THE MAULE FAMILY APPROACHABLE AIRCRAFT
Flying|December 2021
Choose your mount —the Maules do it all.
JASON MCDOWELL
One of the very first steps in an aircraft purchase involves determining what capabilities we’d like our airplane to have, and it’s laughably easy to check the boxes as we go down the list. Cross-country range? We’ll take it. Loadcarryingability? Absolutely. Short-field performance? Sign us up. A five-digit price tag? Yes, please. An airframe built in the 1990s? Sounds great.

Before long, our wish list becomes as overloaded as a college student’s plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and we eventually realize that compromises must be made. STOL aircraft rarely provide long-distance speed and range, for example, and certificated types less than 30 years old are typically fairly expensive.

The Maule family of aircraft, on the other hand, seems to provide most of these strengths with few compromises. Takeoff rolls of 300 to 500 feet are routine, and yet many provide cruise speed and range that approach even some types with retractable gear. Four adults and full tanks can be carried aloft at the same time. For just over $100,000, it’s possible to buy an example that’s newer than the first Apple iPods.

Surely, I thought, there must be a catch. So, I took a dive into the world of Maules to investigate further and evaluate their suitability as an approachable aircraft.

Design

When company founder B.D. Maule designed the M-4 in the 1950s, he emphasized a few key values, including utility, durability and short-field capability. The initial examples rolled out of the factory in the early 1960s, and this basic formula has remained largely unchanged.

The Maule series is straightforward in a broad sense and more intricately detailed when it comes to the little things. Six basic models have been produced since 1960. All are high-wing aircraft with side-by-side seating, yokes, great load-carrying capability and fantastic STOL performance. All have steel-tube, fabric-covered fuselages, and with the exception of a handful of early models that had fabric-covered wings, all Maule wings are metal. Other than the five-seat M-7 and M-9 series, all have four seats.

It’s a recipe that has proved to work well. For more than 60 years, the various models have undergone incremental improvements and have utilized a wide variety of engines without losing sight of the original mission. The company is still owned and operated by the Maule family, and they still build airplanes designed with utility, durability and short-field capability in mind.

Model History

Though all Maules have retained the same basic characteristics, the company’s model number and naming structure becomes quite complicated when all the minor differences are taken into account. A comprehensive explanation of every model number and name used since the introduction of the type would require spreadsheets, footnotes and possibly also a decoder ring. For the sake of brevity, we will cover some broad characteristics among the models and avoid detailing every defining feature.

The M-4 was the initial model, introduced in 1962. It’s easily distinguished by the rounded tail that resembles a Piper Pacer. It was initially equipped with the 145 hp Continental O-300 engine and fixed-pitch propeller, and was later upgraded to more powerful Continental and Franklin engines with constant-speed propellers. The first M-4s were produced for approximately 10 years, and a modernized M-4 briefly returned to production in the mid-2000s.

Because it’s the oldest model, the M-4 tends to be the least expensive. The combination of a smaller vertical stabilizer and larger ailerons makes it superior to other Maules in crosswinds. Downsides include less compatibility with modification kits offered by the factory and a less impressive fit-and-finish compared to later models.

The M-5 and M-6 improved upon the initial model by introducing a larger tail, larger flaps, a larger wingspan and higher gross weights. They also incorporated improved airframe systems, such as the M-6’s flaps that are actuated with lower-maintenance torque tubes rather than the original cable system.

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