Aircraft Evaluation Report

Test Pilot - Flying the M20C

 

Ed. Note: This is the second of a series of flight test reports on the Mooney airplanes that make up the MAPA fleet. This month, let's take a look at the M20C. The 'C' model is the bread and butter of the Mooney fleet. When pilots think of pre-J model Mooneys, they think of the 'C' Model. Owners love 'em. MAPA loves 'em. So just how good is this airplane, anyway?
Using some basic flight test procedures, let's look at the performance in the real world - bragging rights aside. Without 'stars in our eyes', let's look at the weaknesses of the 'C' model - there are some. The C model is a wonderful airplane, but not a perfect one. Like all airplanes, it is a machine that is full of compromises. It does some things very well, it does others not so well. Here are my impressions and opinions after flying several hours in a very nice C model loaned to MAPA by All-American Aircraft.

I have a confession to make to all you MAPA members. In over 2500 hours of flying Mooneys, never have I flown a Mooney with a manual gear. Not once have I raised and lowered the wheels in a Mooney with the famous (or infamous) Johnson bar. I flew my first Mooney when I became the factory's engineering test pilot in 1983, many years after the last manual gear Mooney was produced. As a result, my Mooney experience has all been in airplanes with electric gear - move a little switch and the wheels go up and down. So, with this background, I really looked forward to finally checking out and flying a basic manual gear Mooney for this evaluation.

First, we had to find a stock C model to fly - no speed mods and as close to a stock airplane as we could find. MAPA was fortunate to find and borrow a very good example of a basic C model from All-American Aircraft here in San Antonio - one of the top stocking pre-owned Mooney dealers in the country. Day in and day out, they stock some of the nicest examples of older and current production Mooneys we have ever seen. Jimmy Garrison and David McGee at All-American buy and sell all models from the C to the newest Bravo.

The airplane we borrowed for this report, N3411X, is a prime example of the excellent airplanes found in All American's stock. Good C models are hard to find, but we were fortunate to come across 11 Xray. 11 Xray is a 1966 model, serial number 3394. Cosmetically and mechanically, it has to be rated in the top 5% of the current C model market. The airplane has almost new paint, very good interior, very acceptable avionics and is squawk free. 11Xray has 4075 hours on the airframe and only 197 hours on a factory overhauled engine. This airplane proved to be an excellent choice for this evaluation.

The panel of our test airplane shown in level cruise flight. Click on picture for larger photo.

First, let's take a look at the airplane as it sits on the ramp. When you first walk up to a C model, the first thing you notice how low the airplane sets on the ground. This makes the airplane appear smaller than it really is. This is no big deal, except for your passengers. Most passengers tend to equate 'big' as 'safe'. Unfortunately, Mooneys look 'little' on the ramp. They appear short and squatty on the ground compared to a Bonanza or Arrow. I have spent many hours trying to convince first-time passengers that this Mooney we are about to fly is just as safe and strong as that Beechcraft parked next to us. To them, it just looks too small. The Bonanza sets tall on the ground and looks substantial on its tall gear. Passengers like that. So if you fly an early Mooney, be prepared to answer lots of questions about the strength of the airplane because it looks so 'small'.

The next thing you notice as the pilot when you approach a C model is the cowling. Let's face it, the C model cowl is 1) ugly, 2) aerodynamically poor, 3) impossibly configured for quick pre-flights of the engine compartment and 4) doesn't cool the engine very well. The worst cowling design is one with a flat frontal area, a big hole cut out in the middle for cooling air to enter and a too small area for all that air to exit at the bottom. Unfortunately, that describes the C model cowl perfectly.

Unfortunately, the cowling on the M20C is a study in aerodynamic inefficiency.

To realize how bad this cowling is, take a look sometime at the cowling on a Mooney Ovation. The engine in the Ovation develops 100 more horsepower than the M20C, but the inlet area for the engine cooling air is about 60% smaller in the Ovation than the C model. Additionally, the exit area for the cooling air through the cowl flaps is properly sized on the Ovation. It's not on the C model.

Compare the inlet area of the M20C shown on the left to a new M20R Ovation shown on the right.

What all this means is drag - and lots of it. An old test pilot at Mooney told me that tuft testing on the C, E, F and G models revealed that the cowling was actually stopping and reversing the airflow in certain flight conditions. Cooling air was entering the engine compartment, stopping and then reversing direction, exiting out the big round inlet. That means aerodynamic drag to the max - and a hot running engine.

And heaven forbid the poor pilot that decides he needs to properly preflight the engine compartment before the day's flight. If you do, expect at least a 15 minute job to remove the top and side panels for a basic look at the engine and exhaust system. Add another 15 minutes to put it all back together. We are seeing more and more incidents in the pre-J model fleet related to failures in the engine compartment that could have been caught early with a proper preflight. But who can blame a Mooney owner for not taking at least 30 minutes before each flight just to un-cowl and re-cowl the engine? This is an example of a design being so user unfriendly that it has negatively affected the safety record of the airplane.

Beyond the cowling, the M20C is an airplane of beautiful simplicity and aerodynamic purity. The Mooney brothers really knew airframe aerodynamics and this knowledge is most apparent in the wing design. What a magnificent wing we fly on! Low drag, smooth, good taper - it's the heart and soul of the performance of a Mooney. Mooney's heritage of superior performance comes from one thing - the superior wing. It's why we go so much faster and climb so much better than the competition. Ever wonder what we would have if a Cherokee wing was put on a Mooney? A small cabin airplane with Cherokee performance - that's what.

The wing's the thing. The heart and soul of a Mooney's performance can be found in the outstanding wing design.

Enough of this philosophy - let's go flying. Entering the M20C is standard Mooney. The retractable step on the early Mooneys is a nice touch - much better than the fixed steps on today's airplanes. But as we get ready to board, we must stop here and bring up probably the biggest compromise you have to deal with as the owner of a short-body Mooney. And that is passenger loading and cabin comfort. As you stand there on the wing looking inside, you can clearly see there are four seats. But can you really fit four adults in this cabin comfortably? In my opinion, the answer is no.

The short body Mooneys are superb two place airplanes. With only two in the front, you can slide the seats back and have all the stretch-out room you desire. I'm 5'11', and I can slide the seat back so far that I can't reach the rudder pedals. That's what I call stretch out room - more than any other airplane of this vintage by a long shot.

But add a third person and things go downhill fast. One of the front seats will have to be pulled up a long way to make room for the back seat passenger. Now, one of the front seat passengers is going to be uncomfortable - too close to the instrument panel and not enough leg room. And the rear seat passenger isn't going to be very happy either. No matter how far forward the front seat is, there is just not enough legroom for the person in the back. So the trick is to have your rear seat passenger sit 'sidesaddle', placing his or her legs sideways into the floor space of the other, empty rear seat. So three will work, but only for a while.

But four adults in a short body Mooney? You're asking the impossible from everybody. The front seat passengers will be too far forward - no legroom and too close to the panel. The rear seat passengers won't have enough legroom. Everybody is unhappy, uncomfortable and complaining about this tiny airplane. About an hour and a half of this and you'll probably be asked to land as soon as possible, unless your passengers are awfully nice people who don't want to hurt your feelings.

The best seat in the house is the left front - let's settle in and look around. Positioning your seat to comfortably reach the rudder pedals puts your eyes pretty close to the panel. This is a bifocal airplane - if you need reading glasses, you'll need them to see the panel in a short body Mooney. And the switch placement and instrument arrangement is certainly indicative of a '60's vintage general aviation airplane. Flying IFR is a challenge until you learn where all the switches are located and learn how to scan instruments that are located randomly on the panel.

The panel in our test airplane from the pilot's perspective. Instrument and switch layout is vintage 1960's.

The control wheel is positioned high in relation to the pilot - kind of uncomfortable. Same with the engine controls. It feels strange for a while to be reaching up so high to adjust the prop, throttle and mixture. All in all, the feeling the pilot has sitting behind the panel of a short body, pre-J model Mooney is one of flying an airplane that was developed during a time when the placement of switches and controls was an afterthought and pilot comfort was secondary. In 1966, that was the state of general aviation cockpit design.

And you'll miss not having a shoulder harness. In the '60's, shoulder harnesses weren't thought of as standard equipment for general aviation airplanes. Today, they're in everything, and for good reason. Without shoulder harnesses, even a minor mishap can result in the front seat occupants pivoting forward around a single lap belt and impacting the panel. Serious injuries are the result. Since we sit so close to the panel in our Mooneys, shoulder harnesses should be in every airplane.

Shoulder harness retrofit kits are available for some Mooneys built in the 60's and 70's. Lake Aero Styling and Repair in California has both fixed belts ($175 per seat) and inertial belts ($300 per seat), but again they're not available for all models. It takes about 2 1/2 hours per seat to install the belts. Shoulder harnesses should be considered mandatory safety items. They can prevent major facial or head injuries in just a minor mishap. Lake Aero Styling can be reached at 1-800-954-5619.

The M20C has the tremendously reliable and simple 180 horsepower Lycoming O-360A1D installed in the front. This engine is one of the best in all of general aviation and its track record is impeccable. MAPA members report little trouble with the Lycoming O-360. The only area of concern is the fact that the engine has a carburetor. Carburetors are fine for low performance airplanes with limited altitude capability. But Mooneys are flown a lot at higher altitudes and are flown in IFR conditions quite a bit. As a result, Mooney pilots need to know how to lean the mixture properly as the airplane climbs and how to keep carb ice at bay with the proper use of the carb heat control. The O-360 in the M20C is an ice maker - we receive several report each year of a C model getting carb ice bad enough to cause a precautionary landing under partial power. Be aware of this, especially in IFR conditions.

Starting the C model requires a full rich mixture, boost pump on and several pumps of the throttle. The O-360 is a foolproof engine to start. Once running, a good M20C pilot is immediately on the mixture control, leaning it out for smooth engine operation on the ground. Carburetors are notorious for uneven fuel distribution to the cylinders and overly rich mixtures at low power settings. A Mooney pilot who takes the time to aggressively lean the mixture for ground operations will have a smoother running engine and spark plugs that will last a long time.

Taxiing is straightforward with nosegear steering through the rudder pedals and differential braking for tight turns. You can't maneuver a Mooney on the ramp as tightly as you can a Cessna, but who cares. The early Mooneys do just fine on the ramp in all but the tightest situations.

But while taxiing, you'll notice a characteristic that is inherent to the Mooney landing gear design: Mooneys ride on stiff gears. Our landing gears are a marvel of simplicity and low maintenance, but the price we pay for this simplicity is a stiff ride. On the early airplanes like the C model, this characteristic is magnified due to the overall light weight of the airplane. Every crack and bump in the taxiway is felt as a jolt in the airframe. The newer airplanes with their higher weights tend to ride better on the ground than the early, lighter airplanes. Again, airplanes are machines full of compromises. In a Mooney, you compromise ride quality on the ground for a landing gear with low maintenance requirements. That's a compromise we are all willing to make.

The pre-takeoff check is straightforward, with the exception of a rather leisurely runup RPM setting of 1700. The later airplanes require 1900-2000 RPM, a setting that I always thought was too high. It's nice to check the mags and cycle the prop at 1700 RPM. Passengers like the quieter runup - it doesn't seem as annoying and frightening. And just before takeoff, don't forget to set the mixture properly from the lean setting you had during the taxi. If your takeoff conditions are from an airport with a density altitude below 3000 feet, you can set the mixture full rich. If the density altitude is above 3000 feet, do a full power runup and set the mixture 100 degrees rich of peak prior to rolling on the runway.

Takeoff is nice in an early Mooney. Acceleration is quite good with the lighter airframe weights. I did have a tendency to over-rotate on my first few takeoffs, a characteristic I have read about but never experienced. But it's there. For some reason, the airplane requires a pretty healthy pull to come unstuck from the runway, but that pull is too much once the airplane is airborne. The result is a pitch up immediately after liftoff that requires a relaxation of some of the pull force required to rotate the airplane.

With all the power levers full forward and a positive rate established in the initial climb, it's time for that first manual gear retraction. I have to tell you two things about my first several manual gear retractions. First, the procedure is pretty easy. For gear down, unlatch, slide the handle out of the socket, push the bar to the floor and then relatch. Gear up is equally straightforward - unlatch from the floor, swing the bar up and latch it into the gear down position. The forces are pretty high. But all in all, the manual gear was no big deal.

But we are seeing more early Mooneys with manual landing gears ending up on their bellys. Why is this? Here might be a reason. I found out that you can have the gear retraction bar in the proper gear down position, but not properly latched. The handle might look like the gear is down, but if it is not locked securely in the down position, it might jump out of the gear down lock upon touchdown. The gear will fold up and the airplane will skid to a stop on the belly. Embarrassing and expensive.

So it's imperative for first time, manual gear operators like me to make sure the gear handle is securely fastened in the gear down locking mechanism. That takes a firm grip on the handle and a hard push up into the locking receptacle. It also takes a good pull on the handle and bar as part of the pre landing checklist to make sure it is securely fastened in the down position. These checks quickly become the norm for the experienced manual gear Mooney pilot. For the novice like me, they seem somewhat awkward.

The famous manual landing gear shown here in the gear down and locked position. This system is either loved or hated, depending on who you talk to.

With everything cleaned up, let's take a look at how well and M20C climbs to altitude and what the most efficient way is to get it there. This time of year, it is hot in south Texas. Ground temperatures are in the upper 90's, with hot air aloft as well. With full fuel and only the pilot (me) on board, I performed two continuous climbs from 1000 feet to 10,000 feet to take a look at climb performance and aircraft operation during the climb.

The procedure I used for the climb to altitude was 1) full throttle all the way up, 2) 2700 (max) RPM, 3) mixture leaned to 100-125 degrees rich of peak (best power mixture), 4) cowl flaps full open and 5) one climb profile with a constant airspeed at 100 mph IAS and another at 120 mph IAS. These climb speeds are higher than Vy, but I have to tell you that I think on the hot days I performed these climbs, the engine would have over- heated at Vy. Besides, I could see over the nose better at these airspeeds and it is always more efficient to climb at airspeeds higher than Vy if you can. You cover more ground that way in the climb to altitude and the engine always cools better.

Our M20C test airplane exhibited outstanding climb performance. The ability to climb to 10,000 feet on a 100 degree F day is something no other 180 hp airplane can do.

Using these procedures, here is the observed data from the climbs to altitude:

Continuous Climb Data 1966 M20C N3411X
Full throttle, 2700 rpm, mixture leaned to 100-125 degrees
rich of peak, cowl flaps open, airspeed as noted

Elapsed
Time
Altitude MIAS MP RPM Oil
Temp
CHT OAT Rate of
climb*
Climb#1 Airspeed at Constant 100MIAS
0:00 1000' 100 27.8 2700 200 400 97 ---
1:02 2000' 100 26.9 2700 200 440 92 968
2:40 3000' 100 25.9 2700 205 440 89 612
3:57 4000' 100 24.9 2700 205 430 84 779
5:08 5000' 100 23.9 2700 205 415 81 845
6:30 6000' 100 23.0 2700 200 415 79 732
8:04 7000' 100 22.1 2700 200 420 73 638
9:47 8000' 100 21.2 2700 200 415 69 582
11:37 9000' 100 20.4 2700 200 415 64 545
13:42 10,000' 100 20.0 2700 200 415 59 521

Elapsed
Time
Altitude MIAS MP RPM Oil
Temp
CHT OAT Rate of
climb*
Climb#2 Airspeed at Constant 120MIAS
0:00 1000' 120 27.8 2700 205 410 98 ---
1:00 1800' 120 27.0 2700 205 425 96 800
2:00 2550' 120 26.2 2700 205 430 92 750
3:00 3480' 120 25.2 2700 205 425 88 930
4:00 4080' 120 24.7 2700 205 425 82 600
5:00 4860' 120 24.1 2700 205 425 79 780
6:00 5570' 120 23.2 2700 205 420 74 710
7:00 6250' 120 22.9 2700 205 415 72 680
8:00 6680' 120 22.4 2700 205 410 70 630
10:00 8680' 120 21.7 2700 205 405 65 500
12:00 8950' 120 21.9 2700 205 405 60 270
14:00 9320' 120 20.1 2700 200 405 56 335
15:46 10,000' 120 19.7 2700 200 405 54 385
* Under perfect flight test conditions, rate of climb should decrease smoothly as altitude increases. However, the air was very turbulent on our day of the test, so that is the reason why the numbers don't decrease evenly. Nevertheless, this test was a good one for 'real world' conditions and is pretty representative of what a C model will do on a hot day.


For a 180 horsepower airplane on an extremely hot day, these numbers are simply outstanding. I realize that I was light - test weight with only the pilot on board and full fuel was probably 300 pounds under gross. But numbers are truly outstanding. Can you imagine having the ability to climb to 10,000 feet on a day that is 40 degrees above standard in a 180 horsepower airplane? Know of any other 180 hp machines that can do this? I don't.

Notice that the climb was performed at full throttle, max rated RPM and the mixture leaned to 100-125 degrees rich of peak. If you want to climb your C model the most efficiently, that's the power you'll consider using. The idea of reduced power climbs (the old '25 squared' myth) is old school thinking. There is no technical data anywhere from any of the engine manufacturers that shows reducing power after takeoff makes the engine last longer or makes it run cooler or helps it make TBO easier. The engines we fly in Mooney airplanes are all rated for operations at maximum continuous power. Note the word 'continuous'. A power reduction after takeoff (especially with a normally aspirated engine) only serves to 1) reduce climb performance when you need it the most, 2) slows the airplanes progress across the ground during climb, 3) can actually make the engine run hotter - at max power you can climb at an airspeed well above Vy. So, with a normally aspirated engine, keep the power up during climb, keep the mixture leaned to 100-125 degrees rich of peak EGT and keep the speed up higher than Vy. If you do, you'll be getting your Mooney to altitude in the most efficient manner and operating the engine at peak efficiency.

So, we proved that the climb performance of the airplane is superb. How about cruise. Just how fast does a stock C model fly - bragging rights aside. For our cruise performance tests, we did what every pilot should do who wants to find out what the actual true airspeed is on his or her airplane. It's easy in today's GPS world. All you have to do is to set up the desired power setting, configure the airplane for cruise and run a four-way level flight speed check using the ground speed readout of the GPS in each direction. Fly the compass (N, S, E, W) for this test. Don't correct for any wind drift. On each of the four headings, record the stabilized ground speed. The average of these four ground speeds for the altitude and power setting you are flying is the true airspeed. Forget the airspeed indicator - they are notoriously inaccurate. When someone brags about the speed of their airplane, make sure they are quoting numbers derived from this GPS method. If they are quoting numbers off the airspeed indicator, they are probably wrong.

So, for various altitudes, we configured 11Xray for full throttle, 2500 RPM, cowl flaps closed and the mixture leaned to 50 degrees rich of peak. Why this power setting? Running your normally aspirated engine at full throttle is running your engine where the induction system was tuned for the most efficiency. The cylinders all get the most volume and even distribution of induction air at full throttle. 2500 is also the RPM that most normally aspirated engines deliver the best power and run the smoothest. In a normally aspirated engine, horsepower is drastically affected by propeller RPM (higher is better). Propeller efficiency is also a little better at higher RPM. So why not run there? And the mixture setting of 50 degrees rich of peak is a good compromise between best power (100 degrees rich) and best economy (peak EGT). You can cruise at best power mixture or at peak EGT if you like, but I happen to like 50 degrees rich of peak for cruise in most airplanes I fly with normally aspirated engines.

So, here is the bottom line cruise performance I found in our M20C test airplane:

Level Flight Cruise Performance 1966M20C N3411X, Full
throttle, 2500 rpm, 50 degrees rich of peak, cowl flaps closed.

Altitude OAT
F
MP RPM Direction IAS
KTS/MPH
GPS Ground-
Speed KTS
10000 59 20.1 2500 W 118/137 144
10000 59 20.1 2500 N 118/137 144
10000 59 20.1 2500 E 118/137 136
10000 59 20.1 2500 S 118/137 133
Average GS/TAS 139 KTS
7000 72 22.5 2500 E 125/144 144
7000 72 22.5 2500 N 125/144 147
7000 72 22.5 2500 W 125/144 139
7000 72 22.5 2500 S 125/144 144
Average GS/TAS 143.5 KTS
4500 80 24.8 2500 W 131/151 148
4500 80 24.8 2500 N 131/151 158
4500 80 24.8 2500 S 131/151 144
4500 80 24.8 2500 E 131/151 137
Average GS/TAS 146.75 KTS

There you have it. Real world, no nonsense, GPS derived level cruise performance data. 11Xray exhibited excellent cruise numbers. These numbers are less than those shown in the owner's manual, but numbers shown in the manuals in those days were more for the marketing department than for the owner/pilot. It was also much warmer than standard during our tests, which slightly decreases cruise performance from those standard day numbers shown in the book.

The bottom line is that if the rest of the fleet is like 11Xray, the M20C should always give true airspeeds between 142 and 146 knots below 8000 feet and right at 140 knots nearing 10000 feet. Fuel burn rates at 50 degrees rich of peak should be right at 11.5 gallons per hour down low and 9.5 gallons per hour up high. Remember, these numbers are for the most efficient cruise power setting - full throttle, 2500 RPM, leaned to peak plus 50 degrees rich, cowl flaps closed. And with 52 gallons of useable fuel, an endurance of 4 hours with good VFR reserves should be the norm.

Pilots buy Mooneys to go fast. Our test airplane confirmed a standard C Model will cruise between 142 and 146 kts TAS at normal cruise altitudes. Even at 10,000 feet, 11X gave 139 kts TAS.

Time to come down from altitude and another compromise in the early Mooneys is realized. The top of the green arc/beginning of the yellow arc on the M20C is an impossibly low 130 KIAS/150 MIAS. Compare that to the M20J (same basic airframe) of 174 KIAS/200 MIAS. My gosh, in the C model you are almost cruising in the yellow arc in level flight! This is a significant limitation for descent if you are to abide by the airspeed markings.

But you and I know what happens - we all fly (and especially descend) in the yellow arc. That's okay as long as the air is smooth. But on a hot and turbulent south Texas afternoon, you find yourself wincing as the airplane rocks through the chop below the bottom of the cumulus clouds with the airspeed well in the yellow arc. Minimum power to keep the engine warm is around 15" manifold pressure at 2500 RPM. I never could get more than 1000 fpm in the descent at this power setting with the airspeed within reason in the yellow arc.

And the ride in turbulence in an early Mooney isn't as pleasant as the newer airplanes with their higher gross weights. With a lower wing loading, early Mooneys get hammered pretty hard while descending in turbulence. So here we are - airspeed in the yellow and getting bounced around a lot. Not too pleasant an experience. But it's where a lot of early Mooney pilots spend their time in the descent.

Down at lower altitude, I did some basic stall speed determinations to set approach speeds. I found that 11Xray stalled at 68MIAS clean and 61MIAS with full flaps. Applying the rule of setting the approach speed at 1.2 times the stall speed resulted in an 'over the fence' speed of 82MIAS with the flaps up and 73MIAS with the flaps full down for our weight. To a lot of Mooney pilots, these numbers sound low for an over the fence speed. But guess what - they worked perfectly. Crossing the threshold with these speeds and flap settings resulted in a very comfortable flare with minimum float. The airplane felt just right. I did try a threshold speed of 80MIAS with the flaps full down and it felt good as well, although I did experience some extra float and a longer landing distance. The flaps up approach and landings were in a pretty flat attitude compared to full flaps, but they were okay.

Know what the number one accident and incident area is for Mooney airplanes? Excessive speed on the approach. This causes 1) excessive landing distance, sometimes longer than the available runway, or 2) a pilot trying to force the airplane onto the runway as it floats in ground effect due to the excessive speed, resulting in a prop strike or a busted nose gear. At MAPA, about once a week we hear of one of these happening somewhere. The solution is simple. If the threshold speeds are held in check, there is no reason these accidents should be happening. But they are.

From my flight, I just see no reason for the 100-120 MIAS numbers I am hearing that some of us are using as we cross the runway threshold. These numbers are okay in the pattern, but are way too fast when crossing the runway threshold. Try some landings where you have the airplane slowed down to 80 MIAS, or even down to 1.2 times the stall speed as you cross the threshold. You'll be amazed at how well the airplane lands and how short the landing distances are. And the brake pads will last forever.

Incidentally, stall characteristics were excellent. There was no tendency to drop a wing during the stall like a later model Mooney and recovery was as simple as releasing back pressure and adding a little power. I could keep the altitude loss to a minimum during the recovery - sometimes no more than 200 feet. Later model Mooneys require more altitude to recover. In flight test at Mooney, the best we could demonstrate was 400 feet or so during a normal stall recovery.

Landing a C Model is a very pleasant experience. Pitch forces are light and responsive compared to the later model airplanes. Just don't approach too fast!

Landing a C model is a very pleasant experience. Pitch forces are much lighter and responsive than the later model airplanes. The airplane has a good feel at low speeds. As mentioned earlier, 1.2 times the stall speed for the flap configuration you are flying at seems perfect for an over the fence approach speed. There is plenty of energy left for the flare and a slight float before the airplane touches down.

So that's a quick look at the M20C, a beautifully performing airplane. If you want the most amount of performance that you can possibly get from 180 horsepower, the M20C is the airplane to beat. Nothing else comes close in the pre-owned general aviation fleet.

And there is no high performance airplane that is going to be less expensive to maintain than a C model. The bulletproof Lycoming O-360 combined with an airframe with dead simple systems results in an airplane that is guaranteed to keep your shop visits to a minimum and your annual inspections in the $2000-$4000 range - half of what a Bonanza costs.

But the C model is an airplane with compromises. First on the list is passenger comfort. This airplane is best as a two-place airplane with lots of baggage capacity or as a two adults/two children airplane with a limited baggage compartment. Weight isn't the problem here - the C model has good useful load numbers. The problem is cubic feet. No matter how you look at it, early Mooneys lack volume in the passenger cabin compared to the competition. But three adults on board will work as long as the rear seat passenger is willing to sit 'sidesaddle'. Four adults on board a C model? Forget it for any flight longer than an hour or so - the two adults in the back aren't going to be happy travelers.

Other compromises with the C model are 1) the ridiculously low top of the green arc on the airspeed indicator, which makes it almost impossible to make efficient, high speed descents from altitude, 2) a cowling design that makes it impossible to look at the engine on a regular basis for good pre-flights and has poor aerodynamics, 3) a carburetor that makes ice, an issue if you fly a lot of IFR and 4) an instrument panel that was designed when good pilot ergonomics were unheard of. And I have to tell you, the manual gear is a tough one to call. Some pilots will like its simplicity. Other pilots will think it is archaic and outdated. It's not that darn easy to operate.

But these things take the back seat to the number one reason we all fly Mooneys - performance. Ever met a pilot who didn't want to go fast? The C model delivers the most speed for the least price. And current prices reflect just how desirable the C model's combination of speed and economy is today.

Remember when you could find a nice C model in the $30,000's? Well, no more. Good C's now fetch $45,000 - $55,000, with the exceptional airplane priced (and getting) even more. N3411X is a classic example. This airplane is the best of the best and its selling price reflects its status. All American Aircraft is asking $62,500 for 11X, and they will get it. For the price, someone is going to get a very nice C model with good avionics, new paint, new glass, decent interior and a low time engine With 11X, the new owner will put the key in the ignition and begin flying - as is.

MAPA's membership is currently at the 5000 mark, with 2710 of these members owning pre-J model airplanes. There are currently 10 buyers to 1 seller in the pre-J model market. Prices are high and getting higher.

Good C models like 11X are going fast. Both in the air and in the resale market. After spending some time flying one, we certainly understand why.

Expect to pay between $45,000 and $60,000 for a C Model in today's market. Our test airplane, an outstanding example, has a list price of $62,500 from All American Aircraft.