It was about this time that Charles Lindberg flew alone across the Atlantic Ocean inspiring a whole new awakening to the fun, adventure, and romance of aviation. Bernard Peitenpol knew that he had to find some kind of aircraft in which he could gain a bit more flying experience as he kept his dream alive of creating his own design for the “common man.”
Pietenpol Air Camper rear Instrument Panel
Bernard was not pleased with the overall performance of the Lincoln, so he traded it for a Curtiss Jenny powered by the then famous OX-5 water-cooled engine. This was the airplane used by most of the barnstormers who had criss- crossed the Midwest during the decade following World War I and which most observers used as their “yardstick” for comparing the smaller homebuilt airplanes. Bernard logged some hours in the Jenny, but he later admitted that he wasn’t very fond of its quirks, both in the airframe design and its temperamental underpowered V-8 engine.
Meanwhile, Ed Heath’s Parasol was becoming more popular, as well as the kits he sold to builders. If Heath could do it, Bernard reasoned, why couldn’t he? He sold the Jenny and went back to his first instincts, designing and building his own airplane, but, unlike Heath and Corben, designing his airframe around an automobile engine. Bernard Pietenpol sketched up his aircraft design, and with woodworking help from his father-in-law, he and Finke put their workmanship skills together while Hoopman created the post design sketches, later to be transformed into blueprints for sale.
Bernard Pietenpol’s new design, dubbed “ACE,” was a “parasol” type construction – a 27 foot one-piece (initially) high wing placed well above the fuselage, similar to Heath’s Parasol. Unlike the welded tube construction of Heath, Bernard preferred all-wood construction, so the average woodworker could construct his airplane with “usual” skills, which did not include welding. He later offered a steel tube fuselage version of the aircraft as an option.
Bernard Pietenpol moved his workshop into an abandoned Lutheran church in Cherry Grove, MN and worked tirelessly. Finally, on September 1st, 1927, Bernard and Don Finke successes fully flew their new design. It was powered by an aluminum 16-valve Model T engine developed by Horace Keane. At 30 horsepower, it was capable of getting two men into the air and safely back on the ground. It was a step in the right direction, but still Bernard believed it needed additional power.