Mooney Aviation Company
|Key people||CEO Cheng Yuan (Jerry Chen) (2013)|
|Owner(s)||Soaring America Corporation|
The company has gone bankrupt and changed ownership several times. Among its achievements were the first pressurized single-engined, piston-powered aircraft (M22 Mustang), production of the fastest civilian single-engined, piston-powered aircraft in the world (M20TN Acclaim Type S), the first production aircraft to achieve 201 mph (323 km/h) on 200 hp (150 kW)) (M20J 201) and the fastest transcontinental flight in a single-engined, piston-powered production aircraft (M20K 231). All Mooney aircraft have the signature vertical stabilizer with its vertical leading edge and swept trailing edge that gives the illusion of being forward-swept.
Mooney Aircraft Corporation was started in 1929 by Albert and Arthur Mooney with funding from the Bridgeport Machine Company of Wichita, Kansas. Mooney Aircraft went bankrupt in 1930. The Mooney brothers worked for other aircraft companies from then through World War II. In 1946, Albert started Mooney Aircraft, Inc. with Charles "Pappy" Yankey in Kerrville, Texas. The next year Arthur joined the company.
The first aircraft produced by the new Mooney company was the small, single-seat, Mooney Mite M-18. It was designed to appeal to the thousands of fighter pilots leaving military service (some thought the Mooney Mite looked so much like the Messerschmitt Bf 109 that they called it the "Texas Messerschmitt".
The Mooney Mite established some of the design concepts still used by Mooney today. The model Mooney M20 entered production in 1955 and outwardly resembled a scaled-up Mite. Mooney is still producing variants of the M20 today.
In 1953, before funds were put in place for production of the M20, Mooney's financial backer, Charles Yankey, died of a stroke. In 1955, Albert Mooney sold his stock in the company to Harold Rachal and Norman Hoffman, then left the company to work for Lockheed Corporation. Shortly after, Arthur left Mooney to work for Lockheed, too.
In 1965, the company became the U.S. distributor for Mitsubishi aircraft and began selling the Mooney MU-2 operating as Mooney-Mitsubishi Aircraft Inc. In 1967, Mooney acquired production rights to the Ercoupe from Alon Aircraft Company and produced a slightly updated version as the Mooney M10 Cadet. The M10 became the final Ercoupe variant, and production ended in 1970.
Mooney went bankrupt again in early 1969 and was sold to American Electronics Labs, then to Butler Aviation, which ended operations in 1971. For about three years, Mooney failed to produce any aircraft. In 1973, Republic Steel Corporation acquired the rights and tooling for Mooney and resumed production in 1974. The company continued aggressive product development, working on yet another pressurized single-engined aircraft to compete with the Cessna 210. The turboprop Mooney "301" eventually became the TBM700 and is now produced by Socata Aircraft. Engineer, Roy LoPresti was hired as chief of research and development to update the M20, developing the efficient Mooney 201. In a 1979 interview, LoPresti noted that Mooney did not have the resources to develop radical new composite construction aircraft as did other manufacturers, and would focus on evolutionary development of conventional aircraft.
In 1984, Mooney merged with the French distribution firm Alexander Couvelaire. In July 2001, Mooney was the victim of yet another bankruptcy and the company was acquired by Advanced Aerodynamics and Structures, Inc. (AASI) in 2002. AASI resurrected Mooney under the name Mooney Aircraft Company, Inc., a division of Mooney Aerospace Group, Ltd.
In 2004, MASG (AASI) sold off the Mooney assets to Allen Holding Finance in May, and filed for bankruptcy on June 10. In December 2004, MASG restructured and reacquired Mooney Aircraft Company from Allen Holding Finance.
In November, 2004, Gretchen L. Jahn joined Mooney, becoming the first woman recruited to be CEO of a U.S. aircraft manufacturer. Jahn served for two years as a turnaround specialist, rebuilding Mooney's sales and dealer network, and after-sales service activities. She also oversaw the development and introduction of the M20TN Acclaim and the Garmin G1000-equipped Ovation2 GX and Bravo GX. In June, 2005, Mooney added a second shift and 50 new workers to boost production.
On April 4, 2006, Mooney Airplane Company announced the release of the M20TN Acclaim at the 2006 Sun 'N Fun fly-in at Lakeland, Florida. The M20TN also features the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit, four heated, leather captains chairs with lumbar support, a range in excess of 1,650 nm (400 miles greater than the Bravo GX), and a top speed of 242 knots (448 km/h) which is also 30 knots (56 km/h) faster than the Ovation 2. At the time of its introduction, the Acclaim was the fastest single-engined, piston-powered production aircraft in the world.
Mooney was a publicly traded company after emerging from bankruptcy under symbol MNYG (OTC BB) until October, 2006, when Mooney Aerospace Group arranged financing to buy out public shareholders.
In the fall 2007, Mooney announced the arrival of its newest model, the M20TN Acclaim Type S. The Acclaim Type S adds 5 knots (9.3 km/h) to the Acclaim's top speed, up to 242 knots (448 km/h). Mooney achieved this performance gain through aerodynamic tweaks to the Acclaim's airframe.
2008 production halt
On 16 June 2008, Mooney announced it would lay off 60 employees and cut production from eight aircraft per month to five. Mooney CEO Dennis Ferguson said:
|“||These decisions will not have an adverse effect on the quality or safety of our products, nor will they delay scheduled aircraft deliveries. They were made to create corporate resiliency in the present economic conditions. Our plans include positioning Mooney as a strong contender in the international market...We are strengthening our business in Europe, South America and Australia, where Mooney's high performance, efficiency and pricing are especially appealing. Our focus is to ensure the long-term viability of the company through prudent management and expansion of our market reach.||”|
The reasons for the cutbacks and layoffs cited by the company include the weak US economy and the high price of fuel inhibiting sales.
On 5 November 2008, the company announced it was halting all production and had laid off 229 of its 320 employees, due to an excess unsold inventory of aircraft as a result of the late-2000s recession. Virtually all the laid-off employees were on the production line. The company said all other operations would continue and all customer support and existing customer orders would be filled.
In carrying out the layoffs, the company did not comply with the notification requirements of Texas law. In a statement Mooney said:
|“||These unexpected and unforeseeable conditions are beyond Mooney Airplane Company's control. It was impossible for Mooney Airplane Company to predict this sudden collapse in demand at the time when notice would have been required.||”|
In a third round of layoffs in December 2008, the company let go an additional 40 workers, leaving only about 50 employees at work. The company had 25 unsold aircraft at its factory in December 2008.
In April 2010, after 18 months with no aircraft production, the backlog of unsold aircraft was cleared and the company announced it intended to resume aircraft production in the near future, subject to the market gaining "a little more momentum".
On 19 November 2010, Mooney started a new round of layoffs, intending to reduce company staff from 53 to less than ten employees by 1 January 2011. The remaining staff will be employed maintaining the company's physical facilities, its type and production certificates and providing parts and technical support to aircraft owners. The company is continuing negotiations with potential investors to allow production to resume. Company Chief Financial Officer Barry Hodkin stated, "We are not shutting down. However, we cannot continue to subsidize the company at the level we have in the recent past. We have been in discussions with potential investors for more than 18 months and will continue to work with them. If things change, then the scope of this layoff could change".
By August 2013 the company was still not producing new aircraft, but was continuing to support the existing fleet with parts. The company still indicated that a return to production of complete aircraft was contemplated, depending on new investment being found.
On 8 October 2013, it was announced that the company had been purchased by Soaring America Corporation, a new California-based company headed by President Cheng Yuan (Jerry Chen) of Taiwan, for an undisclosed amount. Chen heads a group of Chinese investors that some reports indicate include the Meijing Group, a Chinese real estate developer. Chen indicated that his priorities included resuming production of the Acclaim and the Ovation, while continuing to supply parts for the existing fleet. Chen stated that the company would remain in Kerrville, Texas and concentrate on suppling new aircraft for the Chinese market. Paul Bertorelli, AVweb's Editorial Director, Aviation Publications, questioned whether the outdated and expensive-to-produce Mooney models, that use engines burning avgas, can succeed in the Chinese market.
With the injection of capital from its new Chinese owners the company restarted production on 26 February 2014, starting with the completion of five previously incomplete airframes already on the assembly line. In April 2014 at Sun n Fun the company announced a US$50M investment, including the construction of a Mooney museum in Kerrville to be run by a new nonprofit organization. With production underway 85 employees were at work with the workforce forecast to expand to 140 by the end of 2014. CEO Chen stated that the company would deliver six aircraft in 2014 and 30 in 2015.
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- "Designers talk about the future". Air Progress. January 1979.
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- Yaqing, Mao (8 October 2013). "Chinese Company to Buy U.S. Aircraft Maker". CRI. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
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- Cole, Tim (19 October 2013). "Mooney's New CEO: Production to be Resumed at Kerrville". AVweb. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
- Bertorelli, Paul (19 October 2013). "Mooney's Future With Chinese Investment". AVweb. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
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- Niles, Russ (8 February 2014). "Mooney Resumes Production Feb. 26". AVweb. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
- Grady, Mary (4 April 2014). "Mooney Will Auction Off First New Acclaim". AVweb. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
- Mooney Airplane Company website
- History of Mooney models
- The Al Mooney Story: They All Fly Through the Same Air
- History of the Mooney 301