Mooney Mite

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

Mooney Mite N3199K is serial number one of the fast and efficient line of private aircraft designed by Albert Mooney and Charles Yankey. Mooney Aircraft Corporation produced more than 365 Mites between 1947 and 1955 and followed them with the larger M.20 series. Current Mooney aircraft still sport the trademark forward-swept vertical fin of the original Mite.

The compact, single-place, low-wing monoplane boasted retractable landing gear and wing flaps, new amenities for personal planes of that era. Mooney's patented "Safe-Trim" system featured a moveable horizontal stabilizer interconnected to the flaps for automatic nose-attitude trim. After replacing the original 25 hp Crosley Cobra engine with a Continental or Lycoming, Mites became lively record-setters, cruising at a brisk 200 km/h (125 mph).

Collection Item Long Description:

The Mooney M-18-C Mite, N3199K, is the first aircraft of the series to be built and it is the forerunner of the Mooney private and corporate airplane business. The design goal was to provide a fast and economical means of personal transportation for the businessman and the private pilot.

Charles G. Yankey and Al Mooney, formerly of the Culver Aircraft Company, formed the Mooney Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, in 1946. Mooney's interest in private aircraft reached back to his engineering work at Monocoupe, Bellanca, and Alexander. At Culver, they had built the pre-war Culver Dart and Culver Cadet that became the production PQ-8 and PQ-14 pilotless aircraft and target drones during World War II. The post-war M-18 design was, to some extent, based on many of the successful features of the Culver V and PQ drone airplanes.

The M-18 Mite was designed in 1946 and was first test flown on May 17, 1947 by test pilot Bill Taylor. Performance was acceptable but some high angle of attack buffeting was encountered. This was corrected through wing leading edge modifications and the addition of a trailing edge wing root fillet. However, the most severe problem was the modified 25 hp Crosley automobile engine conversion used to power the airplane. With a series of exhaust valve failures and a crank shaft failure during the engine and flight tests, the finall CAA certification was delayed until July 30, 1948. The Crosley powered M18s were subsequently retrofitted with the 65 hp 0-145 Lyncoming engine. This made a major improvement in the overall performance which included an increase in the top speed from 100 mph to 138 mph.

The Mite was a well streamlined, enclosed cockpit, single-place, low-wing monoplane, equipped with a manually retractable tricycle landing gear and wing flaps, features that were not available on this class of airplane during that time. The forward fuselage is a welded steel tube structure covered with sheet aluminum panels and the entire rear fuselage is a semi-monocoque wood framework covered with plywood. The cantilever wings are a single spar wood structure with the leading edge box covered with plywood and the remainder of the wing, including the ailerons and flaps, covered with fabric. The retractable landing gear wheel wells are located in the inboard section just aft of the main spar box. The tail section is a plywood-covered wood structure that is itself covered and sealed with fabric. The cockpit is enclosed with a sliding canopy and the airplane can be flown with it in the closed, open, or vent position. The cramped cockpit has a standard stick and rudder pedals with toe brakes. The tricycle landing gear is manually retracted with a lever in the cockpit and the nose wheel is steerable. The erratic flight path of the aircraft during the manual retraction procedure by a first time pilot was frequently a source of much commentary by his peers on the ground.

Pilots in search of a small but quick airplane appreciated the performance and maneuverability. This airplane pioneered the Mooney trademark forward-swept vertical fins that are still an identifying feature on today's Mooney airplanes. It also incorporated a Mooney patented automatic trim system called "Safe-Trim," a moveable horizontal stabilizer that is interconnected to the flaps so that the airplane automatically maintains nose-attitude trim during flap extension (adapted from the Mooney designed "Simpli-Fly" system of the post-war Culver V).

There were a total of 295 M18 Mooney Mites of all models produced, 12 of which were the test prototypes that were later retrofitted to production standards. Production in Wichita, Kansas totaled 203 units before Mooney's move to Kerrville, Texas in 1953. The remaining 92 units were produced at the Texas facility before cessation of Mite production in 1955. The airplane was a victim of the post war glut of light aircraft and its own price escalation problems. Meanwhile, Al Mooney had designed the Mark 20, a four-seat aircraft based on the Mite, but left the company later in 1955. The Mooney Mite Corporation later bought the certification and manufacturing rights to the Mite and sodl the airplane in kit form to homebuilders.

While the records of Mite # 1 from 1947 to 1951 are not clear, an official 1950 Mooney document indicates that a Continental A-65-8 engine replaced the Crosley Cobra and the aircraft was renumbered 201. The Solo Flying Club of Washington, D.C., owned and operated the airplane for most of its flying life. In 1951, they added night-flying equipment including a generator, battery, navigation and cockpit lights, instruments, auxiliary fuel tank, and radio equipment. In 1952, the Club installed a Continental C-85-12F engine, upgraded radio and navigation equipment, and painted the aircraft red and white with black trim scheme. In May 1968, the Club reinstalled the 65 hp A-65-8 engine and previous radio and navigation equipment in anticipation of its sale. T.G. Shelbrack of Portsmouth, Ohio, bought the aircraft in 1969.

Johan Kala, a Finnish immigrant and airplane mechanic in Easton, Pennsylvania, eventually acquired the Mite and donated it in 1981. A 1980 letter from the Mooney Mite Aircraft Corporation of Charlottesville, Virginia, verified that this Mite is serial number one. Legal matters delayed the title transfer until 1983. Dave Blanton, president of the Javelin Aircraft Corporation and a former test engineer on the original Mooney Mites donated an original Sensenich wood propeller and the reduction drive including the vee belts and mounts for the original Crosley engine installation.