By TED LUEBBERS
The 1929 replica of the Pietenpol aircraft that graced the EAA Chapter 534 hangar at the Leesburg International Airport in Leesburg, Florida, was hauled away by an aircraft mover Jan. 4, 2017. The plane’s over the road destination will be Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck, New York.
This aircraft was originally owned by chapter member Lou Larsen of Tavares, Florida, who passed away last year and never was able to see his homebuilt project fly.
He had been working on it for about 15 years. He started the project in his garage, but for the last four years continued to work on it with the help of the members of the EAA Chapter 534.
It had become a priority for the membership to get this plane in the air for Lou, who was well into his 80s and was having trouble continuing construction on his own.
The Pietenpol is a 1929 reproduction, with open cockpit and parasol wing design built from plans that were originally drawn by Bernard Pietenpol 88 years ago. At that time, the most common engine available for homebuilt aircraft was the Ford Model A four cylinder, cast Iron block motor. Therefore, this plane had one.
Because the engine is water cooled, it required a standard size Model A car radiator, which was placed on the fuselage forward of the wind screen. The radiator made it difficult for the pilot to see what was ahead as he had to look either side of it to see where he was going. Despite this problem, hundreds of plans-built Pietenpols were constructed over the years, and they flew very well.
Many of the chapter members had a chance to work on this plane under the tutelage of Lou and continued on after he became too ill to work on it.
Because of this, the chapter’s Hangar Monkeys, as they are called, got basic instructions on how to build an airplane. This knowledge will be valuable as the chapter is now constructing a second Pietenpol.
The plane was recently sold as an “as is project” by Lou’s estate. It was about 95% completed. It will be missed by the membership as they enjoyed working on it and it was used many times for “show and tell” when the chapter ran Merit Badge Courses in their hangar for the Boy Scouts of America.
On moving day, about a dozen members of the chapter showed up to help the mover load the plane in the back of an 18-wheeler trailer truck. The wings, vertical and horizontal stabilizer, and propeller were removed and all was gently loaded through the side of the trailer.
It was like the end of an era and members had a lumps in their throats as they watched the truck pull away from the hangar.