Mooney Shuts Down, Employees Furloughed


Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Kerrville, Texas-based Mooney Aircraft has reportedly shut down and released its entire staff, the Kerrville Daily Times is reporting. The Times reported and we can confirm that Mooney’s voicemail system states that “At this time, all Mooney employees have been furloughed and therefore we cannot take your call.” We have been unable to reach any of Mooney’s staff or management, and we understand that the firm’s workforce was down to just 50 preceding the furlough.

To those watching Mooney’s sales numbers over the first three quarters of this year, the shutdown is probably not a huge surprise. According to GAMA sales records, Mooney sold two Acclaim Ultras in each of the first two quarters and another four in the third quarter, after selling 14 aircraft at a value of $10.7 million in 2018. For context, Cirrus sold 310 aircraft in the first three quarters of 2019.

At AirVenture 2018, Mooney said that it intended to build 20 aircraft that year but would ramp up toward 40 in 2019 and maintain 50 aircraft a year starting in 2020. Mooney’s workers were furloughed in 2017, four years after restarting production under new owners Soaring America Aircraft. Mooney had not been producing new aircraft for nearly five years before that. The last Acclaim Ultras to roll out the door—the only model to be produced this year—were valued at nearly $850,000 each, according to the GAMA report.

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. $850,000 a copy may be the first clue as to why they have sold four this year. GA manufacturers are killing themselves.

  2. A flying club I was a member of bought a brand new Mooney Executive 21 in 1967 for $20K. Make that x10 today for inflation and that’s $200K, not $850K. Yes, the Acclaim Ultra is “more airplane”, but 4.5 times as much? I don’t think so, not even close.

  3. It’s really a shame considering the technology incorporated into the Mooney line and the lack of significant management capabilities. An AvWeb story about Mooney investing significant production upgrades to reduce costs didn’t provide a price savings to the enduser. Their mistake was to follow the pricing formula for Cirrus and it killed them. Even Mr. Bertorelli, in his review, pointed out the Ultra’s stratospheric price point. Malcom R. had a great point. It seemed that management wanted to get an ROI in an unrealistic time frame. I empathasize with the employees who have been bounced around over the last 10 years as the company changed hands.

  4. GA airframe manufactures and their imaginary market. ROI? We don’t need no stink in’ ROI. Time to accept that we ain’t buying stuff until it can be sold at prices where the demand curve is. Prices are up, deliveries are down, GA aircraft inventory is down, customer base (pilots) is down. But hey, media hype is up!

  5. All the different leadership at Mooney for the past couple decades seems to have the whole management speak thing down really well. The problem is the things they teach so called business leaders from high school to boardroom are great at fixing basic problems and improving results in run of the mill businesses.
    Piston aviation has been under assault by intentional and unintentional forces for decades and has a fundamentally flawed incentive system. Besides the newer design and CAPS, Cirrus can take a non pilot prospect and make him a pilot customer. Cessna can also. Piper sort of can. A bunch of LSA players can as well.
    If you want to sell planes, you need to be able to sell them to anyone who can afford one. If pipistrel started on a flight school dealership network today, they would own the US market in a few years.

  6. They definitely had a good run and some great aircraft. Very sad for the guys & gals who now have to look for jobs at this time of year. Best of luck and thanks.

  7. Mooney is very old technology. So are Piper, Cessna, and Beechcraft. Adding G1000 to the panel only makes a very old airplane design very expensive. C’mon, guys, if you are going to charge me the cost of a new Cirrus or Diamond, at least sell me a new airplane!

  8. In the June 1960 Flying magazine article titled Business Aircraft of the Sixties, Ralph Harmon, then the Mooney VP of Engineering, said “the fact that business aircraft have been so well accepted in recent years can be attributed to one characteristic: They are “good airplanes”. We can define “good airplanes” as an aircraft profitable to all who are concerned with it. If this requirement is not fully met by the manufacturer, sales organization, and the ultimate user, it will drop out of operation.” At this time Mooney Aircraft had brought out the M20A for $15,995. The accompanying pictures show the same Kerrville plant with about 40 airplanes outside waiting for delivery to the Mooney dealer network.

    What is the target market for high performance piston singles today? Legacy GA manufacturers seem to have very little direction and purpose for their products. Other than showcasing what new avionics one can stuff into a 70+-25+ year old designed airplane, turbocharging the venerable IO-540/ IO-550’s that power them, and the latest leather wrapped appointments…who are these airplanes supposed to be sold to today?

    In 1960, the purpose for high performance singles was business aviation. That was the target market for Beechcraft, Bellanca, Cessna, Piper, Mooney, and Meyers aircraft manufacturers. The piston single was a viable asset for businesses to be more efficient.

    Almost 60 years later, Cirrus has replaced Bellanca /Meyers and with 25+ years of production is now a legacy GA airplane manufacturer, too. The high performance piston single today is $850,000 to 1.5 million dollars…each. Have these manufacturers steadily refined their manufacturing processes, simplifying parts count, bringing in automation for consistent quality control, tight tolerances, and improved production line efficiency…to remain a “good airplane”? Are these manufacturers building airplanes for a well known and defined market that can leverage the use of these airplanes for more efficiency?

    I suggest that the unshaven, three day old bearded, sport coat, jeans, loafer, no socks, Rayban Aviator wearing stereotypical portrayal of the squint eyed, slightly graying modern 40/50 something entrepreneur pilot ready to launch his uber-IFR equipped single from the country club style FBO, into the flight levels…is proving to be a very small market. GA has got to do better to survive.

  9. I remember way back when, Mooney created the Porsche Mooney and it was on the cover of all the magazines. If I recall, it just had a throttle with no mixture control & it performed well enough. I can’t remember its specific performance parameters but some guy wrote in comparing it to his 195o’s something Bonanza and they were quite similar performance wise. He said something to the effect, “We’ve really come a long way in 30 years” and that struck me at the time. It’s true what others have said about stuffing new avionics into older designs while newer manufacturers smoke the old ones.
    Working with the inefficiencies of the FAA on design approvals, whether TC’s or STC’s is an incredibly trying and lengthy process that drives costs. Years ago we certified the first TCAS on a Gulfstream III and the FAA wanted an engine ice ingestion analysis – the TCAS directional antenna was located being the existing ADF Loop, which was larger & this made no sense other than for us to spend $20K for a report so they could cover their…tracks. From a manufacturing viewpoint, you can control many things but you can’t control the FAA who are closed on every Federal holiday while the rest of us work.
    You can buy lots of older Mooney’s cheap, do some “Overhaulin” and be into a fine machine for !/4 or 1/5 the price of a new one & you can buy a lot of gas with the diff.
    I’m sorry for the employees. Kerrville is a nice part of Texas but they were the only game in town at that airport.

  10. Epic took 15 years to certify the Epic 1000…and needed Russian bankers to “git ‘er dun”. Cirrus and Diamond had to have the Chinese buy them to continue as a viable aircraft companies even with the numbers they were already producing and selling.

    Yet Extra and Game Composites brought out and certified two new, clean sheet airplanes, virtually all carbon fiber, 2 place, glass panel aerobatic airplanes with 10G+- strength and are selling them for $400-465,000. Seems to me, a four place airplane would not take too much more composite materials than these airplanes. In other words, the amount of engineering and parts count to build a 4 place utility class (4.4G air-frame vs a 10G+- unlimited aerobatic airplane) would not be radically different. They get them done for less than half of the current production legacy airplanes.

    How about a certified version of the Van’s RV-10? Since it was designed for amateur construction, mass producing them should be very doable. Even FAA certification should be very straightforward with the engineering, flight data, and flight characteristics well proven. Avionic certification would be a breeze since most of them already flying have panels most legacy aircraft owners drool over. The avionics manufacturers are tripping over each other do have plug and play, pre-wired panels available for the RV builders.

    Aviat is another example of a well run company delivering an airplanes for specific markets…and doing it for a third of the “Big Three”.

    To me, there is enough proof with these clean sheet designs brought forth by innovative, very focused, and clear thinking people who knew exactly what the market is, what the market wants, and delivered on all those points that affordable airplanes the public wants can be produced. In other words ” good airplanes”.

  11. Another difference between the 1960s and today is the abundance of interstate highways.

    The door-to-door travel time while using a private plane has remained the same. Or, arguably, increased with the loss of small airports. But the same door-to-door travel time using a car has dropped because of more miles of interstate highway. With the smaller delta, the cost of owning/maintaining a private plane (and one’s skills to fly it) stay the same while the advantage is less.

    Throw in increased cost of ownership, insurance, etc., and the business case for a small private plane becomes harder to make.

    I’ve read that in Germany, corporate executives use their high-end Mercedes and BMWs like a corporate jet because of the abundance of high-speed autobahns. With a V12 up front, comfortable leather interior, awesome air-conditioning and fantastic sound system, plus near-all-weather capability, combined with stupidly expensive private plane costs, makes driving on the autobahn the preferred method of executive transport.

    While the flying costs here (both in dollars and freedom) are much better, the cars of today have improved in comfort, speed, and safety that it makes driving a viable alternative to flying a private plane for most of the public.

      • Born in NYC, and still work there regularly. 🙂

        But I’m not talking about the traffic *within* the cities, but *between* them. I’ve made the NY-Boston trip several times, by car, train, and my Cardinal RG. Door-to-door, the car is pretty close to the top in time and wins on price.

        NY to Chicago is a long drive, but both airports have multiple airlines and multiple airports to choose from so there’s little need to drive and hard to beat the airlines on price or speed with a private plane.

        Where the private plane excels is going to places not directly served by interstate or airline. For me, visiting the in-laws in Virginia was either a 10-hour drive or a 2-1/2 flight. And, if there’s a ferry in the way, the plane wins easily (think Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, Nantucket, etc.)

        However, the web of interstates has reduced the number of desirable places off the beaten path. This smaller time-savings delta, combined with the increased cost and overall difficulty in maintaining proficiency as a pilot (versus a driver) has eroded the advantage of a private plane somewhat.

  12. A business airplane for Everyman?
    Key characteristics:
    * Autonomous operation
    * 4 to 6 seats
    * Pressurization
    * FIKI
    * Jet engine(s)
    * Full-seats range: 1,200 nm with NBAA reserves
    * $2.5 million or less, in 2020 dollars

    Most likely candidate? A Cirrus’ SF-50 successor. Lose the parachute and the cockpit; swap the biggest FJ-33 (which never met it’s projected 2,000 lb thrust target) for the mid-range FJ-44-3 (3,000 lbs thrust, and a drop-in growth path to the 3,600 lb FJ-44-4). Certify it up to the mid-40s; enjoy the faster ride and the shorter runway requirements.

    A $2.5 million “Everyman” airplane? Yup. Multiple-ownership, my friends. Four owners; about $600 k each. INTER-urban mobility at 400 knots is a very attractive alternative to our current airport/airlines… experience. And if you wanted to make money in a vastly-expanded Part 135 world…

    • At this point, autonomous operation is closer than we think. If Garmin’s emergency auto land system could be programmed for taxi, takeoff and climb, it should be capable of completing an entire trip with little outside input. The only limitation would be receiving a clearance and making any modifications to the route by ATC request. The rest of the items on the list are already in place, they just have to meet the price tag.

      With regard to Mooney, it is sad, but probably not unexpected. I had a chance to fly in the Porsche Mooney when it was first introduced. Flight from Kerrville to San Antonio and back. Nice plane. It failed because the flying community was not ready for it. Mooneys have always been an aircraft for a select group of pilots willing to “wear” an airplane and not just ride in it. When they jacked the price up to its current level, even the select few decided there were better alternatives. First rule of marketing: Know who your customer is and what they want.

  13. A trainer for every flight school.
    4 seat
    40 gal Fuel cap.
    2300 Gross weight
    Hmm. Forget about it!

  14. With all the talk about the alleged “pilot shortage”, has anyone else noticed that there is very little if not any at all talk about getting people to take up flying as recreational hobby? You have several large flight schools (pt 141) starting programs to get pilot candidates to the airline level fast. But I have yet to see ads for schools promoting the “fun” aspect of flying. These are the kind of pilots who would be prospective buyers of light airplanes like the Mooney. It is a real shame what has happened to Mooney and their employees. Problem is this is not a rare occurrence anymore. If more interest in flying other than airlines is not generated then the rest of GA in this country will end up like a lot of countries that have to rely on the “MPL” for flight crews.