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Mooney again making parts, aircraftMooney again making parts, aircraft

Texas plant ‘actually never closed’Texas plant ‘actually never closed’

Workers are again hand-driving rivets and curving sheet metal in a Kerrville, Texas, general aviation manufacturing facility at the venerable Mooney International Corp. “They actually never closed,” said Don Maxwell, a respected Mooney service expert who leads owner maintenance clinics.

Photo by Chris Rose

“Mooney is in my blood,” said Maxwell, who was reached by telephone at his East Texas service facility. He explained that a skeleton crew “actually never quit selling parts” for the estimated 11,000 legacy aircraft in the fleet or handling warranty claims for newer aircraft.

Maxwell took the latest woes in stride. “It’s just another cycle in the life of Mooney. I’ve been with them since 1968 and I’ve seen lots of ups and downs.” He learned that no new parts were made for about three weeks and other facets of the operation were idled, although he was in touch with parts department employees throughout the duration.

It’s not the first time a few dedicated employees returned to work to keep the lights on while management struggled to find a footing for the sleek, speedy, crisp-handling aircraft that return a lot of range and value for the buck.

Albert Mooney established the brand 90 years ago, and the namesake aircraft company suffered its first of many financial blows in 1930, just a year after it was born.

Over the past few decades a rotation of U.S. and international ownership groups from France, Germany, and China have weathered continued financial pressure to update the model in the face of competition from industry-leading Cirrus Aircraft—adding a second entry door and a composite cabin to its flagship M20 Ovation and $800,000 Acclaim Ultra models in 2017.

Mooney pilots prize their aircraft for their economy and their stoutness. The Mooney M20J 201 model was touted for coaxing 201 miles per hour from a fuel-injected 200-horsepower Lycoming four-cylinder engine—on about 10 gallons of fuel per hour.

A company advertising campaign during aviation’s heyday showed dozens of employees sitting and standing atop the aircraft’s one-piece wing and tube reinforced roll-cage-constructed fuselage. One aircraft owner and his family walked away without a scratch after slamming a wing into a pickup truck bed during an emergency landing on a highway.

The Kerrville Daily Times reported that staff were called into work December 2, nearly three weeks after the latest idling on November 12. “At this time there are negotiations with an additional investor,” Mooney representative Devan Burns wrote to the newspaper in an email.

Maxwell said the manufacturing plant “is in good shape” and added that future owners would benefit from recent upgrades in tooling and design.

“You know it’s a good airplane because it’s survived all these years,” said Maxwell. “We are tickled that they are back at work.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Financial

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