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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In other words, at this writing, the Ovation3 would appear to be the world’s fastest, normally aspirated, piston, production single. Period. Now, if Mooney can come up with a few aerodynamic tweaks, it just may have the first normally aspirated, piston single to break 200 knots at cruise.

The race isn’t always to the fastest, however. My transpacific experience suggests the basic Ovation is capable of remarkable efficiency up high at 55%, about 165 knots on 12.5 gph, and with slightly more horsepower and a little more altitude, the Ovation3 will probably do even better. On those 7,000 nm Santa Barbara-to-Sydney ferry trips in the Ovations, I carried the standard 89 gallons in the wings, 110 gallons in the aft ferry tank and 30 gallons in the copilot tank. At 15 gph, I had just over 15 hours’ endurance at an average 180 knots cruise.

Pulled back to 55%, I could run an easy 165 to 170 knots for 17 hours’ endurance. (Thank you, God, for never requiring me to fly that long.) That made the Ovation the second most efficient airplane I’d ever ferried. (First was the Mooney MSE.) In light wind conditions, I typically arrived in Honolulu with a solid 3.5 hours’ reserve, again second best only to the MSE.

The new Ovation3 boosts standard fuel from 89 to 102 gallons and offers an option that pushes total capacity to a staggering 130 gallons. In theory, this extends the Ovation3’s range to more than 1,500 nm. That’s New Orleans to Los Angeles or Miami to Minneapolis. Talk about seven-league boots.

Of course, as you may have already guessed, you can carry a string quartet of people or copious fuel, but not both. The upgrade from 280 to 310 hp doesn’t cost you any extra empty weight, because the engine is essentially the same, only less derated. Useful load on the demonstrator was 1,002 pounds, so payload with a full 102-gallon service amounts to 390 pounds, two pilots plus baggage. Increase fuel to the optional 130 gallons, and you’d have to settle for about 220 paying pounds.

Okay, that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing when you consider that many pilots fly Mooneys alone or with only one other person aboard. Still, if you must aviate with the standard 680 pounds of people in the buckets, you’ll need to limit fuel to about 50 gallons, two hours plus reserve, as long as most groups of four can stand each other, anyway.


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