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In the beginning

Belford D. Maule, or “B.D.”, as everyone knew him, was born November 4, 1911 in Old Fort, Ohio to farming parents. Not caring much for farm life, he left at the age of 15 to live in Salladasburg, PA. with an uncle and aunt who owned a garage and tea room. There he demonstrated his mechanical ability by building a tractor, and by motorizing an ice cream freezer and an ice saw, among other things.

B.D. joined the Army when he was 18 and was assigned to the 19th Airship Company at Langley Field, Virginia. While working on dirigibles, he found time to design and build his first airplane, a single seat midwing monoplane powered by a Henderson 27 HP motorcycle engine, known as the M-1. Starting with the airplane on floats, and later on wheels at the Salladasburg farm, B.D. taught himself to fly. (Regulations weren’t as strict in those days.)

Following his stint in the Army, B.D. moved back to Pennsylvania and became a family man, marrying June Aderhold in 1934. June and B.D. located in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania and built their own home there in 1936. Note that Jersey Shore is not only June’s birthplace but is also midway between Lock Haven (Piper Aircraft) and Williamsport (Lycoming Aircraft Engines). This was an area in keeping with B.D.’s interest in aviation. B.D. went to work for Lycoming, and in 1939 designed and built “the Hummer”, a low cost mechanical starter for light aircraft. (Many airplanes did not have electrical systems back then.)

The War Years

In 1940, the Maule family moved to Jackson, Michigan. Mechanical Products Company was formed to manufacture the Hummer starter (Piper and the Continental Engine Company had shown an interest). In 1941 the B.D. Maule Company was formed in Napoleon, Michigan to build a light aircraft tailwheel which B.D. had designed. The steerable, full-swiveling tailwheel, is still being manufactured by Maule, in an improved form. With the advent of World War II, the starter business waned, and tailwheels were in demand as well as subcontract work to support the war effort. As a diversion during the latter part of the war, B.D. designed a man-powered glider with flapping wings, known as an ornithopter. He claims to be the first (and is probably the last) person to have successfully flown such a device.

The Post-War Years

In 1946, B.D. and June purchased a farm near Napoleon, Michigan. With the help of their two oldest children, they converted it to an airport. In the process, they had the dubious honor of leveling a dog race track which had been operated by Al Capone. The airport flourished, being used for flight training during the initial post-war aviation boom.

The Fifties

With the advent of television in the Fifties, B.D. decided to apply his design and engineering talents to improving TV reception in those early years. He designed and marketed special TV antennas, towers and rotator parts. One of his original TV antennas is still in use outside the Maule home in Moultrie. B.D. also designed another product for the aviation industry; a non-destructive Fabric Tester. At the time (1955) many airplanes were still being produced with organic fabric covers which deteriorated rapidly, and which required an annual strength test. The existing test procedures required cutting out sections or punching holes in the skins of airplanes, which caused the owners considerable distress. The Maule Fabric Tester was accepted by the FAA as a viable alternate, and is still in production at Maule Air, Inc. along with the tailwheels.

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.

Dear Juney

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.