DartMan

M20 short body guide, gotchas, and mission advice

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I am on a journey that continues to take me round in circles trying to settle on a plane that fits the mission as close as possible as well as the budget (which is the harder part).

i have posted some things on other forums about the 182 and Debonairs and somewhere along the way the Mooney M20C was suggested.  At first glance it looks like it could work, then I learned about the E&F which I like more on paper but may be getting outside of my budget.

I have previously determined that a 182 fits my mission which is to have a family plane for 4-small people, have an IFR trainer, operate safely out of 2300’ grass strips at 500’ MSL with summer density altitudes of 3000’ worst case.

I had not previously considered a Complex plane since I am a low-time pilot and wasn’t sure if I could get insurance, what it would cost and how lengthy are the training requirements to be insured...in a 182 those are all non issues.

My current budget criteria are: $75k max spend excluding pre-buy, ferry, etc. for $75k I want A mid-time motor (or newer) on a plane that hasn’t been sitting around idle for years and I want basic, functioning IFR panel so I can use this plane to get my IFR rating. I don’t care too much about paint or interior as long as the plane has been hangared, maintained and is in good shape. What I don’t want is a $65k plane that obviously needs a new motor / prop or has inop IFR systems.

Is this a reasonable expectation for certain Mooney M20 models?  Which ones and which should I stay away from?  Can I assume that the lower aspect ration wings on the older birds will be Beneficial for short field work?  How bad is my insurance going to be and after how many hours will it drop down to a “normal” rate? Are maintenance costs really that bad compared to fixed gear planes?

also, at first glance it seems many Mooney’s are listed through brokers...what is the reason for doing so with such a low price Point aircraft?

thx for any help in advance!

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*Members that donate $10 or more do not see advertisements*

Others who have C models can give you more specific details about those, but in general:

  • Insurance seems to settle to about 1.5-2% of the plane's value per year.  It will start out about 50% higher if you have no complex time and no IFR rating, and each of those will bring it closer to the baseline cost.
  • The only "complex" difference between a Mooney and 182 is the landing gear.  Complex endorsements have no specific curriculum, just a signoff by the instructor.  Most insurances will want you to have 5 or 10 hours dual with an instructor before flying by yourself anyway, so that time could be used to get your endorsement.
  • Mooney landing gears use rubber discs for shocks with no dampers.  Bouncy runways can be a problem, but others here have used grass strips.  Removing the inner landing gear door is sometimes necessary to prevent damage to them.
  • Good speed control on landing is necessary.  You will probably not want to start your Mooney career based out of a short field until you reach a reasonable skill level.
  • Maintenance costs are higher in the long run with retractable gear--expect annual inspections to cost about 30-50% more.  Then again, the actual inspection may comprise a fraction of your yearly maintenance cost if you need a new prop, so the difference may be insignificant.  Experience working with Mooney's is variable with shops, and some do not enjoy working inside Mooney's.
  • Not sure about brokers in general, but the biggest broker for Mooney's is All-American Aviation in Texas.  They have a solid reputation, so I suspect many go through them for sales as well as purchases.

Hope some of that helps

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Any insurance broker can give you an accurate quote for an M20 + your piloting experience. A clean IFR M20E falls within your budget. Grass strips? I am interested to hear from long time owners about their grass strip experiences in the Mooney...

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A few corrections...

The short body Mooneys, C, D, E don't have inner gear doors.  The manual gear on most short body Mooneys add nothing to maintenance expense. 

I've flow an M20C off of many grass strips without any issues. I know several in Texas based on grass strips.

Here's a few videos of an M20C on grass... https://www.youtube.com/user/piperpainter/videos

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7 minutes ago, gsxrpilot said:

Here's a few videos of an M20C on grass...

don't forget about this one:

 

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Yeah that's the one problem video that always comes up. Obviously the pilot made a mistake or the hold down block was worn out. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to put it back up on the gear and roll it off the runway.

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13 minutes ago, gsxrpilot said:

A few corrections...

The short body Mooneys, C, D, E don't have inner gear doors.  The manual gear on most short body Mooneys add nothing to maintenance expense. 

I've flow an M20C off of many grass strips without any issues. I know several in Texas based on grass strips.

Here's a few videos of an M20C on grass... https://www.youtube.com/user/piperpainter/videos

Thanks, my bad.  

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Your margin for error with 4 people on board, even if small, on a 2300' grass strip is pretty narrow in my opinion.

In an E model at gross it's 1550' over the 50' obstacle at sea level on a 100F day. 1855' at 2500' and 90F. Add in your 10-15% for the grass and you can see it's not the most favorable. The C's performance will be a little worse.

 

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1 hour ago, DartMan said:

I have previously determined that a 182 fits my mission which is to have a family plane for 4-small people, have an IFR trainer, operate safely out of 2300’ grass strips at 500’ MSL with summer density altitudes of 3000’ worst case.

The hair on the back of my neck is standing up

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Stall speed of Cessna 182 is 50 kt.   A M20C stops flying at about 56kt in a full stall with full flaps, but it takes a bit of float to get it to the stalling AoA unless you approach real (too) slow.   Your 2300' grass strip would scare the heck out of me.  Disclaimer: I've got about 200 landings in a Mooney M20C, none on grass.

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Your budget should be sufficient for a nice C, E or F model. These do not have lower gear doors, and do well on grass. I take my C to grass less often than in the past only because I moved and no longer live near an active one. But the beach beckons next month, 3500' grass, kind of smooth, sort of mowed, 40' msl and watch the power lines in the pine trees that displace the threshold towards the water . . . .

Several people here base their Mooneys on grass, including a friend with a C.

The used-to-be-nearby grass strip is only 2000' long, about 580msl, obstructed on one end and my limit there was half tanks and 2 people. Learn proper speed control and you'll do well with 2300', just practice first and don't try it heavy.

My insurance has been under $1000 the last several years. It started high because my PPL was still wet when I bought it. 100 hours in type cut it in half; IFR cut it another third; changing from local agent who wouldn't cover my new location to Falcon saved another 20%.

My suggestion is to finish your High Power Endorsement and get over 100 hours logged (I had 62) while Mooney hunting. Your required Dual time will include the Complex Endorsement. 

Right now, start working on speed control. Cessnas land well even 10 knots too fast over the numbers; Mooneys float an extra 100 feet per extra knot. Know your desired speed on downwind, base, final and over the numbers, and work to be right on speed (say, within the width of the ASI needle) for each. Then you'll be ready.

Happy hunting! Research Pre Purchase Inspection (PPI) here, read lots of ads, look closely at lots of pictures, ask questions and have fun!

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Oh, I forgot:  annual inspection. Mooney base rates seem to run 18-25 hours, varying by shop, for Pre-J Mooneys.

Extra time for retractable gear:  must raise and lower the gear while on jacks. But wheel bearings must be removed, cleaned and repacked anyway, so the plane will already be jacked up. My electric gear can be raised and lowered by someone standing on the ground reaching in the storm window, and requires neither practice nor technique. Gear moves very quickly on jacks, call it 2-3 seconds each way. Total time less than a minute; electric and manual gear should both have someone under the plane watching, and a gear door inspection while raised.

I've seen signs for basic Cessna / Piper annuals for $650, and retracts for $850. But you often get what you pay for . . . . .

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Operating out of a 2300' grass strip in a cross country machine will have cautions whether one is flying a C182 or M20. High density days, wet grass, full load... might make a mission a no go.

Having said that, a vintage Mooney's performance will handle most circumstances. When these planes were designed grass strips under 3000' were more the rule than the exception.

Now that we're off the relatively short grass strip, the Mooney should have a significant advantage over the C182 in operating costs due to the more efficient design that gets more speed at lower fuel cost. Maintenance will be similar and relatively less important that fuel. If at unplanned engine overhaul hits the Mooney's (I)O360 will cost less than the  O470 or O540.

Your budget should be adequate to get a nice Mooney. Make a list of must haves and would be nice improvements. You're interested in becoming and IFR pilot so ADS-B, WAAS GPS, autopilot. An EDM.

Final caution, a Mooney is a super strong, well built plane. The airframe has no limit as to time in service. But you're looking at 50 year old examples. A thorough PPI by an A&P who knows Mooneys is just about essential. Undetected corrosion, leaking fuel tanks,... can get very expensive.

Mooneys are much less ubiquitous than C182s and many of the ones you'll see advertised are potential money pits so a combination of patience and decisiveness is required. You'll kiss several pigs before the right plane comes along and when it does you'll have to be prepared to move fast.

5 minutes ago, Fred₂O said:

Stall speed of Cessna 182 is 50 kt.   A M20C stops flying at about 56kt in a full stall with full flaps, but it takes a bit of float to get it to the stalling AoA unless you approach real (too) slow.   Your 2300' grass strip would scare the heck out of me.  Disclaimer: I've got about 200 landings in a Mooney M20C, none on grass.

Vso for my '66E is 50 kcas. 

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2 hours ago, DartMan said:

i have posted some things on other forums about the 182 and Debonairs and somewhere along the way the Mooney M20C was suggested.  At first glance it looks like it could work, then I learned about the E&F which I like more on paper but may be getting outside of my budget.

I have previously determined that a 182 fits my mission which is to have a family plane for 4-small people, have an IFR trainer, operate safely out of 2300’ grass strips at 500’ MSL with summer density altitudes of 3000’ worst case.

I had not previously considered a Complex plane since I am a low-time pilot and wasn’t sure if I could get insurance, what it would cost and how lengthy are the training requirements to be insured...in a 182 those are all non issues.

 

The PROS:

Mooney C/E are  spectacular IFR platforms, and incredible values in terms of speed and efficiency.  They are both well within your price range to get a really nice one. 

Complex endorsement and meeting insurance requirements in a Mooney are no big deal - 10 hrs transition training should cover it.

The CONS:

A short body Mooney (C/E) will be hard on you and your passengers if you must carry 4 plus luggage for any amount of distance on a regular basis.  Even if you can keep to gross weight with your fuel needs, there just isn't that much space inside. 

A Mooney is ok on grass with appropriate caution and training, but obviously a 182 is better.  However videos posted above of the red Mooney were made by someone with spectacular backcountry skills - not your average Mooney pilot.  

Departing or landing at a 2300 ft grass strip at gross weight in a C model at elevated DA demands serious A game. It is not something I would want to do routinely - safety margins are too tight. I have flown a C model for 700 hrs over a 5 year period and finished my IR in one.  People with higher levels of relevant experience and stronger skills on grass may feel differently.  Regardless, I'm sad to say the CONS may win out here.  

 

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If a 182 fits your mission, and you have $75k to spend, I'd buy the nicest 182 you can for that money. 

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From a pure simplicity standpoint a Piper Cherokee 235 series or a Cherokee Six/260. Simple airframe with reliable Lycoming engine.

Clarence 

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Regardless of the machine you pursue...

2300’ of runway needs everything to be working normally all the time... Machine + pilot...

Continue your training and see how skilled you are and how interested you are at performing at a relatively high level all of the time...

A 3k’ runway has a much larger comfort zone...

How does your family feel when you are screaming down the runway and the trees are getting larger, and the ASI isn’t quite showing flying speed yet?

For fun, grab a POH from the various planes... do some T/O distance calculations... really light, fully loaded, cold day, hot day...

For that one crummy day... what is at the end of the 2300’ runway? Farm field? Or a gas station?

The Mooney is a great choice. I would want a top notch one... Best reliability, not a bargain... :)

Best regards,

-a-

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For 4 people and 2300' of grass I'd stick with the 182..... the lighter the better, and the more horsepower the better.

And I am one of those crazies who has taken his Mooney into many a grass strip.

Edited by Immelman

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A good friend of ours flies a M20K 252 off a grass strip and regularly fills the seats with a family that includes a couple of full grown kids. The family gets in the car and drives into town. He launches from the grass strip at the house and lands at the airport in town to load the family, luggage and fuel. Then off they go...

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E can fit all your mission except the runway length.  It can be done, but I would never recommend that and I personally would not fly out of a grass OR paved field that short with my family on board.  Good luck in your search.

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6 hours ago, gsxrpilot said:

Yeah that's the one problem video that always comes up. Obviously the pilot made a mistake or the hold down block was worn out. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been able to put it back up on the gear and roll it off the runway.

Hi Gsxr! What was the final cause of failure on your old C that had its belly tickled? Was it over stressed, Rigging issue, or just broke? Grass with metal trusses from the early 60’s scare me. Anyone know if Mooney will make any of the upper truss rotating components? The little arms that hold the gear overcenter don’t look like the’ll take ANY abuse. 

You’ll miss the big oleo strut off the grass, but the M20C will out perform a 182 any day of the week.

-Matt

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7 minutes ago, MB65E said:

Hi Gsxr! What was the final cause of failure on your old C that had its belly tickled? Was it over stressed, Rigging issue, or just broke? Grass with metal trusses from the early 60’s scare me. Anyone know if Mooney will make any of the upper truss rotating components? The little arms that hold the gear overcenter don’t look like the’ll take ANY abuse. 

You’ll miss the big oleo strut off the grass, but the M20C will out perform a 182 any day of the week.

-Matt

No one knows for sure, or those who do won't say for fear of liability. It's always the same issue. 

My best guess is that the over centers were adjusted incorrectly and way out of spec. That meant there was a lot of extra stress on the 50+ year old truss and it broke. When that manual gear is in good condition, and adjusted properly, it's pretty bullet proof.

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Thx for all the replies and information!  I should add a few things regarding mission and conditions to continue the assessment.  First, I had a typo..field is 2400’ (ok, not much better but accurate) Most of the time I will be solo doing a work related trip.  During the times my family is with me, we would almost always be taking off in the morning with density altitude below 2000’ or going somewhere within 200 miles and not requiring full fuel.  Our current combined weight without luggage is under 310lbs.

there are two Mooney based at this field now but both are much newer than what I can afford so the comparison may not be fair.  More importantly both are flown by pilots with lots of total time and likely 1000+ Hours in type.  I am sure the airplane can do it when weight and DA are managed but I’m trying to assess how wise it is from my low-time stand point and if it is something I should do rather than something that is technically possible.  I’m capable of precision flying and train easily but I’m no fool and do not mix up the difference between aptitude and experience.  it sounds like precision is the name of the game on a Mooney and that you can’t be precise most of the time but rather 100% of the time or bad things can happen.

in simple terms and to compare with what is on the field, do the older Mooney’s with 200hp perform same, better or worse than the later ones in short field work?

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13 minutes ago, DartMan said:

Thx for all the replies and information!  I should add a few things regarding mission and conditions to continue the assessment.  First, I had a typo..field is 2400’ (ok, not much better but accurate) Most of the time I will be solo doing a work related trip.  During the times my family is with me, we would almost always be taking off in the morning with density altitude below 2000’ or going somewhere within 200 miles and not requiring full fuel.  Our current combined weight without luggage is under 310lbs.

there are two Mooney based at this field now but both are much newer than what I can afford so the comparison may not be fair.  More importantly both are flown by pilots with lots of total time and likely 1000+ Hours in type.  I am sure the airplane can do it when weight and DA are managed but I’m trying to assess how wise it is from my low-time stand point and if it is something I should do rather than something that is technically possible.  I’m capable of precision flying and train easily but I’m no fool and do not mix up the difference between aptitude and experience.  it sounds like precision is the name of the game on a Mooney and that you can’t be precise most of the time but rather 100% of the time or bad things can happen.

in simple terms and to compare with what is on the field, do the older Mooney’s with 200hp perform same, better or worse than the later ones in short field work?

E model is probably the best short field Mooney of all of them.

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