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Looking for advice. Should I consider the M20 for weekend flights to the UP?


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Hey everyone,

I was hoping to get some informed opinions on the M20 meeting my mission requirements.

I finished my PPL about 1.5 yrs ago and have about 110 hours in the books.  I'm currently looking for an inexpensive time builder (Cessna/piper) and am working on my Instrument rating.  I'm also looking a bit further out and want to have a plan for purchasing a traveling machine in 2-3 years.  I'm based at KLOM.  My wife and I enjoy our weekend getaways to places like Montauk (KMTP) and would like to eventually be able to do day/weekend trips to places like Maine (~400nm) or Florida (800-900nm).  But more than just vacation trips, we want to make visiting family easier.  My family in NC (KBUY) and NY (KBGM) are pretty easy, but my wife's family is a bit trickier.  Her family outside of St. Louis is pretty easy to reach with cheap commercial flights.  But her parents recently moved to the Upper Peninsula, MI.  I want to have a plane that makes that trip possible for the weekend, because 3 days with the inlaws is pushing it lol.  My wife and I visited them over President's day weekend and flew commercially.  It took us 11 hours to get there (door to door) and 14 to get back and cost us about $400ea (coach, no upgrades), which is a lot of travel time for even a 4-5 day trip.  Her Parents live in Trout Creek, MI which puts them 75-85 minutes from all possible commercial options (KSAW, KIMT, KRHI, KIWD, KCMX).  The closest airport to them is KLNL (45min drive).  I flew there with my wife Sept 2019 in a Socata Tampico (105kt cruise) and it took ~9hr there and ~6hr back.  It was a fun trip, but we had to dance around the weather.  From what I have figured, flying ourselves there (especially when we have kids) will save time and money and be more enjoyable (at least for me).  

I'd like to be able to make the trip non-stop most of the time (although 1 stop if headwinds are strong is ok).  LOM to KLNL is 710nm and flying direct crosses Lake Erie, Huron, and Michigan.  Between winds, clouds, icing much of the year, and winter temps commonly below 0℉; It's not the friendliest route.  So a strong IFR platform and possibly FIKI are important considerations.  If the plane can handle this trip, it will handle anything else I could think to throw at it.  Right now I'm looking at potential budget of ~100k.  Obviously I'm not planning on jumping right into a high performance, complex bird and flying hard IMC with icing, but with experience, having that capability would be important.

What are your thoughts?  Is an M20 the right platform for this mission?  Which variant(s) should I be considering?  What is the best way to prepare for and move up to an M20 over 2-3 years?  Thanks in advance :)

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Personally I would go straight to the Mooney, the M20C is probably the best bang for the buck. Not knowing your budget makes it harder for those that know which would be your best options. Here’s a little info that you might helpful 

SHORT BODIES 
M20C  180hp
M20E  200hp (fuel injected)

MID BODIES 
M20F  200hp (fuel injected)
M20G  180hp
M20J  200hp (fuel injected)

There are multiple threads you can search here on MooneySpace to help with your questions, but if your like most searching for one answer often leads to two more questions :)

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What’s your budget? Both to buy and annual expenses. What’s you and your wife’s personal flight time limit? Once you have these numbers you’ll have a good idea of which model to buy. Then you have to decide if you want a turbo which requires you to fly high and be on oxygen to maximize its performance potential and is a little more expensive to buy and maintain.
The seating position is low like a sports car, some people don’t like it...it’s personal preference, find one you and your wife can sit in.

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I do the Texas to Michigan trip a couple of times per year in my M20K 231. Weight wise, you will probably only have 950-1000 pounds of useful load in a Mooney. You are likely to find deicing of any kind only on an Ovation or Acclaim. (Yes, I know there are a couple of exceptions). If you check Controller.com for those aircraft, you will find that the pricing doesn’t fit your current $100K budget. For just me, my wife, and our dog, our Mooney was perfect for those trips in the summer. For you, it sounds like your future mission (wife, kids, FIKI) calls for a P210, $200-275K. 

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This is how I would flight plan the UP trip in my stock F model.  Numbers will be similar for any 4 cyl Mooney +/-10%.  I almost never do more than 4 hrs in the plane at a time but this is one of those trips where I might consider it.  I flight plan my bird at 152kts. On average, a 201 would be 8-10kts faster a C/G would be 8-10kts slower.  If you need useful load an F may be the best choice.  Mine has 1059lbs useful meaning a full fuel payload of 675lbs.  I would definitely make that trip with full fuel.   

82994267_LOMtoLNL.thumb.jpg.72a487aacdce3c28de97ad191f667ff1.jpg

 

1218834419_LNLtoLOM.thumb.jpg.d9f70c450f47820d7e2cadd89e26a9ba.jpg

Edited by Shadrach
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I would not hesitate to find your traveling machine now, and do your instrument in that. That is what I did. If you want, you can simply slow the plane down while you are learning to give yourself more time for instrument tasks. Pretty much any Mooney will do what you want. Mine, a 231, is turbocharged. I have not made your exact trip, but nearly the same several times out to the East Coast and many other places. Here are some thoughts:

For a traveling aircraft, I really think you want a quality AP like the KFC 150, 200, or one of the new Garmins. You need to learn to hand fly in all conditions, yes, it can get so rough the AP says "you have the controls," and you better be up to it. But for all around every day flying, including instrument approaches in IMC, in my opinion a good AP that can fly the approaches is safer.

You also want great weather. Any trip of that length will take you through at least one weather change. It is a major safety advantage to be able to see what you are getting into before you get into it. Minimum would be ADSB wx in on an iPad, best would be a moving map like the MX20 (old technology but it works), GX200, or best, a GTN 750 or MFD, coupled with a GDL69 so you can get Sirius XM weather in. With that combination you can look at the weather hours ahead of you and plan for it, speed up to beat a developing storm, slow down to let one dissipate before arrival, or re-route.

 A good WAAS enabled GPS guidance system coupled to the AP is a must these days. 

If you want dispatchability, FIKI is needed. It is available in a rare few 252's, and in the Bravos, Ovations, and on up. Read the ads carefully, there is inadvertent and there is FIKI deicing. You can't buy inadvertent thinking you can convert it to FIKI, it actually costs more to remove an inadvertent system and install a FIKI, than just buying FIKI to begin with. You are going to be at or north of 240,000 for a FIKI equipped Mooney.

Turbo v. non-turbo. I made the choice to go turbo and have not regretted it. In my aircraft the east-west trip and the west-east trip would be completely different. East-west it is difficult to go up to the teens or flight levels because the increase in wind speed equals or exceeds the increase in TAS. Generally, I stay down where earth friction slows the winds. I will go as high as needed though, when I have passengers, to avoid turbulence. In that general neck of the woods, over the Great Lakes, typical summer weather generally involves what I call "popcorn cumulus," cumulus build up that generally does not include Tstorms. It is always turbulent under the bases, and therefore uncomfortable, and that is really tiring over a long trip. It is especially turbulent right under the bases. Going over the top will give you glass smooth air generally, the passengers will really like it. That will require climbing to anywhere from 8 to 16k. East to west, you have to balance this with what the winds aloft will do to your GS.

West-east is another matter. Barring some kind of weird weather, I will virtually always go high. Glass smooth, and in crossing the lakes you can get high enough that an engine failure will allow you to glide to the opposite shore. I have done Michigan that way several times, a little further south than your planned route. You will also get great speed, over 200 kts., pretty normal to be around 230 kts GS. Sometimes as high as 300. I once flew Peoria to Frederick MD in an hour 45 minutes, and a good part of that was maneuvering in the east coast airspace.

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There's an airport do I attend now and again on a little grass strip in the middle of the UP.  Bunch of little grass strips up there.  This one is 2500 feet of grass and the Mooney had no problems getting in or out.  Wouldn't do it during wetting seasons, but it worked.  LOM to the UP you want something fast.  There is no greater bang for your buck in GA than a short body Mooney.

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You guys are great!  Lot's of useful thoughts.

I'd love to get something fast to start with.  But we're house shopping and have most of our finances allocated to that endeavor at the moment.  So 20-30k and 10k per year is my limit right now.  But in a couple years, my budget should be around 100-150k (maybe up to 200) and 25-35k/yr.  Wouldn't mind getting a C414 or C421 for ~100-150k, but the yearly cost would be a lot more, not to mention, insurance companies would probably laugh me out the door without some decent complex, high perf, dual time.  On the last trip my wife and I went on, we maxed out one leg in the Tampico at 4.6 hrs and we both did alright with that.  With an onboard "relief" option, I'd guess 6hrs is probably our longest leg time.  While my wife isn't certified, she completed her ground work and about 10 hrs of training, so she can take a some of the workload off enroute.  I don't have any experience flying with oxygen, but having used a cannula for a sleep test, I didn't mind it and would probably be fine using it in the air.  I also love being in the air, so longer flights are just fine with me.  But my wife does get antsy on longer trips (car and plane), so speed is worth some extra cost to preserve my sanity lol.

I'm curious how you would feel about making this trip in what you have (good and less-than-ideal weather, especially winter).  How comfortable have you been flying in UP sort of weather?  How does your model handle cold temps, snowy runways, and icing (if equipped).  Also, any recommendations on the best way to get a little seat time in an M20 to get a feel for it?

 

Thanks again!

Edited by sakosky1
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Flying direct crosses Lake Erie, Huron, and Michigan - in the winter. That means Jet-A to me or be prepared to wait 2-10 days for a good weather window.

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6I used to fly my first Mooney, an M20F, just about anywhere, including a great trip to the UP several years ago, flying in and out of Marquette.  The flight up was solid IMC across Wisconsin coming up from north Georgia, but even with that it was much simpler and easier than flying commercial.  Lots of airports up there to choose from, too.

Years later and today I fly a J model and live in Florida.  I have a trip to Washington state planned for this summer in my J.  Mooneys are truly traveling machines.

I gotta agree with everyone else on this- get a Mooney and get your instrument ticket in it. Lots of options to choose from that’ll match your needs and I assume, your budget.  I held on to my old 1972 Skyhawk WAY too long.  Fortunately an instructor buddy owned a Mooney and enlightened me by checking me out in his Mooney.  I sold the Skyhawk, got a Mooney and never looked back.  Zoom zoom!

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Welcome aboard Sakosky!


Quick summary...

1) Yes.  Mooneys make great cross country planes for everyone...  even UPers...

2) As PIC, you are in charge of your own safety...   there will be days you want to stay on the ground...

3) As a VFR pilot, you get to learn to not run out of gas, or accidentally fly in IMC... there are methods to avoid these... and some tools too...

4) As an IFR pilot, you get to add the next two important topics to your bag of tricks... avoid icing, and thunderstorms... more methods for these, and some tools too...

5) Flying in the vicinity of the Great Lakes adds to the challenges... lots of moisture in the air...  lots of water underneath you...there are strategies for that as well...

 

We have a really good MSer in the UP... it’s nearly impossible to forget his screen name... @Yooper Rocketman invited to join the conversation about flying Mooneys around the UP...

:)

Best regards,

-a-

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You did mention fiki, however i don't think theres anything within your 100k budget that can be bought fiki. Short and mid body mooneys wouldn't be bad either since they can handle grass pretty well and there seems to be a grass strip about 20 minutes away from trout creek.

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It seems that a common recommendation is if I'm going Mooney, to jump right in and skip the Cessna or Piper idea.  I like the idea, but practically, that means finding just about the cheapest M20 I can find and trading up later on to get longer legs, more speed, and capability.  All things considered, might be the best route.  Put off the upgrade until I can afford a bird with FIKI.  By that time my experience level might be getting to the point that I'd consider flying in weather that might have some use of it.  I do best when I have a multi-year roadmap, so having an idea of what the practical capabilities and reasonable use cases of the various models helps me plan it all out.  Obviously I don't even have my IFR yet, so early days with what ever plane I end up with would be fair weather and conservative IFR.  With that thought in mind.  How do the earlier models fair with cold (non-icing) and with warmer IFR?  How are the newer birds with FIKI in winter IFR?

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A cabin class twin C414 or C421 will cost 4-5 times as much to operate as a normally aspirated Mooney. Their cost is roughly 250 with run out engines 500 with fairly new engines. All are about 40 years old and 6000 hours + by now. A fairly new Acclaim would cost less overall.
a turbo charged Mooney will cost about 1 and 1/2 times as much as N/A to operate. Per hour, not necessarily per mile.

A turbo charged Mooney will have much better dispatch reliability than N/A. FIKI is more important further North and especially North east.

I was based in Colorado and in 1000 hours of Mooney time never had enough cause to go FIKI. I rarely flew north of Colorado.

I rented and trained mostly in Cessnas. I got my Instrument rating 1 year and 200 hours later. Only had about 30 Mooney hours when I first bought. First plane was a 231 for 100 hours then same plane with a Rocket conversion for the next 900 hours. A 231 can do most of what a Rocket can do just a bit slower. N/A restricts your options greatly. It not the raw speed I missed as much as the ability to get to altitude. Loved flying N/A Mooneys before owning turbocharged. Hated my J that came after.

I bought a J for retirement and hated being stuck down low. Sold it. I’m now in Arizona, my next plane will be turbocharged but not FIKI. Turbocharged because I hate being stuck low and no ice because of cost and weight penalty. Flying a freind’s a J now. He stores it in my hangar in exchange for flight time.

Jlunseth above has great advice.


 

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19 hours ago, RobertGary1 said:

You didn’t mention what time of year and I’m a California guy but is there reliable winter flying in MI in pistons at all?

Ah...... YES.  We get a LOT of nice flying days up here.  Yes we get winter, but my flight time has never been much different winter vs summer, especially after getting TKS.  And to be clear, I've flown behind 4 different TKS equipped planes, 3 inadvertent, one Known Icing (My M20K Rocket, two Bonanzas, and my Lancair Propjet) and the only one that ever failed on me in icing conditions was the FIKI  one !  

 

18 hours ago, KLRDMD said:

Flying direct crosses Lake Erie, Huron, and Michigan - in the winter. That means Jet-A to me or be prepared to wait 2-10 days for a good weather window.

My Rocket had the same dispatch ability in the U.P. as my Turbine.  I routinely flew over the lakes in the flight levels, with glide to land ability (by a LOT) from mid point over the lake.  The only thing my kerosine burner adds is reliabilty and speed.

Tom

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6 hours ago, sakosky1 said:

It seems that a common recommendation is if I'm going Mooney, to jump right in and skip the Cessna or Piper idea.  I like the idea, but practically, that means finding just about the cheapest M20 I can find and trading up later on to get longer legs, more speed, and capability.  All things considered, might be the best route.  Put off the upgrade until I can afford a bird with FIKI.  By that time my experience level might be getting to the point that I'd consider flying in weather that might have some use of it.  I do best when I have a multi-year roadmap, so having an idea of what the practical capabilities and reasonable use cases of the various models helps me plan it all out.  Obviously I don't even have my IFR yet, so early days with what ever plane I end up with would be fair weather and conservative IFR.  With that thought in mind.  How do the earlier models fair with cold (non-icing) and with warmer IFR?  How are the newer birds with FIKI in winter IFR?

I sold my Mooney Rocket with a brand new OH'ed engine, GTN 650, G5, King KFC A/P, TKS, paint and interior an 8-9 with 4,000 hours on the AF for $155K.  I filed 190 knots in the breathable altitudes, 200-210 knots in the Flight levels.  Even did IMT to Spruce Creek Florida (well north of 1,000 NM) on my last trip before I sold it non-stop in 4 hours!

Eighteen Years of ownership found that plane to be an amazing investment with speed and utility rivaling my new bird!

Tom

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My last trip the the UP I was never beyond gliding distance to shore.  Cost me a 5 minute diversion north.  I was in a normally aspirated Mooney too.  That part of the world dis utterly beautiful, and well worth the trip.  I really liked Marquette.

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20 hours ago, sakosky1 said:

But in a couple years, my budget should be around 100-150k (maybe up to 200) and 25-35k/yr.  Wouldn't mind getting a C414 or C421 for ~100-150k, but the yearly cost would be a lot more, not to mention, insurance companies would probably laugh me out the door without some decent complex, high perf, dual time.

Take my word for it...one of the worst things you can do is get into a 340, 340A (and especially a 414 or a 421) for the prices you indicated, and then expect to spend "only 25-35k" a year.  Your annuals alone for any of those models - assuming they're well-maintained - will run you an absolute minimum of 20-25k.  If there are other issues, plan on increasing or even doubling that.  Again, that's just for annuals.  Engine OH will be ~ $70k - $80k per side minimum.

I'm about a month away from my Conquest 1 recurrent, and am already dreading the fuel bill alone...   :-)

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On 2/22/2021 at 3:57 AM, sakosky1 said:

What are your thoughts?  Is an M20 the right platform for this mission?

You realize that asking a bunch of Mooney fanatics if you should buy a Mooney is a pretty rhetorical question, right? Of course you should!
But seriously, Mooneys excel at going a long way in a short time on relatively little fuel. If that is your priority, it is a great airplane. If you want a big spacious cabin and large payloads you should probably look elsewhere. At the very least, have your wife sit in one before you decide. 

The more you spend, the greater the weather dispatch reliability. My 252 can climb over most weather and has de-icing and XM weather but it is not  “known icing” certified. I once was planning a trip across the UP from Ontario to Minnesota in the winter and had to wait for a week to find a weather window without icing. If you can’t afford to sit and wait out a weather system, you need an expensive Mooney. If you don’t mind waiting it out, any Mooney will suit this mission.

One thing you can count on is getting lots of useful information on this forum. Good on you for joining before you purchase. I lurked around here for several years before I bought my 252 and I am sure it saved me from several bad decisions. Good luck with the adventure!
 

Mark

 

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6 hours ago, Yooper Rocketman said:

My Rocket had the same dispatch ability in the U.P. as my Turbine.  I routinely flew over the lakes in the flight levels, with glide to land ability (by a LOT) from mid point over the lake.  The only thing my kerosine burner adds is reliabilty and speed.

I'm sure I'm much more of a weather wimp than you. I make eight trips per year to Portland, Oregon and would love to fly myself. But I've talked myself out of it year after year. Even in a known ice, turbocharged, pressurized twin I'm not comfortable making that flight, on a schedule as is required for my business, for my Jan/Feb/Mar/Apr trips. Personally I would need tremendous excess thrust too and that only comes from a turbine, which I'm unwilling to afford.

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I've crossed each of the Great Lakes except Huron in my Mooney. But all of those trips were in the summer time. Clear days are fine in the winter. Both clear and cloudy days are good in the summer.

I'm flying a non-FIKI 252.

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I commute weekly in my FIKI Bravo from KUES (just outside of Milwaukee) to KIWD (Ironwood) and it usually takes 1-1.5 hrs depending on the winds and I run ROP so 18-19 gph.  During the Winter months,  a visual approach at KIWD is definitely the exception for the times that I'm flying.  When I had my F, I couldn't make the trip during the Winter months or when there were any icing conditions.  Now it is just a matter of careful flight planning.  This season I had to divert once to Rhinelander after I went missed at IWD ILS which was below minimums.  So, it has been night and day for my commute.  I like FIKI for passing thru icing conditions on climb/descent but with the 6 gallons of TKS, it is nice to know that I could make the trip even with max flow TKS if I was somehow stuck flying in the soup with icing for the duration.  For my route, there are lots of landing options, if the conditions get beyond the capability of the TKS system.

So, if you want to make the trip to the UP with consistency during the icing months/conditions, then FIKI would be a must have in my opinion.

image.thumb.png.8466c0a34bd92d5b9894b0532f95d3b9.pngimage.thumb.png.dc12b5cf1dcf6a27036c12b9dc7b9a79.png

 

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Great news for @sakosky1...

1) Five year plans are great!

2) Update them often...

3) A Mooney fits your current budget... and your mission!

4) It is no more expensive than other four place planes from Brand Ce and P...  big brand name costs extra money...

5) If this single engine plane is a step along the way to twin turbines.... don’t hang out in the slow lane...

6) Train in a trainer... get PPL...

7) Get Mooney...

8) Get IR...

9) Add commercial if you want...

10) If your plane budget is growing exponentially over time... go well equipped, get great training, fly often...

PP thoughts, not a CFI...

You should see what people step up into once they have maxed out their Mooney Acclaim...

Best regards,

-a-

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On 2/23/2021 at 10:48 PM, apenney said:

So, if you want to make the trip to the UP with consistency during the icing months/conditions, then FIKI would be a must have in my opinion.

I respectfully disagree.  Here's my non-FIKI system.  Seems to look about the same.  As I said before, the only TKS System, of the four I've flown behind, that ever failed on me in icing was the the FIKI one.  They both work well but in all honesty, the one on my Lancair works far better the FIKI one on our Bonanza.

Tom

 

Lancair TKS 1-15-19 F.jpg

Lancair TKS 1-15-19 A.jpg

Lancair TKS 1-15-19 C.jpg

Lancair TKS 1-15-19 D.jpg

Lancair TKS 1-15-19 E.jpg

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