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

mooneySay 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.
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mooneyMooney’s Ovation 3 is actually an STC developed by Midwest M20 Mooney ( of Flora, Ill., but performed at the factory for the buyer who wants 310 hp rather than the standard 280 hp. The 3’s Continental is rated for max continuous power at the 2,700 rpm redline, rather than the 2,500 rpm limit on the Ovation 2. The airplane can also cruise at the full 2,700 rpm, or you can pull back to 2,550 rpm, worth 262 hp or 85% power. Again, however, remember that the same engine is rated for as much as 350 hp in other applications, so the 262 hp limit represents only 75% of the max rating.

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.

Labels: Piston Singles


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