PILOT REPORT – 2005 M20R OVATION2 GX

By Trey Hughes
Mapa Staff

In early March, I had the opportunity to again fly a new Ovation2 from the factory in Kerrville.  Only this time I wasn’t ferrying it anywhere, my only reason for flying was to evaluate the airplane with the new Garmin G1000 and the Hartzell PHC-J3Y-1RF/F7693DF(B)-2 Three-blade propeller.  You may recall (and will find on our website www.mooneypilots.com) in the December 2002 “MAPA LOG” I wrote about the Ovation2 with the 2-blade McCauley propeller which I evaluated while ferrying the airplane to its new owner in Arizona.  In my opinion, there is no question that the M20R is one of the best; if not the best all around airplane that Mooney has produced.

THE OVATION EVOLUTION

Like its more powerful, fire-breathing, high altitude sibling the Bravo, the Ovation2 is built with the long body dimensions that give a large amount of room in the rear seats and baggage area, and improve the longitudinal stability for a very solid and stable feel in the flight controls.  While the original Ovation with the McCauley 3-blade prop (S/N 29-0001 thru 29-0182 and 29-0184 thru 29-0199, production years 1994 – 1999) and the Ovation2 with the 2-blade McCauley (S/N 29-0183 and 29-0200 thru TBD, production years 2000 – TBD) were great performers, they each had a shortcoming.  The original M20R lacked a little TAS (if you consider mid to high 170’s as slow) especially when compared to the lighter M20S introduced in 1999.  To increase the performance gap a bit, the Mooney engineers installed the 2-blade McCauley to increase the TAS to nearly 190 knots and created the Ovation2.

However, since nothing is free, the new O2 suffered less than exciting runway and climb performance especially when at max weights and at high density altitudes.  Not that it was a slouch; no it would still get off of Kerrville which is 1600 feet above sea level in just over 3000’ and make 1200 fpm decreasing to 850 fpm in a climb from 2000 to 7000 feet MSL.  But it seemed that the lack of a propeller blade was really felt when the air got thin and the temps and aircraft weight went up.

Last year, Mooney in concert with the folks at Hartzell, began offering as an option a specially designed three-blade propeller that had the static thrust characteristics of the original McCauley yet didn’t suffer the cruise drag which is often the case with additional propeller blades.  To me this seemed almost too good to be true.  I was certain that the cruise airspeed had to suffer greatly if the extra blade was added back.  I was wrong, but more about that later.  Let’s first get a good look at N558US (29-0358), the 358th M20R built.

THE G1000

I have been fortunate to have had the chance to fly behind the new Garmin G1000 now for about 5 months and I think it is the absolute best combination of flight status display, communication, navigation, aircraft management and traffic and weather advisory that is available for general aviation today.  I have flown the Avidyne and the Chelton displays and while they are good, they aren’t in the same class as the G1000.  It is a totally integrated system designed for the Mooney and combines the flight status display with electronic flight and navigation instruments configured on a very bright and readable display in front of the pilot as well as a navigation map, GPS waypoint information, engine and airframe status and other features on a second display in front of the co-pilot.

The Primary Flight Display (PFD) on the left flight panel combines aircraft attitude, altitude, airspeed, vertical speed, heading (HSI), navigation (CDI and RMI), rate of turn, slip-skid, Indicated Outside Air Temperature (IOAT) and True Airspeed (TAS) into a single electronic display.  In addition, the transponder controls, operating condition, reply indication and code are shown on the PFD.  There is also a small version of the navigation map available as an inset on the PFD.  This is a great help with situational awareness during a low visibility approach.


On the right flight panel is the Multi-function Display (MFD).  The MFD has the main navigation map and engine instruments as the primary default presentation.  The engine instruments, Manifold Pressure and RPM are shown as an electronic presentation of the conventional “round dial” display.  This makes interpretation and anticipation very easy.  They also have an electronic digital presentation for the very finite adjustments that are required for precise power management.  Below the primary power instruments, are tape presentations for fuel quantity (left and right tanks) in gallons useable, fuel flow in gallons per hour, oil pressure in psi, oil temperature in degrees F, EGT in degrees F, and CHT in degrees F.  On the bottom of the engine instruments display is a digital volt and amp indicator for the selected battery and the electrical bus.

Besides the default engine indicating system, there are “soft keys” across the bottom of the MFD that activate additional functions depending on the page that is currently displayed.  If the Nav Map with the standard engine display is shown, then a soft key labeled LEAN provides information that the pilot will find helpful when leaning the big Continental.  When LEAN is selected, the indicators below the fuel quantity tape change.  Below the tape fuel quantity display is a digital fuel flow indication.  Below this are six vertical bar graphs representing individual cylinder EGT as well as a digital EGT display for the hottest cylinder and a deviation from peak temperature display.  Below this is a six-probe CHT presentation with a digital indication of the hottest cylinder temp.  And, the EGT page also has the “LEAN ASSIST” feature that helps the pilot quickly and easily find the hottest cylinder.

SOFT KEYS
The soft keys are a really important feature of the G1000.  They allow a few push-buttons to accomplish a wide variety of operations without the need to add additional push-buttons and thus crowd the face of the display.

Both the PFD and the MFD have a row of soft keys below the display glass.  On the MFD for instance, the soft keys perform the following operations:

·        ENGINE – pressing the ENGINE soft key makes available the LEAN and SYSTEM soft keys which in turn access the Lean Page and the System Page.

·        MAP – pressing the MAP soft key enables the following soft keys;

§         TRAFFIC – pressing the TRAFFIC soft key displays or removes Traffic on the navigation map.

§         TOPO – pressing the TOPO soft key displays or removes topographic information from the navigation map.

§         TERRAIN – pressing the TERRAIN soft key displays or removes terrain and obstacle data from the navigation map.

§         LTNG – pressing the LTNG soft key will display lightning data on the navigation map if within 200 NM radius of the aircraft.

§         BACK – pressing the BACK soft key causes the soft key selection to go back up one level.

·        DCLTR (declutter) – pressing the DCLTR soft key removes map information in three levels.

The MFD is basically the center of the navigation management system.  On power-up the G1000 goes through a “self-test” and the Start-UP page is displayed automatically on the MFD.  This page shows general information such as software and database versions as well as information about copyright, company location and the effective dates of the Land database, the Terrain database and the Aviation database.  This is very important to monitor as it notifies the pilot if the information contained in the G1000 is suitable for GPS navigation and approach.  An expired database renders the GPS unusable for IFR operations.

After the pilot acknowledges the information on the Start-Up screen, the MFD automatically shifts to the navigation map display and the aircraft’s current position is shown with a small airplane symbol.

NAVIGATION MAP DISPLAY

The nav map display is heart of the system and provides an extensive array of GPS/navigation/mapping capability.  These features include a moving map display showing airports, navaids, airspaces, highways, cities, lakes, rivers as well as state and national borders.  In addition, information from the Traffic Information Service (TIS) about other airborne traffic, lightening, and ground obstacles is available on the MFD.  The MFD can also display a wind vector showing the wind direction and speed as well as the drift angle.  Finally, the topography and terrain proximity data is also presented.

One very nice feature of the G1000 is the ability to display a fuel range ring which represents the range of the aircraft at the present fuel quantity and fuel flow.  When the wind is factored into this display, the range ring actually becomes oblong as necessary showing the head or tail wind impact.  Very neat.

LET’S FLY

After stopping in Kerrville to drop off the factory ferry pilot, it was time for me to look at the improvements made to this latest version of the M20R.

N558US is a beautiful white with dark red and silver “Freedom Edition” Ovaton2.

 On examining the POH equipment list, it appeared that it was pretty stock in that it didn’t have any of the big weight options like TKS or air conditioning.  The equipped empty weight was 2343 pounds yielding a whopping 1025 pounds of useful load.  With full fuel (89 gallons useable) the payload would be 507 pounds meaning that with two FAA sized adults and 120 pounds of baggage we would still be below the maximum takeoff weight of 3368 pounds.  It is very important for pilots of the long body Mooneys to accurately calculate their takeoff weight because these Mooneys have a maximum landing weight limit of 3200 pounds.  Any takeoff above 3200 pounds means that the pilot must calculate the weight of the fuel burned to the first intended landing to assure not exceeding this critical structural limit.

On this day, I was pretty light.  Well the Mooney was pretty light since I’m no where near light myself.  With 50 gallons of avgas, me and about 10 pounds of flight stuff we were right at 2854 for takeoff or 514 pounds below max takeoff weight.

The preflight is straight forward and similar to every other long body Mooney, so I will skip that description and move right into the operation of the GX Ovation.  First up, this is an all electric airplane meaning that there is no vacuum system to monitor or repair.  While the G1000 does have two 10.4 inch LCD displays for the PFD and MFD, there is no need to worry about any catastrophic display problems.  The engineers at Garmin estimate the display’s Mean Time between Failure (MTBF) as 10,000 hours.  If a display should fail, the system will automatically revert to a display backup mode and the remaining display will have a composite of the PFD and MFD showing engine and airframe data as well as the primary flight instruments and the HSI with nav indicators.

If both displays fail, the Mooney is equipped with a standard mechanical altimeter and airspeed indicator and an electric gyro horizon which can be used as back-up.

If the standard 100 amp engine driven alternator should fail, the pilot can select to automatically load-shed with the Essential Bus switch and activate a 20 amp Standby Alternator.  And should this alternator fail, there are still two batteries.

Since the pitot static information for altitude, airspeed and vertical speed on the PFD is generated by the Air Data Computer (ADC), if the ADC or any portion were to fail, the incorrect or missing information would be removed from the display and a red X would appear in its place.

If the Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) has a failure with the attitude or heading gyros, like the ADC, the incorrect information is removed and a red X also appears.

One interesting point about the two GDU 1040 LCD displays used for the PFD and MFD, should a display fail in the field, the GX Mooney owner can stop at a Garmin repair facility, a Mooney factory service center or, in the near future, a Cessna Citation service center.  When Garmin designed the system they put the brains into the airplane subsystems.  This means that the displays are universal and not make or model specific.  Since the new Cessna entry into the Very Light Jet (VLJ) market, the Mustang will also use the G1000 system, just installing the GDU 1040 into the rack tells the display that it is in a Mooney and not a Mustang and the Mooney configuration will be shown.

After the normal preflight it’s time to get the IO-550 G6 started.  The new starting procedure in both the Ovation and Bravo calls for the engine to be started with the alternator field switch OFF.  This is done to protect the voltage regulator from possible damage as the alternator begins to spin-up with engine start.  Once the engine is running, the flashing ALT VOLT light will remind a pilot not using the checklist to check the alternator circuit and engage the field switch.  There is no Radio Master switch in the new electric Mooneys, so the G1000 comes on with the battery switch.  That’s ok because the boxes are surge protected internally to prevent any effect of an alternator voltage spike.

Once the engine is running and the Garmin has gone through the self-test, I acknowledge the data base dates, and then make the few simple button pushes necessary to load my flight plan into one of two GPS navigators included with the G1000.  I guess that a brief description of the equipment that makes up the G1000 is necessary.

G1000 SYSTEM OVERVIEW

The G1000 Integrated Avionics System is made up of Line Replaceable Units (LRUs).  They are:

·        GDU 1040 Primary Flight Display (PFD)

·        GDU 1040 Multi-function Display (MFD)

·        GIA 63 Integrated Avionics Unit (2 ea)

§         Functions as the main communications hub linking all LRUs with the PFD and MFD

§         Each GIA 63 contains a GPS receiver, VHF Comm/Nav/GS receivers and system integration microprocessors

§         Each GDU 1040 is paired with a GIA 63

§         Each GIA 63 is independent

·        GMA 1347 Audio System

§         Integrates Nav/Com digital audio, intercom and marker beacon controls

§         Controls manual display reversion (in case of a GDU 1040 failure)

·        GRS 77 Attitude & Heading Reference System (AHRS)

§         Provides aircraft attitude and heading information to the G1000 displays and the GIA 63s

§         Contains advanced sensors, accelerometers and rate sensors.

§         Interfaces with the GDC 74A Air Data Computer and the GMU 44 Magnetometer

§         Uses GPS signals from the GIA 63

·        GDC 71 Engine/Airframe Unit

§         Receives and processes signals from engine and airframe sensors

·        GDC 74A Air Data Computer (ADC)

§         Processes information from the pitot/static system and outside air temperature (OAT) sensor

§         Provides pressure altitude, airspeed, and vertical speed and OAT information to the G1000 system

·        GMU 44 Magnetometer

§         Measures local magnetic field information

§         Communicates with the AHRS for processing and aircraft heading determination

·        GTX 33 Mode S Transponder

§         Provides Modes A, C and S operations

Once my flight is loaded, the navigation map on the PFD will display my course line with waypoints as well as a small airplane symbol representing N558US overlaid with the terrain display.  If GPS is selected as the source for the nav display on the HSI, a course deviation indicator will show my relationship with the desired track and give fly left or right indications.

One interesting thing about the G1000 and the PFD and MFD is that since they are exactly the same display units, the control on each are redundant.  This means that the pilot can operate both units as well as the comm and nav radio functions from the center of the stack on either side of the digital audio panel.

Taxi and run-up are also straight forward Ovation.  The only differences are assuring that no information from either the AHRS or ADC is missing or incorrect.  If either sensor detects an error, a large red X appears on the PFD and the incorrect information is removed.  One final check of the system status page on the MFD will assure the pilot departing into IFR that everything is working fine and is safe and ready for flight

.THE TAKEOFF

Here is what I came to see.  How much improvement would the extra propeller blade provide on takeoff and climb?  I was amazed!  From a standing start, 8US was airborne off of Kerrville’s runway 30 in just under 1700 feet.  There was a substantial crosswind on this day since a winter cold front had recently passed, so I think that the distance would have been slightly shorter had the wind been down the runway.  Initial climb at Vx (85 KIAS) resulted in a vertical speed of 1600 fpm through about 4000’.  Transitioning to a Vy climb of 105 KIAS yielded 1100 fpm through 6000’.  Back in 2002 the Ovation2 I flew for that report gave 1200 fpm at Vy at 2000’ decreasing to 960 fpm through 6000’.  That extra blade does make a difference.

Also the runway requirements were different.  In 2002 the 2-blade Ovation used 3200’ of runway 30 under slightly worse conditions and at a slightly heavier weight.

BUT HOW FAST WILL IT GO?

With most propellers, each blade added is drag and usually results in a loss of airspeed in cruise flight.  That was the reason; after all, that Mooney went to 2-blades from the original 1994 model with 3.  They wanted more cruise airspeed.  But here we are in 2005 and Mooney has “reinvented” the Ovation again with 3-blades.  Will the cruise airspeed suffer?  That was the other thing I wanted to know.  The marketing guys advertised a very slight reduction in cruise of only a knot or two, but my skeptical mind couldn’t conceive of how this could be possible.  How could they put a blade back on and not lose any speed?

Well, I’m here to tell you that the laws of physics appear to have disappeared in Kerr County.  When I leveled off at 8500’, I left the power at max and allowed 8US to accelerate before I began the first of my true airspeed runs.  As in the past, I would use the box pattern of heading North, East, South and West for a prescribed time noting the GPS ground speed at the end of each leg.  After all four headings are flown, the ground speeds are totaled and an average is determined.  This is the most accurate way to compensate for instrument error when calculating TAS.  This is what I observed at 8500 feet on the first run at max power.

ALTITUDE

OAT

POWER

FUEL FLOW

HEADING

GS

8500

+ 1 C

22.2 “/2500

23.6 GPH

N

160 KTS

   

(Full Throttle)

 

E

202 KTS

       

S

213 KTS

       

W

182 KTS

       

AVG TAS

189.25 KTS

       

ADC TAS

187 KTS

Next, I climbed to 10,000 feet to make two more runs.  The first would be at max power and the other at 65% power.  During the climb, I programmed the STEC System 55X autopilot for 900 fpm to check its ability to hold a rate of climb.  The STEC worked flawlessly and held the selected rate.  Throughout the climb the IAS never got below 125 kts.  That’s not bad.  A cruise climb through 10,000 feet at 125 KIAS and still doing 900 feet per minute.

Once the STEC leveled at 10,500 here is what I found:


Max Cruise Power (Approximately 70%)

ALTITUDE

OAT

POWER

FUEL FLOW

HEADING

GS

10,000

- 1 C

20.5”/2500

15.5 GPH

N

157

   

(Full Throttle)

(Best Power -

E

204

     

50-degrees

S

208

     

rich of peak

W

160

     

EGT)

AVG TAS

182.25

       

ADC TAS

180

65% Cruise Power

ALTITUDE

OAT

POWER

FUEL FLOW

HEADING

GS

10,000

- 1 C

19.0 “/2500

13.4 GPH

N

155

     

(Best Power -

E

202

     

50-degrees

S

205

     

rich of peak

W

164

     

EGT)

AVG TAS

181.5

       

ADC TAS

176

If you review the report written for the Ovation2 in the December 2002 MAPA LOG, you will find that at 11,000 feet on a slightly warmer day, the TAS was 186.75 kts, about 5 knots faster.  This falls right in line with Mooney’s claim that in spite of giving much improved runway and climb performance, the new 3-blade propeller gives up very little in cruise to the 2-blade version.

Too soon it was time to return this beauty to Mooney, so I extended that standard speed brakes, set the power to 20” and 2500 RPM, trimmed the nose down to peg 170 knots and saw 1000 fpm on the VSI.  After slowing to 130 knots at level off at 2600 feet MSL, I entered the downwind for runway 30 at Kerrville to test the landing distance for the new Ovation.  Mooney didn’t change the landing distance charts for the new propeller, but I felt that since the third blade improved the static thrust, it would also improve the dynamic braking as well.  I think I am right because I was able to get 8US stopped in 2300’ after only 1000’ of ground roll.  Again, just like the takeoff, there was a gusty 40-degree 20 knot crosswind that didn’t offer any help to shorten the landing distance.  If this isn’t shorter than the O2, it sure felt as if it didn’t float as much.

In summary, I think Mooney has made the right improvements to an already marvelous airplane.  They returned the takeoff and climb performance to the Ovation without losing the cruise airspeed.  The Ovation remains a true cross country performer, just right for those who don’t need the extra expense of a turbo.  With great performance well into the teens, the Ovation will stay ahead of almost anything else without a blower.

And they again lead the field in advanced avionics systems with the addition of the Garmin G1000.  Garmin seems to come up with just the right stuff at the right time.  The G1000 is a complete flight/communications/navigation/aircraft management system designed specifically for the Ovation.  With the large PFD, aircraft flight situation control and monitoring is made effortless.  The displays for airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, pitch and roll are large and easily interpreted.  The EHSI with its CDI and dual RMI presentations makes following the selected navigation course and position crosschecking quite easy.

The large display navigation map on the MFD as well as the engine monitoring and airframe configuration displays let a pilot quickly and easily see everything important with a single glance.  And with the controls conveniently arrange around the face of each display, a GX Mooney pilot can operate the entire comm/nav system with ease and little distraction.  This system will definitely enhance pilot safety by allowing for a higher degree of situational awareness and a substantial workload reduction.  Now, just how much do I need to raise the MAPA dues to add an Ovation2 GX to the MAPA inventory?