Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mooney Ovation 3: Turbo Performance Without The Turbo

The Ovation 3 is the fastest normally aspirated production single ever—period

Combine big horsepower with a low drag coefficient (0.019) and you have the makings for a truly quick airplane. I recently did a story for this magazine titled "Looking For 200 Knots" [P&P July 2009], and it was interesting that all the true 200-knot contenders were turbocharged. There was only one normally aspirated airplane that threatened to sneak into the class, the Ovation 3, with a 197-knot top speed.

The 3's speed is an example of what can be done with excellent aerodynamics in combination with copious horsepower. The laws of aerodynamics are fairly immutable; drag increases as the square of speed. Every additional knot is exponentially more difficult to achieve, and the Ovation 3's brevity is all the more amazing in the thick air of low altitude.

Like so many other current Mooney buyers, Dr. Larry Marshall of San Diego, Calif., has owned a Mooney before. In his case, a totally tricked-out 1965 M20C, but he switched to a Turbo Skylane a few years ago to try the benefits of turbocharging. Marshall purchased his totally blissed-out Ovation 3 late last year as a replacement for the T-182.

"The Skylane was a great airplane," says Marshall, "but Rhondi and I found we rarely employed the turbocharger, and we wanted more speed in the bottom two miles of sky, where we operate most of the time."

Marshall's airplane is fitted with practically every option Mooney offers except TKS, the latter rarely a requirement in the Southwest. The equipment list includes the ultimate creature comfort, air-conditioning, a 66-pound extra that reduces payload proportionately.

Okay, here come the numbers. With every option tallied, Marshall's fully equipped Ovation 3 weighs in at a hefty 2,424 pounds against a 3,368-pound gross weight. That leaves a 944-pound useful load. Subtract 100 gallons of fuel, and payload is reduced to just under 350 pounds. In Marshall's case, that works out just fine, as he and his wife weigh only about 320 pounds collectively, and baggage makes up the difference.

Creature comfort is always dependent on the size of the creatures, and the Ovation's cockpit can ensconce pilots as tall as six-foot-six. The cabin is 43.5 inches across by 44.5 inches vertical, wider than an A36 Bonanza, but not as tall. Seating position is semi-supine (laid-back), however, so modern Mooneys are hardly cramped.

Labels: Piston Singles


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