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

The Marshall Mooney also features the Jose Monroy 130-gallon, long-range tanks, in case you're one of those strange folks who likes to endure for 10 hours at a time. The bottom line is an airplane that can fly much longer than most pilots are willing to sit, but only with two lightweights up front.

(Of course, if you can make do with the standard 100 gallons, you can still endure for 5.5 hours at about 185 knots and enjoy a range of just over 1,000 nm. That ought to be enough for anyone who's not silly enough to fly across an ocean.)

The most immediate and obvious benefit of more power comes in climb. With 310 hp on tap and only 3,368 pounds to lift, the Ovation 3 sports a low 10.9 lbs./hp power loading. All other factors being equal (which almost never happens), a low power loading generally translates to good climb performance.

Better still, climb seems relatively unaffected by load, and it seems to go on forever. Back in the 1990s, I delivered nine Ovations overseas, one from the Kerrville, Texas, factory to South Africa, and eight more from Texas to Brisbane, Australia. The Pacific trips usually departed from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Honolulu at 3,900 pounds. That's about 550 pounds over gross (with 120 gallons of additional fuel on a ferry permit). Climb was certainly affected by the overweight condition, but once the airplane caught its breath, I still saw a consistent 900 fpm climb to the typical initial 6,000- to 8,000-foot cruise height.

Marshall suggests he and his wife experience better-than-book climb numbers flying near gross. Though he rarely has occasion to fly bladder-stretching legs, the long-range tanks provide a hedge for those times when you'd rather not stop, or would prefer to hold out for a cheaper fuel price.

Benefitting from over 50 years of development, the Ovation 3 offers an air-conditioned cabin with the Synthetic Vision–equipped Garmin G1000.
Flying almost exactly at gross weight with Mooney's California regional sales director, Jennie Mitchell, in the right seat, owner Marshall in the aft left and Peggy Herrera in the fourth bucket, the Ovation 3 paid little attention to the load. I always climb Mooneys at a lower-deck-angle 120 to 130 knots rather than the recommended 105 knots, the better to see what I'm about to hit. At that speed, with all the knobs against the panel, the airplane logged 1,400 fpm initially, and settled on an easy 1,100 to 1,200 fpm for the short climb to 8,500 feet.

Most folks who fly little airplanes for a living (or even just for fun) acknowledge that speed is certainly one of the ultimate aphrodisiacs, and the Ovation 3 is therefore one of the sexiest machines in the sky. For our first cruise check, we went to the whip and left the engine at its full 2,700 rpm limit, just to see the top number.

Given its head, the Ovation 3 slips through the sky with the synchronicity of a Ginsu through hot butter. On our first max cruise check at 8,500 feet, I watched true airspeed settle on an eventual 192 knots, meanwhile pouring 19 gph through the engine.

Labels: Piston Singles


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