ATC #803 (3-15-49)
MOONEY "MITE," M-18-L (M-18-C)

This somewhat dense article about the history and specifications of the M-18 was written by Joe Juptner in the Civil Aircraft Series, Volume 9 (ATC 801-817). It was sent to us by George Meenach, N4102.

The spiffy little Mooney "Mite," if one remembers back, bore the identifiable style and swagger of the designer, one Albert W. Mooney. Based somewhat on the PQ-8 and PQ-14 "drones" of World War 2 fame, the pinch-penny "Mite" was designed in 1946 to achieve the lowest cost transportation of any means then known: it was a "magic carpet" that could fly for an hour or more on a good deal less than a dollar's worth of gas! Designed first around the little 25 h.p. Crosley "Cobra" automobile engine the "Mite" promised to be the weekend pilot's dream, but its production was soon suspended while development went ahead to increase the engine's power rating: subsequently the use of this engine was dropped in favor of the popular 4 cyl. Lycoming O-145 engine of 65 h.p. This engine change had some detrimental effects on the overall economy, but the performance gained was now akin to that of a small fighter-plane, and ex-fighter pilots look a fancy to it in droves. There was nothing around that could match the challenge, and the sheer fun, of a first time solo flight in the new (M-18-L) "Mite." Being a real sweet-flying airplane it generated much talk amongst the flying-folk everywhere, and it was certainly interesting enough to be covered well by the news media of that time. Delivery of the first M-18 "Mite" (with Crosley "Cobra" engine) came late in 1947, and as the first production model it reportedly went to a Mooney dealer in Calif: he flew it home from Wichita (about 1200 Mites) for less than 7 dollars! The M-18-L with Lycoming engine was being delivered from mid-1948: in the nearly 5 years it was produced at Wichita some 239 of the little "Mite" were rolled out for fly-aways. But ever-rising labor and production costs had driven up the price to where the "Mite's" major selling advantage was about gone. The last version of the "Mite" (M-18-C55) with 65 h.p. Continental engine, and several deluxe improvements, had to sell for nearly $3800 and that didn't help matters either. Seeking lower overhead expenses the Mooney opera- lion moved to Kerrville, Texas in 1953 where some 50 or more or so of the "Mite" were built. But it too became a losing proposition: the bulk of the aircraft market was now demanding a more comfortable airplane with more capacity and more utility. Oddly enough, the vivacious little "Mite" is much more appreciated nowadays than it actually was during the time it was being built. Now they say the "Mite" is back, only this time you have to build it yourself from plans and a kit based on original production blueprints. As a light-hearted airplane designed for owner-pilots who want sheer fun in their flying, with now and then a little high adventure at low cost, Mooney's little "Mite" was hard to beat.

An intriguing sight, the (M-18) Mooney "Mite" was a small, inexpensive low-wing cabin monoplane with just barely enough room for the seating of one; because of the chummy layout the pilot virtually became one with the airplane. Standing jauntily on its three-legged landing gear it seemed to beckon like a sorceress that could lead you up and astray from what was then known as every-day normal flying. Almost like having the fabled "seven-league boots" the wandering "Mite" has been to the lower tip of So. America and back, and as far north as the Arctic Circle: beside that it set many world records in speed, distance, and altitude for its class. Its primary reason for being was economy, flying on a very low budget (you could easily fly for as much as 300 hours including fuel, oil, maintenance, and insurance for just over $600), but the built-in exciting performance was the added bonus that came on to warm the heart of many a man. At first powered with the little Crosley "Cobra," a modified automobile engine of 25 h.p., it didn't have all that much performance to brag about, but the "Mite" really came alive as powered with the 65 h.p. Lycoming engine: performance with the 65 h.p. Continental engine was comparable. Slick as a whistle you might say, the "Mite" was then fast enough to scoot across a mile in less than 30 seconds, and it could do just about anything a pilot would care to try (except major aerobatics) with a flick of the stick. It didn't have hands-off stability, and it had to be tended to lovingly just about every minute, but it was absolutely viceless, and that was the charm of this little airplane: it was a sweet-flying airplane that you could really enjoy once you decided to go along and share the fun. As one owner-pilot so aptly put it "There was a delightful period in my life when I owned and flew a "Mooney Mite." That just about says it all! Nowadays if you should want an airplane of this type you'd have to build it yourself. About 80 of the M-18-L that were produced were limited to 780 lbs. gross weight, and then gross weight was increased to 850 lbs. in the new M-18-LA of which nearly 50 were built. The model M-18-C had 65 h.p. Continental engine at 850 lbs. gross wt. and about 120 of these were built: the M-18-C55 (last version) of which about 40 or so were built had a larger cockpit area and a bigger canopy—the basic price by then had gone to $3695 and up. The type certificate for the M-18-L was issued 3-15-49 for ser. #2 and up: the M-18 with "Cobra" engine was approved earlier, and the Continental-powered M-18-C was approved 4-11-50 to ser. #201 and up. Approval for the M-18-LA was issued 7-12-50 for ser. #100 thru #200, and approval for the M-18-C55 was issued 4-2-55 for ser. #323 and up. Some 290 or more examples in the "Mite" series were mfgd. by Mooney Aircraft. Inc. in Wichita. Kan. (formed in 1946) with the last batch (about 65) built in the plant at Kerrville, Tex. Chas. G. Yankey was pres.: Al W. Mooney was V.P., gen. mgr., & chf. engr.: Art B. Mooney was V.P. in chrg. of prod. & development: N.E. Miller was asst. engr.: W.W. "Bill" Taylor was sales mgr. &. chf. pilot. Al Mooney left the company with brother Art in 1955, but before leaving he had designed the now-famous "Mark 20" (approved on TC 2A3) which has become the basis for a whole new line of "Mooney" airplanes. The M-18 with Crosley "Cobra" engine was deleted from ATC #803 on 4-28-50.

Listed below are specifications and performance data for the Mooney M-18-L as powered with 4 cyl. Lycoming 0-145-B2 engine rated 65 h.p. at 2550 r.p.m. at SL: length overall 17'7": height overall (at rudder) 6'3": wing span 26'11": wing chord 56" at root tapering to 28" at tip: total wing area 95.05 sq. ft.; airfoil NACA-0015 Mod. at root tapering to NACA-4410 at tip; wt. empty 500 lbs.; useful load 280 lbs., payload with 12.8 gal. fuel was pilot at 165 lbs. & 30 lbs. bag.; gross wt. 780 lbs.; max. speed 138; cruising speed (2300 r.p.m.) 122 at 5000 ft.; landing speed (with flaps) 40; stall speed (no flaps) 45; normal takeoff run 525 ft. over 50' barrier; takeoff run (full flaps) 350 ft.; climb 1090 ft. first min. at SL; climb to 10,000 ft. was 12 mins.; landing run (over 50' barrier) 860 ft.; ser. ceiling 19,400 ft.; gas cap. 12.8 gal. (11 gal. usable); oil cap. 4 qts.; cruising range (.66 power at 10,000 ft.) using 3.5 gal. per hour was 360 miles; price for M-18-L was $2250 at factory. The M-18 with "Cobra" engine was listed for $1995 and the M-18-C55 built in Kerrville sold for $3695-3800. The M-18-L at 740 lbs. gross wt. had positive safety factor of 4.4G, and later versions had safety factor of 3.8G because of higher gross wt. The M-18-C and M-18-LA both eligible at 850 lbs. gross wt.

Specifications and data for model M-18-C as powered with Continental A-65-8 or A-65-12 engine rated 65 h.p. at 2300 r.p.m. at SL, same as above except as follows: length overall 17'9"; wt. empty 520 lbs. (Std) & 580 lbs. (Deluxe); useful load 330-270 lbs.; payload with 12 gal. fuel was pilot at 170 lbs. & 80-20 lbs. bag.; gross wt. 850 lbs., max. speed 140; cruising speed (.68 power) 125 at 10,000 ft.; landing speed (with flaps) 43; stall speed (no flaps) 48; takeoff run over 50 ft. barrier 560 ft.; climb 1000 ft. First min. at SL; land over 50' barrier was 900 ft.; gas cap. 12 gal.; oil cap. (in sump) 4 qts.; cruising range (.68 power at 10,000 ft.) using 3.8 gal. per hour was 350 miles; price for M-18-C (Std.) was $2325 & $2545 (Deluxe) at factory. Specifications & data as listed here also typical of M-18-LA and M-18-C55.

The fuselage framework was a composite structure using welded C/M steel tubing for the center portion that was covered with metal panels; the rear portion was a plywood-covered, all-wood, semi-monocoque structure covered with a final layer of fabric. The transparent canopy slid back for entry into the cockpit from the wing-walk; the canopy could be fully open in flight for that open-air feeling. The canopy could also be opened just slightly for ventilation. The M-18-C55, as the cream of the crop, had a larger cockpit area that was sound-proofed with fiberglass, upholstered with imitation leather, and had a bigger canopy. Stick-type controls were provided as well as manual controls for landing gear retraction and lowering of the wing flaps. The fuel tank (variously of 8, 12, 13.5. & 16 gal. cap.) was high behind the pilot and a 3.6 cu. ft. baggage compt. was down underneath behind the seal. The cantilever wing (of high aspect-ratio) was a box-type, single-spar structure with a plywood leading edge, wooden ribs and trusses, & then covered with Fabric: ailerons and the slotted hi-lift wing flaps were also covered with fabric. No flap deflection above 85 m.p.h. The "Mite" was also equipped with a version of the Simpli-Fly system (as used on the "Culver V") called Safe-Trim: the entire tail assembly moved in coordination with the wing flaps changing angle of horizontal stabilizer so that the airplane was constantly "in trim" as the wing flaps were cranked up or down. The retractable (hand-operated) tricycle landing gear of 71" tread used Mooney rubber-donut shock struts with 4.00x4 Mooney wheels fitted with toe-operated Mooney brakes: the nosewheel was steerable. A novel Wig-Wag system (very dramatic) was on the dash-panel to warn of "gear up" when the engine was throttled down: this a very effective reminder to lower wheels on landing. The plywood-covered, wood-framed tail group was also covered with a layer of fabric. and all movable controls were aerodynamically balanced: the elevators had adj. trim tab. The little "Mite" was the first "Mooney" with the "on backwards" tail. A Sensenich or Flottorp wooden prop, exhaust collector, carburetor heater & air-filter, normal set of engine & flight instruments, compass, airspeed ind., wiring for navig. lights, fuel gauge. & seat belt were std. equipment. The standard M-18-L color scheme was overall aluminum finish with a contrasting stripe. A full electric system, 12V battery, engine starter, generator, cabin healer, navig. lights. & prop spinner were std. equipment on the; M-18-C Deluxe & the M-18-C55. Optional eqpt. for most std. models at extra cost was carb. air-filter, heater, navig. lights, ash tray, 6V or 12V battery, electrical system, starter, generator, battery, a landing light, shielding & radio gear: all this was provided on Deluxe models except the radio gear.

To celebrate his 25th anniversary (6-24-50) as an airplane designer, Al W. Mooney look off from Brownsville, Texas in an M-18-L. with 45 gals. of fuel aboard, and flew to Watertown, S.D.: this a distance of 1312 Mites in less than 11 hours to set an unofficial distance record for Category One (under 1102 lbs.) airplanes. Proving that the Mooney "Mite" altho' the smallest and cheapest airplane then in production. was one of the most efficient airplanes ever built. Mooney encouraged record-setting in the "Mite," so many records and record attempts followed, some breaking his own record. Hoping to cash in on the "Mite's" ability an experimental version labeled the M-19, and referred to as the "Cub Killer." was demonstrated in 1951 with 90 h.p. as a miniature fighter-plane with twin .30 caliber machine guns and rocket launchers. It was a whale of an airplane for its purpose, but the government services which instigated this design, suddenly lost interest.

It was noted that 166 of the Mooney "Mites" were still on the U.S. register as of 3-31-80: 48 were the M-18-L, 21 were M-18-LA, 80 were the M-18-C, and 16 were the M-18-C55. Ser. #3, 5, 6, 7 were the earliest ser. nos. shown & #357 was the highest number. All were pretty well scattered around the country with perhaps the larger portion in the west: one was registered in Alaska.

October 28, 2001