Why Mooney?

Above is an early ad for the Mooney M20C model that started in 1962. It highlights the best feature of Mooney: You get more for your money. Today, it still holds true.

On a simple 4-cylinder engine, the Mooney squeezes out quite a bang for the buck. The following compares the 201 model comfort, load, performance, efficiency and safety to other aircraft. Enjoy!

Comfort

One common misconception is that the Mooney ain’t the most roomy plane around. People have said that the cabin feels cramped. Despite that claim, the Mooney is still bigger than most four-seater planes.

Check this out:

Aircraft Cabin Width Cabin Height
Mooney 201 43.5″ 44.5″
Beechcraft V35 Bonanza 42.0″ 50.0″
Cessna 182 42.0″ 48.0″
Piper Arrow 41.0″ 45.0″

As you can see, the Mooney has the widest cabin among all of these aircraft. But, it also happens to have the shortest cabin height, which is probably why it has the reputation for being somewhat cramped inside. Nevertheless, it’s a reputation that’s hardly deserved.

Utility

Let’s take a look at the load-hauling capabilities of various airplanes:

Aircraft Useful Load Payload w/Full Fuel
Beechcraft V35 Bonanza 1270 lbs 826 lbs
Mooney 201 1100 lbs 716 lbs
Cessna 182 1219 lbs 691 lbs
Piper Arrow 960 lbs 572 lbs

Ok, the Mooney is obviously not as good of a load hauler as a Bonanza, but you have to look more closely to see that it actually is…the funny thing about the Bonanza is that if you take off with full fuel and four passengers, as you burn off fuel the center of gravity moves aft of the limit! The Bonanza has a very narrow CG range. So, unless your Bonanza is equipped for in-flight refueling, the Mooney ends up being able to haul a bigger load farther in the end. And when the tanks are topped off, the Mooney even beats the Cessna 182 in terms of the crap you can carry. Not too shabby for a “smaller” plane.

Performance and Efficiency

Since we’re talking about topping off tanks, let’s get down to the real heart of the Mooney’s superiority. Regardless of what the factory claims (169 knots), my 1977 Mooney 201 cruises at 160 KTAS at 8000′ at 70% power. This is while sipping a mere 10.5 gallons per hour of 100LL. Let’s take a look at performance figures for various aircraft (all figures represent 75% power, leaned to best economy, VFR reserve; the trip cost is calculated with a fuel price of $2.50 per gallon):

Aircraft HP Climb Rate Usable Fuel Cruise Consumption Endurance Range Mi. per Gallon 500nm Trip
Mooney 201 200 1030 fpm 64 gal 160 kts 10.5 gph 5:35 895 nm 15.2 $82
Piper Arrow 200 831 fpm 72 gal 137 kts 10.5 gph 6:20 870 nm 13.0 $96
Beechcraft V35 Bonanza 260 1150 fpm 74 gal 160 kts 14.0 gph 4:45 765 nm 11.4 $109
Cessna 182 230 924 fpm 88 gal 140 kts 13.5 gph 6:00 842 nm 10.4 $121

As you can see, the Mooney flies circles around its competition in the performance and efficiency category. The Mooney literally covers more distance in less time using less fuel! Why is this so? How does a Mooney manage to squeeze out that kind of performance from just a 200 hp four-banger? It all comes down to design. The Mooney is one of the cleanest planes out there (pre-composite era, of course). The 201 cowl and aerodynamic cleanup was a major accomplishment on the part of Roy LoPresti and Mooney. Here’s a great comparison of various lightplanes and their respective dragginess:

Parasite Drag Coefficients & Flat Plat Area

Aircraft CDP Flat Plate
Area (sq. ft.)
Mooney 201 0.017 2.81
Beech Bonanza 0.019 3.47
Piper Arrow 0.027 4.64
Cessna 182 0.031 5.27
Beech Sierra 0.034 5.02
Piper Warrior 0.034 5.83
Cessna 172 0.036 6.25
Cessna 152 0.038 6.14
Beech Skipper 0.049 6.36
Piper Tomahawk 0.054 6.64

Handling

The Mooney’s handling is, in a word, impeccable. With control rods all around, the plane responds immediately to the slightest input from the pilot. Yet when you trim the plane up, it flies completely hands-off! You really don’t even need an autopilot (although it’s irreplaceable for IFR flight).

Also, despite what people say, Mooneys are not hard to land, and they’re not difficult to slow down. As long as you stay ahead of the aircraft and plan your descents and power changes, it’s trivial. Speed brakes definitely aid pilots in getting Mooneys down more quickly without having to chop power (although there’s still quite a bit of debate over whether or not shock cooling is really a factor) or pick up excessive speed (although the yellow arc and redline in my 201 are very liberal), but I don’t have speed brakes and I don’t feel like I need them. Still, I’m sure any Mooney pilot will tell you that the Mooney really separates the good from the bad, in terms of the pilot at the controls.

Safety

When you address the issue of safety, the Mooney 201 is one of the safest planes in the sky according to the statistics. The Mooney’s steel tube rollbar cabin frame provides exceptional structural integrity. I have read countless articles and have seen photos that provide evidence of this. People have walked away from crashes in Mooneys where the cabin remained intact, saving their lives. In most other aircraft it would not have ended that way…

Also, I’ve heard people talking about the Lancair’s strength, and how the test rig broke before the wing spars did. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Little known fact: the same thing happened at Mooney. Mooney factory engineers broke a static test fixture at 9.3 Gs while trying a destructive test on the J model wing. Anyway, you’re not going to break a Mooney!

So there you have it. That’s just a handful of the reasons why I love owning a Mooney. Sure, there are quirks, like with any other aircraft, but at this point in my life (until I can afford a TBM-700, Meridian, or Pilatus) the Mooney is perfect for me.

Knowledge Pack