LLANO — Russell Armstrong laughed at how he realized the first Lone Star Maule Roundup landed on one of the most maternal weekends of the year.“I was talking with the lady at the chamber there in Llano, when I told her one of the things we planned to have was a flour drop,” said Armstrong, one of the pilots behind the three-day event May 10-12 at the Llano Municipal Airport. “She said, ‘Oh, you’re having a flower drop in honor of Mother’s Day?’ I kind of paused for a moment and said, ‘Tell me that isn’t Mother’s Day weekend.’”
It turned out it is, and the flour drop Armstrong was referring to wasn’t the floral type.
“Three guys planning it, that’s how it ended up on Mother’s Day,” Armstrong said with a laugh.
The date doesn’t seem to have dissuaded Maule aircraft owners or those of similar airplanes from circling the weekend on their calendar and heading for the Llano Municipal Airport. Armstrong, owner of Maule M7, said already 30-35 Maule owners have confirmed attending the event.
“That’s just the Maule owners that we know are coming,” he said. “It doesn’t include non-Maule owners who are going to show up. It’s quite possible we’ll have 50 airplanes there.”
One person attending the roundup also is the owner of Maule Air Inc.: Brent Maule.
In its 51-year history, the airplane company has attracted a passionate following. While it might not be as well known outside the aircraft community as, say, the Cessna, Armstrong said the Maule is one of the most incredible airplanes around.
“I love it because of its power and its ability to get in and out of small fields,” he said. “Some experienced pilots can land and stop the plane in less then 200 feet. And then they can take back off within 200 feet as well.”
That ability makes the Maule a part of the short-take-off-and-landing class, or STOL. And while there are other STOL airplanes, the Maule sets itself apart thanks to its ability to carry more people and cargo.
“The Maule is a four-place (person) STOL aircraft where most STOLs are made as two-seaters,” Brent Maule said. “So you can carry four people, fuel and luggage or take out the rear seat and really haul some cargo. Our airplanes are used all over the world.”
Brent Maule represents that third generation of his family to work in the business. His grandfather B.D. Maule and grandmother June Maule founded the company.
“My grandfather was the designer, and my grandmother handled the paperwork,” he said. “My dad and mom are in the business. My aunts and uncles are with the business. We have seven family members in the business, so I kind of grew up in it.”
He is coming from the company headquarters in Georgia to attend the Lone Star Maule Roundup.
Armstrong said he and two fellow Maule pilots on a weekend trip came up with the idea for the Llano event but hadn’t intended it to land on Mother’s Day Weekend.
“If you look on the Maule forums, you’ll find fly-ins and roundups in Alaska, the mountain states, all over the place. But we had never heard of one in Texas,” Armstrong said. “We were just sitting around the lunch table talking about getting together a Texas event.”
The three wanted something centrally located — for which Llano fit the bill — and still while the weather was pleasant enough for camping. The men settled on the second weekend in May. It just happened none of them checked their calendars.
But the date hasn’t been a problem. Armstrong said Maule owners from across Texas, several other states and at least one from Mexico are flying in for the Llano event.
Plus, they’ve opened it up to other STOL, non-Maule aircraft, so organizers expect a large turnout.
This isn’t an air show, Armstrong explained, but a chance for pilots and aviation enthusiasts to get together, talk, do some flying and have a good time. There’s no real schedule, though the pilots probably will enjoy some friendly competitions such as the flour drop, which means just what it sounds like, dropping small bags of flour out of the plane at a specific spot. The Maule airplanes allow the pilots to take off and land in tight spots, so some might take advantage of the other small airfields in the area or even the lake bed.
Armstrong said one of the attractions of the Maule is its ability to go where other airplanes cannot.
“A lot of these Maules are built for off-airport landings,” he said. “People enjoy going in and out wherever they want to.”
The event is open to the public, but Armstrong cautioned people to remember these are working airplanes, and it’s best to stay behind them. The airport is located at 100 Eveyln Gould Drive, north of Llano off Texas 16.
“This is going to be an annual event,” Armstrong said. “It hasn’t been decided, but Llano could be the place for it every year. Everybody we’ve worked with in Llano have been great and so welcoming. The airport has a great grass runway, and that’s fantastic for tail draggers like us.”
For more information on the Maule airplanes, go to www.mauleairinc.com.