Having an aircraft in maintenance does very little for the desire to commit aviation. Out of necessity (see previous posts on moving aircraft for maintenance), I had left my vehicle in the hangar when I took my plane to Tedderfield so I needed a lift back to Baragwanath – which Matthew kindly offered. Of course, why would anyone go to an airfield unless it was to fly an aircraft – and he was off to fly his (recently returned from annual inspection) Mooney M20C short body.
Matthew very kindly offered me a flight in the Mooney, to which I gave due consideration (about 500msec) and agreed. The Mooney is a very different aircraft from the Sling. The Mooney styling has always appealed to me, there is something about that forward swept tail and the low slung stance which suggests that it will go fast. The Classic Mooney has a very 60’s look about it (which it probably should!) – the very steep windshield and the ‘big gulp’ air intake are unique design features. Even this short body variant’s tail is very low to the ground and I must say that this would worry me quite a lot in the landing.
Taking a close look, one can appreciate that this is indeed an old aeroplane – but it has been very well kept and is in pretty good shape. There is a solidity to the airframe that isn’t apparent on the newer composite aircraft, and even more than on my thin aluminium skinned Sling. Matthew preflighted (entertaining because this involves cruising around on a mechanic’s crawler to sump the tanks – sorry Matthew!) and we pulled the Mooney out. The interior is cosy – I’d guess shoulder width is a little narrower than my plane but my canopy bulges a little at the top…
The most obvious difference in the cockpit is the Johnson bar for the landing gear. This is a massive metal rod prominently clipped vertically to the panel – Matthew’s preflight briefing reminded me to keep my hands and arms out of the area between the seats so as not to impede passage of the bar.
Run up is quite sedate (compared to my 4000RPM runups) at 1700RPM and then it was time to be off. Ground roll is a lot longer than I’m used to and climb not as spirited, but this is a MUCH heavier airplane. The gear raising procedure looks like something you would have to get used to – it is quite a movement. Once we got up to cruise at 7000ft, I could feel we were fast, glanced at the ASI and yes, we were indeed fast – 145mph and accelerating! Any advantage I would have had on the faster takeoff and initial climb rate would be rapidly erased by this sort of cruise speed. I love that Mooney thought about things like a retractable wing step to squeeze out a few more mph…
We had decided to do the Parys breakfast trip and soon we were in the overhead join for Parys – the airfield was much easier to find this time than the last time I flew there. I was surprised that the approach and landing seemed fairly docile – Matthew impressed the importance of good speed management and despite a squirrelly crosswind we got it down safely.
The restaurant at Parys, called Montgolfiers, has recently (within the last 18months) been taken over by new management, and it is a lovely spot for breakfast, especially in the late winter when it is still a little chilly – there are tables against large glass north facing windows.
The menu is simple but allows a fair amount of customisation with a ‘build-your-own-breakfast’ option. The service is reasonably quick and the food is tasty (although tbh, it’s hard to get breakfast wrong). The coffee should come with a warning though – it is pretty strong stuff! Prices are very reasonable even including the landing fee (it’s ZAR50 for single engine piston).
For entertainment while eating, one gets to watch the skydivers being loaded onto the jump ship. The jump plane (ZU-IHA) is an Apollo-T, which originally sold as an Aermacchi AL-60 but has been converted to a Turbine. Interestingly it was designed by the same person who designed our transport today – Al Mooney. Unlike the M20, this is a decidedly
ugly plain looking airplane. Still, I would rather fly in it than jump out of it!
Heading back to Baragwanath we picked up a bit of a tailwind and were overhead the field really quickly. There is a lot to be said for a high cruise speed. The usual afternoon winds were blowing strenuously across the runway (is there ever NOT a crosswind?) and I was interested to see how the Mooney would handle the crosswind… and it handled it with aplomb. (Well, Matthew handled the crosswind with aplomb, in the Mooney!)
I’m getting more comfortable with being in the right seat – landings still make me nervous though – I simply can’t get used to that sight picture. Fortunately, barring some major disaster, I don’t see myself having to ever instruct! I’m going to fly in the Mooney again, this time as a navigator for a Fun Rally being held at Grand Central Airport soon. It promises to be ‘entertaining’….