Alabeo M20R Ovation Review

Introduction

The Mooney Aircraft Company was originally formed by brothers Albert and Arthur Mooney in 1929, but its success was short lived, going bankrupt in 1930. The company has had a chequered history of stops and starts ever since. However, in the time since 1955, it has produced its mainstay production aircraft, the Mooney M20, an aircraft which has achieved an incredible number of historical achievements, including: the fastest civilian single engine piston powered aircraft in the world - M20TN Acclaim Type S; the first production aircraft to achieve 201 mph (323 km/h) on 200 hp (150 kW) – M20J 201; and the fastest transcontinental flight in a single engine piston powered production aircraft - M20K 231. Add the M22 Mustang to this list of achievements as the first pressurised single engined, piston powered aircraft, and it is not hard to see that Mooney aircraft have had a focus on performance and firsts which have been the envy of their competitors. The Mooney M20 has never matched the production numbers of its contemporaries, but production has been steady over the years.

Earlier add-on versions of the M20 have not quite measured up to the flight sim community's expectations on performance. Whether rightly or wrongly, this has resulted in any new M20 add-on being met with caution. Alabeo have established a very strong reputation for developing quality aircraft add-ons and the M20R Ovation fits perfectly into their portfolio. The M20R Ovation, in keeping with its pedigree, is an aircraft which promises much on performance and it will appeal to general aviation fans looking for a high performance aircraft.

History

The Mooney M20 is a four seat, low wing, single engine, monoplane, with a retractable, tricycle landing gear. Originally powered by a Lycoming O-320, four cylinder, horizontally opposed, normally aspirated, air cooled, 150 hp (112 kW), piston engine, the first M20 variant gained attention because it was capable of an impressive 170 mph (270 km/h). The M20 was the 20th design by Albert Mooney, and his most successful, and was a four seat development of the Mooney M-18 Mite. The early M20 and M20A variants also had a wooden frame wing and empennage, which were changed to all metal from the M20B variant onwards, and the aircraft saw many engine upgrades, fuselage stretches, and other options over its production life. The empennage of the Mooney M20 is easily recognisable by its unique vertical stabiliser. It is both a misconception and optical illusion that the vertical stabiliser leans forward, as it actually has a vertical leading edge and it is approximately vertical in level flight.

The Mooney M20 first flew on 3 September 1953, was certified in September 1955, with production commencing later that same year. The M20R Ovation was type certified on 30 June 1994 and was introduced that same year. It mated a long body fuselage to a Continental IO-550-G, six cylinder, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, air cooled, 280 hp (210 kW) piston engine. This model was named Flying Magazine's single engine plane of the year in 1994. Over the course of its production life, the M20 has been produced in 18 different model variants and endured no less then three major halts to production. It continues in production in 2017 with over 12,000 aircraft produced.

Availability and Installation

The Alabeo M20R Ovation is currently available direct from Alabeo and Alabeo resellers as a download only product (some resellers also offer a master back-up CD / DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is normally priced at US$34.95, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The download file size is 498MB and it requires 1.06GB of HDD/SSD space for installation. A serial number is issued on purchase and is used during the installation process which is intuitive and seamless.

Model Features

The major model features of the M20R Ovation include:

high quality 3D model and textures;
Alabeo Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit;
material shines and reflections, and volumetric side view prop effect;
gauge reflections, window scratches, and blades shines;
knob click sounds;
realistic behaviour;
Flight1 GTN 750 integration; and
Reality XP GNS530 integration (only for FSX).

Visual Appearance

General Overview. The M20R Ovation displays the distinctive lines and features of the Mooney design. Earlier variants built around the short and medium body fuselage lengths gave the aircraft a squat appearance, however, the long fuselage design of the M20R Ovation variant gives a far more streamlined look. The M20R Ovation was introduced in 1994 and Alabeo have done a marvellous job in capturing the essence of the aircraft.

Exterior. The distinctive vertical leading edge of the vertical stabiliser and large rear window dominate the design of the M20R Ovation. Combined with the elongated rear fuselage, it exaggerates the streamlined look of model variants built on the long fuselage. These design features give the M20R Ovation a very recognisable and unmistakable appearance. The high quality of the external model is excellent and it displays the high standard synonymous with Alabeo aircraft.

Interior. The interior is modelled on the standard interior configuration for the M20R Ovation, with entry to the cabin via the single cabin door on the front passenger side, two single rear passenger seats, and a luggage storage space behind these seats. The cabin area is quite spacious, a feature afforded by the long fuselage design, and the large cabin windows afford excellent views. The quality of the cabin texturing is excellent and evident in the detail in the carpet pile, seam stitching on the seating and seat belts. The seating, carpet, and side panels display some natural wear and tear, providing a realistic cabin environment for this type of aircraft.

Flight Instruments, Avionics, and Aircraft Systems. The cockpit of the M20R Ovation is characteristic of Mooney aircraft and the production era. The analogue primary flight instruments are supplemented with digital engine management instrumentation and the Alabeo Garmin GNS 530 GPS unit with integration available for the Flight1 GTN 750 and Reality XP GNS 530. However, it should be noted that the integration for the Reality XP GNS 530 is for FSX only. The digital engine management instrumentation, in particular, make for easy and precise setting of engine management parameters. The M20R Ovation is also fitted with a Bendix/King KFC 150 autopilot system. The cockpit panel presents in a relatively pristine condition with only minor wear marks on the yokes, but this, in no way, detracts from the overall quality of the cockpit environment.

Lighting, Animations, and Sounds. The night lighting effect in the cockpit provides a very good representation of the night lighting in the real world aircraft. The overhead dome light illuminates the cabin very effectively with a bright white light. Switching on the overhead dome light also switches on lights under the cockpit glare shield which illuminate the panel. Independent light switches provide backlighting to the panel instruments and a further dimmer switch adjusts the brightness of the backlighting on panel switches. The M20R Ovation includes the typical range of animations and static elements you would expect for such an aircraft from Alabeo. Two unique animated features are the operation of the elevator trim which, instead of operating a trim tab on the elevator, it actually moves the entire empennage through a pivot point, and the scissor type speed brakes in the wings. The representation of the elevator trim function in itself is just excellent. The engine sounds are an excellent representation of the M20R Ovation's Continental engine, producing a lovely rumbling sound at idle, which increases to a deep roar as the throttles are advanced. The engine sounds provide very good stereo separation in both the internal and external views.

Models and Liveries. The M20R Ovation is provided in a single model with five individual liveries (a selection showing below). There is also a blank texture provided for aircraft painting enthusiasts. Displaying high quality, the surface textures, reflections, and shadings, give each aircraft a very good appearance. Other minor dirt, exhaust, oil, and grease stains, add to a slightly natural representation.

Summary, Issues, and Variations. The rendition of the Alabeo M20R Ovation is highly detailed and accurate, the visual quality is excellent, and the texture quality is also excellent, providing a faithful representation of the real world aircraft. Most major elements of the cockpit are clear and easy to read, with the typical range of various alternative cockpit camera views to provide more detailed clarity. One noted external visual issue was the contact points for the landing gear, which appeared low, thus giving the wheels the appearance of sinking into the ground. Any other noted visual variations were minor and are considered to be related to real world production variations or a degree of artistic licence on the part of the developer. Any noted issues and variations with cockpit functions and operation were considered minor and / or in the interests of simplifying the function for practical flight simulator use.

General Characteristics and Performance Specifications

The general characteristics and performance specifications for the Mooney M20R Ovation are provided in the table. This is based on data from the official Mooney M20R Ovation Pilot Operating Handbook, data provided by Alabeo, and general research sources. Some of this data varies between sources and also may be an approximation due to variances in data and the specific aircraft modelled by Alabeo.

General Characteristics

Crew One
Passenger Capacity Three
Length 26 ft 9 in (8.15 m)
Wingspan 36 ft 1 in (10.99 m)
Height 8 ft 4 in (2.54 m)
Empty Weight 2,267 lb (1,028 kg)
Fuel Capacity 95 US gal (360 l)
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) 3,368 lb (1,528 kg)
Power Plant Continental IO-550-G, six cylinder, horizontally opposed, fuel injected, air cooled, piston engine, 280 hp (210 kW)

Performance Specifications

Cruise Speed 174 kts (200 mph, 322 km/h)
Stall Speed 59 kts (68 mph, 109 km/h) full flaps, landing gear down, engine at idle
Range 1,350 nm (1,554 mi, 2,500 km)
Service Ceiling 20,000 ft (6,096 m)
Rate of Climb Approximately 1,250 ft/min (381 m/min)

Flight Performance

A specific Test Flight was conducted to test the flight performance of Alabeo's M20R Ovation. The flight was conducted in clear weather with a full fuel load and the aircraft at maximum take-off weight (MTOW). A cruise altitude of 5,000 ft was adopted and the route distance was particularly chosen to provide a basis upon which to test the range characteristics of the aircraft.

The aircraft was very easy to taxi. Special attention should be paid to the rudder trim on take-off in order to offset the high torque generated by the IO-550-G engine, and the rudder trim gauge on the panel assists in the correct trim setting for this. With flaps and trim set to the take-off position, aircraft rotation occurred at approximately 65 KIAS. The Continental IO-550-G engine provides the M20R Ovation with excellent performance and the take-off and climb out were lively and consistent, maintaining a rate of climb of approximately 1,200 ft/min at 105 KIAS.

During cruise, a 75% cruise power setting of was established with a manifold pressure setting of 23.9 inHg and an RPM setting of 2300 RPM. With this cruise setting, the aircraft trims out and produces a ground speed of approximately 180 kts and fuel flow rate of 15.5 gal/hr. These figures are reasonably consistent with the performance characteristics of the aircraft and as per the performance charts. The Test Flight confirms the modelling of the aircraft for speed performance to be what would reasonably be expected of this aircraft and reasonably consistent with the performance charts. In preparing for approach and landing some judicious use of the speed brakes will be necessary to wash off speed during descent.

Configured for landing, with full flaps, and trimmed for a descent rate of approximately 500 ft/min, the aircraft's approach speed was approximately 75 KIAS and it touched down at approximately 70 KIAS, with a landing roll-out comparable with the specifications for the aircraft.

In testing the accuracy of the instruments, based on the measured Test Flight, the speed indications on the airspeed indicator, were consistent with the averages measured. Additionally, when establishing a set rate of climb on the vertical speed indicator, the respective gain in altitude on the altimeter was achieved within the measured minute, and a standard rate turn was achieved within the measured two minute period using the turn coordinator.

The performance of the Alabeo M20R Ovation was everything that could be reasonably expected of this aircraft. The general handling characteristics are excellent, with the aircraft being responsive to control inputs. Overall, the aircraft model displays a very good rendition of the flight characteristics and performance against the aircraft performance data.

Documentation

Seven documents are provided in Adobe Acrobat format (.pdf) for the Alabeo M20R Ovation:

Alabeo M20R Ovation Normal Procedures – 14 page document;
Alabeo M20R Ovation Emergency Procedures – nine page document;
Alabeo M20R Ovation Performance Tables – five page document;
Alabeo M20R Ovation References – one page document;
Alabeo GNS 530 User Guide – two page document;
Altitude Preselector – one page document; and
Recommended Settings – two page document.

Value for Money

The Alabeo M20R Ovation continues the trend of price creep in the Alabeo range. Even though the modelling and textures are excellent, the price of US$34.95 is becoming unreasonable from a company whose original business model was based on producing "lower priced" aircraft which "combine the joy, the challenge, and the FUN of flying". Consequently, the Value for Money for the Alabeo M20R Ovation is only considered fair.

Simulator Performance

The aircraft model performed excellently within the existing settings I have in P3D. I have most of my settings set very high and there was no need to make any adjustments. There was no discernible frame rate impact directly attributable to the Alabeo M20R Ovation and P3D continued to perform smoothly.

Technical Requirements

This version of the Alabeo M20R Ovation is for FSX/FSX SE/P3D only. Other specified technical requirements are as follows:

Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP;
FSX with SP2 installed (or Acceleration Pack), FSX Steam Edition, or Prepar3D (v2, v3, and v4); and
Pentium V, 2GHz CPU or similar, 2GB RAM, 512MB graphics card, and 1.06GB available HDD space.

Review Computer Specifications

The specifications of the computer on which the review was conducted are as follows:

Intel i7 990X Extreme 3.46GHz;
NVidia GTX980 G1 Gaming, 4GB, 1228/1329MHz;
12GB, Kingston DDR3, 2000MHz, XMP T1 CL9 HyperX;
Windows 7, (64bit); and
Lockheed Martin P3D Version 4.

Additional Major Add-ons. Active Sky for P3Dv4, Active Sky Cloud Art, SPAD.neXt, FS Global Ultimate region series, Orbx FTX Global BASE, Orbx FTX Global VECTOR, Orbx FTX Global openLC series, Orbx FTX region series, Orbx FTX airport series, and Orbx FTX Trees HD.

Conclusion

Alabeo have done a marvellous job with the production of the M20R Ovation. It is everything you would expect of an aircraft which comes from such a high performance pedigree, displaying great handling and with excellent speed for those long distance flights. It is a great aircraft to fly and it will certainly appeal to Mooney and general aviation fans looking for an aircraft with the extra performance. If you can overlook the price, the Alabeo M20R Ovation is a fantastic aircraft to add to your hangar and it will provide much flying enjoyment.


Verdict and Scores

Verdict

A fantastic aircraft, but with a slightly high price tag, the Alabeo M20R Ovation matches the performance of its real world counterpart.

Scores

For
Against
Category
Score/10
Excellent quality textures. Value for Money is marginal. External Model 9.5
Excellent exterior and interior modelling. Internal Model 9.5
Realistic flight characteristics. Sounds 10
Outstanding engine sounds. Flight Characteristics (does it fly by the numbers) 9.5
Flight Dynamics (does it feel like what it looks like) 10
    Documentation 9.5
    Value for Money 8.5

Overall Score

The Alabeo M20R Ovation is awarded an overall Mutley's Hangar score of 9.5/10,
with an "Outstanding" and a Mutley's Hangar Gold Award.