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Mooney makes a comeback

Peter, I have visited the production lines of many of the manufacturs. While Cirrus (or course because it was brand new), Socata, Cessna have pretty modern operations - compared to that Mooney felt like a 1900s steel factory to me. I can show you the pictures.

I have once made an extensive docuemtary about a/c production at Piper/Vero Beach – and afterwards it was really clear to me why planes are so expensive. I would not underestimate the work necessary to make an airframe ... for each one of many hundreds of parts you need a special tool to make it, and only production of these tools is an enormous investment. When I have time I will make a new thread and publish the pictures I made of the complete production process of a Piper Seneca

The only way, as bitter as it is, would be to move the production to China. I do not see how affordable planes can be produced in the USA, let alone Europe.

If GA is to survive then the $ 800.000 Cirrus is not the right way. It could well be that traditional GA will disappear. After all - look at the products a company like FK akes in Germany. Modern, fast and safe two seaters that can be flown with a Ultralight licence. No, it cannot do what a TB20 or SR22 can do - but it can be BOUGHT by people with an "normal" income.

GA should be more than the hobby of Google employees in Silicon Valley who can buy the lastest SR22 every three years, right?

My recollection of what I heard about this (way before my time) is that Mooney were peripherally involved in the TBM project but dropped out very early. They never had much applicable capability, and there is almost nothing AFAIK in the TBM airframe which is similar to anything in a Mooney.

As far as I know Mooney had a big part in the design, and the silhouette/lines of the TBM have a lot in common with Mooneys (not the tail though because that would have been "too much" Mooney for that project)

But you are right, Mooney got out pretty early

The chinese seem to be the only buyers at the moment for these moribund/troubled GA aircraft companies; I suspect that they have an eye to the future of GA in the far east and India and rather than try and produce cloned tooling for knock-off's of the designs (like that of the TB20 copy) it's just easier and cheaper to buy the company.

My guess is that 10 years down the line, there will be a production line of Chinese built Mooney's with avtur burning turbo diesels being produced for a domestic/far eastern market. As to whether there is still a production facility here or any being sold here, will be incidental to the business plan.

I've been to the Socata factory a few times, and seen various videos, and yes I can understand the 19th Century Mooney operation.

I firmly believe one could do some obvious and big savings but the problem is - as always in the West - that overhauling old working practices is very very hard. Especially if the management has risen through the ranks over the years, so thinks the same way...

The problem with making complete products in China is the MASSIVE amount of speccing and supervision required. I make stuff out there too. They are hard and proud workers - very different from the West. But one needs very hands-on QA. They are capable of making anything from superb stuff to absolute crap, and what you get is according to the job spec, and production management to make sure it happens to spec, and then somebody out there making sure there hasn't been some massive cockup in interpreting the spec. A lot of stuff is hard to write down e.g. just how well things need to fit together. I've just bought a €400 phone, whose battery cover has the "perfect snap-on" feel to it. Was this specced? There is no way to spec that. Instead, Nokia will have maybe 100 of their people out there in China, making sure everything is just right. And Apple the same (they will have more than 100 - they have a big chunk of Foxconn's 500k people making their stuff).

To build a whole plane out there you would spend 10 years documenting the job as if it was to be made by Martians. And even then you would probably get back a batch of 100 made perfectly to spec, with the rivets put in backwards so they stick out...

But you don't need to make the whole of any complex product out there. The chief point of Chinese production is the labour cost saving.

There can be a materials saving but it's quite small except in some weird cases where e.g. Intel sell bits to China for half the cost they charge to a Western customer... and this often assumes you don't ask too many questions about where stuff comes from. In terms of business integrity, China is a John Wayne country and fake parts and materials are everywhere. They will forge everything - all the way to a bag of rivets "from" a US company with the 8130-3 form. So I free issue populated PCBs to the Chinese firm which puts the cables on and packages them. If you make whole important products out there, you need your own rep out there watching out for all this.

In most products, 90% of the labour cost is in 10% of the bits. So one would contract a lot of components out there.

This was not lost on Socata who make a lot of parts in Morroco - an EASA 145 facility of course

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Mooneys are quite interestingly constructed because, underneath the sleek airframe, there is a surprisingly robust looking tubular chassis


which will prob40 be easier to manufacture that the monocoque alternative.

I find the interior of the mooney is too cramped for me (I have short legs and a long trunk, like a chimp) so find myself in the P1 seat with my head at an angle. However, for customers that are rather more modestly proportioned, this isn't a problem...;-)

wsmempson, I know why I like British humour the best ;-)

Yes, the roll cage of the Mooney is an important safety factoy, it always impressed me too. Actually I think the whole design is interesting and cool - only have a look at the elevator trim and how the whole tail is moved!

You shouldn't underestimate the new Chinese aviation owners. They're not dumb. Why would they plan to flood the US and European GA markets with new Mooneys? That doesn't make sense.

There's so much white space in the emerging Asian markets that rebuilding production capability and skill sure makes sense to them. So what if takes some time and effort? They've already wasted +100 GA flying years.


You shouldn't underestimate the new Chinese aviation owners. They're not dumb. Why would they plan to flood the US and European GA markets with new Mooneys? That doesn't make sense.

Sure - I am sure the intention is to build planes for the "new rich" in China, Russia, etc. They can also operate their own certification regime, which would help enormously. The Chinese TB20 copy was never Part 23 certified either.

Actually I think the whole design is interesting and cool

I think the tail is a design done to look different - using the vertical VS leading edge. But that vertical edge costs them a lot of yaw stability, because the centre of pressure of the VS ends up 1-2ft further forward compared to the normal design with the VS leaning backwards, so Mooney had to make the tail section that much longer.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Mooneys are quite interestingly constructed because, underneath the sleek airframe, there is a surprisingly robust looking tubular chassis

It was a good enough idea to be adopted by Tecnam and Glastar, including the German factory built Glastar (OMF Symphony). The manufacturing trade off, as with any non-monocoque metal fuselage, is that while the basic structure itself is faster and less labor intensive to make, you still have to finish it. With a monocoque the completed part is closer to finished.

Another way of approaching the same problem is CNC manufactured matched hole construction, as done by Vans Aircraft and their subcontractor in the Philippines. This gives you a monocoque structure that looks conventional but which actually utilizes technology to much reduce labor and/or assembly tooling costs. That's progress.

There have only been two major revolutions in privately owned light aircraft so far that have resulted in a lot of previous stuff being thrown away. The first was when flat engined light planes replaced larger radial aircraft in the 30s. The second was when tricycle gear aircraft with better control and performance replaced the tail wheel aircraft in the 50s and 60s. After that, the aircraft were pretty practical, and even more so there was a tremendous growth in the size and scope of government involvement, certification cost, documentation and the like. I think the next revolution will involve (or perhaps already has involved?) an entirely different way of certifying light aircraft for the general market. From that point of view the planes themselves may not be all that different.

Re reduced Cirrus wheel fairing production: the volume is about half, and replacement parts for existing aircraft are apparently not a large fraction of the business.

Silvaire, yould you forward the eMail of your friend who produces the Cirrus wheel pants for me? I might be interested in having a second pair!

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