Adapt, overcome and have fun—Mooney has done it again! Whether it’s staving off financial troubles, or innovating new products, Mooney has experienced some ups and downs in recent years. With the brand-new Acclaim, however, they’ve raised the bar. You want fast, you want improved climb rate, you want known ice with air-conditioning, you want to carry a respectable load? In short, if you want to fly higher, faster and farther, then get a new Mooney Acclaim.
Successful designs often evolve. It’s nature’s way of adapting to changing environments, and effective designers make it work for airplanes as well. The Acclaim began with a good airframe, which Mooney fine-tuned for speed! According to Gretchen Jahn, Mooney’s CEO, “Mooney is all about speed, and for us it’s logical that we’d continue to develop the product line. Incorporating the next generation of turbocharging technology and a turbonormalizing system is only natural.”
Bill Eldred, Mooney’s director of engineering asserts, “We wanted to streamline the assembly line, and the Bravo, firewall forward, is totally different from the Ovation. The Bravo’s Lycoming is a good engine, and we never had problems with it, but the goal was to achieve a little more commonality with the Ovation and the Continental IO-550-G. We have a very smart aero engineer, Dan Apel, who ran the analysis during the Acclaim’s planning stages, and he predicted the performance gain with the Acclaim’s derated IO-550-G almost exactly.”
The Acclaim claims a speed gain that’s slightly over seven percent, which vaults it into the rarified company of turboprops, sharing the title of fastest single with the Columbia 400. Even money would probably see the Acclaim win a race with its increased range and fuel capacity. Though it’s predicted to reach true airspeeds of 230 knots, the airplane has actually seen 233 knots in its flight tests. A tweak here and there, and the Acclaim might legitimately claim the title of world’s fastest production piston single.
Eldred shares some of the planning considerations, “We went to twin turbos to relieve the workload on a single turbocharger and improve the spool-up, or engine response time. The twin turbos also gave us some freedom to rework the cowling. So far we haven’t seen the need for cowl flaps, and the engine is running very cool! We’re working on a joint program with TCM [Teledyne Continental Motors] to develop lean-of-peak charts for the Acclaim. The TCM test program starts in June, and we hope to have results by the time the aircraft receives its FAA certification.”
In engine-speak, Mooney not only derated the IO-550-G, but also limited the twin turbos to 33 inches in order to turbonormalize the engine. At that setting, the turbocharger allows the engine to produce 280 hp to a critical altitude above 20,000 feet. The Acclaim can easily reach the service ceiling of 25,000 feet at a climb rate of 1,240 fpm—no slouch by any measure. With true airspeeds greater than 0.4 Mach, this Mooney is a flight-level player above most any weather.
“We added new wingtips, which enhance the styling of the airplane and promise an incremental improvement in performance. This is another of [Dan] Apel’s innovations, and it improves maintenance by doing away with the enclosed tip lights. These new “mini-fin” tips will be available for retrofit on older Moonies,” elaborates Eldred.
The new Garmin autopilot is tightly integrated with the G1000 flat-panel display system and will allow the addition of a flight director to an already impressive system. Eldred continues, “We expect the new Garmin GFC 700 autopilot to complete certification tests by July and be fully integrated with the production line by September.”
Much has been written about the Garmin G1000 system and, for those who haven’t flown with it, the bottom line is that Garmin has integrated a flight management system that rivals the sophisticated and easy-to-use systems found on business jets and airliners. The ultimate in presenting situational awareness, the G1000 puts everything a pilot needs, including datalink weather, where he or she wants to see it, all in an easy-to-maintain modular package.
Mooney airplanes have long had a reputation as economical speed demons, and the Acclaim sets the flag farther down the field. The Acclaim’s evolutionary design improves on the wing that was first designed by Al Mooney more than four decades ago. Incorporating a single massive spar, the wing is built as a unit and mated to the airplane, much the way the P-51 Mustang was built in World War II. In fact, there are further similarities between the Mustang and Mooney wings. Like the Mustang wing, the Acclaim retains laminar flow throughout two-thirds of its chord and is one of the most efficient in production today. The factory tested the wing to a 14 G breaking point, and the wing is rumored to have experienced a 12 G recovery during an owner-flown upset situation without failure. You wouldn’t expect an executive travel machine to be more capable than the hottest jet fighter or aerobatic airplane in existence.
To quote Paul Arrambide, an engineering test pilot, “This is a strong airplane!” Of course, Mooney doesn’t advertise the airplane’s true strength, but building anything less wouldn’t be worthy of the Mooney brand name.
A truly capable single-engine airplane must provide for performance in adverse conditions while maintaining passenger comfort. The Acclaim sports TKS known-ice capability for rough winter weather and air-conditioning for hot southern comfort. Lighting and air controls at each seat enhance the passengers’ experience. To compliment the G1000, Precise Flight speed brakes make speed and altitude control easy. The torque-tube flight-control system gives the pilot a firm “in-control” feel in any situation and the System Annunciator alerts for any system fault. Ergonomic leather seats and a roll cage (which is reminiscent of NASCAR racers) surround the cockpit; AmSafe air bags incorporated into the seat belts round out the Acclaim’s safety features.
Mooney paid attention to other fine details, like individual rear seats that can recline for comfort, or be removed to increase baggage storage. Speaking of baggage, the flat floor can accommodate square suitcases, golf clubs or large coolers through an easily accessed door.
In the airplane business, customer service and support are often overlooked. Mooney already has one of the best warranties in the business, but the company also aspires to a level of customer service that would make a Lexus dealer blush with envy. Along with service, Mooney has concentrated on solving the perennial training issue. New owners receive a four-day checkout program at the factory that introduces them to all the components, planning and operation of the sophisticated G1000 system, all in accordance with the FAA’s Industry Training Standards (FITS). To handle initial and recurrent training, Mooney has contracted some serious instructors at Flight Training, Inc., of San Antonio,Tex., who average several thousand Mooney hours apiece. They specialize in G1000 training and all aspects of Mooney flying. If you want to join the ranks of Mooniacs (Mooney owners and pilots), these folks can show you the way.
To put it mildly, any airplane that can top 230 knots in the flight levels has to be a complex sophisticated craft, and the Acclaim is no exception. Some complex airplanes trade the fun of flight for that last erg of performance, but not the Acclaim. If you judge an airplane by how it handles, the newest Mooney will win you over!
SPECS: Mooney M20 TN Acclaim