Can a Damaged Mooney be Considered Perfectly Safe After Repair?

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The answer to that is yes and no.

Yes if it is repaired by a shop that knows what they are doing. I have seen some horrendously crashed Mooney’s come out looking and acting as if nothing had ever happened. On the other hand, I have seen epairs where the spar is pressing on the skin so hard that it creases the wing skin. I have seen aluminum panels replaced on the wing(s) of a Mooney and you could easily tell that that section had been re-skinned while others do such a great job that you cannot tell no matter how close you look. That’s not easily accomplished mainly due to each Mooney skin is slanted downward or beveled a bit along the edge where it meets the next skin.

That doesn’t mean that one skin job will be stronger than another necessarily. It just means that one repair is from an experienced “metal man” who really cares vs. the “cheap fix” method of simply slapping on and riveting in the skin. Yes, quality of repair does count.
Anything short of assembly line perfect can be detected and further devaluates the airplane. Proper attention should also be paid to the painting required after a skin is replaced. A non matching color will stick out like a sore thumb even if the metal work was superb, while I have seen some that you can’t even tell it had been repainted. Yessir, there is talent out there along with the wannabe talent but not there yet and never quite make perfection. So as long as insurance is paying the bill, get the best repair possible for higher resale value and we’ll get into that resale value shortly.  

It is important for you to know if you don’t already; that the wing skins on a Mooney are structural and not all planes utilize the wing skin as structure. I was taken aback by that many years ago when I saw a mechanic replacing the two outer wing skins on a Mooney.

The wing tip was off for the repair as were the two skins and I was looking into the structure with the advantage of x-ray eyes. While I was looking the stringers and spar over, the mechanic accidentally bumped the structure that I was looking at and it waved back and forth like it was almost flimsy! However once the thick skins were installed, it was a solid as a house and built somewhat the same way in that the outer skin of a conventional house that usually being plywood followed by siding of some sort really strengthens that structure. That coupled with that wonderfully strong I-Beam wing to wing spar gives the Mooney its legendary strength, so we all want to be certain that should there be wing damage, it is repaired properly by someone who knows what he’s doing. Believe me, you’ll see the difference from someone who is just learning on your plane.

How damaging to the Mooney is a gear up landing?

Not very if a wing strike was not involved, and then not too bad.
In fact, in some ways the airplane comes out better than before.
WHAT? Yep, they usually come out better than before the gear up landing for a couple of reasons. First off you get a new propeller and hub. That’s normally always a plus. Secondly you get an internal engine inspection and a lot of new parts, in fact some higher time engine owners choose to add to what the insurance pays for to call it an overhaul and that ads dollar value to a higher timed engine, and usually paying way less than the boost in Blue Book value added for a fresh overhaul. We cannot see deep inside of an engine even if a cylinder is removed, at least not like you can see it when it is taken apart and all parts tested and measured with a micrometer and in some cases a microscope or dye checked. Once the engine is back together with many new parts, you also get new gasket sets, so your old leaks will disappear also.

But what about the airframe damage?

Ah, that’s just one more benefit to owning a Mooney!

Yep sir, that steel tubular “roll cage” of the Mooney airplane is there not only to protect its occupants in the fairly rare event of a crash landing, it also serves to hold the entire super structure together, and I have yet to see any gear up landing that wore through the belly skin and erased the bottom of the steel tubes. I suppose that’s happened in a harder than average gear up landing but even that is repairable by an FAA approved welder that knows his stuff.

However most gear ups do not damage the steel structure. Those airplanes (most others) that do not employ the use of steel in the super structure can have their airframes bend and subsequently fly like an out of alignment car, or worse; a car where the uni-body bent and you see those cars going down the road on occasion looking all catawampus like watching a crab walk.

That can’t happen with the Mooney and once you replace all scraped or bent parts with new ones, the airplane is as good if not better than before! The FAA basically classifies true damage history in aircraft having to re-bend or re-align something that is not replaceable.
For instance, if you’re pushing your bird back into its hangar and you ran into the door with your aileron, and you replace that aileron with a new or previously undamaged one, you are in effect removing the damage and therefore it is not history other than you’ve replaced an airframe part.

If you choose the cheaper way of repair that’s okay too; it’s to re-skin that aileron, and thus you have repaired damage history. No biggie, but a new part is technically better for resale. There are usually 2 or 3 belly skins to replace on a geared up Mooney along with some antenna’s and gear doors. Once you replace previously bent parts with new parts, should it still be considered “Damage History?”

Well to me no, but then again I’m an aircraft dealer so take that with a grain of salt, but back when I was buying and selling airplanes, I still paid little attention to a gear up history providing the repairs were accomplished and entered properly because virtually nothing gets re-straightened. The bent or scraped parts get replaced with new ones. New is nice! What I look for in the logs is that the gear downloading is checked and reset to tolerance if found to be out, and that all parts fit as they should which is easy to discern.

What does Damage History do to the Value of my Airplane?

It can really count against the airplane’s value, and the newer the plane, the more hit you will take with damage history.

If the damage history was bad enough such as needing wing or wings rebuilt along with major work and replacements on the fuselage. When damage such as that occurs, you can expect a devaluation of 15 to 20% and even more if the repairs were not effected correctly.

But what of the bargain hunter type buyer? Can he really trust his family to an airplane that has sustained serious previous damage? Sure he can and he does!

The smart bargain hunter will have the airplane properly inspected with priority given to inspecting the repaired damage. Once you get a clean bill of health from a mechanic-in-the-know, you will be flying more airplane than you could have afforded without the damage quotient considered.

For instance, I had a Location Customer that appointed us to locate an early 201 Mooney, like 1977 or 1978 vintage. I presented him a later model MSE/201 that was well equipped with good times, but had been damaged some years earlier. We put that airplane through hoops to verify the repairs were airworthy at least, and near perfect at best. These were near perfect and certainly safe in this particular airplane. I get emails from that buyer years later telling me how much he and his family love their Mooney-bird, and how wonderful an airplane it has been for them, and all for a budget that would otherwise dictate the older, slower model and with nowhere near the equipment as he got with his purchase….I have seen some airplanes like $300,000.00 Ovations and Bravo’s devalued by the economy as well as previous damage history sell for about the same money as a much older 252 for instance, and with a lot more horsepower and newness. 

To Buy or Not to Buy a Previously Damaged Airplane…

Definitely Buy, but only if you have had the airplane inspected by a pro that can spot poor repairs and he gives the airplane a clean bill of health. But what about the next buyer? Will I take it in the shorts as the previous owner had to? Of course not, because you have already paid up to 20% less for the plane and it will not devalue anymore than what it already had, in fact, many professionals in this business believe that if an airplane was damage over ten years earlier and has flown all that time successfully, the airplane may even recoup part of the value lost by the first seller after damage history.

So those of you who will absolutely not buy a previously damaged airplane are limiting your wallet to the cream of the crop aircraft, but you may not have need to spend as much on acquisition had you considered that the properly repaired airplane would have cost you much less to acquire. Unless someone reads your logs, they’d think you have a much more expensive airplane than you actually paid.

I hope that this article has removed some of the mystique and misunderstandings of a previously damaged airplane, and that you might consider these words on your next aircraft (hopefully Mooney) purchase. Remember that a Mooney is built like a tank and if properly repaired, you can look forward to years of safe and efficient flight.

Response from one of my multi time customers; Bill Higgins:

“Richard, I enjoyed your damage history article. I am particularly in agreement with the bottom portion that indicates that the lower price of a damaged aircraft may be an excellent buy. As you know, my K. model had a gear up landing a couple of years ago. The results were a few metal plates replaced on the belly and landing gear. It also resulted in a factory remanufactured engine and new three bladed prop which were replaced in February of 2008. Because of the previous damage I purchased the aircraft at about 20 to 25% less than market value. Since the accident, all of the annual inspections have indicated normal operation and no defects. I believe this is due to the rigidity of construction inherent in every Mooney aircraft. Because of this, I was able to obtain a higher performance aircraft at a considerably lower price. Go Mooney!!”

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