Mite of the Month, October, 2001

This month's featured airplane is an M-18C owned by Dan Beltrami of Sandy, Oregon.

Dan is retired from the Aviation Maintenance Technology department at Portland Community College but teaches on a part time basis when asked. N339M is kept in a hangar at Madras, Oregon. These are his words:

"N339M was built in June of 1950 at Wichita, Kansas as serial number 220. Its first test flight from the factory was flown by A.W. Unger and lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was then sold to someone in Boulder, Colorado, who owned it until 1959. During its tour of duty at Boulder it made several flights to Seattle and San Francisco.

"From 1959 to 1963 someone in Kansas owned it for a while. They did not keep a detailed flight record as the Boulder, Colorado, owner did. It then went to Davenport, Iowa until 1965. Sometime between 1965 and 1978 it found its way out to Evergreen airport in Vancouver, Washington. This must not have been a good time in its life because the maintenance recorded in the log book was sporadic and minimal. It missed having a proper annual for many years in a row.

This is what the Mite looked like when I brought it home. The Valiant was also used to transport the wing.

The forward spar at the fuselage attach point. The crack went all the way outboard to the landing gear attach point.

"I happened upon the little beast in 1979 on the grass runway at Evergreen Field. It had flat tires,

mold all over it, its fabric was torn in several places and it had obvious wood deterioration. It was sitting outside completely exposed to our wonderful Northwest weather. After watching it slowly disintegrate over a period of 6 months or so, I decided to see if I could buy it and restore it. I found the owner and offered to buy it. He refused to sell. About 3 months later, he decided to sell it to me.

"After taking it home (see photo), I disassembled the wing and found that the main forward spar was rotten and that it was delaminated from where the fuselage bolts to the wing out to where the landing gear attaches on both sides. You could slide a .002 feeler gauge all the way through the spar. The trailing edge spar was severely rotted. You had to treat some of the parts like archaeological artifacts to avoid crumbling them. I wrapped some with tape to at least preserve their shape so that I would be able to duplicate the parts later on. The leading edge wood "D" section was rotten, especially in the area under the wing walkway. I think you get the picture.

"I still have all of the old rotten parts stored in my hanger. I wish that you could see how bad they can get and still not disintegrate in flight. I know that the airplane had made many flights as an un-airworthy aircraft before it was finally parked at Evergreen Field. I believe that the paint was the only thing holding it together.

"To make a long story short, I went out and built a new wing by gluing together a bunch of aircraft quality spruce wood and started cutting away everything that did not look like a Mooney wing. The fuselage had glue failure around the fuel tank bulkheads and at the aft tail bulkhead. I re-glued them by injecting these areas with resorcinal glue. After about 2 years I finally had the airplane reassembled and installed a newly overhauled Continental A-65 engine.

A picture of the Mooney-Mite-eating Start Duster during its feeding frenzy.

I don't think that I am too happy in this picture. I think I was administering the last rites.

"She was reborn as a flying airplane around the first of June 1982. Remember this date because fortune was about to step in and turn all of my hard work into a pile of expensive kindling wood. The story goes something like this. During the first week in July of 1982, I made a trip to Evergreen field in Vancouver, uh the other Vancouver, the one south of you. As I was sitting in front of the club house sipping my coffee and swapping war stories with my friends, a Star Duster II taxied into my newly restored airplane and chewed off 3 feet of my left wing with his propeller.

"After the initial shock wore off, Norm and I pulled the airplane down to his hanger where he graciously allowed me to repair it. I then started a maximum repair effort, (I wanted to fly it down to the Mite fly-in by the end of the month). By July 31, I had spliced in a new wing section and did indeed make it to my first Mooney Mite fly in at Columbia, California. Albeit with a silver colored left wing tip. By the way, I meet the guy that taxied into my wing every once in a while at fly-ins. He is a real nice person and felt worse about the incident than I did. When we meet, I usually ask him where on the airport does he have his airplane parked.

"Some data on the airplane. (1) As of this date the airplane has 1406 hours on it. (2) It has a Microaire radio transceiver. (3) I use a panel mounted Garmin GPS 95 for navigation. (4) It has a 6 gallon aux. wing tank. (5) It has a Bendix S-20 magneto on the right position and a new TCM S4RSC-204 impulse coupled mag on the left position of the engine."

The photos below were taken at the WAMM fly-in at Prosser, WA in August, 2001

Dan banks around for a low pass over runway 07 at Prosser. N339M skims 10 feet over the runway at 100+ knots. N339M is airborn after using less than one third of the runway.
Dan reaches quickly into the cockpit to adjust the throttle after swinging the prop. Dan reaches around to pull the canopy shut before heading for the departure.. The landing gear are about to disappear into the wings as N339M flies off into the blue yonder.

The Mite Site records show that N339M was previously owned by these fellows:

Clyde Keogh of Bigrock, IA in 1965-68. Robert Carpenter of Kalamazoo, MI in 1969. Monty Mendenhall of Thomasville, NC in 1970. Larry Trexler of Ithica, MI in 1974.

25 August, 2001