Plane & Pilot
Monday, October 1, 2007

Ovation3: Reaching For 200

Mooney’s new Ovation3 pushes the cruise-speed battle closer to 200 knots—without a turbocharger

ovationOn the face of it, retractable gear seems almost an ideal solution to the problem of making an airplane fly faster. The whole idea is to reduce drag and increase cruise; cleaning up the underwing accomplishes that mission, though with varying levels of success.
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That title has been in question for the last two years. Columbia Aircraft offered the turbocharged Columbia 400 and claimed that it was the new speed champ. Arguably, Mooney reassumed the title late last year with the new Acclaim, a 280 hp version of the Bravo with a new Continental TSIO-550G engine out front, small winglets on the tips and a number of other less significant changes.

This left the normally aspirated Ovation2 to deal with the Cirrus SR22-G3 and the Columbia 350. Certainly, one of the quickest and easiest methods of increasing the knot count was simply more horsepower.

By itself, horsepower is probably the least efficient method for improving cruise speed, but it can offer some peripheral benefits, such as better climb, shorter runway requirements and, in some cases, improved high-altitude performance. Although horsepower alone does generate more speed, the relationship is far from proportionate.

In this case, Mooney borrowed a page from Cirrus by adopting an STC’d mod rather than expending the huge amounts of money normally required to recertify an airplane. Working with Midwest Mooney of Flora, Ill., holder of the power upgrade STC, Mooney bumped power on the Ovation from 280 to 310 hp. That’s, perhaps, only fair since it’s the rating of the same Continental IO-550G engine used in both the Cirrus and Columbia applications. Mooney has effectively streamlined production by adopting the Continental 550 for all three models.

In fact, the IO-550 engine, in both normally aspirated and turbocharged trim, is rapidly finding favor with more and more aircraft manufacturers. Columbia, Cirrus, Beech and now Mooney have embraced the 550 as their standard piston powerplant.

I flew a ferry-time-only Ovation3 with Lee Uecker, Mooney’s new regional sales representative for California. His company, curiously named California Mooney, is based in Santa Maria, halfway up the West Coast, and Uecker agreed to bring the airplane down to Long Beach for a few hours of fun and editorial investigation.

Though I’m far from an expert on the Ovation, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the type. Back in the ’90s, I delivered about a dozen M20Rs overseas, logging about 600 hours in the process. One went to Durban, South Africa, one to Athens, Greece, and I delivered the other 10 (along with two Bravos and a pair of MSEs) to Graham Lowry-Jones, then Mooney distributor for Australia. Most deliveries Down Under went to Bankstown in Sydney, though a few were scattered around to Melbourne, Dubbo and Adelaide.


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