N18RM Clipwing Monocoupe (Updated 10/8/2014)

A question today on the Facebook Monocoupe Aircraft Group, posted by Brent Taylor of the Antique Airplane Association, got me looking for info on The Healey Special. It’s a cold snowy day here in Northern AZ, so I had the time to do some internet sleuthing.

The Healey Special was built by Lawrence Healey of Muscatine, Iowa, in the early 60’s. Here’s a picture that appeared in Sport Aviation’s “What Our Members Are Building”:

There was a reference in The Monocoupe Flyer that the plane was built from NC38907, Serial Number AF-830. A few years later, the same section of Sport Aviation included a photo of the completed plane:

Here is a picture from The Monocoupe Flyer:
The plane is now registered as N18RM and is owned by Richard Montague of NC. Below is a picture grabbed from Airport-Data.com (the picture  links to the web site where I found the photo).




Richard wrote a letter about his experience with The Healey Special, which appeared in the June 1978 issue of The Monocoupe Flyer:

The editor is always requesting information from Club Members to help make the Newsletter more interesting to the readers. The following was received in a letter from Richard Montague of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. The Montague’s own a Clipwing with a 185 Lycoming. So the following is direct from his pen.

Technically mine is the Healey Special, supposedly a ll0 Special Replica, but really is a 90A much modified. You probably know as much about the plane as Healey built it as I do. Basically he cut down a model 90 wing, replaced the engine with a 108 hp Lycoming and humped the back (I saw a picture of it with the hump, it was awful). Apparently Healey didn’t trust the airframe. He beefed up almost everything, thick tubing, spars, ribs etc. The plane is as strong as a bridge but heavy.

After Red Nichols got the plane he put in a 150 Lycoming and returned the fuselage to its proper shape. He also cut down the tail but not as much as the 110 Specials. After a couple of years Red put the bigger engine in it. He said that was a mistake, that it ruined a good airplane, it cut the range, added to the weight and caused handling to deteriorate. Climb of course was great but it didn’t help the cruise a whole lot. With the 150 engine and a C/S prop Red cruised about 150 mph, with the present engine I don’t cruise much faster. At over about 160 mph the noise gets much louder and fuel consumption is high. The fat wing also begins to get so much lift it is necessary to hold the nose down quite a bit. I am seriously considering dropping back to a 160 horse engine with c/s prop. Buddy Anderson had a 160 in a 90AL with the standard wing and I really think that is the best engine for it (unless of course you can put a radial on it). If my current effort to cure my cooling problem (which has cost me an engine major) doesn’t work I’ll go back to a smaller engine. Of course,that will make me miss the fun of that extra power.

Now for the sweaty palms art of flying. On take off full throttle requires full rudder but its off so quick its no problem, unless you have a crosswind in which case you can use less throttle. Climb with two, 200 lb. people is a bit better than 2000 fpm. Alone with light fuel, I have timed it at 3000+ fpm, but thats bad for the cooling, I usually use 110 mph-120mph at about 2000 fpm.

Normal cruise at low power is 155 indicated, (my airspeed indicator seems to be reasonably accurate) with the top speed a shade less than 180 indicated at 7,500′ ft. The fastest I’ve had it is 240 while passing a Beech Baron, well yes, I did use a bit of a downhill run. The plane is naturally unstable and must be flown constantly. When I let go of the controls it wanders off at random into leisurely aerobatics. The ailerons are stiff but the rudder and elevators are light. Controls are very sensitive and aerobatics are easy, at least my limited act of loops,rolls and hammerheads. It does a very poor snap, it seems to go almost flat in the air, whip around the nose and the recovery is awkward. Power off stalls are sudden but straight if all controls are centered, any control deflection means dropping a wing. Power on stalls are fun, the entry is almost like the entry to a hammerhead, the break is a sudden snap to the left and a quick rudder is needed to avert a spin. I’m quite hesitant about spins, no one advises them in the 110 Specials with the 185 Warners and although mine has been spun I’m a bit leery of going more than one turn.

On the approach I use power and hold about 100 mph (power off at 100 yields a sink rate of a lead wedge) and 90 across the fence. Touchdown is at 75-80 mph. Below 100 the ailerons are wishful thinking, it takes a quick shot of power to get a decent response. On grass the rollout is fairly easy, but on pavement it is quite exciting. The brakes are totally inadequate.

The plane is a lot of fun but you must stay on it constantly, you never get to the point that you feel casual with the plane. Every time I line up to take off, there is always a slight tightness in the chest and a dryness in the mouth (kind of like when you steal the hub caps off a police car). A Clipwing Monocoupe is a whole different breed of plane, a joy full terror. I agree with John McCullough, I’d never suggest anyone to get a Clipwing Monocoupe but I wouldn’t take anything for mine.

UPDATED 3/27/2014:

Mary Montague posted the following picture of N18RM on the Monocoupe Aircraft group on Facebook on 3/26/2014 and mentioned that the airplane was at 7A8.

N18RM clipwing Monocoupe


UPDATED: 10/8/2014

New pictures posted on Facebook this week:




Jim Heim and his Monocoupes

You were blessed if you were fortunate enough to meet Jim Heim and talk with him about Monocoupes. I never met Jim, but Don Schmidt spoke about him often and Don was able to get some needed drawings and information from Jim for me.

Jim was an active Monocoupe owner, pilot and restorer who lived in Granada Hills, CA and did most of his ‘Coupe flying out of Agua Dulce airport (L70). In March of 1961 Jim was injured in an accident while flying a Monocoupe 90A. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheel chair. But that didn’t stop Jim from continuing to restore and fly Monocoupes.

Jim was friends with several people who had worked at the Monocoupe factory and through those friendships accumulated quite a few stories about ‘Coupes and how they were built.

One of the Monocoupe’s that Jim owned and restored was 1939 Model 90A, NC19434. Jim’s restoration of NC19434 was completed in the fall of 1965. Jim installed a wheel control on the top of the right stick which was used to control the rudder. The sticks controlled the ailerons and the rudder as normal.

NC19434-airort-data-com-agua-dulce Heim-NC19434-tailwheel Heim-NC19434 Heim-NC19434-Watsonville Heim-1 NC19434 1461188_674687242565838_1538048596_n

In the late 1960’s, Jim worked to obtain title to N501W, the first Monocoupe 110 Special originally owned by John Livingston. The plane had been wrecked when owned and flown by Ruth Barron and essentially disappeared over the years. Jim was able to track down relatives and obtained legal title to the remains. Combined with another Model 110 that Jim had acquired, he built a new clipwing which was eventually became N501W.

One of the ‘Coupe stories that Jim told was based on a conversation he had with Walter Rahm, who had built many wings at the Monocoupe factory:

At one time I had several Monocoupes and had the wings of three (as best I recall) uncovered. I measured them all, the length varied some, none were the same. The rib spacing varied, quite a lot in spaces. None were exactly to the prints. I called Walter Ramm, who headed up the wood shop at Monocoupe. As best I recall, I was building up a short wing (the 23′ 2&1/2″ wing) at the time and needed something in the line of information. When I mentioned the “not to print” and variations to Mr. Ramm, he laughed and commented, “After we built the first one or two we just slipped the ribs on ’til they fit and nailed them in, we didn’t bother with the prints.” This always rather amused me, as Clare Bunch told me; “I test flew every one of them, and we rigged and adjusted rigging until we got the speed. It usually took quite a few flights.” Mr. Ramm was working for American Airlines by that time, in Tulsa. That was years ago also, he may have passed on by now.”

Here is another story that Jim told:

The story about Walt Jackson always sorta amused me. I never met the man, corresponded with him once, many years ago, don’t know if he’s still around. A good friend of mine out here knew him back there in Texas. Chuck Flemming. According to Chuck, he and Walt were at the field one day with Walt’s ‘Coupe outside parked by a brand new Beech Bonanza. Walt, in his old bib overalls was visiting with Chuck near the Bonanza when the owner arrived with a couple of girls. One of the girls made a comment to the effect of what kind of plane was the Monocoupe. The Bonanza owner’s reply was somewhat derogatory concerning old rag and tube airplanes such as that. They boarded the Bonanza and taxied out. Walt’s comment to Chuck was, ‘Watch this’, and he followed them out in the ‘Coupe and took off right behind them. He promptly rolled the ‘Coupe inverted and went past them on the climb out. He flew the pattern inverted, rolled out on final and landed only to be met by the CAA inspectors who happened to be on the field. According to Chuck, that was the last time Walt ever flew that Monocoupe. Now Chuck is a pretty straightforward person, I know the ‘Coupe sat in a hangar there for years and years so I suspect this is pretty much what happened.

If you have ever worked with or studied the Monocoupe factory prints in detail, you know they have many errors. Jim recalled a conversation with Clare Bunch:

One has to recheck and match fit everything as the prints are in error in places. Clare Bunch told me about this and pointed out the errors years ago. At that time we went thru and marked in red the corrections as best we could. M.K. Smart made up the drawings there at Monocoupe – he had trouble reading a ruler. Bunch fired him several times, but always hired him back – apparently he was quite a likable guy.

Jim eventually got his clipwing flying in 1971 and a few years later sold it to Al Allin.


Jim was able to make it back to Creve Couer for one of the Monocoupe fly-in reunions in the early 1990’s.

NC2064 is now at the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum

NC2064 made it from western PA to the west coast via truck.  The North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum hosted an event honoring the ship and Fred Ludtke.  The museum posted the following video on their YouTube channel:

Rick Ludtke posted the following pictures on the Monocoupe Aircraft Page on Facebook:

NC2064-July-2014-1 NC2064-July-2014-2 NC2064-July-2014-3 NC2064-July-2014-4

Since that event, Jim Jenkins, has been able to fly NC2064 and took her to the Arlington fly-in. The following pictures were posted on the General Aviation News Facebook Page.

NC2064-GANews-July-2014-1 NC2064-GANews-July-2014-2 NC2064-GANews3-July-2014-2

NC2064 to North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum?

Saw the following post on Twitter yesterday by the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum:


This is the same museum that, last year, acquired Monocoupe 90A, NC18166, which had been owned and flown in air shows by Fred Ludtke. If NC2064, Monocoupe 110 Special, “Spirit of Dynamite” ends up at the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum, then the museum would have both of these important ‘Coupes in house.

Give them a follow on Twitter @NCVintageAir.