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Mooney 301 (TMB700)

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The original Mooney 301 brochure. Target price: $955,000.

Click images for larger version.

In December of 1973, just three months after buying Mooney Aircraft, Republic Steel Corporation hired Roy LoPresti as Vice President of Engineering. Among the many projects developed by Mooney during the next years, the design of a pressurized single was determined to be necessary. In 1980, in response to the Cessna P210 already in production, and to the pending offerings from Beech and Piper (in development) Mooney began design work on the M30 which was designated the MX-1 in engineering.

The M30 was to be powered by a Lycoming TSIO-540 producing 360 horsepower. It would have a top speed of 262 knots, which was equal to 301 mph, and because Mooney was into using speed as a name - it became the Mooney 301.

The M30 was a completely new design for the Mooney engineering department with no similarity to any M20 previously produced. It had high aspect ratio, natural laminar flow wings, and large-span, Fowler type flaps which covered 90 percent of the wings trailing edge. Roll control was to be spoilers augmented by small ailerons on each wing. It would have a service ceiling of 25,000 feet and a cabin pressurized to 5 psig. This would give a 9000-foot cabin altitude at FL250.

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N301MX now belongs to an Aviat Husky . . .

Since the design was so different, Mr. LoPresti brought his own engineers in to do the design work, separating the M20 engineers from those working on the 301. This did not create peace and harmony within the engineering staff!

The first flight was on April 7, 1983, and production was scheduled to begin in 1985.

In July 1984 Republic Steel was bought by Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV Corporation) of Dallas Texas. LTV immediately ordered Republic Steel to dispose of Mooney Aircraft. After a short (6 week) ownership by a group if investors from Minnesota called the Morrison Company, Mooney was again sold. This time to a consortium made up of investors from France lead by Alec Couvelaire (a Mooney dealer in Paris) and Armand Rivard (owner of Lake Aircraft).

Production of the Mooney 301, first planned for 1985 was delayed until 1986, and then delayed indefinitely after the purchase by the French.

Because the aircraft was still in its early stages of engineering development; there were areas that continued to need attention. The prototype was about 200 pounds over its projected weight. This, coupled with the lack of some aerodynamic improvements that were incomplete at this time, made the airplane slower than desired. Although the engineers at Mooney were working on these issues, the French management decided that 260 knots was too slow for the projected market. Mr. Couvelaire thought that the buyers would demand something close to 300 knots cruise speed. It was his feeling that Mooney did not have the resources (either financial or technical) to engineer and produce a single engine, turbine powered, pressurized aircraft in 1985.

Alec initiated a joint venture between Mooney Aircraft in Kerrville and the Socata Division of Aerospatiale in France. This joint venture was to become the TBM700, and proposed a cruise speed of 300 knots true, a service ceiling of 30,000 feet, and a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-64 powerplant.

The TBM700 was the first "purpose built" pressurized, single-engine, turboprop ever designed.

In 1987, all the engineering data for the M30 was delivered to the engineers in Tarbes France, the home of Socata. In addition to the design information, the only flying 301 prototype was disassembled and shipped to France for examination.

In July 1988 the first prototype was shown in Tarbes. By now the consortium had grown to be Mooney, Aerospatiale, and a group of investors from Finland called Valmet. Each would provide operating capitol, although Aerospatiale was heavily funded by loans from the French government. In addition, Mooney and Socata would each build sub-assemblies and major component structures, which would be assembled on two parallel production lines in the U.S. and France.

In 1989, Mooney purchased from the bank, the former Million-Air facility located on San Antonio International Airport. This facility was to be the showcase for Mooney Aircraft with sales; service and delivery all located in a new, separate location from the factory. This building was also to house the newly formed TBM North America, Inc. which was the sales and service arm of the joint venture in the U.S. Also, the new facility was large enough to allow for the assembly line for the TBM700, and keep it apart from the regular Mooney production line in Kerrville. I suspect this was a requirement from the French Aerospatiale which was also building a Mooney rival - the Trinidad.

Each member of the consortium was to provide one-third of the projected $20 million development cost. In 1989 Valmet dropped out having failed to raise the necessary capitol from its investors. This left Mooney (1/3) and Aerospatiale (2/3) as partners, and paved the way for much disagreement. Although in 1989, Alec Couvelaire and Pierre Gautier from Socata announced a formal commitment to production, by the summer of 1989 Mooney had been dropped from the partnership, and the TBM700 became completely a product of Socata. Although Socata design utilized their own ideas for the shape of the fuselage and wings, they did use the engineering provided by Kerrville for the flight control operation. This is noted by the large span, single-slot Fowler flap with spoilers and small ailerons found on the TBM700.

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Split Fowler flaps, spoiler on Mooney 301. Mooney model number was for targeted 300-mph cruise.

The M30 (301 prototype) was returned to Kerrville where it sat in the corner of engineering for many years. Finally, after all of the lawsuits from the Mooney/Socata break-up were settled, it was destroyed. Because the design had so many flaws, it was decided that is should be scrapped, so the wings were cut-off, and Tom Bowen gave it to an A&P school in Abilene Texas.

Although it never made it past one flying prototype, parts of the Mooney M30, 301 are flying today in every TBM700. In fact, you could say that the TBM700 was the brainchild of Alec Couvelaire and the engineers at Mooney Aircraft. By the way, TB stands for Tarbes, France and M is for Mooney. The 700 is the flat-rated shaft horsepower of the PT6A-64 engine.

My thanks go to Brant Dahlfors, former VP Marketing and Sales at Mooney and at TBM North America (currently with Bombardier Learjet), Larry Ball and his book "Those Remarkable Mooneys", and Tom Bowen at MAC.

Keep your airspeed up, and "Don't do nuthin' dumb!"

Trey Hughes

Single Engine Program Manager
FlightSafety Texas

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TBM700, nee Mooney 301, uses a 700hsp Pratt & Whitney engine

Mooney 301 Specifications:

Cabin: 6-place, pressurized
Top speed: 301mph / 262 knots / 484kmh
Cruise, max altitude, 75% power: 270 mph / 235 knots / 435 kmh
Fuel consumption at cruise: 19.7 gph / 74.6 lph
Fuel capacity: 100 gallons / 379 liters
Range, at cruise, 45 min. reserve: 1,134 miles / 986 nm / 1,825 km
Max. certified altitude: 25,000' (7,620 m)
Rate of climb: 1,400 fpm / 7.1 m/sec
Gross weight: 4,000 lb / 1,814 kg
Useful load: 1,600 lb / 726 kg
Wing span: 37' 0" / 11.3 m
Length: 29' 8" / 9.0 m
Height: 9' 10" / 3.0 m

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Promotional cap from the Mooney 301 marketing program

(photo courtesy of Warren Hecksel)


Revision: 10/28/2010