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Old 11-30-2014, 05:53 PM   #1
Baldeagle
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Default 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

A friend of mine and I recently saved a 1934 Pietenpol Air Camper airplane and are in the process of rebuilding it to fly again. It showed up on a trailer at the Pietenpol fly-in at Brodhead, Wisconsin in July, and had we been there a day earlier we would have saved a lot of money. As it was we were surprised to find out that another person, a supposed fellow antique airplane nut who will remain un-named, had bought the project, removed the good stuff, instruments, wheels, radiator, etc., and had given the airframe back to the sellers to do with whatever they wanted. They were selling off whatever other parts they could get a few bucks for, and undoubtedly the rest was going to end up in a dumpster somewhere, as they clearly had no intention of taking it back to Texas.

Bob and I decided that it had to be saved, whatever was left. The wing was long gone, long before they got the project, but the rest of the airframe was there, if pretty dirty and dusty looking, and they still had not sold the engine. We gave them $600 for the engine and what was left of the airframe, and then went around the airport trying to buy back whatever we could find of the other parts. We made a deal to get back most of the good stuff from the person who had taken it off the airframe, and who made a nice profit overnight, and managed to track down a few of the other parts, including the control stick and torque tube, and the original seat belt and buckles (those guys were nice enough to sell the parts back for what they had paid). So now most of those parts that had been together for 80 years were back together again.







By happy coincidence a friend of ours in Minnesota had a spare Pietenpol wing, built by Pietenpol guru Ed Sampson about 10 years ago but never used, and he agreed to sell it to us for less that what would be the cost of the materials to build it, so we now had a complete airframe.
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Old 11-30-2014, 06:03 PM   #2
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Now for the research part. I thought that the airplane looked familiar, and when I got back home I realised that there had been photos of that exact airplane posted on Facebook just a few weeks earlier. The color scheme was very unique, and the landing gear had been modified to be unlike any standard Pietenpol Here are a couple of those photos

We think the photos were taken about 1940, and the name on the cowling is "Blitzkrieg", kind of a strange name for a little Pietenpol in America in 1940.

Colors are red and white as shown on the tattered original fabric still on the airframe. But there were traces of yellow and black paint under the red and white, and looking closely at the rudder fabric you could see the number 14143 visible under the red and white, and roughly scrawled in grease pencil on one side.



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Old 11-30-2014, 06:04 PM   #3
Patrick L.
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

I too love old airplanes and my hat is off to you. It sure looks like you have your hands full. Good luck and try to keep us informed.

A friend built a replica but passed away before he got to drive it.
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Old 11-30-2014, 06:08 PM   #4
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

One was restored at the san martin calif airport, its still in progress, the guys there know a lot about them.
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Old 11-30-2014, 06:12 PM   #5
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Using the number 14143 we were able to check FAA records and found out that this airplane was built in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1934 by two brothers, Charles and Walter Centilli, and as word spread in our airplane community somebody recognised the 'plane and said that there had been an article about it in the 1960s in Sport Aviation Magazine. Soon we turned up the article, and found out that the owner of Blitzkrieg was a guy named Stanley Richards in Ohio


Through the internet I was able to track down the widow of Walter Centilli's late son, and one afternoon I called her. She was understandably hesitant at first to talk to this stranger on the phone, who was asking if her father-in-law was a pilot, but she did allow that when he was young he had built an airplane. When I told her that a friend and I now owned that airplane she was quite enthused. I asked her if she might have any old photo albums with photos of the 'plane, and she said that she just might. A week or so later I got an e-mail from her with six photos from 1934 when 14143 was brand new, one of them a beautiful colorised shot

Charles Centilli is on the left, Walter Centilli on the right, and their brother-in-law Al Weller, who helped them build it, is in the middle. I've also found Al's son, who lives less than two hours from me, and is going to come see the project after the holidays.


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Old 11-30-2014, 06:23 PM   #6
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

We now know that the Centilli brothers and Al Weller built the airplane, finishing in June, 1934, and had the standard Pietenpol landing gear, but added the non standard propeller spinner. It was yellow and black in a scheme copied from another popular homebuilt airplane of the time, the Heath Parasol. Thier last record of ownership was in 1938, and sometime after that it passed to Stan Richards, who put the different landing gear on it and painted it in the red and white lightning scheme. Stan seems to have been a bit of a rebel, and never registered or licensed the airplane, painting over the old ID numbers. It certainly flew as late as July 1941, as there was a broken propeller with the airplane (already sold, we didn't get that back, yet, but know the buyer...) and written on it was the story of it being broken that July. From the article above it sounds possible that it flew up to the 1950s, but it's impossible to know, unless we can track down his descendants or some other info.

Here are a couple of other photos from the Centilli albums






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Old 11-30-2014, 06:39 PM   #7
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Congrats on your find( or finds) good luck on the project!! Sounds like
some plane nuts are like model A nuts, basically good people.Keep us up
dated will be cool to have another "A" UP and running :-)
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Old 11-30-2014, 07:05 PM   #8
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Gar Williams in Chicago area may have some info on the PietenPol. He is a Model A person
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Old 11-30-2014, 07:58 PM   #9
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Gar is a good friend, and knows about the project.
So here are a few opinion questions for the Model A crowd:
We think the engine is the same one that was put on the airplane in 1934, so we want to keep as much of it as possible, but are there things that should be replaced as a matter of course, as a safety issue? Valves? Cam? Anything, or is all of it good to use as long as it's in good shape? Do the rebuild shops normally magnaflux the crank, rods, etc.? (I have about 200 flying hours behind Model A engines in Pietenpols, had a crank break once at 1,000 feet, ended up safely in a bean field near Momence, Illinois, but would like to avoid repeating that if possible...)

Are adjustable tappets worth it?

The block looks externally OK, it's s/n AA499128. It has a weld repair on what would be the left side of the car (right side of the airplane), just aft of the coolant outlet, it isn't a pretty repair but hopefully is secure. The head is an aluminum high compression Rallum (don't know the ratio), which also has a crack repair, again not pretty but hopefully good. The engine has some kind of aftermarket water pump, and is modified per the Pietenpol plans to use a magneto, in this case an American Bosch U4. And of course it has the normal Pietenpol modifications for better oil feed to the main bearings.

The plan is to return the airplane (and engine) to as closely as possible what they were like in June, 1934, the Centilli brothers yellow and black version. Then fly it for a few years, and then convert it as Stan Richards did, to the red and white "Blitzkreig". From recent inspection it looks to me like about 90 per cent of the original structure will be re-useable.


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Last edited by Baldeagle; 11-30-2014 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:24 PM   #10
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Congrats on your find. This will be an interesting, --yet rewarding restoration that should be very rewarding.

To answer engine questions in random order, yes the adj. tappets are definitely worth the expense. As for engine rebuilding shops, most reputable shops will magnaflux or do whatever you have the budget for. Personally there is an aftermarket crankshaft manufactured by Scat that may be what you are looking for. The crack is something I would want to see first before I would pass judgment on what to do. As far as the Rallum head goes, I think I have one on my collection and I also have a Funk dual-plug head for an inverted engine. There are several aftermarket heads manufactured today that would be good units to put on that engine. The Bosch mag can beat rebuilt to be a reliable unit.

Again, I am excited for you that you were able to salvage the plane. Best wishes.
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Old 11-30-2014, 09:30 PM   #11
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Well with as much trouble as I had with a Model A motor when I as a kid............................................... .....................I would like to watch you fly it, from a distance! Ha

Good luck, looks like fun.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:10 PM   #12
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

I saw the remains of the engine from the plane in San Martin, CA. It lost a rod bearing and the engine began to shake so the pilot put it down in a tomato field, where the engine fell off. I think the new crank and some recently manufactured rods with inserts might be worth investigating. I'd love to see it fly. There is a guy in Buena Vista, CA with two hangers full of old airplanes. I didn't see a Pietenpol in the lot, but there may be one by now.
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Old 11-30-2014, 10:44 PM   #13
Dick Webber
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

I spotted this one at Blakesburg IA in Sept. Couldn't get any closer.
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Old 12-01-2014, 12:04 AM   #14
Dave Mellor NJ
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

The Golden Age Air Museum has a flying Pietenpol in their collection. You should contact them. Chris Ritter, the librarian at AACA came from there.http://www.goldenageair.org/collection/1932pp.htm
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Old 12-01-2014, 01:12 AM   #15
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

There was a discussion here on the Ford Barn a few years ago on these planes and the engine modifications, complete with original drawings showing full pressure oiling mods and a bellhousing with a special hub and bearing to take the thrust and a coupling from the hub to the crankshaft. Also, somewhere I read that Pietenpol just mounted the prop directly to the crankshaft and said that the original thrust surface on the rear main was plenty good! I can't see how that babbit could last very long with the constant thrust load. The drawings of the special bellhousing were not by Pietenpol, I don't think.
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Old 12-01-2014, 01:48 AM   #16
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

There is one down the road from me at the airport in Sonoma Calif. on 8th st. I will try to get you their contact information.
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Old 12-01-2014, 09:43 AM   #17
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

Thanks to all for the input. As you can imagine the Pietenpol group is fairly close knit, and I know the Pietenpol in Sonoma, it belongs to Walt Bowe. Also I'm involved with the Golden Age Air Museum in PA and have flown their Pietenpol a number of times. I would guess that there are 15 to 20 Pietenpols flying today with Model A engines, and I've talked to several of the owners to see what they did, and what they would do over if they could. Some are more concerned with performance, and some with originality, which is our goal, safety being paramount of course. Consensus seems to be that the aircraft installation is not any higher stress than in the car, some people think it's less. Max rpm is about 2,000 and there is very little acceleration and deceleration, mostly, obviously, at take-off and landing, most flying time being spent at cruise rpm of about 1,750. We've decided to stay with babbit bearings, since that's what most of the Pietenpol guys are doing.

I think there are three other original pre-WW2 Pietenpols currently flying (or flyable, one hasn't flown in a several years), and maybe a half dozen other original 1930s homebuilt airplanes flying or flyable, so we think we have a very unique opportunity here to bring back another representative of that era of ambition for flight and do-it-yourself-ers.

Just this past July two friends and I flew three Pietenpols back to Cherry Grove, Minnesota, where Bernard Pietenpol lived, and landed on his old airstrip (the post-WW2 one anyway, the 1930s one was about 1/4 mile from the "new" one). His grandson owns the place now, and a local farmer keeps the strip mowed, even though airplane visits are few and far between. Here's a photo from the trip home, in a wheat field somewhere in Illinois-

The far Pietenpol is the oldest flying Pietenpol Air Camper, the middle one is the newest (with flat four 65 hp Continental engine, same as a Piper Cub), and the near one was built about 10 years ago, but authentic with Model A engine.

For those on Facebook, there's a good Pietenpol group there as well, https://www.facebook.com/groups/154625746626/?ref=br_tf

And of course there's nothing like the sound of a Model A through short stacks going over at 500 feet.


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Last edited by Baldeagle; 12-01-2014 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 12-01-2014, 10:06 AM   #18
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

When I was actively flying and living in the Mojave desert of California, I saw many different powerplant variations for Pietenpols, including model A and B engines, VW engines, the good old reliable 65 hp Comtinental, and even a Corvair engine. Generally most of the newer ones seem to be using the A-65 or C-65 aircraft engine, which is easy to find and already configured for use in an aircraft.

Piece of trivia: the Pietenpol is based on the Heath Parasol, designed as a kit aircraft by Edward Bayard Heath, who later branched out into electronic kits - the Heathkit company.
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Old 12-01-2014, 10:15 AM   #19
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

The MAFFI Model A Museum recently had a Pietenpol donated for display. I do not know any of the details. Maybe another poster can supply the details.
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Old 12-01-2014, 10:21 AM   #20
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Default Re: 1934 Pietenpol with Model A engine

I got a ride at Broadhead in a Pietenpol in 1995. Never had an experience like it since. A truly amazing aircraft. I was at the 50 years WWII fly in at Oshkosh which was amazing but the flight in the Pietenpol at Broadhead was the top of the cake. Would that furthest one in the pic be the plane I flew in? Sure looks like it.
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