Mooney, Rolls Royce Look At Turbine Single

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If Rolls-Royce has its way, a turboprop single may soon roll out of the Kerrville, Texas, home of the Mooney Airplane Company. Wednesday at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008, the two companies inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on what they bill as a "joint engineering project" designed to explore development of a turbine-powered Mooney M20 airframe. The project is slated to use the Rolls-Royce RR500 TP engine, which the company officially launched earlier this week at AirVenture 2008. Rolls-Royce's development plans for the RR500 TP include FAA certification during the fourth quarter of 2010, followed in 2011 by production engine deliveries.

Signing the MOU were Mooney CEO Dennis Ferguson and Ken Roberts, president of Rolls-Royce's helicopter division. Described as a joint "marketing investigation" and "exploration project," both parties to the MOU were non-committal on its future or its milestones. For example, no date has been set for the first flight of a turbine-powered Mooney and a development program schedule won't be set "for a couple of months," according to Roberts. Further, and at least initially, the first RR500 TP-powered Mooney won't be pressurized, although Ferguson, referring to the M22 model, admitted the basic M20 airframe has been pressurized in the past. Few other details of the two companies' plans for a turbine Mooney were available, lending credence to the project's tentative nature. For his part, Rolls-Royce's Roberts said, "Mooney is recognized for producing high peformance, feature-laden aircraft and we think the RR500 TP is ideally suited to the Mooney product range." Ferguson agreed, saying, "The RR500 turbine introduced this week by Rolls-Royce represents the next step in our exploration of alternative fuel power for personal aircraft."