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Mon, Feb 12, 2007

ANN's 'First Look' Flight Test: Mooney's Hot-Rod Acclaim Aptly Named

ANN's First Impressions On Mooney's New Speed Freak

E-I-C Note: For those of you who have been breathlessly awaiting our last two Plane of the Year choices, both in the Certified piston category, this report is the reason that we've been holding off. While this bird was finally flown too late to ultimately be a part of this year's roundup, after all, this is a VERY competitive airpane that may, if it compiles a good record among its customer base in 2007 (one of the things that we grade quite critically), upset the works next year.

So... Acclaim pilots/owners... be sure to let us know how your airplanes are doing over the coming months... we look forward to hearing of your experiences. -- Jim Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief/Grand Poobah (For Life)

OK... we've had quite a few requests from folks who have been waiting to hear one thing... is the new Mooney the fastest piston bird in the biz? So; as soon as we could get our hands on one of the critters, we flew it -- just for you, of course, and for no other reason that we can recall (that IS our story and we're sticking to it).

After an hour and a half in the bird, a few lofty operations at FL250, and some excellent tutelage from a Mooney tour guide provided by our friends at Premier Aircraft Sales in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (one of the highest class aero-sales operation we know); we're going to have to give the answer to that question as a qualified 'yes' -- for now.

The bird we flew was one of the first off the line and had less than 20 hours to her credit... a fair part of that logged on the flight from TX to FL. The only major area of divergence in the test article from what will be found (primarily) in the future is the fact that this bird was still sporting the S-Tec 55X autopilot while approvals were still in the works for the GFC-700 digital autopilot companion to the G1000. Still, the S-Tec is a heckuva GREAT autopilot and one of my personal favorites, so the flight was a pleasant one, albeit without the latest auto-magic from the "Big G."

ANN's Chief Wind Dummy/Test Pilot/Editor-In-Chief (and guy who takes the blame), tried out a brand new Mooney Acclaim on a flight from FXE to FL250 and GIF... with plenty of ATC inspired maneuvering and delays thrown in. The result of this flight, more a first impression than a full test flight (since the bird is so new and we have little background data on it at this writing), was a fairly positive experience. ANN saw initial cruise climb rates of 1500-1800 fpm most of the way through 10K and still eked out a solid 800 fpm as we reached FL250. This occurred on a slightly warmer than normal day and with an approximate 900 pound load. This also occurred with a 17 hour airplane, a prop that wasn't all the way dialed in, and a "tight" (new) engine. All those caveats aside, the bird is meeting its promised specs.

From the flying standpoint, there is little to say -- at least in terms of anything new -- the Acclaim flies like it should... like a long-body Mooney. It still has one of the best pitch stability profiles in the biz and very pleasant handling qualities in every other regime. The low-speed behavior is still child's play and the bird rides out scud and cumo-bumpies very nicely. We did note a slightly less defined dynamic pitch profile at FL250, where 10-15 degree stick-free pitch excursions produced a less than obedient dynamic response as the corrective pitching inertia somewhat over-rode the bird's normal convergent inclinations, but we're nit-picking a mite and the bird's inherent static properties remain nearly razor-sharp.

At FL250, with all of 33 inches and 2500 rpm, the book promised 232 knots at the slightly feverish temps we worked that afternoon -- and for the better part of 15 minutes, our TAS worked its way between 231 and 233 knots... Hard to beat, that. Under the proper circumstances, Mooney's claim of 237 knots, when everything is "just right" is quite believable. Temps throughout the flight test were well within margins, even for a new engine, and despite the extended climb, no temperature issues were encountered.

One thing that I particularly appreciate about the Mooney breed is their ability (with speed-brakes) to come out of the sky like a plugged mallard when the situation requires such. Pop those speed-brakes, lower the nose somewhat, keep your speed way up (the speedbrakes are good up to Vne) and you can come down a like a brick (albeit a very fast, streamlined, backward-tailed one). If you really feel the need to take a dive, though, drop the gear too, and watch the altimeter unwind like a broken stopwatch... very cool -- and just the thing for dealing with the occasional sick sense of humor espoused by various ATC personnel who love to clear you to pattern altitude from 20 miles out and FL250. If you need to get up or down in a hurry, few birds can keep up with the way that a Mooney does the job. Just remember to equalize your sinuses...

What did we like best? Well, we love the climb rate, the coolness of the Continental, the ease of access to the baggage area, the ever-evolving improvements in Mooney interior creature comforts, the new wingtips are very nicely done -- and let's face it, this baby hauls ass. Yeah, verily I say unto you, the Acclaim boogies very nicely in rarefied ether.

What don't we like? Not much. I'm NOT thrilled with the backup gauges placement at the far right of the MFD... a position that is destined to enhance one's potential susceptibility to spatial disorientation as one's head has to wag from side to side to side if the 'lectronics take a dive, and the engine management chores could be a trifle better organized, if not automated somewhat. And, of course, we'd still like a smidge more elbow room. Still... no major gripes yet... but give us time (grin).

The Final Word (for now)? The Acclaim is one hell of a ride and seems to have taken over the top of the speed demon game -- for now, and just barely, at that. With pure Mooney handling, outstanding speed, range and economics, the Acclaim seems to have the right to claim top billing... so far. BUT... if there's one thing we know (for certain), its that things in Bend, Duluth and Wichita are not likely to remain static for long... with rumored mods coming to the Columbia 400 that could push it past the Mooney, and no word yet on what Cessna's NGP will ultimately do, the industry promises that the current game of "Can you top this?" is not likely to be discontinued any time soon. And while Cirrus' TN-22 will only offer 211 kts at FL250, it does so more easily than any other bird in the class... so this remains a VERY competitive market in oh-so many ways.

However; we think its time to issue a challenge... to Mooney, Columbia and Cirrus (as well as anyone who think they have a dog in this fight), let's design a throw-down challenge pitting economics, performance and flight management issues against each other utilizing a few well-defined group of tasks and see who wins what -- in the same conditions, with the same loads -- and try to do so before Oshkosh... the winner gets some SERIOUS bragging rights (uh, Wrights?), and we'll ALL learn something. What say you, speed demons... are you up to it?

ANN (again, breathlessly) awaits your response...

Mooney Acclaim Performance and Specs 

Normal Cruise Speed 25,000 ft. 237 ktas   Fuel Capacity–Standard (usable) 102 USG  
Rate of Climb (SL, max. wt.) 1,240 fpm    Fuel Capacity With Optional Tanks (usable)
130 USG
Max Range – Std. Fuel (w/res.) 1,445 nm  Max. Gross Weight - 3,368 lb. 
Max Range – Optional Fuel (w/res.) 1,840 nm Approx. Useful Load – 1,015 lb
Service Ceiling 25,000 feet   Wing Span 36' 5"
Take-Off Run (max. wt.)  960'   Height 8' 4"
Powerplant Designation TCM TSI0-550-G
Length  26' 9"
Powerplant Features Twin turbo, Dual intercoolers


Wing Loading 19.2 lbs/sq ft
Horsepower 280 MCP  Power Loading 12.0 lbs/hp
TBO  2,000 hours Propeller  Hartzell 3-Blade

FMI: (Thanks Fred!)


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