Mooney Announces Production Restart at Sun ‘n Fun

 - April 7, 2014, 11:30 AM
Mooney's new management team (l-r): Chad Nelson, chief manufacturing officer; Jerry Chen, CEO; Dr. Neil Pheiffer, chief technology officer; Barry Hodkin, CFO; and Tom Bowen, COO.

Mooney International Corp. of Kerrville, Texas, which bought the assets of moribund Mooney Aircraft in October 2013, announced on Friday at the Sun ’n’ Fun in Lakeland, Fla., resumption of production of the piston single Acclaim Type S and Ovation 3. An Acclaim, Mooney’s 240 knot-plus flagship model, is scheduled for completion in July–the first new Mooney built since 2009–and will be auctioned online, the proceeds seeding a Mooney Museum, company CEO Dr. Jerry Chen told guests at the company’s relaunch ceremony. Base price for the turbocharged 2014 Acclaim is $699,000 and the normally aspirated Ovation 3 is $649,000.

We gave a lot of thought about the first airplane rolling off the line because it is so special,” said Chen. “This is a way to share the opportunity. The auction will be on our website, and it’s starting right now.”

Open to all qualified bidders, the auction will end and the winner announced on July 11, two weeks before EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., where the aircraft will be displayed. After that first delivery, the factory will produce one aircraft per month through year-end and double that rate in 2015, aiming to quickly climb to three aircraft per month.

Joining Chen at the podium was his management team, most former or long-time Mooney executives: CFO Barry Hodkin; COO Tom Bowen; chief manufacturing officer Chad Nelson; and chief technical officer Dr. Neil Pheiffer. The company has “an aggressive plan to compete in the high-performance single-engine [piston] market and run a more efficient operation,” Chen said, with company owners Soaring America Corp., backed by Chinese investors, committed to spending at least $50 million over the next 10 years to revive the company.

Today we hired back 85 employees, and the number is still growing,” he said, calling ownership “committed to the factory,” and hoping to have 135 to 140 on staff by 2015.

Chen’s team also aims to reduce the notoriously high build time for the handmade aircraft, now requiring about four thousand man hours each. CMO Nelson said his goal is to reduce the figure to 2,500 hours, noting that the company’s new owners have already invested in new equipment to help accelerate production.

Over the last month, the company incorporated the Mooney Museum–“We’re working on the name,” COO Bowen admitted–as a 501C3 non-profit organization to preserve the history of the company and brand, as well as celebrate the Mooney line, which is now more than 60 years old. The museum will be located on the Mooney Campus and the company is donating this first production aircraft, valued at some $800,000, to the charity to jumpstart the museum project.

Meanwhile, Mooney International hopes to forge the next glorious chapter in the aircraft’s history. “In the past, Mooney’s motto was ‘The Three Ss’: Speed, Speed and Speed,” said Chen. “Today, I’m saying we want to emphasize not only speed with our new “Three Ss”: Safety, Speed and Style.”