Mooney Buyers Guide
Check out the Mooneys for sale here.
Note: This is a reprint from a 1989 & 1996 Private Pilot Magazine, used with permission, and provided courtesy of Lake Aero Styling & Repair “LASAR” ; 900F Sky Park Dr., Lakeport, CA 95453 (707) 263-0412
Excerpts from “It’s not how you play the game, it’s how much speed can you afford”; and “MooneyMakers”
By Dennis Shattuck PRIVATE PILOT, June 1989 & July 1996
IT USED TO BE that the choice of a second-hand Mooney was pretty simple-you got either short or long fuselage with 180 hp or 200 hp. The long fuselages had more leg space and more fuel capacity, but the 180 hp generally was considered the more reliable engine. Now the line has expanded so much and there are so many choices that a buyer could get confused easily.
Mooneys also used to be an unknown quantity on the used airplane market. There weren’t enough of them around to demand much consideration. There were a few hangar tales that might have made them less desirable than a Cessna, but few pilots ever got a chance to fly one. Now there are 7500 Mooneys in the aviation community and most pilots recognize them for the quick, efficient flying machines they’ve always been. -But there’s the confusion about which model is which, and what it does. We’ll try to unravel some of these kinks, and pass along some words of advice to the buyer who’s looking at one of these very special airplanes.
First, a bit of historical background. The four-seat Mooneys date back to 1953 when designer Al Mooney flew the first M20 prototype. A lightweight tube, fabric/wood airplane, it was powered by a Continental C-145 engine (same as in the Cessna 170s and 172s). With its straight-up tail, the M20 looked like an expanded version of Al’s infamous Ml 8 Mite, a single-seater originally- powered by a Crosley automobile engine.
The M20 went into production in 1955 with the then-new Lycoming 150-hp 0-320 engine and smoothly doped wood wings and tail. Right off the bat, a Mooney shed its tail feathers and crashed, giving the airplane a bad name. By 1960, the company had been sold, and the new owners wanted an all-metal airplane.
The metal Mooneys sold well and by 1964, the company started offering additional models, such as the 200-hp Super 21 and extended fuselage Executive. By 1969, Mooney was again in financial woes. A short term as a division of another, non-aviation company found the airplanes called Aerostar, until production ceased in 1971.
In 1974, Republic Steel picked up the company and resumed production. Under Republic, both the 201 (in 1977) and 231 (1979) were introduced, but once again the company was sold. This time it was bought by its present owner, Alexandre Couvelaire of France. Under Couvelaire, Mooney has introduced the Porsche-powered PFM version, with yet a longer fuselage, which is being used for the new M20M.
Mooney letter designations for various models don’t really give a clue to their particular combination of engines, fuselage lengths and construction elements, so a brief clarification is in order.
The structural scheme developed for single-place Mites: i.e., tubular steel framed fuselage with wood wings and tail. The M20 for model years 1955-57 had 150-hp Lycoming engines and for years 1958-60 had 180 hp. These airplanes were fast, maneuverable and gave fledgling Mooney Aircraft a good (and bad) name. Early in the run, one of the forward angling wooden tails came off, causing a fatal accident and endless hangar discussion. The Mooney was given an unwarranted label as a “hot” and unreliable airplane, and it took years and a change to all-metal design before the public came around.
There are airworthiness directives all over the wood-wing Mooneys, both on the tail and on the wing. Most of the tails have been replaced by metal units from later models, thereby eliminating a particularly costly and difficult AD. A few owners have made similar all-metal replacements of the wing. Generally, there are enough problems with these early airplanes to make them less than a good buy.
ALL METAL MOONEYS
In 1960, a new Mooney ownership decreed a change in wing and tail structure to all aluminum, and the engineering was accomplished in about 90 days. As a result, the M20B was the first all-metal Mooney, and that’s the way they’ve been built ever since. All had four-cylinder Lycoming engines (either 180 or 200 hp) until the M20K, the 231, was introduced with its turbo-supercharged Continental six cylinder.
The original M20 measured 23 feet, 2 inches, overall length and that’s the dimension for M20A, B, C, D and E models. Horsepower increased from 150 in the original to 200 in the E model.
In 1966, Mooney introduced a longer fuselage, stretched 10 inches (5 in front of the wing, 5 aft to keep things in balance) to give more space inside. It also upped the fuel capacity to 64 gallons. The first of these was the M20F Executive, followed by the M20G Statesman. The current manufacture M20J (201 and 205) and M20K (252) still utilize this fuselage.
For the Porsche PFM-powered M20L models, Mooney once again lengthened the fuselage, this time to 26 feet, 9 inches. The newest Mooney, the 270-hp M20L, will utilize this longer fuselage, too. An earlier model, the pressurized M22 Mustang, was 26 feet, I inch long, but this was a different, wider fuselage.
Only the original M20s had 150 hp, from Lycoming 0-320-A, four-cylinder engines. However, with their slick wood wings, they were virtually as fast, 160mph cruise, as the later, all-metal 180-hp Mark 21s. There aren’t many left and are best considered collector’s items; in the real world, the wood wings and tail are considered serious liabilities.
M20A, B, C, D and G models all were powered by Lycoming 0-360-AIA or -AID engines, from model year 1958 through 1978. The B and C models are all-metal, short-fuselage versions, the G is the long fuselage Statesman. Any of the three is a good transportation machine and even without modifications will turn in a solid 165-mph cruise. The D was called the Master and was intended as a trainer with fixed landing gear. A conversion kit from the factory was available to make the gear retractable, and most have been long since been converted. The 180-hp engine is considered more reliable than the 200, and carries a TBO (time between overhaul) of 2000 hours if it has been converted to 1/2-inch valves.
Starting with the M20E Super 21 in 1964, Mooney made extensive use of the fuel-injected Lycoming four-cylinder engine. It was paired with the long-fuselage Executive (M20F), which matured into the 201/205. The Super 21 gave way to the Chaparral, but it was discontinued in 1976 to clear the way for the 201. The short fuselage M20E is the fastest of all the pre 201 Mooneys.
These are the M20K models, the 231 and 252. Both utilize the turbo-supercharged Continental TSIO-360. The 231 has the TSIO-360-GB or LB version and the 252 has an updated -MBI model.
217-HP PFM MOONEYS
The Porsche-powered M20L has a longer fuselage to go along with the six cylinder Porsche Flugmotoren up front. Only 40 were produced between 1988-1990, but the longer fuselage later was used on the bigger-engine models, the TLS and Ovation. The Porsche cruises at 165 knots.
The M20M is Mooney’s alternative for any disappointments from the M20L. The M20M (TLS) has a big Lycoming, the TSIO-540, that delivers 270 hp all the way up to 23,000 feet. The M20M’s appearance has caused a number of mod shops to consider stuffing various other big Lycomings under previous model cowlings. The TLS was first produced in 1989
The longer fuselage M20R (Ovation) has a Continental IO-550G of 280 hp, and is a real stormer at lower altitudes.
Production began in 1994.
Rocket Engineering has replaced the M20J’s (201 & 205) Lycoming engine with a Continental IO-550A, creating the Missile.
Rocket Engineering replaced the M20K’s (231 & 252) Continental TSIO-360 with a TSIO-520-NB, creating the Rocket.
The M22 Mustang was a decade or two ahead of its time; it introduced a turbocharged, pressurized single to the market well before Cessna or Piper got around to it. The Mustang has a 310-hp, Lycoming TIO-541-AIA engine, and needed all of it to hoist the airplanes 3680-pound bulk off the runway. Performance is about equivalent to a 231 but it consumes a prodigious amount of fuel doing it. The engine has a 1300-hour TBO. Only 28 M22s were produced, and Mooney lost money on every sale.
A single-seat retractable that could do 135 mph on a 65-hp Lycoming or Continental engine, the Mite really was the forerunner of the M20 series. It originally was built with an adapted version of a Crosley car engine, but the Lycomings and Continentals proved much more powerful and reliable. The Mites have wood wings and tails, which are subject to extensive ADs just as are the later M20s. Built in the
years 1949- 55, there were still 157 Mites on the FAA register a year ago. They are desirable as classic/antique/novelty airplanes, but not a serious buy as transportation.
M10, A2A CADET
Mooney ventured into the two-seater market in 1968, picking up the Alon version of the venerable Ercoupe and renaming it Cadet. The A2A had the same twin fin arrangement as the Ercoupe, but the updated M10 had a single fin and rudder and a slide-back cockpit canopy. Powered by a 90-hp Continental, it is a nice, responsive airplane that brings a good price on today’s market.
A potential airplane buyer can approach the line with confidence.
First, no matter what the year or model, condition is everything in evaluating any used airplane. Look for careful maintenance of everything about the airplane, from interior carpet to dirt in the wheelwells. Second, look for a complete set of logs; many and frequent entries will indicate a fastidious owner rather than a troublesome airplane. Third, if engine and propeller are low time since overhaul, check the records and bills from the overhaul shops. Also compare dates: a low-time engine not frequently flown can be a source of trouble. Sometimes it is better to buy an airplane with a high-time engine and then have the overhaul done by a facility you trust. Then you know what’s in it.
While there’s often the temptation to buy a used airplane and do all the fix-ups needed, that scheme can prove more costly than buying the very best airplane within your price range, unless you enjoy doing all the work. Here’s how we evaluate a fixer-upper: we subtract all the repair and refurbishment costs from the top resale value of that make/model airplane to find what we should pay for the airplane part of the project. Most often, the costs of engine, propeller, paint and upholstery will be more than the airplane is worth.
Working down the list of models, we start with the M20F Executive that preceded the 201. Flying in an Executive is more comfortable than in any of the short-bodied Mooneys because of its extra leg room, and because the longer fuselage tends to damp out yawing motion in rough air. The Execs are much slower than 201s, but it is possible to increase their cruise speed by nearly 10% with application of the various performance modifications. The 1967 Executives are the fastest; from 1968 on, Mooney stopped some of the flush riveting on the wings and those models are 5-6 mph slower than the ’67 M20F.
And an Executive isn’t always an Executive. In 1970, it became the 220 Executive and then the 220 Aerostar under a different company owner. Also, the Mooneys of that period were fitted with bulbous “stinger” tailcones and matching protuberances from the top of the rudder to give the airplane a more distinct shape. Lake Aero Styling and Repair owner Paul Loewen has a real love affair with these stingers. He’s made them into a retrofit kit for all Mooneys, and his own personal 201 has been so equipped.
Executives are popular also for their increased carrying capacity. Gross is 2740 pounds, which will let them carry full tanks (64 gallons) and four passengers, but not much baggage. With more than six hours of flying time available, the Execs have an easy 1000-mile range. Typical cruise speed at optimum altitude and 75% power is around 170-172 mph (150 knots).
The long-fuselage, 180-hp engine Mooney is the Statesman, and it is even slower, though it has all the room of the Executive. Because of the length, empty weight is higher than the short-body 180s, so the Statesman doesn’t carry as much or go as fast, either. For basic transportation, though, it can be a good buy as it tends to be undervalued by the performance conscious Mooney buyers. For about the same money, an Executive is better.
The Super 21/Chaparral is the real speedster among the pre-201 Mooneys. With 200 hp and a short fuselage, it can true at 176-180 mph (155 knots) before modifications. With enough mods, it can top 200 mph. Having only 52 gallons aboard, the Super 21 has shorter range than the Executive, and it carries less. However, it climbs better and goes faster. Though the fuel-injection engine can be balky to start at times (there are as many different hot-start procedures as there are Mooney owners), a good Super is considered fine transportation. Again, the 1965-1967 models are the best, before the cost accountants cut manufacturing corners.
The M20C, or Mark 21, or Ranger as it was later known, probably is the most solid value in the field, even though it lacks some of the sophistication of its sister ships. The carburetor-equipped Lycoming 180-hp engine starts easily, is widely known for its longevity and provides economic operation of 9-10 gallons per hour-about half a gallon more than the fuel-injected 200. For the transportation buyer, it may be the best of the Mooneys short of the 201.
Rangers and Mark 21s are almost the same aircraft, but are made in different years. Slight differences give the Mark 21 a slight edge in cruise speed. For instance, the Ranger doesn’t have a retractable step, movable cowl flaps or dorsal fin of the 21s. Also, the later Rangers didn’t have the flush riveted underwing. Though these are small items, they add up to 4-6 mph slower cruise speeds. Mark 21s from 1965 and later and all Rangers have 52-gallon fuel tanks, enough for almost a half-hour more cruise over the 48-gallon ’61-64 Mark 21s.
Practical, real-world experience has shown that all the book performance figures for Mooneys prior to 1974 are inflated substantially. It may have been possible for a Mark 21 without paint, upholstery, seats or avionics to reach the top cruise speed of 182 in the factory test program, but a fully equipped Mark 21 is hard-pressed to reach more than 175 mph at optimum altitude. Most cruise on 75% power at around 170-172 mph. The same error factor applies to Super 21s and Executives-just deduct 10-15 mph from the factory listed figures to find an attainable speed.
All Mooneys from 1965 through 1977 were equipped with Positive Control, a single axis, full-time autopilot that serves as a wing-leveler. PC can be interrupted by a thumb button on the control yoke for manual control during takeoffs, turns or landings; otherwise, it is engaged at all times. The system is a definite help for IFR operations and for stability in turbulent air, especially in the short-fuselage Mooneys; they tend to yaw markedly in choppy air. The vacuum-operated system was manufactured by Brittain Industries, and the company still offers add-ons to turn PC into a full-fledged, navigation-tracking, three-axis autopilot. Later Mooneys have electrical autopilot systems from Century and King, some of which are STC’d for installation in the earlier Mooneys as well.
Many of the early Mooneys, including most of those built before 1967, have a manually powered gear-retracting system. Except for the fixed-gear M20D Master, all others have electrically powered systems. The “Manual Mooney” has had its share of detractors, yet it remains an almost foolproof system; there are no circuits to fail nor hydraulics to leak. There’s a big lever between the front seats: when the lever is up, the gear is down. When the lever is down, the gear is up. When the whole system is properly lubricated and adjusted, it all works very easily and smoothly. However, if the preload springs in the system are out of rig, it can take an extra strong effort to get the gear up or down. It also can be difficult if the pilot tries to retract or extend the gear at or near the maximum gear down airspeed, 120 mph; a slower speed makes the job much easier. And moving the handle while doing a shallow bank turn at about 100 mph will make the gear extend by itself.
The electrical gear system, while subject to the usual electrical foibles, has proved almost as reliable. A back-up system allows manual extension, should the unexpected occur. In truth, even the electrical gear system has proved most reliable, especially when good maintenance is present.
There are a lot of questions about maintenance on Mooneys. Is it more than other brands? As an owner of an M20C for the last 20 years, I have not had expenses any different from those one would expect from a Beech, Cessna or Piper. Most of the expenses are on components other than those built by Mooney: engine, propeller, magnetos, fuel pumps, generators, batteries, et al. With the exception of the fuel tanks, the Mooney-built parts are extremely reliable.
Is maintenance difficult? Ah, there’s the rub! If the A&P is experienced with Mooneys, maintenance is not difficult. If he’s not familiar with the Mooney way, then getting the job done can be frustrating and time-consuming. Because they are tight, lean airplanes with not a lot of surplus space, they may need more disassembly during the repair process, and that R&R time costs extra money. Magnetos, fuel pumps and other items attached to the rear of the engine are hard to get at because of the lack of space. Changing an oil filter can be a soul-trying experience.
We’ve found that once learned, the Mooney systems are straightforward and easy enough to service with a minimum number of parts. Many A&Ps trained on Cessnas and Pipers simply don’t see enough Mooneys in their shops to become familiar with them. A Mooney specialist or a factory-authorized service center is always the best place to have the work done. Mooneys require fewer special tools than most other aircraft, but if the shop doesn’t have them, it can’t do the job right.
We consulted with one of the specialists, Paul E. Loewen, to detail some of the things a potential buyer should inspect on any used Mooney. Loewen operates Lake Aero Styling and Repair at Lampson Field, Lakeport, California. Along with being an Authorized Mooney Repair Center, Lake Aero markets a long list of LASAR speed modifications. Loewen actively develops many of these himself, such as a recent STC’d change to put the 10-360 200-hp engine into the M20C series.
Here were Loewen’s recommendations:
Spinners-Look for cracks around the propeller blade holes; we see them all the time. Some can be stop-drilled and reinforced, some can be welded, but others must be scrapped. Spinners aren’t cheap to replace, either.
Propeller-Run hands along the blades to check for dents, dings, chips, scratches and obviously filed-out portions. Prop work is expensive. Most Mooneys have Hartzell props and these have an airworthiness directive that dictates inspection and repair every five years or 1500 hours, whichever comes first. Make sure the logs show the prop is current.
Cowling-Should fit tightly without distortion; all fasteners should be in place. Be suspicious of any cowling that looks off-center or out of alignment (the engine mounts could be bent or broken). 201 cowlings can suffer cracks along the top and front and can be misaligned with the spinner, or they can hammer against the firewall attachment and chip the paint. These problems can be corrected by shimming the engine and adding additional cowling attachment hardware. Also check that cowl flaps open and close easily and that they fit flush when closed and there isn’t excessive wear at the hinges.
Alternators– Suffer from mechanical failures more than generators, look for cracks in the case, pulley and security or oil leaks on the Continental
Generator-Check from front: belt may be loose because of elongated mounting holes or sheared bolts. Check belt for cracks; the propeller has to be removed whenever a belt needs to be changed.
Starter-Look at the Bendix gear and the ring gear. They should be beveled on the engaged side, but can look flat or chipped from excessive wear. A noisy or weak starter should be checked.
Air Filter-The standard Air Maze, wirefelt filter material gets sandblasted, exposing the wire, which lets in dirt, sand and bits of rust. This results in excessive wear to the top piston rings. If you can hold the filter up to the light and see holes, it’s time to replace it. A paper element works well, but have a 5 year time-life, and the Brackett wet foam filter is an option whose element should be replaced when it becomes deteriorated or dirty.
Engine Baffles-Older style “doghouse” baffles tend to deteriorate with age and vibration. Newer style plenum baffle seals also deteriorate and get folded over the wrong way. In both cases, baffle integrity is critical; they are important to proper engine cooling.
Muffler-The internal perforated tubes must be intact or the engine’s efficiency can be reduced. Remove the tailpipe or header pipe and look in with a flashlight; you can see the tubes in place. Look for cracks in the end walls evidenced by a collection of exhaust soot in that area. The muffler shroud provide cabin heat and should be removed to inspect for cracks, which would allow CO2 in the cabin.
Exhaust Headers-Check for cracks near the flanges and indications of leaking or blown gaskets. Use “no-blow” gaskets and if a flange is particularly troublesome, use of G.E. Silicone seal on the surfaces with the gasket helps.
Oil leaks-These are the bane of the Lycoming-engined airplane. The big four cylinder tends to shake things loose, so look everywhere for possible oil leaks. The most noticeable one may be at the prop hub where the crankshaft seal often seeps. Farther back along the engine, look at the baffle tie-rods; they can rub holes in the pushrod tubes. Where engine case halves join just in back of the starter, oil can seep through. Check the rocker cover gaskets, the prop governor shaft and the pushrod tube seals-all are potential leakers.
Oil Cooler-Look for leaks or stains that would indicate cracks or loose fittings.
Induction tubes-Can be cracked and leak near the flanges. Hoses become hard and brittle with age and use, and leak air. Check the oil return tubes near the induction tubes for tightness and leakage, too.
Induction Duct-Mooney says replace it. Some people patch it when it gets holes from rubbing on the cowling, but in no case should it be left open to leaks.
Carburetor Heat Box-Butterfly valve shaft bearings wear out and let the hot air bypass valve jam partially closed.
There should be no ducting on this tube. The main carb heat valve should be checked to be sure is properly closes off the hot air, as this will cost you power. Check the carburetor bowl for security, too.
Engine Mount-Cracks are not uncommon at right lower attachment point an other places. AD 75-09-08 calls for periodic inspections or replacement of engine mount or the addition of a gusset kit. They should also be inspected for ugly unauthorized welds or rust and abrasion caused by exhaust heat and control cable contact.
Electrical-Battery box should be checked for corrosion and a good protective coating of black acid proof paint; check belly skin for evidence of battery overflow due to overcharging.
Magnetos-Look for oil leaks along the bottom parting line. Braided leads should be intact to prevent radio static.
Landing Gear-The airplane should be put up on jacks and a gear retraction test made. Check overcenter torque (this requires a special Mooney tool) and that the gear’s grease fittings and Heim bearings have been lubricated recently. There’s an AD on the overcenter links; they must have grease fittings for compliance. Shock discs should spring back to normal height when weight is taken off the gear. The old Firestone disc are obsolete and were good for only about 4 years and can be identified if there are 4 on the nose gear and 5 on the mains. The Lord disc are good for about 12 years except on the newer heavier models. (The dates are molded into the disc)
Nosegear-Look for sloppy steering, this indicates excessive play in the nose gear pivot bushing. Check the gear truss for dents caused by oversteering with towbars on the ground. Any dent deeper than 1/32 inch is cause for replacement of the welded tube truss. The nose gear steering requires more upkeep than any other part of the airframe.
Brakes-Look for uneven lining wear, pitted discs, hydraulic leaks around cylinders or even the evidence of automotive brake fluid which is not compatable and damaging.
Fuel lines-Check for leaks under the wing; stains emanating from the rivets indicate the tanks need at least a partial resealing. Low-lead fuels have accelerated the leakage problem by attacking some sealants.
Instrument Panel-Lord mounts tend to get brittle and break with age, thereby letting the instrument panel sag downward. Early Mooneys have very little panel space, and the gyro and flight instruments are not arranged in the standard T. Look for current pitot/static system and transponder checks.
Windshield and Cockpit Windows-Look at condition; if a windshield needs replacement, it’s $900 or more. Most
early models now can be converted to a one-piece windshield.
Door Seals-Leaking door and baggage hatch seals can make noise and reduce speed. They need to be replaced periodically.
Seat belts-The old-style, slide-through belts had to be replaced a while back. Unfortunately, not many of the pre-201 Mooneys had shoulder harness, though it is now possible to add them.
Airworthiness Directives-While there are fewer ADs on Mooneys than on most light aircraft, they must be complied with, for the airplane to be airworthy.
Service Bulletins-Service Letters and Service Instructions are published by Mooney Aircraft, and it would be important that mandatory bulletins be complied with. (Lake Aero has a computerized data base for these)
Mooney Model Comparison (pdf)
Mooney flight: Speed Control
While Mooneys are easy and pleasant to fly, if all your flight training has been in high-wing nose draggers, you should consider some on-the-job training before you launch off to see the world in your spiffy new mod Mooney.
There are two main elements that pilots trained in Brand C airplanes should always to keep in mind: Speed Control, and Plan Ahead. Fortunately, if you can manage one of these, the 8 other falls into place. Mooneys don’t have big slow-down flaps so decent and approach planning requires a good deal more sensitivity. A high approach with full flaps hung out at the last minute just doesn’t do the job for a Mooney—you’ve got to plan ahead for your position, elevation and airspeed.
If your Mooney is equipped with Precise Flight speed brakes, part of the problem is solved. The airflow spoiling brakes will really help you slow down, and they’ll help you make power-on rapid descents from high altitude without shock cooling your engine. All turbocharged Mooneys ought to be equipped with these brakes.
Seating and Baggage: The longer fuselage Mooneys have plenty of space for four people to ride in relative comfort, provided they are athletic enough to jackknife in and out through the single, over-the-wing entry door. The shorter Mooneys also have adequate-but not generous-room for four adults. Baggage has its own door, though it requires a chest-high lift to get the bag in through the hatch. Headroom is adequate, but any star basketball player would be severely handicapped.
Panel: Everything is right at the pilot’s hand. Instruments are laid out in the standard T formation in all but the earliest Mooneys, and those can be remedied with installation of a 201-type panel. Avionics have adequate but not overly large space in the stack in center panel and fuses and circuit breakers are right in front where you can get at them. Early Mooneys have manually retractable landing gear and so have a long operating handle right under the panel; all later ones have electrically powered gear. Flaps on the early ones are hydraulically operated, later ones electric.
Visibility: Forward, up and around views are excellent, directly downward is blocked-typical of a low-wing aircraft.
Start-Up: Simple for the carburetor-equipped M20B, C, D and G; more difficult for~hot~starts on fuel injected M20E, F. J & K.
Taxiing: Good over-nose and side views, tight nose wheel steering, and individual main wheel toe brakes make taxiing a non-issue. If you can drive a tricycle, you can taxi the airplane.
Takeoff: Check the check-list and if everything’s green, do it. Lift-off is very predictable and virtually automatic if the trim’s set right. Clean up the gear and flaps and you’re gone at 800-1200 fpm (depending on model and loading).
Cruise Performance: One of a Mooney’s easier accomplishments. Set power to whatever speed versus fuel burn rate you’ll accept and trim it out. Long-fuselage Mooneys tend to be quite stable in cruise, the shorter ones a bit more touchy. A well-lubricated trim system helps. Exhaust gas or turbine inlet temperature gauges and fuel flow meters making power setting more precise.
Handling Characteristics: All push-rod control linkages make Mooney handling a delight if sometimes just a bit heavy on the ailerons. Stalls are crisp and predictable, but with not much latitude. Recovery is simple and a matter of gaining a couple of knots.
Landing: With gear and flaps out early in the pattern, a good approach at precisely controlled airspeed will always lead to a good landing. Maximum gear (120 mph) and flap (100 mph) speeds on the earlier Mooneys take planning and practice to accomplish at the right times. A slightly nose-up attitude on short final will help squeak it into short strips.
Overall Impressions: Fast, fun, economical, responsive, capable of good loads into and out of average airstrips and but particular about maintenance. You have to find an A&P who knows the airplane series and who’s willing to help troubleshoot when necessary.
Caution: Speedy performance coupled with responsive handling and few maintenance problems make Mooneys addictive. I’ve had the same one for 25 years and the only time I’ve regretted it is when I discovered there are quicker ones.
Jim Johanson decided his 1964 Mooney Mark 21 needed updating, he turned to the performance modification list offered by several shops, including that of Paul E. Loewen at Lakeport, California. Like many of us, Johanson wondered if a handful of mods really could give his airplane that added boost in performance.
What Johanson found out was that when you start adding up the mph gains listed on the brochures, they far out distance what you can practically expect. However, he launched into the project with the help of Loewen’s LASAR mods.
Starting from the nose, the Mooney owner exchanged the rounded standard propeller spinner for a long, pointed 201-style spinner. Behind that, he added a LASAR 201-style cowling. Beneath, the baffle system had to be redone completely, the oil cooler relocated to the left front cooling intake opening and a new opening made for the carburetor air intake. The landing light also got a cover. Fortunately, Loewen’s Lake Aero Styling and Repair has kits for all those operations in stock.
Then Johanson had a choice of installing a one-piece, sloped 201 windshield to replace the standard two-piece unit. The longer 201 shield comes forward over the two removable panels, eliminating access to the instruments and avionics from outside the airplane. Because this is a handy feature when performing maintenance, Johanson elected to use a one-piece short LASAR windshield and a skirt that covers the still-removable cowlings.
At the wing-fuselage juncture, Johanson added the root fairings developed by Mooney for the 231. Under the wing, he added flap-gap seals, flap hinge covers and extra landing gear doors to more fully seal the openings when the gear is retracted. The aft fuselage got attention, too, as seen in the photos. Because Paul Loewen has always liked the Aerostar-style tail fairings, he’s made some of them available for other fanciers. Johanson has the
Straight stinger” neatly tapering off the fuselage, but not the forward-facing rudder-top projection that other Aerostar Mooneys had. There also are tail root fairings covering the Mooney’s big gaps between moving horizontal stabilizers and fuselage, and rudder and elevator hinge opening fairings. An extra, rounded dorsal fairing completes the aft cleanup.
A new, custom-designed, red-white and-blue Imron paint job nicely blended all the new pieces into an eyecatching Mooney “original” Johanson did not limit his attention to the outside, however. He added an aftermarket instrument panel which rearranges the instruments into the standard T layout, which allows space for two VOR heads on the left side of the central radio stack. Panel space, both vertically and horizontally, on early Mooneys is extremely limited, so tightly packing the instruments can be necessary if the owner wants a full stack of modern avionics.
Did the modifications give Johanson what he wanted in performance? “I went from 165 to 181 mph cruise”, he says. “And, I love the airplane even more than I did before. It’s a great little ship, and now it’s even better!” -Dennis Shattuck
FOR MORE INFORMATION
MOONEY FACTORY Mooney Aircraft Corp., Louis Schreiner Field, 165 Al Mooney Rd. No., Kerrville, TX 78029;
1-830 896-6000. www.mooney.com
MOONEY OWNERS GROUP MAPA
Mooney Aircraft Pilots Assn., P.O. Box 460607, San Antonio, TX 78246; (210) 525-8008. Contact: Trey Hughes. Monthly publication, MAPA LOG, annual Homecoming and regional activities; www.mooneypilots.com
Avantext,inc. P.O. Box 369, Reservoir Rd., Honey Brook, PA 19344; 610 273-7410
Aviation Computer Media.Inc., P.O. Box 9532, Ogden, UT 84409-9532; 801 476-8239
AeroTech Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 6005, Freehold, NJ 07728; 800/235-6444.
List of current airworthiness directives, AD Log record- and AD-keeping systern. and AD Log II computerized maintenance record/AD-keeping system.
Cindy Edmunds, Office Manager
Lasar Plane Sales
(A Division Of Lake Aero Styling & Repair
Serving your Mooney Needs Since 1966)