Pilot Journal
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Speed Is Life

The Mooney Acclaim asserts a new record!

Flying is a compromise. You can have cheap, and you can have fun, but you won’t necessarily travel fast. You can have fast, for sure, but it will not be cheap, and fun depends on your definition of the word. Several new single-engine airplanes are as fast as turboprops, but the question remains: Can an everyday Joe use that speed, say, on a typical business trip, and have fun in the process." />

Now, let’s say you’re a savvy businessperson and know the value of time to your schedule. You own a Mooney Acclaim. The trip is 1,832 nautical miles, and the advertised speed is 237 KTAS. This would make a nonstop, no-wind trip time of 7.7 hours, but you do have to stop for gas, and who knows what the winds or weather will be. Your meeting is at 3 p.m.

The only special thing I did for this speed-record attempt was to join the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and ask them to sanction the flight. I flight-planned, checked the weather and flew as if it were my plane on a typical cross-country. Midway near the great circle route between San Diego and Charlotte is Oklahoma City, so that was my fuel stop.

A planned trip time of about eight hours, plus time to stop for fuel along the route, dictated a very early takeoff time from San Diego to make my fictional meeting. A departure around 2 a.m. had two benefits: It was smooth and cooler over the mountains, and the military training areas weren’t in use, allowing a more direct route of flight.

The first leg went just as planned: takeoff, climb out to FL230 and ATC gave me direct to Will Rogers VORTAC. The winds were cross or nothing—no help from Mother Nature. I flew lean of peak to conserve fuel, achieving 225 KTAS on 17.1 gph. Letting down into the Oklahoma City area required an unpredicted instrument approach, which could happen to any pilot. The rain did slow down my speed by two or three knots, and the built-in XM WxWorx kept me apprised of conditions, so I wasn’t surprised by the changing weather.

An incredibly fast turn out of Oklahoma University’s Westheimer Field put me back in the air less than 40 minutes after flying over the city. Climbing straight to FL250, I settled into a rich-of-peak groove between 232 and 235 KTAS burning 22.7 gph. The winds started to become more favorable, and for quite a while, I saw groundspeeds of 311 (for a short while, even 319 knots).

As I approached the Charlotte VOR, ATC directed a descent to FL230 and kept me there, at which point the airplane trued out at 237 KTAS just as advertised, but at a lower altitude. I didn’t have the power all the way up and all the temps were well in the green, no CHT was over 373 and the TIT was 1,570. This engine/airframe combination is a good match.

The bottom line is whether the Acclaim met expectations and beat my “airline” benchmark. I arrived in Charlotte just after 1 p.m. local, 7 hours and 27 minutes after I left San Diego, easily beating the airlines. The resounding answer to my question is that the Mooney Acclaim can indeed make a serious business trip, reliably, in weather and be really fast doing it. For once, advertising matches performance.

Oh, by the way, three speed records toppled to the Acclaim and were confirmed by the NAA and, yes, it was a blast. A classy way to travel!


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