Cover of Larry A. Ball's 1998 history

A Bonanza of Mooney Information

by Andrew Czernek

The biggest surprise in Those Remarkable Mooneys, a book of delightful surprises about Mooney Aircraft, is the source.

Larry Ball, who is better known for writing They Called Me Mr. Bonanza, used his time and contacts in retirement from sales at Beechcraft to approach former Mooney Aircraft owner Alexandre Couvelaire and get access to information for a book. Ball carries his experience selling Bonanzas against Mooney into the book to provide real perspective on the market for light planes.

The competition has been heated between Beechcraft and Mooney over the years, with Mooney succeeding in selling more than 11,000 single-engine aircraft and Beech in selling about 20,000 Bonanzas. Whatever the competitive position, Ball closes the book by saying that Mooney "will remain a major player in the owner-flown market well into the next millenium, and do it with Al Mooney's original M-20 type certificate, Aircraft Specification No. 2A2."

The author comes by his admiration of Al Mooney because of the design of the Culver Cadet, a training plane designed near the end of World War II when Mooney was chief of design at Culver Aircraft. Ball owns and flies one of the remaining Culver designs, painted in fire-engine red.

As a result of this interest, Ball's Mooney tome starts out with a strong description of the postwar GA market. He describes the emergence of Mooney Aircraft in 1946, production of the initial Mooney Mite models, and the Art Mooney design that was the precursor of the four-place planes we're flying today.

It's an excellent book, with a complete description of the aircraft built over the years. It portrays the advancements that we've seen added to GA planes, yet is highly non-technical. Ball is probably his best at the start, where he adds lots of flavor and first-hand knowledge of the market. Later chapters are more a recitation of changes in the product line as it matures.

There are other remarkable surprises in the book:
* the early date at which Al Mooney leaves the company. By the end of 1955 - just as the type certificate is about to be issued for the first Mark 20 - Al is gone to Lockheed. Indeed, Al Mooney disappears by page 53 of this 200-page book.
* A photo of the M-22, a prototype Mooney twin that never saw production.
* Substantial details on the six-place pressurized Mooney 301 (or M-30), which was to have been introduced in 1985.
* Details on Mooney Aircraft involvement in both the TBM and Mitsubishi MU-2 programs.

Ball re-interviewed some of the key participants in Mooney history to write this book, including former VP Engineering Roy LoPresti. "It's amazing to see the details about development and production of these aircraft that guys like LoPresti remember, even after 25 years," Ball said in an interview.

Those Remarkable Mooneys closes with short blurbs on Mooney lore, such as the origin of the swept-forward tail and of the laminar flow wing. This is where the book is at its weakest because the author doesn't have the depth of experience with Mooneys that even rank hangar fliers profess.

If you're looking for a technical resource for your Mooney, you'd be much better served to check into Kas Thomas' or Belvoir Publications books. If you're a prospective Mooney owner, it will give you an overview of models that would take you weeks to research. As a current Mooney owner it provides a large amount of detailed historical information and photos that you'll find add to your cocktail conversation at the next MAPA event.

Those Remarkable Mooneys, Larry Ball
ISBN 0-9641514-9-9
Ball Publications, Indianapolis, IN

Available through: Lake Aero Styling & Repair, contact; Historic Aviation; Sporty's


Revision: 10/28/2010




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