We recently (August 2017) swapped our trusty TB-10 for a more long distance capable Turbo-Mooney.
‘YC had served us beautifully and we’d taken her to her limits, but our regular trips up and down to Scotland meant we needed something better able to deal with headwinds and other weather issues common on the route from London to Scotland. G-OPWS was that aircraft.
G-OPWS is a 1982 Mooney M20K-231. She’s been well-loved and has about 2,000 hours on the clock in her life so far. We think she’ll like her new home in Oban 🙂
She’s IFR capable but not as snazzy on the avionics front as ‘YC, our TB-10, which J had designed and kitted out from basic VFR to suit his needs as he went through his instrument training. This makes her higher workload to fly IFR (less suitable for training too, which is a downside for me), but it means she was pretty much a straight swap for the TB-10, which would not usually be the case with such a high-performance aircraft.
We are still getting to know the Mooney but we can already see that she handles well and flies wonderfully at altitude. She is really stable in turbulence, and if you get the settings right, the balance of performance and efficiency is really good. Incredibly, even with a few niggles still to iron out with respect to engine cooling, she is already getting us up and down in less time and using less fuel than we’ve ever managed before.
Our trips from Biggin Hill to Oban were taking us between 3hrs 30 and 5hrs in the TB-10, depending on the wind. The quickest J had ever done it was in just under 3hrs with a whacking 50kt tailwind (which he later admitted was probably not a wise plan as it involved flying over the Irish Sea in a Force 9 gale…). The Mooney does it in 2hrs 30 on average, which is an incredible difference – we’ve already been as quick as 2hrs 15, and the very slowest was in a 40kt headwind, when she still made it in just over 3hrs.
It goes without saying that the Mooney will massively improve our hit-rate in getting up and down from Scotland when we need to for work. She can also climb much higher than ‘YC – her ceiling is about 24,000ft, but with our portable oxygen system we can only safely take her to 18,000 at the moment. This is still a big improvement on ‘YC’s 13,000ft and means we can out-climb most of the non-frontal cloud we’d be likely to encounter on the route in summer or winter.
As with many light aircraft, ice is going to be her limiting factor as she has no de-icing capability. When the freezing layer is low in winter, we will not be able to fly in cloud, so we will either have to be able to go above it (admittedly more likely in the Mooney than the TB-10) or below it (often not possible with the terrain in Scotland!). So we will still be commuting on the Caledonian Sleeper or EasyJet fairly regularly, but we gain so much in time (and incredibly save on costs as well) by flying ourselves that we’ll be doing it whenever we can.
In terms of concrete differences from ‘YC, the Mooney has a retractable landing gear, which hugely improves efficiency in the cruise but gives the pilot one extra thing to remember on approach (with problematic consequences if you don’t!). The Mooney also has a turbo-charged engine, which takes some careful management in all phases of flight. Whilst both J and I have licenses which are valid on this type of aircraft, we had to do some ‘differences’ training with an instructor to legally fly the Mooney having trained on non-turbo and non-retractable gear aircraft.
Looking forward to getting to know our new addition and having some adventures with her. She has already made for some happy flying faces among our friends and family who’ve had their first rides 🙂
- Type: Mooney M20K-231 (ICAO code: M20T)
- Age: First flew 1982, although some of the inner workings have been replaced multiple times since then, the airframe is original. She’s had a new paint job in the last few years that we will be attempting to preserve through the Scottish winters…
- MTOW: 1,315kgs (Maximum Take-Off Weight – heaviest the plane is allowed to be when departing, often used to calculate your landing fee at a destination, presumably because heavier planes will do more damage to their runways?!). She’s just under 200kgs heavier than our last aircraft, but as she carries a lot of fuel we have to be especially careful with weight and balance when taking passengers – she basically can’t fly 4-up with full fuel unless everyone is tiny.
- Range: approx. 6hrs at high power, over 1,000 nautical miles (significantly more than our TB-10)
- Seats: 4 (although see above re: weight and balance)
- Fuel: AvGas (and don’t we know it, it’s pretty expensive in Scotland!!)
- Cruising speed: (ground speed of course depends on the headwind!) 155 knots true at altitude, lower down less but she certainly deals with headwinds pretty well in comparison to everything we’ve flown before.