Plane & Pilot
Sunday, January 1, 2006

Maules Are All That

This taildragger can just about do it all

maules are all thatIt’s true, Maule pilots do it on dirt, sand, gravel, grass or any straight stretch of open area at least 250 feet long. And they have more fun! Probably because of where they like to go or what they like to carry. Lonnie Messenger of Dallas bought his Maule M-7-260C to get away from it all. As he says, “My flying is totally recreational. I like to stay away from people, TFRs and stuff like that.”
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“I owned different Cessna 182s for several years, up until the mid-’80s. In the ‘90s, I got back into it and learned how to fly taildraggers in a Super Cub. Now, when I go flying, I head away from cities. I like flying in west Texas, where there’s a lot of space. I usually have no particular destination in mind. At 110 mph, it takes a while to get anywhere. It’s all beautiful country, and there’s so much to see! I like landing on riverbeds like the Red River, or the Canadian or the Brazos, north of Possum Kingdom Lake. You’d be surprised how many grass strips are out there. I’m very respectful of the landowners and won’t land somewhere unless I’ve asked them.”

And for Messenger, the Maule is the perfect VFR plane. “I never finished my IFR ticket. It’s just not the type of flying I’m interested in. The Maule is the best airplane for what I like to do—throw the camping gear in the plane and go somewhere with my brother or whoever wants to go. It’s fun to just see how things work out.”

Belford D. Maule designed the venerable Maule for a mission just like Messenger’s. Maule was an Ohio farm boy with a natural affinity for mechanical things. By the age of 15, he had built a tractor, and at 18, he joined the Army to work on dirigibles. Soon after that, he designed his first airplane, a single-seat monoplane on floats or wheels, in which he taught himself to fly. His designs included a low-cost mechanical starter for light airplanes, and he started his company making steerable tailwheels in 1941. In the 1950s, he worked on the prototype for the M4, his first certified design. There are 13 original Bee Dee Maules still flying; notably, only two of those are on the East Coast.

Open skies and spaces are where Maules belong. Alaska, the home of modern bush flying, has 18% of all Maules on the FAA registry. The vast majority are found in Western states.

Backcountry flying requires the ability to carry a huge load and operate out of short strips. A typical Maule can beat a 50-foot obstacle in 600 feet, and a lightly loaded one can take off in 250 feet. Maule himself used to demonstrate the ultimate STOL takeoff by lining up the airplane at the back of a 125-foot hangar and getting airborne by the front door.

Today, Maule Air is constantly developing new variations on the basic M4 design. Currently, there are 19 or 20 models (certified and pending). Maule Air is developing a diesel version, considering a Rotax engine and working on a four-blade composite propeller, all at the same time. It’s the Burger King of airplane makers—you can have it your way: skis; floats; spring gear; oleo gear; two-, three- or four-blade props; two, four or five seats; Patroller doors; double-wide cargo doors; IFR; VFR; and turbine power—whatever you like. Just name it, and Maule will build it. If you already own a Maule, you can get aftermarket conversions for the landing gear, seats, doors, bigger engines, 26-inch donut tires, fishing poles and even a 10-cubic-foot icebox to bring back all those fish caught on the bank of that remote river.

The Maule is a versatile, robust, simple-to-maintain airplane that will go just about anywhere and carry almost anything you can fit into it. A couple of important tips to keep in mind for a prospective Maule pilot: 1) when getting in, you should put your inside foot on the step and your outside knee in the middle of the seat and then twist to sit down; and 2) don’t forget the rudder. With five-foot ailerons way out there on the fat wing, rolling without leading rudder induces…umm…a tad bit of yaw.

For Messenger, the Maule represents freedom. “I’m thinking of trading in the 260 hp version for a 180 hp one with the MT prop and flow-matched exhaust,” he says. “I’ve got a lot of fishing and camping to do in Idaho and Wyoming, and a useful load of 1,350 pounds will make it much easier.”

For more information, contact Maule Air Inc. at (229) 985-2045 or log on to

SPECS: Maule M-7-260C Orion N721H 


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