Say what you will about American cars, but America builds some of the best civilian airplanes in the world. In the lower rungs of general aviation, especially trainers through four-seat retractables, American flying machines have virtually no equal.
Take, for instance, the Mooney M20R Ovation 3. The current M20R is a third-generation Mooney, the beneficiary of a half century of development. Designer Al Mooney inarguably got it right the first time out of the box back in the 1950s when he created his four-seat M20. While today’s airplane is light-years ahead of its ancestor in performance, comfort, systems, aerodynamics and electronics, you can still see the heritage of design—the arrogant, vertical tail; short, rubber doughnut gear; and tall baggage compartment.
Though it may not be the airplane Luke Skywalker would fly, the basic four-seat Mooney has aged at least as well as Christie Brinkley (who, more than coincidentally, is the same age) while nearly doubling climb rate and adding almost 100 knots to cruise speed.
In fact, Mooneys have consistently enjoyed speed disproportionate to their horsepower. The type has been among the world’s fastest and most efficient personal airplanes since its inception. Today, the Mooney Acclaim S is the acknowledged leader in the turbocharged class, notching near-turboprop speeds on a measly 280 hp.
Similarly, the Ovation 3 is the quickest normally aspirated single—quite simply (or not so simply) the fastest production airplane above the planet without a blower under the bonnet. The Ovation 3 features essentially the same 310 hp Continental engine used on the Cessna Corvalis 350 and the Cirrus SR22-G3. (The only significant differences are associated with repositioning some items to accommodate the Mooney’s retractable nosewheel.)
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