Almost First-Time Owners

Almost First-Time Owners

In September we came this close to purchasing a Mooney – a story I thought I’d share here. I will turn it over to Jared to summarize the experience, but spoiler alert: the search is still on.

Jared Jacobs: Shortly after Rebecca and I made the call to start our airplane search, a connection of my father-in-law’s alerted us of a Mooney M20J coming up for sale. The J-model sits at the top of our wish list, and this particular one was in the process of receiving a brand new Garmin panel and overhauled engine. For the price I heard being tossed around, it sounded too good to be true. 

I quickly contacted the shop conducting the restoration work and learned the airplane was a “fixer-upper” purchased in 2016. Upon arrival, it had basic avionics and a one-inch crack in the crankcase. The shop bought it for cheap with the vision to overhaul and upgrade the aircraft but soon became swamped with ADS-B upgrades, leaving the M20J to sit for four years. However, with the 2020 ADS-B mandate now behind them, the project was officially underway. 

The engine received a new crankcase and a complete overhaul, but the real icing on the cake was the installation of a completely new panel: Garmin G500TXi linked to a G750 and a GFC500 autopilot, all backed up by a G5 standby display. Truly a thing of beauty. But I knew we still needed to get the full picture, so thanks to a good friend who lives nearby (thanks, Zach!), I accessed photos of the maintenance logbooks. And thanks to an A&P friend (thanks, Kyle!), we started dissecting the Mooney’s history.

Built in 1979, the aircraft lived in central Texas for most of its life, seemingly maintained above and beyond the minimum standard. Then in 1999, the aircraft was involved in an off-airport landing that resulted in substantial damage. A well-known and respected rebuild shop brought the aircraft back to life over the next two years by completely replacing a left wing section, firewall, belly skins and empennage sections, which were all built new from the Mooney factory. There were also three welds made to the structural cage around the cabin of the aircraft. All of the 337’s were thorough, and the work looked to be top-notch. The aircraft went on to fly 15 years without an issue until the crack developed in the crankcase.

Every day for two weeks, the idea of this airplane consumed me. I held daily phone updates with my father-in-law (who is deeply ingrained both in the industry and aircraft sales), in addition to calling numerous other aviation connections to gather all of the opinions and insight I could find. And, of course, I dove deep into forums and internet research. With the exception of the damage history, this Mooney appeared to check all the boxes. Rebecca and I decided to make an offer.

After a long wait over a holiday weekend (probably the longest five days of my life), the owner got back to us with unfortunate news. Instead of negotiating, he had decided to increase the originally quoted price and take the airplane to market at that higher number. This effectively took the airplane out of our budget and out of reach. I was disappointed to say the least. 

Since then, I have mentally replayed this “close call” and considered what I could have done differently. I’ll be the first to admit that I let myself become too emotionally invested. It is also possible (likely) that my excitement and pressing research off-put the seller. One thing that I know I did right, however, was to let the airplane go when the finances no longer worked for our situation. This was a difficult move, but as I was reminded many times over by pilots much wiser than me, “There will always be another airplane.”

As Jared described, it was an emotional roller coaster for a couple of weeks there. But I am confident we made the right call in our thorough research and ultimately staying true to our budget. 

So, what is our plan now? We are still on the hunt, keeping an eye on the market listings, but maybe with a little less gusto. As the cold weather sets in (our first snow is falling as I write this), it is likely we will wait until 2021 to amp our search back up. We are also entertaining the idea of a partnership to cut costs and better allow the potential purchase of a Beechcraft Bonanza or Cirrus SR22 – continually the top two aircraft recommended for us. 

Thank you again to all who sent in suggestions or shared advice. Hearing your personal ownership stories is valuable insight, and we absolutely welcome them as the quest continues.

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