Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mooney Mite and Navion: 1957

I had given O.S.Smith ("Smitty"), the Grand Prarie FBO (Fixed Base Operator: the airport business), the power to handle matters of airport ownership while I was abroad.  That was another mistake.   I should have learned from my experience with Milton.  Smitty swapped the Navion for a Mooney Mite , registered as N112C, and some money.

I visited Al Mooney, an iconic designer behind the Mite and other planes, at his small factory in Kerrville, Texas, to ask if the Mite could be retrofitted to carry sufficient gasoline to be flown to Europe via Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland.  We sat on the grass and talked about it.  After some thought he said yes, but eventually I abandoned the idea.

At 550 pounds empty the Mite was about the lightest manufactured aircraft since the Aeronca C2.   It had a single seat, so I would have to teach myself to fly it.   Shortly after I took off for the return to Maine I realized I was sitting on the unfastened seat belt.  As I raised my hips enough to free the belt, my head bumped the sliding canopy above.  That made it fly off and away.  The revised air currents slowed my speed by 10 mph, and made the dirt on the floor fly up in my face.   There was nothing to hold me in the plane if I were bumped upward in turbulence, so I quickly fastened the belt.   I reached Louisville, Kentucky by dark, and found Smitty had delivered a defective plane to me: the lights didn't work.   In the landing at Louisville I should have held the nose higher, but the front (tricycle) wheel struck first, and collapsed.   I held the nose up as I steered off the runway, ending nose-low and tail-high, as in Winthrop.  Like in Winthrop there was no injury except to my pride and pocketbook.   I sold the damaged bird to the Louisville FBO, and returned to Maine by commercial plane.