1956: The legendary Maule aircraft is conceptualized
B.D. began designing the first of the current line of Maule airplanes in 1952. He initially designed the new aircraft as a high-powered utility aircraft for aviators like himself; serious pilots who fly for the love of it. He envisioned the need for a four place “Go-Anywhere” airplane which could be used for many purposes, including bush flying in unimproved and rugged environments. Thus, the design evolved as a high wing monoplane taildragger with a welded steel tube truss fuselage, metal spar wing, STOL characteristics, and good range and speed. The first prototype was completed in 1957 and took an award at the EAA convention. Testing for certification of the new plane was started that same year.
The Sixties and Beyond
The years of dedicated experimentation in design and engineering that followed paid off in 1961, when Maule received the FAA Type certification for the model Bee Dee M-4, with production starting immediately. The first production model, known as the Jetasen M-4 was delivered in April 1962.
In 1968, B.D. and his family moved the company to Spence Air Base in Moultrie, Georgia, where the company still resides. By this time, the airplane had evolved from 145 hp. with fixed pitch propeller, to 220 hp. with a constant speed propeller and approximately 250 had been delivered. The new plant was located at Spence Air Base, an ex-World War II training field, and offered an ideal site to construct and test aircraft. The Georgia location also offered good flying weather in a region where labor costs were lower than up north. New manufacturing buildings were constructed, along with a lake for float planes, and a roomy lodge home, designed by wife June.
In the years that followed, the Maule planes spread to every continent of the globe, gaining a reputation as a superb aircraft at a reasonable price. Rugged, simple and reliable, the Maule aircraft has been chosen by pilots throughout the world. Whether on wheels, floats or skis, there is no region in the world where the takeoff or landing of a Maule is impossible.
B.D. was never one to rest on his laurels; he constantly evaluated his planes to find new ways of improving them. Through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, B.D., his son David, and many others at the plant worked many long hours to improve nearly every aspect of the Maule design. Often, lights could be seen in the plant at night, where B.D. and David would collaborate on all sorts of design projects. Performance of the plane has been enhanced through their efforts with various flap, aileron, wingtip, and landing gear changes. Other changes have been minor, usually to improve the aesthetics, interiors, paint jobs, and the overall versatility of the airplane.
Under B.D.’s guidance, the airplane has gained a variety of power plants, with recent models utilizing a 420 hp Allison Turboprop Engine. The structural design has remained the same, with the original fuselage jig still being used. The Maule airplane has developed a worldwide reputation for its ruggedness.
Only the highest quality raw materials are used and a constant FAA-approved quality control procedure is maintained. All parts of the Maule are crafted in Moultrie, except the avionics, engines, and propellers.
In 1995, Maule was the third largest producer of single engine aircraft in the U.S. In 1996, the Maule factory produced 64 aircraft, and employed 76 people. Some employees have been with the company over 29 years. This experience is realized in the quality of each handcrafted Maule airplane. Maule has produced over 1800 aircraft since its inception.
Family plays a large part in the operation of the company, which employs wife June, four children, two spouses of children, and two grandchildren. Through decades of sometimes difficult years, B.D. had a constant supporter in his wife June. She has worked steadily at his side through all of the ups and downs the company has experienced. She has filled the position of Purchasing Agent since the inception of the company, and has been the company owner since the death of Mr. Maule.
Maule Lives On
At the time of his passing in 1995, Belford D. Maule held the worldwide distinction of being the only founder, owner (with wife, June), and manager of an existing aircraft manufacturing company. As can be expected, he was an individualist and was a noted aviation pioneer. What is unusual is that over a span of 53 years, B.D. remained in total control of the operation of the company as well as the technical development of the product up until his death. Although his methods may be considered by some as unorthodox, he has continued to progress in a field where there have been many more failures than successes, from both business and technical aspects. To have simply survived the regulatory and product liability problems is a notable achievement.
Mr. Maule continued to fly his airplanes quite frequently even into his 80’s. He was an excellent example of a successful individualist, entrepreneur, and self-made man and received the deserved respect of many people in the aviation world.