Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Maule MXT-7: Simplicity Redefined
A different take on the question of four-seat economy
|Back in the last century, when I lived in Alaska, I used to hear stories of pilots who could fly Maules out of places where other airplanes would fear to roll a tread. I didn’t have a chance to fly one in those days, but I always wondered if the stories were true.|
Back in the last century, when I lived in Alaska, I used to hear stories of pilots who could fly Maules out of places where other airplanes would fear to roll a tread. I didn’t have a chance to fly one in those days, but I always wondered if the stories were true.
They were. It was probably 10 years later when I first got my hands on a Maule and began to explore its talents. I discovered that Maules truly are among the most talented of short-/soft-field airplanes, and the marquee has a deserved reputation as a utility machine par excellence.
|Run by the Maule family (above) and founded by Belford D. Maule, Maule Air (www.mauleairinc.com) has been producing airplanes since 1941. |
One of the first and most exciting things I learned was the technique for what has become known as a “jump takeoff.” Most any of the Maules could leap into the sky after an incredibly abbreviated takeoff run, but the M4s and M5s, with engines from 210 hp to 235 hp, always seemed the most enthusiastic. With the Maule M5-235C, for example, the procedure was fairly simple. It was great fun, but I never did it as well or as aggressively as my first teacher, Maule demo pilot Dan Spader. Later, Long Beach, Calif., Maule dealer Joe Geiger helped me refine the technique. Geiger was one of Maule’s top salesmen in the ’70s and ’80s, and he and Spader taught me the demo trick to make the Maule stand out from the pack.
With the brakes set, the procedure was to bring power to the wall, release the brakes, push the stick forward to bring the tailwheel off the ground and the airplane to a level attitude, count to four, pull in two notches of flaps and rotate hard. If you did it right, the result was a very short ground run followed by a dramatic liftoff, with the nose arcing through 40 degrees up and the tailwheel barely clearing the runway. Obviously, you had to know the airplane fairly well to bring it off, but with a little practice, you could dazzle the locals every time.
Though I never sold airplanes, I delivered a wide variety of Piper, Cessna, Beech, Mooney, Commander, Grumman American, Bellanca and other aircraft, plus probably a dozen or so new Maules from the factory in Moultrie, Ga., to Geiger’s West Coast dealership. The Maules certainly weren’t the fastest, but they were among the most fun, and they always garnered more than their fair share of attention. Flying cross-country, spanning the Lower 48, I was asked to demonstrate the jump takeoff trick over and over at practically every fuel stop along the route. In one instance, I spent most of a day at Geiger’s Hayward, Calif., office demonstrating the procedure to everyone from employees and salesmen to rampers and prospects.
It seems everyone knew that Maules were capable of amazing things, and most pilots were eager to experience the airplane’s phenomenal short-field performance firsthand. Belford D. Maule saddled his airplanes with fanciful names, such as Astro Rocket, Strata Rocket and Lunar Rocket, but after you saw what they could do, the names didn’t seem nearly so fanciful.
I had heard stories of pilots operating from the mountainous bush country of Alaska who could fly what was referred to as the “box canyon departure.” As the name implied, this was a procedure sometimes employed in a tight canyon where the only departure possible was a steep climbing turn. It demanded the jump takeoff described above followed by a high-angle, slow-speed, steep turn, arcing uphill while prescribing a narrow funnel in the sky. The primary risk was of stalling the airplane in the worst possible attitude, a steep, climbing, departure turn. The good news was that the Maule airfoil was so forgiving, it was easy to predict the exact moment when the wing would stop flying and begin falling.
Maules were STOL airplanes long before anyone thought up the acronym. Back in the ’60s, the standard Maules with 210 hp Continentals or 220 hp Franklins practically defined bush flying and, along with Super Cubs, were regarded as generic bush planes. That may not be surprising, considering that Maules share the Cub’s USA 35B modified wing section. (In fact, Jane’s All-The-World’s Aircraft suggests the original Maule M4 was “a four-seat extrapolation of the Piper Cub.”) The Maule’s large-span, wide-chord flaps were one key to the airplane’s low stall speed and short-takeoff capability. The flaps deflected to a full 48 degrees (on some models), creating huge amounts of drag and lift and reducing stall well below 40 knots.
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