Sometimes the fates allow a most appropriate meeting. In this photograph (taken in the Historic Aircraft Park at Great Vintage Flying Weekend, Hullavington) we can see not one, but two classics of aviation.
G-BUCO is a Pietenpol Air Camper, an American design which has been around since 1929; Bernard H. Pietenpol (1901-1984) was a self-taught mechanic who, in Minnesota, during the midst of the Great Depression designed a simple, easy to build two seat aircraft (developed from an earlier single-seater) constructed from cheap materials such as Sitka spruce, and powered by a 40hp Model A Ford engine. The aircraft first flew in May 1929, and plans were published in 'Modern Mechanics'. It was a success, with hundreds having been built to this day, powered by over 30 different types of engine; the aircraft plans are still being sold by descendants of Bernard Pientenpol. This particularly fine example, G-BUCO, was constructed by Alan James of Reading , Berkshire in 1992, under the auspices of the Popular Flying Association (now the Light Aircraft Association), and is powered by a Continental Motors C90-8F motor putting out around 95hp. One small point with regard to the Air Camper is that it takes a certain amount of effort, and the ability to wriggle through small gaps between wing struts, to gain access to the front seat!
The build standard and finish is a credit to the constructor and owner, and it is being carefully examined (as part of the Great Vintage Flying Weekend, Concours d’Elegance competition at Hullavington) by another aviation classic, in the person of one Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume.
It has been my priviledge to have known Arthur for many years, and it is safe to say that there are few people who know more about aviation in general, and British light aviation in particular, than he. Indeed, if I reach out with my left hand, even as I write this, it will fall on my own copy of ‘British Light Aeroplanes, 1920 – 1940′, by Arthur; a truly seminal work. Underneath that signature Panama hat, lies a repository of aviation (and musicological) knowledge at which one can only wonder. Here, we really do see two aviation classics together!