By Sarah Rovner, Tailwheel ferry pilot
As a Super Cub driver, I’ve been a little biased toward airplanes with sticks. Although I do admire the amazing flying characteristics of some of the other epic yoke taildraggers such as the Cessna 180/185, I’ve always been particularly fond of airplanes with a stick. I was expecting about the same handling characteristics of the Maule M4 in the Maule M5, but was pleasantly surprised to see how versatile the M5 was.
I recently looked into buying a Maule M5 with the Franklin engine, which has a bad reputation. While doing research, I found out that many Maules had engine conversions to the Lycoming’s. Surprisingly, there just are not a whole lot of Maules flying around and the ones that are have much lower value than similar airplanes such as the C180/185. I found the Cessna 175 with the O-360 conversion to be the same way – a versatile, great performing airplane that had a bad reputation from the start with an engine that was notorious for problems (originally came with the geared O-300).
I was contacted to ferry a 1978 turbo Maule M5-210 for a client who planned on using it for mountain flying on private airstrips. This is one of 7 turbo Maules in the country that came from the factory with a carbureted, turbo-normalized Lycoming O-360 that puts out 210hp. In fact, Maule claims that the plane will maintain 200hp all the way to FL200. I found that to be true, although I didn’t take it all the way up to FL200. I was still getting sea level power at 11,500ft, with the throttle not even close to being all the way in. With the turbo and constant speed prop, I was able to take off in record distance at not even close to full power. It would maintain a 1000 fpm climb all the way up to 10,000ft, and probably much higher if I wanted it. And that also wasn’t at full power!
For a backcountry landing, I found it to be a stable airplane compared to its squirrely brother, the Maule M4-210. Although I didn’t have any big crosswinds on the trip, I found that the plane really didn’t try to go off on its own for landing. Even coming in fast, although it did float, it did slow nicely with the 40 degrees of flaps and I was able to stop within 1000ft with minimal braking. After approaching slower (about 60mph) I was able to get stopped in about 500ft with a nice 3-point landing. I tend to like 3 points in this plane since its very pitch sensitive and hard to finesse to avoid a bounce for a wheel landing.
Overall, I really enjoyed the turbo Maule M5. All of my Maule time has been solo, so I’m not sure quite how much performance would be lost with 4 people in it. But from what I’ve seen, it’s a solid, good performing airplane with an unnecessary under-whelming reputation. I’d be glad to fly one any day, and would feel pretty good on being able to match stock Super Cub performance in a lot of situations.