Strength of The Mooney

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1962 M20C Perched in Flagstaff

By Richard “Zef” Zephro

While flying out of San Antonio (SAT) to Midland, Texas to show a Mooney 201, the air traffic controllers vectored me directly into a huge thunderstorm, which I penetrated at 4,000′.

In what seemed like a few seconds later, I was catapulted at around 10,000′ out the side of the storm. I think that flight made me about 2″ shorter due to the G forces, and the 201 had stretch rivets all along the spar, as well as the roof of the fuselage. All the paint popped around the rivets and they had to be re-struck.

My scariest close call happened at Comfort Airpark in the Texas Hill Country. The wind was whipping about head to tail that day. As I lined up for this turf strip cut out of the trees, I crossed the fence. Just then, the wind switched from a headwind to a tail wind- WIND SHEAR!

I still felt I could make the landing okay, as the speeds in the Mooney 231 were just right. As I sat down on the mains, a huge buck deer darted out from the trees at a course trajectory guaranteeing impact with the plane.

I had no choice but to apply full-power, and rotate early to avoid the huge animal. Having now a tail wind, which causes airplanes to perform terribly in taking off, here came the trees.

I banked sharply, knife-edging the wing through the air that separated the trees, but failed to see the large dead branch, which I hit with huge force.

Turning the Mooney 231 left and downward toward the ground, I pulled with all my might and recovered to a positive, but agonizingly slow rate of climb at about 6′ above the ground (AGL)!.

I could not understand why I had so little control over the flight until I had enough altitude to look out to the left wing. From about six feet inward from the tip, the leading edge of the entire area was pushed back right up against the spar. It was like trying to fly with a barn door for a wing. She lumbered and lumbered as I nursed her over to Kerrville, TX having declared an emergency.

I purposely came in fast, as I didn’t know where the wing would stall at in its condition. As the speed bled about 3′ above the ground (AGL), she sat right down at normal landing speed. I taxied over to Dugosh Aircraft, and Ronnie Kramer was outside to meet me with a huge smile on his face.

I asked why the smirk? He said that had I impacted in that fashion with any airplane other than a Mooney, the wing would have snapped right off. We later found that two wing skins, wing tip, aileron, and two stringers had to be replaced, but the wonderful Mooney spar was unaffected by the impact.

Why do we specialize in Mooney’s when there is money to be made in other brands?

Because I would have to fly the other brands!

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