flywheel bolt in very deep wells. I developed Hybrid studs 15 years ago to improve the mounting of the prop hub for engine with more output than traditional BHP conversions. A BHP hub can not be used with any of our starter set ups.
Pat actually traveled to Cherry Grove and spent time with the man himself. Pat stuck with the project and finished it after 10 years of on and off building. The plane was not the only aircraft in his life, there were many. But as he gets to the other end of his flying years, he is very clear that his Pietenpol is the centerpiece of his aviation life, and without question the best thing he ever did in planes. The Sport Pilot rule will allow Pat to fly the plane for many years to come, so it is inevitable that it will be the last plane in the stable of planes he has kept, but he says that all medical factors aside, if he were to have had only one plane, the Pietenpol would have made him the most happy. He will be very glad to finish out his flying hours in the plane, and he will log a lot more of them with a starter.
Above are the blower fan parts that came off the engine when putting the Front starter on. There are people who have suggested that this stuff weighs a ton, but it doesn’t the fan is magnesium ( we put a story up last year about burning them in a bonfire at one of our airport parties) and weighs less than a pound. All in all, an electric start system is going to add about 20 pounds to the airplane after you take into account things like the larger battery. It isn’t shown in the photos, but Pat is going with a John Deer style front alternator driven off the Gold hub.
Above is a look at the engine being test fitted with the starter and the gold hub. The parts, including the starter kit, a new hub, hybrid studs, the alternator , brackets, regulator and a belt cost Pat about $1,400. It is going to take a bit of time to re-configure the cowl and wire the electrical stuff, but overall, it isn’t a lot of money or time to get the plane set up to layout that is a much better match for Pat’s next few years of flying.
Below: Blast from the past, Pat and I stand with his Pietenpol at Corvair College #9, seven years ago. The caption in blue italics below is the original words from the 2006 College. note to fashion critics: I haven’t always had long gray hair, but I have always dressed like a refugee, even long before it was stylish.
“Above, I stand with Pat Green of Jacksonville, Fla. Pat started his plane in 1967, and first flew it in 1977. Since then he’s logged about a thousand hours in it. Again, the Golden Rule in action. In my hand I’m holding a photo of Pat and I standing in exactly the same positions in my old hangar eight years earlier. We had a laugh, because I pointed out Pat was wearing the same hat, and he commented that it looked like I was wearing the same shirt. Pat is good company, and a sharp observer of human behavior. When he talks, I listen because he’s a man of many experiences in life. Among them is having known Bernie Pietenpol personally.”
A few words about house calls and service to builders: The trip up to Hillard, a few hours of work and back took seven hours today. I charged Pat my standard rate for a house call: Zero dollars. If you get a look at the years of such house calls documented on our websites, keep in mind that I have never charged any builder, wether we were old friends or not, for a house call. Some have been fairly close like todays, many have been on the way to or from airshows, but there have been others that involved getting on an airliner to go help a builder solve an issue. All of this was done at no cost. Our business makes fair profit on the items we provide, but I don’t view every interaction with builders as a opertunity to generate revenue. That is how a corporation or a LLC might think, but not me.
There are plenty of things we do just because I am a home builder and I like builders. People who have yet to meet me often incorrectly assume that things like house calls are just for friends. In reality, the recipient has little to do with my motivation. I know a lot about homebuilts, and a great part of this was taught to me by experts, mostly gone now. Those men didn’t charge me for their time. My willingness to pay attention and take their message seriously was enough. I also suspect that they were paying back a previous generation of aviators also. I have many flaws as a person, but being an ingrate isn’t one of them.-ww