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Culver Cadet No. 2
Just had to have another
NEAL LAFRANCE, EAA 1905
An airplane 10 years ahead of its time, the Culver Cadet was the accomplishment of three men: Al Mooney, the designer, and Art Mooney and Bill
McMahon, the builders.
Al Mooney started his aviation career when he was 19
years old. In 1926, he designed the M- 1 Eaglerock and
then completed his aviation carrier at Lockheed designing
the M- 23 XV-4B military jet. Al also designed the M- 12
Culver Cadet airplane while working for the Culver Aircraft
Corporation at Ohio’s Port Columbus Airport. On April 4,
1938, Al established his engineering office on the third floor
tower of an old Trans World Airlines (TWA) hangar and
spent long days and nights over the drawing board designing the airplane.
Art Mooney, Al’s brother, was an expert aircraft wood
worker; Bill McMahon was an expert aircraft welder and
sheet metal worker. These two men built most of the prototype airplanes Al had designed. The three were inseparable;
wherever Al worked you were sure to find Art and Bill.
The M- 12 airplane was built in the rear half of the old
TWA hangar. The front half of the hangar was occupied
by Foster Lane’s flight school. A canvas drop cloth separated the two operations. Foster had the privilege of flying
NX20946, the first Cadet, on December 3, 1939. Foster said,
“The airplane was small and light and scooted along at 125
mph on 75 horsepower. It was steady, stable, and a delight
to fly. The Culver Cadet was the first light airplane with
more speed; the result of its thin elliptical wing, retractable
landing gear, and light weight.”
Foster goes on to say, “[The] number one airplane he
flew did not have wing slots.” While waiting for the Civil
Aeronautics Administration (CAA) inspector to arrive, Al
cut three slots in the leading edge of the wing. It helped the
tip stall but gave the airplane a slight Dutch roll on landing.
Some Culver Cadets operated by the military had the slots
covered and then flew better and faster.
In October of 1940, the Culver Aircraft Corp. had produced 75 Cadets at Port Columbus and had advance orders
of $1,200,000. It needed more factory space and decided to
move from Columbus. The old Bridgeport building on the
north side of Wichita, Kansas, was vacated after a new factory was built. Culver Aircraft Corp. bought the Bridgeport
factory in August of 1940 for $100,000 and moved the complete operation to Wichita.
“The Culver Cadet was the first light air-
plane with more speed; the result of its
thin elliptical wing, retractable landing
gear, and light weight.”
Approximately 368 Cadets were produced between
1939 and 1941. World War II came along and production
of the Cadet ended. Sometime in 1941 or 1942 the production type certificate (ATC #730) was returned to the
CAA. This was the demise of a great little airplane.
The Cadet airplane established the Culver Aircraft
Corp. as a leader in high-performance light aircraft. The
stylized two-place airplane with an elliptical wing and tail
gave the impression of a World War II fighter airplane.
This was enough to turn the heads of young aviators and
inundate Culver with thousands of orders.
I was one of those young lads who fell in love with the
Cadet. The selling price of the Cadet in 1941 was $2,395.
With the Depression coming to an end, all of my money
went for living costs, but I promised myself that one day
I would own a Culver Cadet.