Bob Lester’s 48 flight hour, 3400 mile Pietenpol adventure

Builders:

Here is a short set of notes from Pietenpol builder and flyer Bob Lester. It describes how after several years of not being able to coax his 65 hp Lycoming to carry his Piet from Florida to Brodhead, he was able to make the trip without issue after his Corvair Conversion. There were many Piets on hand at Brodhead this year, but Bob’s clearly flew the furthest, and his trip was made old school, without ground support. Bob has done many things with planes in the last 40 years, but he will tell anyone that flying his Piet around the country the last few years, barnstorming as if it was the 1930s, is the most fun he has had. He now has about 300 hours on the conversion.

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Above, Bob Lester’s Pietenpol at CC #33.  Bob gave an intro flight to almost all of the Pietenpol builders on hand.

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What I did on my summer vacation, by Bob Lester

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Every year since 2009 I have tried to make it up to the Brodhead Pietenpol fly in in Wisconsin, and every year I’ve failed.  Two years were scrubbed by problems with the Lycoming 0-145

 engine in my Piet at the time,  3 years due to weather, and 1 year due to family health issues.

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Well this year was my year.  I had long since installed a 2700 Corvair in the Piet, and the weather was going to be with me ( more or less) for the trip.

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I planned for ten days ( including a side trip to central Minnesota  to view the farms that my great grand and great great grand fathers  had lived on in the 1800’s ) with several overnight stops at the homes of old friends.

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Day one took me from my home at Little River Airpark in McAlpin Fl to 49A  Gilmer Co in Ellijay Ga.  For a nice visit with friends from Jr High in 68.  A total of 7.0 hrs flying .

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Day 2 took me east then north over the mountains ( following a hi way ) to KJVY  Clark Co in Jeffersonville In.  to visit a good old friend of mine from way back.  A total of 5.8 hrs.

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Day 3 had me pinned down until noon waiting for the rain to pass over to the north.  So I headed west until night fall to land at  KBRL Southeast Iowa Regional at Burlington IA  to find a cheep cab ride to an expensive motel room.  A total of 7.6 hrs.

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Day 4 had me heading North to Austin Min then West to KFRM Fairmont MN. A total of 6.0 hrs   Here I rented a car and drove out to view the farms that I had only been able to read about for the last 45 years.  Took pictures to show my brother.  Stayed an extra day.

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Day 6  left a dawn to fly East to land at Cherry Grove ( birthplace of the Pietenpol ) only to find the runway grass was knee high.  So I pressed on to Brodhead WI .  A total of 7.1 hrs.

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Days 7, 8, & 9 , were spent resting and enjoying Pietenpols flying, Pietenpols landing, or Pietenpols just sitting there.  What a great way to spend your vacation.  (No flying by me.  My butt needed a rest )

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Day 10  was time to start heading home.  Flying South had me back in Southern Indiana at my friends house  outside of KJVY Clark Co Jeffersonville. A total of 6.1 hrs

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Day 11  The next day being a Monday, .  He  told me the bad news that he would have to drop me off at the airport a 0530 so that he could make it to work on time  That was perfect for me.  It allowed me to take off at the crack of dawn.  Flying South all day passing on the    East side of the Atlanta mode C area and over the Smokie Mountians  ( really cold ) I made it home by 1830 hrs and 8.8 hrs of flying

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This trip was a total bucket list thing that I’ve wanted to do for over 20 years.  It was great fun, and I may just do it again next year.

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My plane and it’s Corvair engine made this trip possible with no mechanical issues worth noting

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If you’ve always wanted to do something like this but haven’t yet j,  just do it .  You’ll feel a lot better about yourself.

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There’s an old saying that goes  “Your going to be dead for a long time.  What are you waiting for ? “

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 Happy trails

 Your friend    Bob Lester

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More Bob Stories:

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Power plant comparison:

Pietenpol Power: 100 hp Corvair vs 65 hp Lycoming

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Landing gear change:

New die spring landing gear on a Pietenpol, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

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Our Piet discussion group:

Piet Vair discussion group update, notes on joining

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Bob’s Piet and others at Barnwell:

Pietenpol Builders and Pilots at Corvair College #31.

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A look at a College where Bob gave a lot of rides:

Corvair College #33: Behind The Scenes

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Above my favorite Bob Lester photo, where he naturally strikes the “Intrepid Aviator” pose with his Pietenpol at CC#25.  He is good at this because he has seen every old aviation movie ever made. I have to coach other pilots on getting the pose right, but not Bob. He built his 2,700/Weseman bearing engine at CC #17,  Bob is now an active member of our ‘Pietvair’ group

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-ww.

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How many flying seasons? With whom will you spend them?

Builders:

A day ago I had some harsh words for a person who thought it was a good idea to call Jim Tomaszewski’s twin project a “Death Trap” in the comments section of this page, and to go on say “Shame on you for promoting this obvious misuse of Corvair technology.” Although Jim wrote him back nicely, the guy chose to double down on his negative comments twice more, basing his comments on a single class in aerodynamics as superior to my 5 years at Embry-Riddle.  His final comment to me was that he had ‘lost his respect’ for me, and I guess that makes us even, as I have never had any respect for people who need to voice a negative opinion about things they don’t even bother to read about.

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About 10 pages of my new manual, (which that guy owned a copy) are devoted to me explaining that I don’t care what race, faith, color, persuasion any builder is. That is a private matter and no business of mine. A good look at my oldest friends reveals no pattern nor qualification, bar a single important issue: None of them are negative people. I have a whole page devoted to explaining that it was my Father who conditioned me to detest critics of other men’s works.

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The photo above was taken by the U.S. Navy in early 1968. In my 5-year-old hand, I hold the Bronze Star awarded to my father during his 1967 tour in Vietnam.

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My Father learned to fly in the 1940’s in N-3N’s at the Naval Academy. He was 38 when I was born in 1962. I took him on his last flight in a light plane in Florida about 5 years ago. He was about done driving then, and a number of years past flying a plane. All other things being equal, this suggests I have about 25 flying seasons left. I am not sure in which planes or locations I will spend them, but I have no intention of spending a single hour of those years in the presence of negative people nor critics.

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Who will you spend your seasons with? What will be their values? What will you gain by the time in the company? Consumer society tells us that we are to admire men for monetary wealth. The American news this week was dominated by two polar opposite men, one who couldn’t stop telling us of his wealth, another who spoke of making his organization poor from devoting it to the betterment of others. Perhaps each of them has taken a vow of poverty, one of spirit, the other of material goods. Which would you choose to spend your hours with? Maybe most people never think about such things, but in the quiet hours, these are the questions that matter to me. My life has be enriched by the better choices in company I have made, when I was awake enough to ask myself  “what can I learn from a day in this persons company”?

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 As an engine instructor, it would be pointless of me to try to teach anyone who refuses to read and consider what I write. Here is a 300 word story I wrote 9 months ago, about a man who’s life example I find critically important: Ernie Brace, American Aviator, dead at 83. It included this quote:

“In the years that you will work on your creation, you will have at least 200 people tell you that you are doing the wrong thing. you should quit. This will not just be in the form of a coworker or a brother in law calling your creation a ‘death trap’ repeatedly. It will also come in the form of other fliers who are EAA members, but would never even fly in a homebuilt, far less create one, telling you just to buy a plane, to give up on self reliant craftsmanship, just because  they did.”

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Does it sound like my writing had any effect on yesterdays critic? Do you think the issue is that I didn’t cover the topic, or that it isn’t possible to reach some people? How many hours of my seasons should I spend trying to disprove the latter theory?

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I type this as it approaches midnight, sitting at the kitchen table of my parents home in New Jersey. The only sound is the ticking of the clock. I listen for any sound of my Father awakening in the night. If he can’t sleep and his thoughts are clear, I will sit beside him and ask him to share one more story from the past.

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Invariably he will speak of events that required the best efforts of good people, and the fortune of being there, in the hour that mattered.  The body that ran a 4:35 mile at 17, loaded twenty two 5″ shells in one minute at 21, and carried both my sister and I in his arms on long walks at night at 40, now a faded shadow nearing 90, reminds us time is always running though our fingers. But the hours and years can not tarnish the values and beliefs, paramount among them, this: As a free American, you had the great fortune and duty to do something of value with your life, and if you did this, your place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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-W.E.W.jr

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