History of Mooney Aircraft experienced hardships throughout its 100-year history. The Mooney Aircraft company is famous for its high-performance fleet of airplanes. Let’s look at the history of Mooney Aircraft and how they’ve contributed to the growth of general aviation.
History of Mooney Aircraft Company
The Founding of Mooney Aircraft Corporation
The Mooney brand has had many different owners and titles. But the original founders were Albert and Arthur Mooney, two brothers from Colorado. They founded Mooney Aircraft Corporation in 1929 and produced their first production designs. They decided to relocate to Wichita with Bridgeport Machine Co. financing. And joining other soon-to-be industry titans such as Beechcraft and Cessna. They did a flight test of their M-5 and fly nonstop from California to New York. They did this flight test within a few months of their company.
Although the flight would ultimately fail due to a faulty engine weld. Mooney’s plane had laid the groundwork for a better design in the future. That, moreover, would have to wait. Due to the Great Depression, Mooney Aircraft Corporation’s assets closed and liquidated. Which seriously impacted the general aviation industry in the 1930s.
All Mooney Goes to Back Work
The stock market crash affected hardly anyone, including the Mooney brothers. They had no choice but to seek employment with other aviation companies that had not financially dissolved. Al went to work as the chief engineer for Bellanca Aircraft Company. Which had survived the Great Depression thanks to a lucrative deal with the Navy. He oversaw the design of Bellanca’s Airbus and the 28-70. Also known as the “Irish Swoop” long-range racer, while at Bellanca. During this time, Al worked for other aircraft manufacturers such as Monocoupe and Culver.
He began a professional relationship with Charles “Pappy” Yankey. The man who would finance and encourage Al to re-open Mooney Aircraft Company. While working as chief engineer at the latter organization. In addition, Culver was suffering massive losses due to Cessna competition and navigating the post-war general aviation landscape. Mooney was designing plans for the M-18, one of the most successful small airplanes of its time.
Mooney Aircraft Company: 2nd Round
Al Mooney envisioned a four-seater plane that would appeal to returning soldiers. The first plane they built, but beyond being a single-seater, was a step in the right direction. Its resemblance to the BF-109 poor man’s fighter plane, small size, capable performance. So, It dubb the “Texas Messerschmitt”. Regardless, the Mooney M-18 Mite was a huge success. Many of its design concepts carry over into the company’s other series. Mooney started work on his dream, the four-seat M20. Which he had been designing for several years, following the success of their first plane. Production began with financial backing from Pappy Yankey, and the first flight took place in 1953
This was a significant turning point in the company’s history, but the good times were not to last. Yankey suffered a severe stroke in December of that year and died. So he can not provide the remaining funding for the M20’s production. Yankey’s heirs are not interested in continuing to work with Mooney. Who ultimately proved to be a better engineer than the CEO. The company was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy once more. Fortunately, in 1954, two investors, oil industry lawyer Hal Rachal. And his brother-in-law Norman Hoffman paid $225,000 for control of the company.
Mooney Aircraft has a new CEO.
Rachal led Mooney Aircraft from the point of bankruptcy to the fourth largest private-aircraft manufacturer. After Cessna, Piper, and Beech in just 13 years after taking over as president and CEO. Meanwhile, Al and Arthur left their own business to work for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, where they both retired. It has not revealed why the brothers left their company. Perhaps because they had lost control of their own name and production concepts challenge.
Regardless, the new leadership continued working on Mooney’s M20 plane designs. Due to various their high speed and power, these were a success. And, for the first time in its history, the company turned a profit in 1959.
The New Leadership of Mooney Aircraft.
Ralph Harmon, the lead engineer at McDonnell Aircraft, was empowered to relocate to Mooney by the new leadership. Despite his lack of experience, Rachal saw an opportunity to expand the product line. He directed Harmon to manufacture various variants of the M20 and an upgraded M22 Mustang over the next several years. Although the development of the M22 Mustang was promising. It proved to be much more expensive than anticipated and ultimately failed. This marked the return of Mooney’s financial problems into the 1970s. As a result, after declaring bankruptcy, the company sold to American Electronics Laboratories in 1969.
By 1970, Butler Aviation International, and had merged with Aerostar Bought Mooney once again, this time. Republic Steel Corporation purchased the company not return to form until. Whose general manager Robert Cumming owned a Mooney M20F and believed it had potential. He oversaw the 1974 release of the M20F Executive and the 301 turboprops (a direct competitor to the Cessna 210). Which restored the company’s reputation in the aviation community.
The newly developed released Mooney 201, so called due to its top speed of 201 mph, and the M20K 231. Both of these planes and 301 and subsequent variants, were popular with the company all through the 1980s and beyond. The Mooney brand, on the other hand, struggled to compete with other top general aviation companies. They bought and sold several times, which include twice in 1984. For several decades, airplane sales were disappointing.
Sales dropped to just 64 units by 1993. After one huge loss to competitor Slingsby for an Enhanced Flight Trainer contract. In the early 2000s, the company was bankrupt. Once more, and with the massive hit during the Great Recession of 2007. Mooney didn’t have the resources to keep up.
Today’s Mooney Aircraft
Although the History of Mooney Aircraft name has connected with the aircraft industry for nearly a century. But production of their aircraft officially halted in November of 2019. After than announced that the company was under new ownership, with a team of “pilots and Mooney owners”. Implying that they will continue to service the existing 7,000 planes. There may be plans in the works to reanimate the once-iconic brand. The company stated that it will evaluate the potential of “future design changes.”