Pietenpol review in pictures, 15 more Corvair powered Piets


In addition to the four ships highlighted earlier in the week, here are a few more selected Corvair Powered Piets. I drew these photos from our regular website Flycorvair.com. We have a lot of others, this is just a sample. There are a number of other well-known Corvair powered Pietenpols like Virl Deal’s 1,000 hour bird that I am saving for a second post. If you have a Corvair powered plane and have not sent us a photo in a while, please do, we would like to have it in a follow on album.

Above, P.F. Beck getting ready to take off. Photo Taken at Corvair College #12. PF was the host of Colleges 19,21 and 24. His aircraft has flow more than 200 passengers. It has electric start and a very quiet exhaust system. PF was awarded the Cherry Grove trophy in 2011 as ‘Corvair aviator of the year.’

Above, Shad and Gary Bell’s Piet in flight. Aircraft is based in Ohio. It has made a number of appearances at Brodhead. Gary and Shad came to CC#7 to get started on their engine. It is a modern 100 hp Corvair with electric start. The plane has a very nice finish on it, accomplished with industrial latex enamel. If you ever hear a fool say something like “latex paints make planes look like houses” ignore them. There have been Oshkosh grand champion aircraft painted with latex systems.

Above, Tom Brown’s pietenpol, flying since 1982.  Although it has spent its life in a cold climate, and it has competed with all the other beautiful aircraft that Tom owns and has access to, he has still managed to put nearly 1,500 hours on it. By my count, it is the highest time Corvair powered aircraft in the fleet. We did a weight and balance on this aircraft and it came in at a feathery light 624 pounds. This is 125 pounds lighter than one of the A-65 Continental hand prop aircraft at Brodhead. It is a very effective demonstration that it is a myth that Corvair engines are inherently heavy. Good aircraft building technique is far more important than which engine you choose when shooting for a lightweight plans built homebuilt. The engine is a BHP conversion without any modern updates, yet Tom has never put a wrench on the inside of it in the last 30 years.

Above, a photo of Kevin Purtee’s Pietenpol airborne. This plane flew 340 hours in a few short years before being heavily damaged in an accident in 2012. The rebuild is well underway. The engine ran with mild updates at CC#24, where Kevin and Shelley were awarded the Cherry Grove trophy for 2012.  Kevin credits his wife Shelley Tumino with much of his success. They hosted CC#22 in their home state of Texas. His engine is a modern electric start 100 hp and a Dan 5th bearing.


Above, Bob Lester of FL with his  aircraft. It was powered by a 65 hp Lycoming, now a 100 hp Corvair. This is a radically different aircraft than it was a few months ago. It when from barely having a positive rate of climb with two people on a hot day to being able to climb 800 feet per minute at the same load and conditions. It now has safe and smart-looking gear that works correctly. The Mount, spring gear and intake were built at our shop. The plane is 25 mph faster now on the top end. The engine is equipped with electric start and a Dan 5th Bearing. It was built at CC#17.

Above, Harold Johnson’s ‘Big Piet’ at Brodhead.This aircraft won Best Auto Engine Conversion at Sun ‘N Fun in 2010. The Big Piet builders completed and flew 5 of the 6 planes started, a record in group project success. Their first visit to our hangar was back in 2003.  The planes met with great reviews for both their operation and their attention to detail. They have 28″ wide steel tube fuselages. They all have modern 100 hp engines with electric start and MA-3 carbs.

Above, Frank Metcalfe’s plane at sun n fun the day before the tornado. This plane and her sister ships, the ‘big piets’, exhibit extraordinarily high craftsmanship. As many people know this aircraft was extensively damaged by the tornado. The plane is currently being rebuilt.

Above the plane of Bruce Laird who is also one of the big Piet builders from Carrollton. If you look closely you can see Frank’s airplane in the background. Like Frank’s, Bruce’s aircraft was extensively damaged. If these were factory built aircraft, they would have been considered totaled. But these aircraft are different. They represent years of hand work and care. They will not be written off as the majority of damaged aircraft at Lakeland were. The same hands that created these aircraft are  back at work, making them right again. I look forward to seeing these planes again in 2013.

Above is Gardiner Mason’s Pietenpol, photographed before it was damaged in the tornado. The plane is now repaired and flying again. The plane had made its public debut at CC#19.  Debugging his aircraft was the subject of an 18 page set of notes on cooling systems that we wrote. After working with us, the plane flew beautifully. After the tornado I spent some time with Gardiner at the show, and he was stoic about it. Everyone wanted to say they were sorry when they spoke with him and buy him a beer. It made me think about A.E.Houseman saying, “Ale does more that Milton can to justify God’s ways with man.” The plane has a 100hp Corvair with a Dan 5th Bearing and electric start. If you have an hour to learn, read the 18 page report here: http://www.flycorvair.com/pietengineissue.html On the internet there are a small number of critics that take every opportunity to say negative things about Corvairs and my work with them. Read the report and understand that while negative internet vermin type their bull, I am doing things like rebuilding Gardiners engine for free, running the Weight and Balance project and hosting Corvair Colleges. Take your pick on who benefits Pietenpol builders more. I don’t need to be thanked for doing things I want to, but I take a dim view of being criticized for it.

Above,Randy Bush of TN. at Brodhead with Miss Le’Bec (it is a combination of his girls’ names coined by his wife). His aircraft was seven years in the making. A consistent work of craftsmanship, the plane’s creation spanned both easy and hard years in Randy’s life. Many people new to homebuilding think that it is something you do if life is treating you great and you’re rolling in dough. Here is reality: The most successful builders I know understand that hours spent in your own shop, creating things with your own hands, is a vital part of a worthwhile life, and that this reality will be most evident at the hardest of times. Learning to make things is a crucial investment in your own sanity. Does it surprise anyone that really happy people always have a way of being creative? The plane has more than 400 hours on it. It has a 100 hp Corvair with electric start and a Roy 5th bearing.

Above, Kurt Shipman of Illinois with his Pietenpol at Brodhead 2009. His super clean installation features one of our Electric Start setups, Falcon heads and a standard rebuild straight out of our Conversion Manual. Kurt is a 39-year-old ATP who flys for the airlines.  A prolific ‘internet personality’ made the claim that Corvair Powered Piets all have ugly cowls. Kurts cowl housing his starter is so ugly that when he flew it to Oshkosh for the first time the plane won the Bronze Lindbergh trophy, as the 5th best homebuilt at Airventure. So much for critics.

 Above is a photo of Texan Hans van der Voort’s Corvair powered Air Camper at the Southwestern Regional EAA Fly In. His NX15KV won the Tony Bingelis Memorial Award for Best of Show there recently. Tony Bingelis was the greatest how-to writer homebuilding ever had, and Texas was his home turf. I’ve yet to see it in person, but everyone who has says Hans’ airplane is outstanding. How do planes with such ‘ugly cowls’ keep winning trophies? Hans’s plane utilizes a Zenith carb and one of out stainless exhaust systems.


Above, the Jim Ballew of OK, lands his Piet. It is a traditional BHP conversion. What is notable about Jim is that he also has a Corvair powered Davis DA-2 and a Corvair powered 601XL that he has built and flown. When a man has 3 Corvair powered planes you can be assured that there is a lot to like about the powerplant.

Above, BHP’s last original. This plane has 800 hours on it today, it lives at Brodhead and belongs to our friend Bill Knight. We did the weight and Ballance on this plane two years ago and overhauled the engine last year. On the outside it looks just like BHP made it, but inside it has a nitrided crank, Arp bolts forged pistons and one of our Black prop hubs and hybrid studs. Look closely and understand that BHP kept the thrust line low because he had the stock automotive blower fan on the engine, which sticks up higher than our electric starter set up.  BHP’s Corvair Thrust line was very near the location of the Ford’s thrust line. It was a familiar location, but if you look at most classic planes, the thrust line is closer to the top longeron. Note that the last original has the main axles far forward and it has die spring in a tube gear like we made for Bob lester’s Piet.

Above, the Pietenpol of Duane Duea of Minn., at right, (and Kurt Shipman’s at left). The photo was taken at Oshkosh 2009. Duane’s aircraft was completed in 1972 and is so true to Bernie’s plans that I initially mistook his aircraft for Bernie’s first Corvair-powered ship, which resides at Oshkosh in the Pioneer Airport. This aircraft has approximately 1,000 hours on the clock. We spent some time with Duane at our booth, where he reflected on the privilege of knowing Bernie Pietenpol in person. This aircraft is nicely complemented by Kurt’s, which was completed in 2008, 36 years later. Although Kurt’s aircraft retains a very classy, pure look, it takes advantage of all of our research and development.

If you’re a Piet builder or just a fan of Corvair powered planes, I hope you have enjoyed ‘Pietenpol week.’ We have a lot of shop work over the next 72 hours, but I am going to get in a mail sack update this weekend and also get an engine building series started for next week. Stay tuned-ww.

One Reply to “Pietenpol review in pictures, 15 more Corvair powered Piets”

  1. Corvair powered Pete’s are the most original of any so the critics really dont have a leg to stand on! So people are air craft enthusiast and some aren’t!

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