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.

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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.

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