The Little Mooney That Could

My name is  Drew Jenkins and I am one of the employees here at the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum and I just recently earned my Private Pilots License after a long road at the beginning of 2015. My Dad and I are sitting in the office one day and he says “Heritage Flight Museum is having an event next Saturday,  Brian and I are going in the Fairchild 24W –what do you want to fly down there?” With out hesitation I say ” The Mooney Mite”.

A little history on the Mooney Mite. The Mooney Mite was first certified in 1948 with the first ten having Crosley automotive engines in the aircraft later moving onto the Lycoming and Continental  A-65 or O-145-B2 powered planes that you see flying today. It is a single seat, low wing retractable gear airplane with a cruising speed of 115 mph on 4.5 gallons an hour. It is very well know for it low operating costs. Mooney built 283 Mites between 1947 and 1954.

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My personal experience with the airplane has been life changing. I learned how to fly in a Piper PA-15 Vagabond finishing my license in a Piper Cherokee 180. I have flown a variety of airplanes over the years but when I was given the opportunity to fly this plane I immediately jumped at the chance. Upon seeing the airplane for the first time, my initial reaction was there is no way I’m going to fit in that, I’m 5′ 11″ and weigh 200 lbs. I thought I was going to have to lube my hips and have someone push on my shoulders to get me down into the cockpit, but I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped in and lowered my self down, I slid right in. It was so cool, like a little fighter. My shoulders are broad and fit a little snugly but that was perfectly okay, who has never dealt with an uncomfortable seat just so they can go flying?

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So here I am sitting in the plane and my Dad walks over and points out the flaps and where the landing gear retract handle is. He explains that the airplane really likes to float on landing and because you sit so low to the ground don’t stall too high or you will drag the tail when you come in. I look at him right before he’s about to prop me and ask “Anything else I need to know” he stops and thinks for a second and look at me and says “Yeah don’t crash”–word of wisdom right there.

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My dad gives me a prop and the engine sputters to life, with the canopy open the cool prop wash hits me and I’m getting that feeling in the pit of my stomach that you get when you’re about to go fly an airplane you’ve never flown before, especially a single seat plane that there really is no way to train properly for. You rely on all your skills and previous training and pray for the best. I let the oil warm up a bit and start my taxi out to the runway. Now the Mooney Mite has the turning radius of the space shuttle on re-entry. There is none so you have to make wide arcs to get the plane to go where you want it to go. I get out to the run-up area and start my run-up. Mixture full rich, left mag, right mag, carb heat, fuel on, trim in neutral position–that’s all really straight forward and simple.

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I taxi to the end of the runway get turned around heading into the wind. Do my little prayer to the airplane gods and give her full throttle. Now for such a small airplane and having only 65 horsepower the Mooney accelerates quite rapidly and before I know it I’m at 55 mph and the controls are getting light. I apply a little back pressure and up I go. I clear the trees at the end of the runway and reach down under the right side of  the instrument panel pull down on the retract rod lock and swing the gear into the up position and lock it into its detente and feel the airplane accelerate even more. I’m climbing out at 80, at 1000 feet a minute. I climb up to 2500 feet and just take her for a test drive to get the feel of the plane. I slowed the plane down into a landing configuration and played with lowering the landing gear a couple of times just to get the motions correct and feel confident about making a safe landing. I fly around a little more enjoying the scenery from the bubble canopy and after about 45 minutes I decide to head back. My landing was uneventful except she did float a little but no problems. I get back to the hanger and shut down and my dad walks over and says ” Good job, you didn’t crash”. Love you too dad.

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I found a new love that day that will always hold a spot in my heart–The Mooney Mite M18C. So when dad asked about going to Heritage’s Fly-In I immediately went with the Mooney and some air-to-air photos were taken while I was flying. I hope all of you enjoy them just as much as I enjoyed flying the airplane. For more information regarding the Mooney Mite please visit the Mooney Mite web site.

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