Mite Hits Fence, Pilot Up Creek
N4151 is one of our "missing mites." It is an M-18C, serial number 317, built in 1954. Our scant records show the following ownership history: Ed Davis of McAlester, OK in 1963, Fred Schmidt of Ohio in 1969, John Pierce of Tulsa, OK in 1967-68, and Ed Davis of McAlester, OK again, in 1971-1974. Michael Bolinger sent us this entertaining story about the time when the Mite was almost new and his father owned it. We are still trying to trace the present location of the plane.
My Dad was a Naval Aviator. After flying in World War II, he eventually became a commander of a jet fighter squadron which was based in Chicago at Glenview Naval Air Station. My Dad, never being one for wasting time behind the wheel of a car, bought the Mooney Mite that is the picture I have enclosed.
My Dad would fly the Mite to Glenview on Friday, fly his Phantom all weekend and fly back to Kokomo in the Mite. Occasionally, he would fly up to Glenview on Friday evening, fly a Phantom back to Grissom Air Force Base, which is about ten miles from Kokomo, and go back to work for the weekend. He would then fly the Phantom back to Glenview on Sunday afternoon, and then get in the Mite and fly home again. I guess that's one of perks you get for being the Commanding Officer.
It all came to an end, I think, in 1958. Dad, who was somewhat of a dare devil, decided to land the Mite in a field next to my grandfather's home, near Windfall, Indiana, where we were all visiting. All went well until he took off. I remember him walking the length of the field to make sure that he had enough room to get the Mite airborne. Distance wise, he had the room, but he didn't account for the drag that the unmowed grass created on the landing gear. He got the thing airborne, barely. The landing gear, however, did not clear the barbed wire fence at the end of the makeshift runway. The airplane cartwheeled over the fence and into a creek. The wing was torn loose from the fuselage, the propeller was broken, and the fuselage was upside down in the creek. Miraculously, Dad slid the canopy back and crawled out, with only a cut on his leg to show for this ill-advised escapade.
Eventually, Dad borrowed a trailer from a farmer and towed the pieces back to our house. My Mother says that she remembers the airplane fuselage being tied to the branch of a tree so as to remain in an upright position. Since Dad was a struggling lawyer at the time and didn't have a lot of spare money, he was forced to sell the airplane.
The person that he sold the airplane to rebuilt it. The man's name was Joel Yarborogh. I've always wondered what happened to the airplane. Do you have any information on it?
After we discovered a phone number for Yarborough, Michael sent this follow-up information:
Thank you for your note about my dad's Mite. I called Joel Yarborough and learned that he used to own the plane. He told me that he bought it from a man in Illinois. He is the one who repaired it, not Joel.
03 July, 2002