N4129 and Rey Nelson

These photos and comments are by Rey Nelson, who calls Ontario, California home. The pictures were taken by a friend from a J3 cub over the north west suburbs of Chicago.

I am reaching back close to fifty years in my memory now but I will give you what I recall. If you happen to recall the FARs at that time, a student pilot did not need any more endorsements after being checked out cross-country to fly anywhere he wanted. I had been taking flying lessons in a J3 cub and was checked out cross-country. I had been flying out of Palwaukee Airport trying to build time renting. I was looking for a LOW COST airplane that could help me develop the skills needed to fly higher performance airplanes. The Mooney Mite seemed to have it all.

I looked in my log book to see if I could get the CFI's name who sold it to me. As usual it is hard to read but seems like it reads Waleberg C39645. He was based in Waukeegan. I saw him around the airports for the next ten years or so. The last time I saw him he was flying a G2 in West Bend, WI. I think it was for the company that makes cookware.

As I reach through the vials of memory, I seem to remember someone telling me that the aircraft had been manufactured with another type of engine in it, a Crossly or a Lycoming. This could have been stories people had told me about the history of the Mooney Mite and not this particular aircraft. I was told by the flight instructor that the Continental was the best engine to have in it. The aircraft performed very well for me. It did have a vernier throttle and mixture control. It had a good rate of climb approximately 1000 FPM and wasted no time getting to 9500 or 10500 the altitudes I usually flew it.

Palwaukee Airport had a lot of flight schools and the pattern around the airport was full of J3's. I did not have any trouble slowing up behind a J3 with the aircraft. I was practicing short field landings one day. After doing a bunch of them without retracting the gear I decided to leave the pattern retract the gear and go up to WI.

As I looked out the direction I was going I saw a big black thunderstorm. I made a quick turn back into the pattern and decided to do another short field landing. You guessed it. Since I was carrying power for the short field landing the vacuum-actuated gear warner never actuated. I did what the say all pilots are going to do sooner or later. I did the cheapest gear-up landing ever. $65.00 for a wooden prop and a few cents for a small piece of fabric that I installed. A bunch of people came to my aid and picked up the airplane with me in it and I brought down the gear. Then they propped my broken prop and I taxied into my tie down. I do have pictures of me in it in the air.

I do believe I have the closest pictures of a Mite in flight that I have seen. I would never have guessed that in 1959 when we casually went up for a flight to take those few pictures. In fact I do not think I have ever seen a picture of a Mite flying where you could recognize the pilot. Believe me, I was a student pilot at the time and I was a lot closer to that J3 cub than I wanted to be. I did not feel comfortable under his wing. There were no special lenses - I was really that close.

One of the other things I can remember doing with that airplane is having dog fights with a buddy of mine who had a PT-19. If you can remember, it had a plumber's nightmare of a landing gear on it. I never had any trouble getting on his tail but when I did he would point it straight down. Needless to say I could not follow that as the airspeed would go through the red line. With all the drag hanging out of that airplane, I don't think it was possible to get it to the red line. I really was fond of that Mooney Mite and would buy one again today.