Ahead of the Curve
There can be no disputing the fact that as fuel prices rise due to supply, demand, environmental and greed issues, the future availability of the 100LL that our flying machines crave will grow increasingly cloudy.
Throughout the world, engineers are searching for a Holy Grail replacement for 100LL, and many – including me – think that will be good ol' Jet A. Reason is, it can be burned in any number of current and future diesel aircraft engines, or it can be spun up to ridiculously high RPMs and lit off in a turbine. I really love the sound of the latter, but who except a very few seriously wealthy pilots can think about buying and flying a turbine...unless we spend well north of a million on a new PJ and way more then our budgets can stand on transition training and insurance.
But Mooney has leaped out into the GA turbine arena big time, when they announced the following late this week at EAA's Airventure at Oshkosh:
"Mooney Airplane Company announced today that the company has entered into a joint engineering project with Rolls-Royce. The scope of the project will include exploration of using the RR500 as an alternative fuel (Jet A) power plant to complement the current Mooney product line. Mooney believes that an affordable turbine-powered four-place aircraft is an important segment of the market that is being overlooked. Such an aircraft configuration fills two growing voids in the market. First, a four-place turboprop represents a logical step for the tens of thousands of pilots now flying high-performance piston aircraft because the transition to flying a small turboprop will require no special type rating or unusual insurance requirements. Second, a Jet-A powered turbine provides the basis of a product that has global appeal."When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. I've always been among those who believed that we would someday see smaller turbine engines start providing the power for more and more GA planes on the lower end of the price envelope, and this Mooney/Rolls partnership certainly moves that theory along nicely.
One point that Mooney makes very clear on their web site is the savings to be had if you take advantage of the Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation made possible by the 2008 Economic Stimulus Act. That's the same act that delivered those wonderful $1,200 checks to lots of mailboxes across America (Best Buy got my check for a new 37" 1020p TV, and YES, I did try without any success to buy a U.S.-made TV first...it is just not possible).
Here is a taste of what you can gain when buying an airplane now, from the Mooney site:
"The Section 179 raised cap is significant for Mooney buyers in that the previous cap was $562,000 - which meant that a Mooney buyer acquiring an aircraft with a total cost of over $562,000 was unable to take advantage of any of the Section 179 expensing. This also means that Mooney buyers can elect to write off over 70% of the cost of their airplane in the first year. Assuming a buyer is in a State and Federal tax bracket of 38%, this would equate to a first-year tax savings of between $140,000 and $175,000, not including the interest write-off also available from financing the aircraft. This bill will significantly lower the buyer's tax bill for 2008."These tax savings obviously don't just apply to Mooneys, but in a quick glance at the Cirrus and Cessna sites, I did not see this news displayed in a prominent manner like it was on the Mooney site.
I have always liked Mooneys, and have admired their management team, their perseverance, and of course, their amazingly well-built product. And with the addition of a turboprop to the sales floor, you can just see the stock of this company climbing about as fast as...well...a turboprop Mooney!