Cheetahs Never Prosper?
Our Cheetah and her story ...
I worked in Orange County in 1987 at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station as a civilian and worked
with a follow by the name of Howard Nagel. He purchased N26383 in about Sep. 1985, I believe, and
put in the Com, Nav and ADF about that time. He paid $15,000 for her but put in another $3,000 of
avionics and got his instrument ticket.
In the Fall of 87 he was trying hard to turn me into an owner as his cash flow was low but I didn't
think I could afford it at the time. Finally one day in mid October 1987 he made me an offer I
couldn't refuse: $1,000 down, a balance of $8,000 @ $141.00/month and it was half mine. I jumped
and I was then an owner. It was based at Cable airport, Upland, CA, in the northern LA basin then.
It was a good partnership but my company had problems with the Gramm/Rudman act and I was
looking for a job by Jan. 1988. I took a job here in Oregon in March 1988 and brought 383 up here.
My partner took a job in Fallon, Nevada at the same time. Thatâ€™s a relatively easy trip so we
remained partners and shared the Cheetah on an every-6-month basis. After a couple of years of
that he found a V-tail Bonanza he couldn't live without, so I bought his half out (for $10,000) in
The Cheetah performed well during the 1990s. My wife's family is all in Texas and mine is all in
Tennessee, so we made a lot of LONG trips. That was its only difficulty, in that a trip to Ft. Worth
took 3-4 days at 118 kts, and taking the northern route along Wyoming and Colorado needed to be
higher. There were several trips that I just kind of hung at 12,500', but it seemed to do better than
most other Cheetahs I knew of.
I leased the airplane for a couple of years to the FBO here at McMinnville to assist with bills and
that worked fairly well. About 1994 or 1995 a renter was taking off from Sportsman Airpark at
Newberg, Oregon, and the no. 2 cylinder choked on an exhaust valve, broke it up along with the
intake valve, which then went into the intake manifold for all cylinders to share. The renter was
passing through about 400 ft or so but had glider experience so did quite well and managed to land
back on the runway safely. The engine was destroyed and had to be overhauled. It was right at
TBO, though, and needed an overhaul anyway.
Gary Olson, here at Northwest Airmotive in McMinnville did the R & R but as you mentioned,
Chuck's Aircraft Engines in California did the overhaul. I located the owner of the 160 hp "Super
Cheetah" STC in Kentucky, purchased it and sent it to Chuck's with the old engine. They salvaged
the case but the rest was new.
Of the nine hundred Grumman American Cheetahs built between 1976 and 1979, serial number 552 first
took to the air on February 23, 1978, at the factory near Savannah, Georgia. The airplane's logbook
states only that it was the "Production Flight Test," performed by one "V. Wolfe."
On March 3, 1978, this airplane, bearing FAA registration N26383, received its Certificate of
Little is known of the airplane's early life in California, other than routine maintenance reflected in the
logbooks. An e-mail from former owner Dave Sturm picks up the story.