Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Conversation With Jerry Chen


The new owner and CEO of Mooney discusses his plans for the legacy aircraft manufacturer


Mooneys have always had a charismatic appeal that seems to transcend their talents. Though the basic design is over half a century old, it has somehow managed to maintain its grip on the title of fastest single-engine, production, piston airplane.

Occasionally, someone comes along and tries to knock Mooney off its pedestal, but no one has even come close so far. I'm fortunate to have been allowed to fly every contender in the last 40 years, and while that doesn't make me an expert, at least I have a rough idea what the various types can do.

That's not to suggest that speed is the only meaningful parameter in aviation, but it's certainly one of the most critical. Cabin comfort has become progressively more important over the years, and the Corvalis TTx and Cirrus SR22 are the big winners in that category with cabins that are wider and taller than the Mooney's.

All that became moot in 2009 when Mooney went into suspended animation, waiting for the market to turn around. The company didn't shut its doors, but they did stop building airplanes and became primarily a parts house. Chief financial officer Barry Hodkin oversaw operations at the Kerrville plant, and everyone waited for the aircraft sales business to come back.

All of us who love Mooneys have been hoping for someone to come along on a white horse and return the airplane to production. Dr. Jerry Chen is that man. The new CEO of Mooney International comes to the job with impressive educational credentials. He holds two masters and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from USC (2009) with emphasis on Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering, and he's a serious student of anything that flies.

I spent an hour with Dr. Chen at the Chino Air Show in early May, and we discussed pretty much every aspect of his private acquisition of Mooney. That's an important distinction. Most foreign investment in the American aircraft industry has been by the Chinese government.



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