Mooney Back In The Airplane Business
Mooney is officially back in the aircraft production business thanks to a cash infusion from its new Chinese owners. Mooney International, as it is now called, hopes to begin delivery of new Acclaims and Ovations by the third quarter of 2014. "The last time we restarted the line, it took a year but I want to do it in six months," Bill Eldred, director of engineering, told AVweb in an exclusive interview at the Kerrville, Texas, plant on Jan. 3. The assembly line stopped in 2008 and everything was left in place, including all the partly built aircraft, the certifications and production certificate. The company went from 460 employees to nine and stayed in business by supplying parts for the existing fleet and keeping the plant and its inventory safely mothballed. Those careful preparations paid off last year when Chinese interests represented in the U.S. by Soaring America Corporation bought the company and pledged to resume operations by January of this year. There are currently 46 people working to get the line moving again and Eldred said he expects that to double by year's end as production resumes
As we reported in a video produced in China by AVweb's Tim Cole, the new owners expect China to be a big market for the fast and efficient Mooneys as airspace and other regulations are liberalized to allow for general aviation operations. Back in Kerrville, Eldred said there were plenty of potential American investors through the plant during the lean years but only Soaring America and its Chinese backers were ready to write the checks necessary to bring Mooney back. "I don't care where the money comes from," he said. "These aircraft will be built in America." Mooney will start with a modest production rate of one aircraft per month and expects to be at two a month by the end of the year. From there, demand will dictate the rate.