The Demise of CF-FAV
Mite N354A, serial number 15, was bought by Floyd Venne of Regina, Saskatchewan from Al (Alfred) Pietsch of Minot, North Dakota in 1973. Prior to that, it had been owned by Bruce VanSickle of Minot, ND. Venne imported the Mite into Canada in pieces, with 793 hours on the airframe.
The Mite was assembled by T.W. Eastley and made its first flight as Canadian registration CF-FAV at Regina on March 16, 1973. According to the flight log, two months later, May 29, it made a local flight at 795 hours TT. At this time it experienced a hard landing, followed by a brief encounter with a runway light, which damaged the nose gear, propeller and one wing.
Here is a copy of a letter from Floyd Venne to the MMOA Bulletin, Volume VIII, Number II, 1973. It was sent to us by Gil Gilbert, N4121:
Canada April 10, 1973
.... After two and one half years of rebuilding it is now completed.
The flight test went beautifully. The airplane had not flown since 1964. Total time now is 794 hours. I have equipped the plane with a new Radair 10 channel radio. Rebuilding report to the Ministry of Transport required four and one half pages of foolscap to complete. All wood flaps and aileron hangers and trailing edge of the wing was completely replaced. Center section skins were also replaced. All new ribs in the center section were made and replaced. All new wood was installed on the fuselage where the cockpit joins to it. All new wood and new ribs were placed on the trailing end of the horizontal stabilizer. Also a new vertical fin spar was installed together with new wood on the trailing edge of the vertical fin. The entire aircraft was completely recovered. Wing was covered with Lincoln Cloth with 26 coats of dope making it come out with a mirror like finish.
Now for some sad news. After the test pilot flew it and could find nothing but praise for the little ship, I waited for the C. of A. to arrive. Yesterday after waiting 3 weeks it came. Having never flown anything but Piper Colts and Cherokee 140's I went to check myself out. The weather appeared good, 15 mph wind at 45 degrees. However, upper winds were gusty. I decided to do one circuit with the wheels down. I found the controls much more sensitive than what I was used to and had a little trouble with over control. While coming in on final I found the air a bit turbulent. (A DC-9 had arrived ahead of me.)
After using too much elevator to round out, I settled down to complete the landing. Being used to a Cherokee 140, I flew the Mite the same. Consequently, I landed it three feet higher than what I should have. The Mite fell the three feet with the nose wheel hitting a second ahead of the mains. One big bounce (only the second I have ever made that bad) and with a burst of power the second landing was good, but part #18 on the nose wheel broke. You guessed it! The prop came next. I skidded along about thirty feet to a sickening stop. I can be thankful that the only damage was to the prop and the nose gear. Not even one scratch on the engine cowling!
Thanks to the last issue of the Association Bulletin, I placed a phone call to Fred Schmidt of Eaton, Ohio who is going to send me a new part. Hopefully I can get flying again much wiser on landing a Mite!
After two and one half years and several thousand dollars, I got exactly 15 minutes of flying in my Mite!
During January and February, 1974, repairs were completed by Tom Eastley. His log entry on January 31: "Minor repairs made to nose wheel retracting mechanism. Wood splice made in wing leading edge between 3rd and 4th rib from tip on right wing. Minor repairs made to fabric on lower surfaces right wing and near centre cover plate on fuselage belly replaced. New Propeller installed."
After only two more local flights, CF-FAV was sold to Isadore Brulé of Smooth Rock Falls in Northern Ontario. After a seven hour ferry flight, somewhere east of Thunder Bay, it had engine trouble: a bearing or piston failed, and the Mite was badly damaged in the subsequent forced landing. As far as we can determine, it never flew again.
The last entry in the flight log (now in the possession of Gil Gilbert of Kent, Washington) shows the Mite was at 803.3 hours when it met its end. CF-FAV's total flight time in during its brief life in Canada had been only 10.3 hours. One wonders how many other "missing" Mites met a similar fate.