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Stevens AeroModel Pietenpol Air Camper Kit

A laser cut RC kit of the iconic Air Camper homebuilt airplane

Pietenpol Air Camper RC model airplane from balsa kit

Stevens AeroModel Pietenpol Air Camper

 

Length: 15.25 inches

Wing span: 23.75 inches

Wing Area: 100 square inches

Flying Weight: 2.1 ounces (mine came in at 2.2 ounces)

Controls: 3 channels for rudder, elevator and throttle

Purchase kit at www.stevensaero.com

 

 

Pietenpol Air Camper airplane top view

The balsa Model A Ford engine adds character


The Pietenpol Air Camper is an open cockpit, parasol wing homebuilt airplane designed by Bernard Pietenpol in 1928. The classic dimensions and arrangement of the Air Camper provide the basis for an ideal RC model airplane. The folks at Stevens AeroModel have done a superb job of capturing this iconic airplane with an easy to build laser cut kit.

The Stevens AeroModel Pietenpol Air Camper uses three channels of control via rudder, elevator and throttle. The model is intended for the popular ParkZone line of micro radio control gear. The Air Camper is well suited for indoor flight as well as outdoor sorties under calm wind conditions. You can even practice flying this trainer on an RC flight simulator.

An impressive kit

The Air Camper is one impressive kit. The full size CAD plans are detailed and clear, and are supplemented by an eleven page building instruction booklet. All of the wood parts are supplied with precise laser cutting. The Stevens AeroModel website offers a free download of a building instructions addendum showing each of the 104 individual construction steps illustrated with a detailed color photo. In short, all information needed to successfully build this model airplane kit is provided.

A look at the Air Camper under construction as well as in flight


The instructions carefully take you step by step through the building process. Wood parts are laser cut to an accuracy of five thousands of an inch. Carefully read and understand each building phase before gluing the pieces in place due to the unique construction methods employed.

Pietenpol Air Camper RC model airplane in flight

Air Camper makes a slow fly by - a great candidate for Silkspan covering

The Air Camper parts go together so well you actually dry fit and assemble the airplane in stages, adding glue when that section is complete. If you do not see how a part should be positioned simply cross reference the plans, instruction booklet and the downloaded photo guide to determine the correct approach.

Building the fuselage

The fuselage is built first. A basic box starts the fuselage assembly, followed by the addition of an aft turtledeck and balsa nose section. When complete, you are rewarded with a straight, sturdy and light weight structure.

Air Camper building guide

Illustrated downloaded Air Camper building guide

The wing is next on the build list. The wing’s interlocking design is composed of one spar, a leading edge, trailing edge, ribs and tip sheeting. As with the fuselage, the one piece wing is dry fit in stages, then the parts are CA glued into place.

The tail group is standard balsa frame construction. Once covered, the elevator and rudder use clear tape for the hinges.

The AeroLITE iron-on covering is available from Stevens AeroModel and is ideal for this lightweight model. Be careful to not let the covering fold onto itself as it is difficult to pull apart.

To separate the plastic covering from its backing, I used the old trick of making a loop of Scotch tape with the sticky side out. Hold the AeroLITE film in one hand and use the tape to separate the film from the backing.

The AeroLITE covering looks great once ironed on, does not induce warps when shrunk and is well suited for a model of this size.

Pietenpol balsa wood frame parts

Balsa wood frame parts of the Air Camper

The supplied elevator and rudder control rods are installed following the detailed directions for this important procedure. Shrink rubber tubing is used to precisely adjust the center point for the rudder and elevator control throws.

The landing gear is made from 1/32 inch music wire and wood parts, and assembles into a slot in the fuselage. The plastic lightweight wheels use balsa covers for a convincing appearance.

Balsa Model A Ford engine

The geared electric motor fits seamlessly in the aircraft’s nose section with the correct amount of right thrust built into the mount. The dummy balsa Model A Ford engine and radiator assemble quickly and add to the model’s character. I painted all of the Air Camper’s wood parts with acrylic craft paint using colors that matched the covering.

Pietenpol fuselage

Air Camper fuselage under construction

The fore and aft cabane struts are laser cut to the exact length and provide the correct wing incidence and alignment. The instructions show a removable wing employing rubber O-rings to hold the cabane struts together.

I elected to glue the wing in place on my version. The basswood flying struts assemble easily and I glued these in place for a rigid fuselage/wing assembly. The directions call for a finished weight of 2.1 ounces, and my Pietenpol came in at 2.2 ounces.

Time to head to the flying field! Check once again for no warps anywhere and the proper center of gravity location, very important steps for these smaller models. Everything looks in order. Flight controls are free and they move in the proper direction. Wind calm, runway clear, move the left stick to full throttle and the little model is quickly airborne.

Top view of the Pietenpol RC model airplane

The Pietenpol has ideal dimensions for an RC model airplane

The Air Camper is a gentle and docile flyer, thus the flight controls are set up for minimal throws. Even with these smaller control surface movements, the Pietenpol is pure fun to fly. You feel “in control and connected” when flying the Air Camper. It is a pleasure to fly these micro models slowly and close in, where you can actually see all your control inputs take effect.

I recommend the Pietenpol Air Camper kit without hesitation. The model goes together quickly and looks great when complete. If you are able to follow well written and detailed instructions, you can construct this model.

Pietenpol fuselage under construction

The Pietenpol employs tabbed construction

Can the Air Camper be successfully built by someone who has never completed a kit? The answer is yes, but the instructions must be followed to the letter. Many of the wood parts are small, and once glued into place cannot be easily taken apart. The key point is to take your time and dry fit everything first before applying CA glue.

Flying skills for the Air Camper

The Air Camper flies exceptionally well, but it is not a primary trainer. If you have some flight time logged with other ready to fly micro models, such as the ParkZone Cessna 210, you will be comfortable with the Pietenpol. If you are new to flying kit built micro RC model planes, consider having a more experienced club member take it up for that first test sortie.

The Stevens AeroModel Pietenpol Air Camper laser engineered kit will not disappoint, and is a welcome addition to your fleet of ready to fly model airplanes. Build an Air Camper today!

Author: Gordon McKay