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I am considering purchasing a Mooney M20 for 60k to fly for my initial certification. I'm not sure if this seems like a logical choice on the surface but let me explain my reasoning. I travel quite a bit. I live in the Dallas area and drive to Houston, Austin and San Antonio regularly. I average 60 hrs in the car a month traveling. This aircraft would be used for travel on a regular basis, 15-20hrs a month. The speed of the mooney is what is most attractive to me. I considered a 172 but the faster Mooney will save me valuable travel time. I will occasionally have 2-3 passengers with me.

My questions are:

  • Am I crazy?
  • Is a Mooney a difficult aircraft to learn in?
  • Should I suck it up and pay the rental fees and buy the Mooney after I get my license?
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You need to be a bit more specific as "M20" refers to a lot of aircraft. An older M20C or M20D (with the fixed gear) should be quite manageable. An M20TN Acclaim is out of the question. Since you mention 60K I assume you are talking C/E variant but clocked out J's can be had for that. You can likely find an A/B but wooden wings are not for new owners or the faint of heart.

I have a Private Pilots License, an Instrument Rating, and a Complex Endorsement (which you need to fly just about any Mooney aside from the fixed gear D model) and have been pretty seriously looking at buying a Mooney as well as flying a few. Here are some thoughts:

The older Mooney's are on par with the other various trainers (PA-28/C172) size and load wise but tend to be about 10-15% faster on 10% less fuel. When it comes to flying, speed is generally what makes an aircraft "harder" to fly. The faster you go the faster things happen and the more likely you are to make a mistake or enter some airspace you shouldn't. In a Mooney, which is generally a faster plane you are of course more likely to have these issues.

  • You need to consider when training in a complex aircraft you are adding two additional things (gear and prop control) to an already confusing environment which can add to training time and increase your chances of messing something up.
  • Buying an aircraft for training can save a lot of money in the long run but what if you end up not liking it?
  • Although rentals are not always super well equipped in my experience they tend to be pretty well maintained as the flight schools are in the business of making money, so you dont lose training to the fact that you cant afford some AD or other maintenance issue.
  • Insurance premiums on a complex aircraft may be high for a new pilot. I can tell you that premiums for an M20C/E once you have your license are reasonable.
  • Mooney's have their own maintenance quirks but with the recent PA-28 spar issues that pretty much every GA plane has some kind of pricy issue.
  • You may want to define 2-3 passengers a bit better, a significant other and two kids is a lot different than 3 other "buddies". The back of most light aircraft is not exactly the most comfortable place.

I would take a serious look at this guy's thread he has a D model he has been working on for some time. The tale is a good example of what you are in for.

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  • $\begingroup$ When was an M20 ever made with fixed gear?? I think you mean the manual johnson bar gear no? $\endgroup$ – John K Nov 4 '19 at 22:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnK The M20D did have a fixed gear variant they were called the "master model" produced from '63-'66. However a conversion to the retractable was available and many have been converted so there are not a whole bunch left flying around. $\endgroup$ – Dave Nov 4 '19 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ WOW.. Learned something new. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – John K Nov 4 '19 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ Don't buy an early M20 with a wooden tail structure- if you must look for an old one, make sure its tail has been converted to a metal structure. Furthermore, the rumor is that there is now only ONE A&P mechanic nationwide who is qualified to do annuals on mooneys with a wooden main spar and a plywood wing skin (i.e., the M20A). $\endgroup$ – niels nielsen Nov 5 '19 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure about the US, but I'm pretty sure you aren't allow to fly an RG aircraft or an aircraft with a variable pitch prop without a complex endorsement, which means you won't be allowed to solo in your Mooney during your initial training... $\endgroup$ – jwenting Nov 7 '19 at 11:53
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Yes learn to fly first at a normal school in their trainers and then go buy a Mooney and get properly checked out on it. You go buy a complex airplane, which, lets not kid ourselves, regardless of brand is one of the best money pits there is (more than boats), and say you find you're not cut out for this flying gig after 20 hours of training.

Now you're stuck with a $60000 cow chewing up money late at night in the pasture (an old aviation metaphor)... crunch crunch crunch... watch those dollars flow... and you can't even demo it yourself to unload it; you have to hire someone to do that.

Some people have done it and succeeded, but the risks are high. If you have no problem with dropping 60k and ending up another 20k poorer after the experience, go for it, but understand the risks.

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I agree with the other answers, I would add on that you want to learn to fly in an airplane your instructor is familiar with, not just yourself. Mooneys are rare beasts, most instructors will never have been inside one. You want your instructor to know every knob, switch and lever in your airplane, you want them to know how to recognize and recover from all the bone-headed things you will do as a student pilot, like incipient stall recovery, spin recovery, etc. Instructors have hundreds or thousands of hours in the primary trainers they fly, it's safer to learn to fly in one of those.

Once you have some experience you can judge what airplane is right for you. Keep in mind a fast, complex single only really makes sense once you have an instrument rating in most cases, so you might want to get at least close to that before buying one.

Lastly, do you know a local maintenance organization or A&P mechanic who knows Mooneys? Mooneys have their quirks, you want someone who can fix them who isn't hundreds of miles away.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for all the comments! The Mooney I'm looking at is a M20F and its closer to 70k. There is actually a Mooney service center at the airport where I would be keeping the aircraft, Maxwell Aviation. I plan to pay Don Maxwell a visit to discuss maintenance costs. I will update the thread after I do. $\endgroup$ – Dewayne Nov 5 '19 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ Learn to fly first @Dewayne, that's my recommendation. Figure out if you like it! $\endgroup$ – GdD Nov 5 '19 at 18:05
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An M20F is a fine plane. You can learn to fly it and use it for your PPL, no problem.

The engine is bulletproof, it's easy to fly, and it'll serve you well for years to come. I have time in an M20F (converted to a 201) and completed my initial CFI in one.

Personally, I'd recommend abusing a flight school plane for your training but there is nothing wrong with using your own Bonanza, Mooney, Arrow, Meyers, or whatever as your trainer. Many, many owners do this. You MIGHT spend a few more hours on training but it won't be crazy. Plus, you'll need the hours anyway to meet insurance requirements so you are going to pay for training in your M20F one way or the other. Either during your PPL training or with an instructor after your PPL for some number of hours...25 to 50 I'd guess.

The only showstopper I see is getting insurance to solo. Doable, but likely expensive. You don't need insurance anyway so maybe you just accept 10hrs of risk for your solo flying.

Get the plane. Fly it. Enjoy it. You'll be happy with it.

Be sure to do SB-208-B during the prebuy.

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To answer the question is a Mooney M20 difficult to fly, the answer is no, it is not. They do demand a smooth roundout and touchdown due to the stiff suspension on the trailing link gear. As other have pointed out, it’s a complex airplane and is going to be more expensive to maintain and insure for a neophyte pilot.

A major difficulty for a new pilot to cope with is the speeds and capabilities of the airplane. Expect a early model M20 to be about 50% faster than a Cessna 172 and modern turbocharged variants like the M20M Bravo and M20T Acclaim are capable in excess of 200 KTAS and operations as high as FL250. They have more systems to operate and handle and offer a considerably larger flight envelope than a typical trainer like a PA-28 does. This greatly increases your capability for using the aircraft for travel but it can also be a rope long enough to hang yourself with if you’re not careful.

Low time pilots are typically deterred from Mooneys for these reasons. Similar to a new motorcyclist transitioning onto a 1000cc sport bikes, a low time pilot can get into one of these complex, high performance birds but needs to be aware of the risks in their operation. If you intend to do primary flight training in one of these airplanes, while it can be done, It will inevitably be more difficult and costly to do so both for getting the aircraft flight time, as well as the insurance demands for a new pilot. Insurance companies may will set a minimum hours of dual time required before they will even let you solo the airplane and may demand that you obtain an instrument rating before even being allowed to fly the airplane solo as a private pilot.

Here’s what I would do: find a decent flight school with a nice 152 or 172 and do your primary flight training and that to get your PPL. Next obtain an instrument rating on your private pilot certificate, and then finally look into buying a Mooney or similar high-performance bird. If you do select a Mooney or Cirrus, or similar aircraft, seek professional instruction from the factory and schedule recurrent training with a factory instructor pilot.

In the time that it takes you to complete your private pilot certificate and instrument rating, I would also be researching Mooneys for a year or so and befriend a qualified mechanics who has experience in the M20 airframe. You will need to employ him to obtain a pre-by inspection on one of these aircraft and it’s very useful to do so to avoid ending up with an airplane that has a lot of maintenance issues. It will also help you learn about the Mooney airframe and some of the things that can go wrong with it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your comment! I recently completed my FAA Medical exam and the medical examiner was also a flight instructor. The training aircraft he uses is an Alarus which I don't know anything about. Anyway, his rates are reasonable enough where I would not feel like I was throwing money away renting his aircraft for the lessons. Just a side note, I haven't been this excited about something in a long time! $\endgroup$ – Dewayne Nov 7 '19 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I fly CH2000s at my flight school. It’s a solid and capable, if somewhat quirky, low wing, two place trainer. It should serve you well for your PPL work. In the meantime start learning more about Mooneys. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Nov 8 '19 at 4:23

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