Why a Mooney?

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“Prop full forward, mixture full rich, flaps set for takeoff,” I said out loud as I lined the Mooney M20J-201 on Runway 02 at Santee-Cooper Regional Airport, KMNI, on a calm cool morning just after Christmas. A low pressure system was scheduled to move in later in the afternoon, so the sky had those high stretched-out wisps of cirrus clouds. I advanced the throttle smoothly, let my eyes dance back and forth from the runway centerline to the oil pressure gauge to the RPM and manifold pressure gauges, all while keeping track of the quickly increasing airspeed. “60 knots, rotate.” It seemed like just saying the words made the plane fly. A few seconds later, “80 knots, positive rate, gear up,” I said as I lifted the gear handle and added some down trim at the same time to compensate for the striking pitch up from the airplane as it lost all the drag from the landing gear.

Maybe the Mooney isn’t the only airplane that makes me feel the way it does in those first few moments of flight. I’ve only been pilot in command of Cessna 172s and a Mooney M20J. Maybe a Bonanza would make me feel the same way; it’s undeniably a good-looking airplane, it’s fast, has a decent useful payload (though still not a 4-adult + full fuel airplane). But a good Bonanza would be a little expensive. To find one comfortably in my price range I need to exclude virtually all of those made in the last 30 years.20140112-164935.jpg

A Cirrus would be great, they’re fast and attractive airplanes with great avionics packages, and the whole-plane parachute is an amazing feature. But the airplane also smacks of a rich-man’s ride, even a first-gen with high time on the engine is out of reach. I’m not saying it’s bad, it seems like a great airplane, I just can’t afford one.
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“What about the Cessna line of airplanes?” you might ask. Well, the 172 just isn’t fast enough for me. The 177 Cardinal (assuming an RG) is faster, and the 210 Centurion (especially a turbo version) is more my kind of speed machine. But the Cardinal just isn’t sexy, and the 210 burns too much fuel and is too expensive. The 182 seems like a good blend, but again the speed/fuel burn/cost/sexiness equation just doesn’t add up. The Cessna 400 is sexy and extremely fast, but astonishingly expensive. So too, for that matter, with the fast Piper singles like the Saratoga, Matrix, etc.

“Mooney three zero one kilo charlie contact Norfolk Approach on 125.2”
“Over to 125.2 for three zero one kilo charlie, have a good day,” I reply, reaching up to turn the knob on the Garmin 430.
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I wait a second and make the call, “Norfolk Approach Mooney three zero one kilo charlie, with you level at five point five.”
“Mooney three zero one kilo charlie, Norfolk Approach, Roger, Norfolk altimeter three zero two nine.”
“There zero one kilo charlie,” I quickly reply, adjusting the altimeter setting slightly. My girlfriend is taking some pictures. The air is perfectly smooth, just over halfway home to New Jersey as we pass over Norfolk, between three or four naval installations. I look down over one and convince myself the little grey jets lined up on the ramp are F22 Raptors. “Awesome,” I think to myself, glancing up at the engine gauges, checking that everything is as it should be. I’m sure the Navy wouldn’t mind that much if I had to land on one of their fields if I had an emergency, but I really don’t want to find out. Just over an hour and we’ll be back on the ground in New Jersey, covering about 500 nautical miles in about three hours, ground speeds between 160 and 175 knots, burning 11.7 gallons of fuel per hour.
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I’m choosing a Mooney because it is the best blend I can find of fuel burn, speed, stability, safety, and sheer attractiveness.
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Return to the Blog and Update on Recent Events

I enjoy having a blog, I feel like I have a lot to say, but I don’t have a lot of time to say it.

At least, that’s what I tell myself, “I just don’t have time today,” I say. Meanwhile I find I waste countless hours every week doing not much of anything but staring at the computer or my iPhone or my iPad. I’ve decided that in 2014 I’m going to spend less time on mindless activity like laying on the couch and watching TV and inevitably falling asleep, and more time being creative, learning, writing, reading, and working out.

There, now that that’s out of the way, let me show you what I’ve been up to since August:

In September my girlfriend and I took a trip to London, Paris, and Normandy. Here is our view from our stop in Etretat, made famous in several Monet paintings. The next day we saw the D-Day beaches and the American Cemetary, some of the most moving and patriotic places I’ve ever seen.

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For six weeks in October and November I worked, studied, and practiced to get my endorsement to fly complex aircraft (those with retractable landing gear, constant speed propeller, etc). I was overjoyed to find out that another nearby airport, Trenton-Robbinsville (N87), had a Mooney M20J-201 for rent. It has always been one of my favorite aircraft, and the type I would buy for myself if I were to get an airplane. So I decided to get my complex rating in the Mooney, which is one of my best decisions of 2013.

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I’m sure I’ll write a lot more about the Mooney, as it is such a challenging yet rewarding airplane to fly, and an opportunity has come up to buy one with another pilot friend of mine! Stay tuned!

Happy New Year!

Flight to Boston

Last weekend I flew up to Boston, landing at KOWD, to pick up my girlfriend. I brought my instructor and inadvertently completed my long IFR cross-country flight.

This was the first flight I filed and flew in the IFR system, and it went very well. I still need a lot of practice to be able to stay ahead of the airplane on the busy arrival segment, but overall it was extremely satisfying to plan and complete the flight and fly as precisely as IFR requires.

Although I wore view-limiting goggles throughout the flight, my girlfriend snapped some photos on our return trip.

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What will you do?

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When I tell people that I’m very close to getting my pilot’s license, I seem to get either of the following two responses:

1) Wow that is so cool!
-or-
2) What are you going to do with it?

I feel like I’ve gotten the second response a lot lately, and I have to try hard not to look at them like they’re the crazy person, which is how they seem to look at me.

What am I going to do with my pilot’s license?!

Some people seem to ask the question because they think it’s suicidal to fly small airplanes.

Sure there are risks. Flying is less forgiving of mistakes than almost anything I can think of. But my decision to finally get my license, after a lifetime of looking at the sky, comes with an understanding that it will mean another lifetime of dedication, practice, training, and retraining.

It comes with an acceptance of the responsibility to be Pilot In Command, to make the right decision, to respond calmly and correctly if/when things go wrong.

What am I going to do with my pilot’s license??!! I’m going to learn everything I can to be the best, safest, most skilled, and oldest pilot that I can be.

Some people seem to ask the question because I am not a wealthy man. One person (very close to me, but doesn’t understand flying at all) said it doesn’t make sense to get my license because I can’t afford to buy an airplane.

I soundly reject that opinion. I reject the possibility that flying is only reserved for rich people. I can’t buy an airplane right away, but I can afford to rent an airplane for an hour or two every week. I can afford to join a flying club. I can think about buying a share of an airplane.

What am I going to do with my pilot’s license?! I’m going to find ways to afford to fly as much as I can. It means so much to me that I don’t care if it’s expensive.

Some people seem to wonder why I would put the time and money in when it doesn’t help my career or my retirement savings account. I think these are the same people that always complain that their “work-life balance” is awful yet never go do something about it. Sure, flying for me will probably just be a hobby. An expensive one. But it’s a hobby I can use to go visit my family in other parts of the country, or see new places from an interesting perspective, or just get away from the frustrations of stop lights and traffic jams. It’s a hobby that’s more challenging, rewarding, and useful than anything else I do.

So, what am I going to do with my pilot’s license? I’M GOING TO FLY!!!

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