DesertNomad

Upgrading from a Piper Dakota

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In the next year or two, I am considering upgrading to something a bit faster and perhaps more capable than my current aircraft. I have never flown, or even been in a Mooney and don't have anyone local to get a ride in one either.

A bit about my plane and I:

I am in my late 40s, based in Northern Nevada at 4500' MSL, have about 620 hours, and am instrument rated. About 420 of my hours are in my 1979 Piper Dakota and I fly about 110 hours per year. I don't want to go backwards, so for reference, my Dakota's panel consists of: GTN750, GNC255, FlightStream 210, GTX330ES (for 1090 Out), GDL88 (for 978 Out and 1090/978 In), GMA350c, Dual G5s (no vacuum system), JPI830 with fuel flow, STEC-30 with Altitude hold, GPSMAP 496, LED lights including wing wig-wag. New paint, interior and glass in 2010 and a mid-time (900 Hrs) O-540 engine.

My flights include the typical 1-hour, $100 hamburger run at 11-12K MSL, a few longer trips like Reno-Seattle or Reno-Tucson, as well as at least one trip across the USA each year between Reno and Michigan and points beyond. 2016: Bahamas/Cuba, 2017: Michigan, 2018: Florida/Guatemala, and in September we are planning to go to New England. I don't fly at night and I rarely have more than my wife and I on board. Thus, I don't need 6 seats, but I want to be able to easily fill 4 on a hot day at 4500' with full fuel like I can in my Dakota.

The longer trips are a big reason we have the plane. I think if it were faster, I'd do two trips to Michigan each year. My wife has family there and we always seem to turn those trips into much larger trips. We also have family in the Atlanta and Dallas areas so we often end up there on the same trip. We are typically traveling for 4-5 weeks on these trips.

Overall, I average about 142kts ground speed at 11-12K on 12gph which is ok, but I'd like to get somewhere closer to 160-180kts. The shortest runways I routinely fly into are 2300' at sea level and 4000' at about 4000' MSL. I have an 1150-pound useful load (720 left over after full fuel) and 5-hours fuel with 1-hour reserve. I always top off the tanks when I get fuel.

One other issue are the Piper seats. You sit fairly low in a Dakota and the way Piper seats are designed, the back is often pitched back too far with no good way to adjust them. The A36/G36 and Cirrus I have been in, prop you much more upright. This would be much better for my wife's back since she ends up with extra pillows under her and behind her to get the Piper seat into a better position.

Built-in oxygen would be a plus. On the Dakota, the trim wheel and Johnson bar flaps prevent putting anything between the seats... on my first flight using oxygen I managed to place the two tanks carefully on either side of the trim wheel but they blocked the flaps which I discovered coming into the pattern at U42 (just south of Salt Lake). Good learning experience.

With the Dakota, our tips to Michigan have been via I-80 though Wyoming, south via Santa Fe or north via Sandpoint Idaho and Bozeman. Something with built-in O2 and turbo would open up some additional route options, though in a single I don't think I'd be going direct over the Rockies without serious regard for the terrain.

So I am thinking of a Bonanza, Mooney or SR22, probably in that order. Obviously I have my high-performance endorsement, but I don't have a complex endorsement, though I have about 8 hours in complex aircraft, it was not always with a CFI. I have a couple hours each in an A36 and G36 and I've ridden in the back of an F33.

I am happy with my plane, just looking for a way to keep the nice avionics and add 30 or so knots to the speed with a bit more comfort. The one door is fine - but two would be nice of course... not really a deal breaker there. My net budget is about $250K, but if I could find something nice for a lot less, all the better.

I am looking for advice to help me narrow down makes, models, years and options to look for or avoid. For example, in the G36 I flew, the air conditioner was under the pilot seat and it left very little room to maneuver one's feet around. All the circuit breakers on the left side don't help. I am 5'10" and 160lbs, but I have long legs. I think I'd want tip tanks for destinations where fuel might not be available (such as we found in Cuba and Guatemala).

I don't think I want a V-Tail as I have read about the issues with magnesium and the ruddervators, so would likely be leaning towards an A36 or G36 (though I am not sold on the G1000.. either in the G36 or Cirrus). Are there certain Mooneys to avoid because of similar issues? 

My wife thinks I should get my twin rating so we can get a Baron for more comfortable over-water trips in the Caribbean. That might be a bit too costly to own and stay proficient in, so I would probably lean towards a standard single.

Any thoughts, suggestions etc are greatly appreciated.

Also looking for real world ground speeds (or TAS) altitudes and fuel burn.

Edited by DesertNomad
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Thus, I don't need  6 seats, but I want to be able to easily fill 4 on a hot day at 4500' with full fuel like I can in my Dakota.

This is going to be an impossible requirement to satisfy.  

You can put four adults in a Mooney, but there are caveats, and full fuel on a hot day at altitude is a scenario where those would apply. 

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We love our Mooneys around here but I think you're looking for an A36. I flew an F33A for awhile and the W&B is a pain in the ass and makes the useful load pretty useless.

Your budget allows you to get into an Acclaim which would give you all the speed you want. Or that budget also allows you to get into a very nice 252 Encore which will have better useful load than the Acclaim and still give you 200 knot speed in the flight levels. It will have built in O2 in the tail and will have longer legs than the Acclaim as well. 

I fly a 252 and get as much as 205 knots true on 14 gph or 190 knots true at 9.5 gph. That's up high on the O2. Down in the thick air, I'm 175 true on 14 gph or 165 on 9.5 gph. My standard tanks are 76 gal for an easy 6.5 hours of range. Extended tanks will give you 106 gal. which will require a pee bottle or relief tube.

Mooneys are great two person and all the luggage you want, airplanes. Although the back seats in my 252 are some of the most comfortable seats in a small piston single airplane. Most 252 Encores will have just over 1000 lbs useful. The turbo's won't be bothered by the 4000 ft elevation even on hot days. 2300 ft will be pretty tight even at sea level when fully loaded.

If you're gonna be at Oshkosh, we'll be happy to show you some up close and you can sit in them and talk speeds and fuel burn.

 

 

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Welcome OP!

(He started a thread on Beechtalk and I gave the usual options for Mooneys and I'm glad he found his way over here.)

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Regarding fuel vs payload...with modern instrumentation there is really no reason to always top off fuel tanks, unless it is in a shared airplane and that is the policy. Tankering fuel reduces performance and payload. Especially for the 200hp or less Mooneys...if you're only flying for an hour or two, there is no reason to carry 6-7 hours of fuel, especially if you want to carry 4 folks.

I like that I can fly 400-500 miles with 40-45 gallons of fuel (inc reserves) and fill the cabin, or top off to 64 gallons and go 1000 miles solo or with 1 more. I never top off unless getting cheap fuel or going ultra-long distance.

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Desertnomad, welcome aboard!

Here's my quick take. You already have a capable 140kt plane with a sweet panel. To upgrade speed you are in M20K, Bravo, Rocket, Ovation or Acclaim territory. Those models cruise between 175-220 TAS, most come with O2, some with TKS or FIKI. However, on most Mooney aircraft, you'll be hard-pressed to find a model that you can take 4 adults and full gas, let alone out of a high DA airport. Speaking of high DA, I'd lean towards a turbo aircraft, but that's personal preference.

My recommendation is search, keep asking questions and try to fly with one of us. Speaking of which, I may be flying out to North Las Vegas late July once I close on the Bravo.

BTW, if you had a slower aircraft, I'd say look at the short body Mooney's, but you'd be only gaining 5-10 kts. However, I did love my fuel-injected M20E. 10 gph @ 155kts.

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I fly a Mooney ovation. With your specs I’d be looking at a baron 55 or Cessna 310... just invest in the recurrent training... Useful load is the reason. If you are ok with 4 aboard only for flights of an hour or less give or take, then maybe a Bravo....


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I fly a Mooney ovation. With your specs I’d be looking at a baron 55 or Cessna 310... just invest in the recurrent training... Useful load is the reason. If you are ok with 4 aboard only for flights of an hour or less give or take, then maybe a Bravo....


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You can purchase a very capable airplane if you step up to twins. Just gotta ask yourself if you are good with the fuel & the potential for two overhauls (worst case). Mx can be more as twins can have complex systems. I enjoy flying twins, but I'd rather rent them for the occasional trip and fly a fast single for the rest.

You can't go wrong with C310 or twin Baron. Also, check out 1980's PA46. Px, great glide ratio, TKS, and useful load around 1300. You could take four and still have a few hrs of fuel.

Back to Mooney, I still highly recommend them as very capable and fast singles.

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For 90% of my flights, it is just my wife and I (300lbs together). I like that with the Dakota, the CG is not really a factor and I can load it pretty much however I want. On our typical cross-the-USA trips, we will have aircraft supplies in the back, plus our own bags... about 80lbs since there is often a case of oil too. Food, O2, raft, and my emergency box (batteries, handheld, etc) go on the back seats. We are usually at about 2650 out of 3000 gross and can still climb out of Reno initially at 1000fpm. I like that. It makes adding a 3rd person or even another same-sized couple possible if we want to.

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If you’re ready for a nice boost in performance, I’d look at a Comanche 400.  It will do all you’re asking and more.

Clarence

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I upgraded from a J to a FIKI Encore 2 years ago. I was looking for capability improvement. I was tired of not being able to go near a freezing cloud. Speed was not as big a concern but Garmin pilot has calculated that I gained 20kt improvement block-block. I fly it easy, 28” 10.5 gph no matter what. The turbo is key for removing any concern about altitude. In my opinion if you don’t buy a turbo or FIKI you may as well keep what you have. Mine spends half its time at KTRK if you want to see it.

I have always read buy the plane for 90% of your mission. 300lb of passengers most of the time does not need a plane that hauls 4 people 1000nm on a hot day. My encore is a great 2 place long distance traveling machine.

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I like the O...

Mid 40s And medium sized kids when we got the O... the kids are full size now...

two people and 900+ miles...

Full fuel and four people is a bit of an anomaly or misnomer...  Mooneys can have up to 130 gallons of 100LL on board...

So if your plane has full fuel and four people... sounds like you got short changed some fuel tank capacity options... :)

The most serious cross country machines use a decent turbo system and fly in the flight levels... a family of four using O2...?

would you like Fiki or A/C with that?

Mooneys are about...

  • Speed
  • efficiency
  • safety

My favorite is an NA 310hp version of the Long Body Mooney... Room for everybody and their stuff, UL over 1kLBs, you decide how to fill it... people or fuel...

Solo, i’m Good for 900+ miles non-stop... 165kts LOP 13gph or so...   175kts ROP 16gph or so....

Family of four, we’re stopping every four hours just because... food, bio breaks, stretch...

Go Mooney!

-a-

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If your budget is $250k you can probably have a nice twin for $150k and have that extra 100k as your operating and mx reserve. Assuming you don’t blow both engines, that 100 grand would go a long way. I can only afford the 90% of the mission rule, but god knows if I could afford it I’d probably waste a bunch of money for that 10% scenario! Lol. “Hop in fellas! Bring the wives!”

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3 hours ago, DesertNomad said:

In the next year or two, I am considering upgrading to something a bit faster and perhaps more capable than my current aircraft. I have never flown, or even been in a Mooney and don't have anyone local to get a ride in one either.

A bit about my plane and I:

I am in my late 40s, based in Northern Nevada at 4500' MSL, have about 620 hours, and am instrument rated. About 420 of my hours are in my 1979 Piper Dakota and I fly about 110 hours per year. I don't want to go backwards, so for reference, my Dakota's panel consists of: GTN750, GNC255, FlightStream 210, GTX330ES (for 1090 Out), GDL88 (for 978 Out and 1090/978 In), GMA350c, Dual G5s (no vacuum system), JPI830 with fuel flow, STEC-30 with Altitude hold, GPSMAP 496, LED lights including wing wig-wag. New paint, interior and glass in 2010 and a mid-time (900 Hrs) O-540 engine.

My flights include the typical 1-hour, $100 hamburger run at 11-12K MSL, a few longer trips like Reno-Seattle or Reno-Tucson, as well as at least one trip across the USA each year between Reno and Michigan and points beyond. 2016: Bahamas/Cuba, 2017: Michigan, 2018: Florida/Guatemala, and in September we are planning to go to New England. I don't fly at night and I rarely have more than my wife and I on board. Thus, I don't need 6 seats, but I want to be able to easily fill 4 on a hot day at 4500' with full fuel like I can in my Dakota.

The longer trips are a big reason we have the plane. I think if it were faster, I'd do two trips to Michigan each year. My wife has family there and we always seem to turn those trips into much larger trips. We also have family in the Atlanta and Dallas areas so we often end up there on the same trip. We are typically traveling for 4-5 weeks on these trips.

Overall, I average about 142kts ground speed at 11-12K on 12gph which is ok, but I'd like to get somewhere closer to 160-180kts. The shortest runways I routinely fly into are 2300' at sea level and 4000' at about 4000' MSL. I have an 1150-pound useful load (720 left over after full fuel) and 5-hours fuel with 1-hour reserve. I always top off the tanks when I get fuel.

One other issue are the Piper seats. You sit fairly low in a Dakota and the way Piper seats are designed, the back is often pitched back too far with no good way to adjust them. The A36/G36 and Cirrus I have been in, prop you much more upright. This would be much better for my wife's back since she ends up with extra pillows under her and behind her to get the Piper seat into a better position.

Built-in oxygen would be a plus. On the Dakota, the trim wheel and Johnson bar flaps prevent putting anything between the seats... on my first flight using oxygen I managed to place the two tanks carefully on either side of the trim wheel but they blocked the flaps which I discovered coming into the pattern at U42 (just south of Salt Lake). Good learning experience.

With the Dakota, our tips to Michigan have been via I-80 though Wyoming, south via Santa Fe or north via Sandpoint Idaho and Bozeman. Something with built-in O2 and turbo would open up some additional route options, though in a single I don't think I'd be going direct over the Rockies without serious regard for the terrain.

So I am thinking of a Bonanza, Mooney or SR22, probably in that order. Obviously I have my high-performance endorsement, but I don't have a complex endorsement, though I have about 8 hours in complex aircraft, it was not always with a CFI. I have a couple hours each in an A36 and G36 and I've ridden in the back of an F33.

I am happy with my plane, just looking for a way to keep the nice avionics and add 30 or so knots to the speed with a bit more comfort. The one door is fine - but two would be nice of course... not really a deal breaker there. My net budget is about $250K, but if I could find something nice for a lot less, all the better.

I am looking for advice to help me narrow down makes, models, years and options to look for or avoid. For example, in the G36 I flew, the air conditioner was under the pilot seat and it left very little room to maneuver one's feet around. All the circuit breakers on the left side don't help. I am 5'10" and 160lbs, but I have long legs. I think I'd want tip tanks for destinations where fuel might not be available (such as we found in Cuba and Guatemala).

I don't think I want a V-Tail as I have read about the issues with magnesium and the ruddervators, so would likely be leaning towards an A36 or G36 (though I am not sold on the G1000.. either in the G36 or Cirrus). Are there certain Mooneys to avoid because of similar issues? 

My wife thinks I should get my twin rating so we can get a Baron for more comfortable over-water trips in the Caribbean. That might be a bit too costly to own and stay proficient in, so I would probably lean towards a standard single.

Any thoughts, suggestions etc are greatly appreciated.

Also looking for real world ground speeds (or TAS) altitudes and fuel burn.

This is such a great post. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into defining your mission and your wants and needs. 

I agree with all the feedback above, but if four people and full fuel is a regular thing, then it sounds like a job for a Colemill converted B55 Baron (engines upgraded to two IO-550s) to me. There’s a decent chance of finding one close to your avionics buildout; in the several years since I’ve been monitoring B55 listings I’ve seen some very nice panels. 

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+1 on the El Presidente B55 Colemill conversion.... we have an MSer that had one...

Take-off is a blast with 620hp total.

Fuel flow of about 60gph is a bit eye opening.

MSers enjoy spending OPM...

How about a new Instrument panel with that..? :)

Best regards,

-a-

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When I said full fuel and four adults, I was trying to say that in that situation, my Dakota is still at or under gross, so it works. On the trip home from buying the plane, we took off from Prescott, AZ (5045') on a 95F day with 600 pounds of people (my CFI is a big guy), full fuel and bags. We climbed at about 700fpm.

I didn't anticipate a Mooney having 130 gallon tanks so obviously full fuel can mean a lot of things. Let me rephrase by saying I'd like to be able to take 600 pounds of people on a 3-hour flight with at least a 1 to 1.5-hour reserve and depart from a 5000' field at 95F. That would be unusual, but I'd like the option to do so if desired. 90% of the time it will just be my wife and I, but long trips are the norm.

I'd love to be able to fly KRNO-KPTK with three, 3-hour legs. In my Dakota this trip is four 3-hour legs. With the right fuel capacity and speed, that might make it possible to do the trip in one day with one stop if the winds were strong enough.

Edited by DesertNomad

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When I said full fuel and four adults, I was trying to say that in that situation, my Dakota is still at or under gross, so it works. On the trip home from buying the plane, we took off from Prescott, AZ (5045') on a 95F day with 600 pounds of people (my CFI is a big guy), full fuel and bags. We climbed at about 700fpm.
I didn't anticipate a Mooney having 130 gallon tanks so obviously full fuel can mean a lot of things. Let me rephrase by saying I'd like to be able to take 600 pounds of people on a 3-hour flight with at least a 1 to 1.5-hour reserve and depart from a 5000' field at 95F. That would be unusual, but I'd like the option to do so if desired. 90% of the time it will just be my wife and I, but long trips are the norm. I'd love to be able to fly KRNO-KPTK with three, 3-hour legs. In My Dakota this trip is four 3-hour legs.


I would amend that to speak in distance not duration. Mooney’s can go a lot faster per unit time... efficiency = effective useful load...


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Ok. Each year, I fly KRNO-KPTK which is 1647nm. The direct route nearly works, but there are needed turns because of the IFR system, restricted spaces near the Salt Flats, and terrain over the Rockies. Doing this trip in one stop would be amazing, but as it is currently at least 3 stops, 2 would be an improvement. I don't like to plan legs over 3.5 hours. The longest (time-wise) trip we've done non-stop in New Orleans Lakefront (KNEW) to St. Augustine (KSGJ) which took 4:15 block to block.

Edited by DesertNomad

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Take a look at...

  • M20R and M20S... Long bodies with NA IO550s
  • M20M and M20TN... Long bodies with turbos.  The Lycoming on the M, is called the Bravo... the Continental on the TN is called the Acclaim...

Starting at the pinnacle, it will be easier to cull what doesn’t match what you have in mind...

Are you interested in traveling in the FLs? A touch more responsibility, and the challenges that come with O2...

Do you like steam gauges, G1000s, or would you like to take an older Panel, and completely refresh it personally?

The latest Garmin glass panels are awesome... and are not locked into the quirky certification/update limitations found in G1000 systems...

 

Want to see what’s available today...?  https://www.controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/list/?pcid=17527&dlr=1

Thats today’s AAA listings...

Best regards,

-a-

 

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I am probably ok with the flight levels - at least over the Rockies. I have about 15 hours with a G1000 and frankly don't care for it (maybe it has to grow on you). I really like the GTN750 and the G5s, though an Aspen is ok.. less reliable from what I understand. I just think the G1000 locks you into that for any upgrades etc - anything like ADS-B becomes more of an issue. I certainly do not mind my steam ASI and Altimeter, but I would never go back from a glass HSI to something mechanical.

Edited by DesertNomad

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Ultimate speed comes from flying in the FLs... with a turbo...

  • Lower wind resistance
  • Higher level of power produced by the turbo engine...

 

Pretty good speed comes from flying a NA IO550 That is capable of reaching the FLs...

Flying around and in and out of the Rockies, Andes, or Alps... go turbo. Because you can.

 

When looking at Long Body Mooneys always keep an eye on the engine they have... their rated power comes in a few levels...

Close, but Rough hp numbers... my memory is a bit aged...

  • 240hp Eagle IO550
  • 270hp Bravo TSIO540
  • 280hp O1 IO550(g)
  • 310hp 03 89550(g) or (N) with 2700rpm
  • My favorite... 310hp TN... updated Acclaim!  :) TNIO550(g) with 2700 rpm

There are even upgrades to bring the Eagle and O1 up to O3 310hp status...

Easiest to select an engine first...

then select the airframe you want it in...

then select the panel bits and pieces you want...

We have one MSer that is an electrical engineer by training... he flys a Bravo...with recent Garmin Glass upgrades... the works... he enjoys giving pireps on all the details he has encountered along the way... awesome pics included...

Find Don Kaye, use the search function, look up garmin product names... you will find pics that go with that...

PP thoughts only, not a CFI...

Best regards,

-a-

 

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Which are Lycoming? Many people say the IO-540 is a very solid engine. My Dakota has the O-540 derated to 235hp. No idea why Piper didn't use fuel injection on their top-of-the-line Cherokee. I also don't like the funky dual-magneto on mine. If I still have the Dakota at overhaul time, I'll do what a few other Dakota owners have done and swap the engine for a set of standard mags.

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@DesertNomad I updated the post above with a list of engines...

The Bravo’s Lycoming TSIO540 is fantastic. A little light on hp for shortfield performance compared to the more powerful IO550s...

But climbing through the FLs, both are pretty good...

The IO550s are a touch more modern design... if you like tuned intakes for balanced fuel / air mixtures and running LOP...

The Bravo can be run LOP, but the log style air intake system limits where it can be run LOP... and may not agree with all users...

Really important... use caution when flying these planes... once you have flown a 310hp flame breathing dragon... climbing out at 2k’pm... it is hard to go back....  :)

More PP thoughts...

Best regards,

-a-

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If your significant other sits in the other options before she sits in a Mooney,  your decision will be made for you. Usually. 

Edited by Mcstealth

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You, your wife, and bags + full fuel is pretty much gross weight in a Bravo.  That said, I've done DVT (Phoenix) to PTK in two stops in the Bravo.  I think it was 8.5 hour total eastbound..not great tailwinds as I remember.

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