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I have taken a break from my monthly series of picking out an airplane based on a specific criteria of mission-capability and price. In fact one of the last airplanes I selected was actually in the same category as the one I’m discussing here, but older and less expensive (see my Bonanza article here). As you know this isn’t a “money is no object” exercise. This is my honest assessment of what I would purchase if I was looking for an airplane in this category and price range.
The Mooney series of airplanes enjoy a rich heritage of efficiency, reliability, and performance.
Indeed the Mooney, as the Bonanza, has a loyal following.
It doesn’t take much research to find that the most popular Mooney ever built was the “201” denoting it’s top speed in mph. The M20J, as it was designated, was “touched” by the famous Roy LoPresti and he really capitalized on refining the design.
Since I’m set on the 201, I have increased my make-believe budget for this installment ($70,000 to $100,000) to allow me to have some room to get the right airplane.
Built from 1977-1998 the M20J had very long production run, again proof of its prowess. This affected the amount I plan to spend, allowing me to get into the door with an earlier, mid-70s version or splurging a little for a slightly newer model from the 1980s. The later versions generally command north of $100K so that’ll be out of our reach for this discussion.
The very conventional metal construction of the 201 mirrors airplanes of this genre, but it does have an unorthodox all moving tail to take care of trim duties – to my knowledge it works well and has never been a concern.
The Mooney makes great speed, as advertised by its defacto model number “201”, on just four cylinders. Breaking the coveted 1 mph per 1 horsepower was a big deal, something Mooney focused on intently for all subsequent models. In 1977 Flying magazine did a review of the 201 alluded to it as a “game-changer.” Indeed it was a very popular alternative to some of the more traditional 4 seat retracts of the time. My research showed that over 1650 were built over its 21 year production run.
It is powered by the very dependable 200hp Lycoming IO-360 that only suffers for issues from disuse; keep her flying regularly and it will go to TBO+ without concern. This smaller engine and its commensurate fuel flow allows it to exceed 700nm on 64 gallons of fuel – not bad at all.
One of the challenges with the Mooney line is the lack of creature comforts. The Mooney was bred for speed and although not an issue for me, larger pilots mind find it a tight fit. The 201 made ergonomic changes to help the issue, but of course the Bonanza or Cessna 210 can help if this is a concern for super-sized aviators.
Overall the aircraft is a great traveling machine that has great performance at only a fraction of the price of a Diamond or Cirrus.
If were in the market for a production aircraft for traveling, this would be my first choice hands down.
Here are some current ads from Barnstormers.com. There were a few cheaper examples, but those had high time powerplants. Certainly there were more expensive examples as well.
Comparable certified aircraft:
- Beechcraft Bonanza F33
- Cessna 210
- Diamond DA-40
- Cirrus SR22
If you have an airplane that you believe compares, please share it in the comments below.
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