An Overview of Mites
The Mooney M-18 Mite is a single-place, low-wing monoplane with retractable, tricycle landing gear. It is mainly of fabric-covered wood construction designed for the general aviation market and offering extremely low operating costs. It has a wingspan of 26.8 feet, a length of 17.7 feet, an empty weight of 520 pounds, a maximum weight of 850 pounds, and a range of 350 miles or more.
Mooney Aircraft, Inc. was formed in 1946 in Wichita, Kansas by Albert W. Mooney and Charles G. Yankey, both former executives of Culver Aircraft Corp. In 1948, the company certified its first aircraft, the single place Mooney M-18 “Mite”, which was awarded Civil Aeronautics Authority Approved Type Certificate 803.
A total of 283 Mites in five different models were built between 1948 and 1955: the M-18 (1948); the M-18L (1949); the M-18C (1950); the M-18LA (1951); and the M-18C-55 (1955). 126 Mites were powered by 65 hp Lycoming O-145-B engines, and 157 powered by 65 hp Continental A65-8 or A65-12 engines.
By 1953, the M-18C and the M-18LA were being marketed as the “Wee Scotsman” to capitalize on the Mite’s unmatched operating economy, which was less than a penny a mile. At two miles per hour per horsepower, the Mite was said to be the most efficient airplane of its day. The Mite at one time held the records for speed, range and altitude in its category. It has a glide ratio of 15 to 1, and is able to land or take off in less than 300 feet and climb at over 1000 feet per minute. Improvements in the performanceof the aircraft eventually gave the M-18 a top speed of over 130 m.p.h. and a service ceiling of 19,400 feet.
The Mite is a fast, responsive, and economical airplane. Although uncomfortably small for some pilots, it is a delightful performer and much loved by the select few who own them.
Factory production of the M-18 ended in early 1956 when the Mooney Corporation turned to the production of the four-place M-20. However, in 1972, the Mooney Mite Aircraft Corp. was created by Fred Quarles of Charlottesville, Virginia, who bought the Type Certificate and marketed the M-18X as a homebuilt aircraft. Plans and kits are no longer available.
As of February 2017, we know of 140 Mites still in existence (whole or in pieces). Several of the 119 registered by the FAA have actually been destroyed or are missing. There are about 60 Mites still airworthy (or close to it), and we guess that maybe half of those are flying regularly.