{
Originally printed in the February 2000 issue of the MAPA LOG,
the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association's monthly magazine.}

 

If you are an Aviator and a Mooney fanatic one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time is to get into a debate with a group of mechanics and pilots about which Mooney model is the best ever built. You can argue that nothing beats the sheer muscle and speed of the TLS/Bravo. Or, maybe you prefer the graceful and refined ride of the Ovation. And, by the time you read this article, the Ovation 2. Yes, the rumors you are hearing are true. The Ovation 2 does cruise at 192 kts. TAS! Many have argued the Mooney 252 is the best Mooney ever built. However, if judged by units sold, the venerable Mooney M20J is the best Mooney ever built.

The first Mooney Model M20J was introduced in 1977 as the Mooney 201. Production continued for 21 years culminating with the Mooney Allegro.  During those years the M20J was marketed with different names. As stated, it started out as the 201, for a period time you could also purchase a new 201 Lean Machine, then the MSE, for a couple of years the Mooney 205 and finally In 1998 the Mooney Allegro. Regardless of its assigned trade name, from 1977 to 1998, the Mooney Model M20J was the most popular model Mooney built. The natural combination of the Lycoming 10--360-A3B6D and the refined M20F airframe combined for a phenomenally economical 162-175 kts. TAS. Many believe the M20J solidified Mooney Aircraft Corporation in the General Aviation market place along side the big three. Cessna, Piper and Beechcraft. Who can argue? Over the 21 years of production, 2,130 Mooney model M20J's were built, with a huge majority still flying now and for several years to come. Many pilots and perspective Mooney owners have asked me why Mooney Aircraft Corporation ceased production of the most popular model Mooney ever built? The answer is simply evolution. In order to remain competitive in the marketplace, Mooney Aircraft Corporation needed to streamline its production planning and hours. In 1998, the last year the M20J was built, Mooney was    producing four different aircraft comprised of two different fuselage lengths. The Bravo and Ovation were the extended fuselage bodies and the Encore and Allegro were the classic fuselage bodies. The desire to build the perceived market demand was exceeded by the enormous costs associated with constantly "changing gears" from one fuselage length to the other as aircraft came down the assembly line. In the end, the insightful management team at Mooney Aircraft decided that production of one type/length of fuselage was important to the companies overall fiscal health and future prosperity However, they did not leave us hanging, in 1999 the Mooney Eagle was introduced as the replacement for the beloved Mooney M20J. And, for the cost of new airplane dollars these days, the Eagle offers tremendous value and a solid 10 knot improvement over the M20J!

As you read this article you are probably thinking, "OK, Joe, thanks for the background info, now tell me what to look for 'cause I want one of these M20J's". All right, let's start with the engine nacelle. As I stated in a previous article, I like to fly the aircraft initially to test the operation of the avionics and other systems that just do not test properly on the ground. Also, I then have an engine that is as close to normal operating temperature as possible when performing a differential compression test. After the test flight, perform a differential compression test and record the readings. You can reference Textron Lycoming Service Bulletin #1191A or subsequent revision for pertinent information relating to differential compression checks performed on their engines.

What are acceptable or good compression readings? That will depend on a few different factors. The total time of the cylinders, the relationship of all cylinder compression readings compared to each other and what the compression readings were the last time a differential compression check was performed. Also, when comparing the differential compression readings subsequent to the current readings, the amount of flight time that has elapsed has relevance.

 

On to the airframe:

 

*NOTE: I have used 1986 as the timeline for the transition from Zinc Chromate to Epoxy Primers. While I believe this to be about the right timeline, I am told by Mooney Aircraft that there was not an exact time that anyone can remember. Therefore, please examine the tubular structure of the aircraft you are considering for the color of the primer mentioned above in order to determine the type of primer utilized.

The Mooney landing gear system is a brilliant design.  However, like any component comprised of several moving parts, it is prone to wear and tear, requiring periodic replacement of parts. Before the aircraft is jacked up, check    the shock discs for excess compression. The maximum allowable dimension is    defined in Chapter 32 of the M20J Service Manual. Once the aircraft is jacked, see if the shock disc's can be rotated by hand; if so they require replacement. Visually examine the push pull tube rod ends and attaching bolts for excess play. Check the landing gear actuator for compliance with Service Instruction M20-92, replacement of the no back clutch spring. This is an important Service Instruction issued by Mooney Aircraft that is required every 1000 hours of operation.

      Once the pre-purchase inspection has been accomplished, the transaction has taken place and you are the proud owner of a Mooney M20J model, celebrate. You have proven to yourself and the aviation community that you are smarter and more sophisticated than the average pilot/owner. You now fly an aircraft that is at least 20 knots faster than a Piper Arrow, Cessna Cutlass RG, Socata Trinadad or Commander 114. It burns less fuel, is vastly superior in construction and has unparalleled "ramp appeal". Congratulations!