Sitting in a
wide-ranging Mooney press conference, Tim and I scrambled to keep
up. A lot of information was flowing... new personnel.
New investors. New international partners, including BAe and a
Russian consortium, which produces among other things, MiGs. A new
paint scheme. A new promotional angle which keys off Mooney's
fiftieth anniversary this year, and a tie-in with another American
icon's fiftieth: Corvette.
So far it was interesting, but pretty routine.
Then, Mooney President J. Nelson Happy dropped the bomb. Mooney
will enter the Light Sport Aircraft market with a version of a
European light aircraft. Tim and I gaped at each other; this
announcement was totally unexpected. The Toxo is currently made by
Construcciones Aviones Gallegas (CAG) in Spain. CAG was formed by
Jose Luis Miro and Jose Manuel Fernandez and Antonio Castelo.
Castelo is the principal designer of the Toxo.
The Toxo broadly resembles the Glasair FT. It's a sexy, sleek
low-wing speedster with fixed tricycle gear, two semi-reclining
seats, and control sticks.
Mooney will handle the assembly and some parts manufacture in
its existing Kerrville, TX, facilities. Mooney will also handle the
thankless task of shepherding the Toxo through the certification
process. If the currently proposed speed limit remains in the Sport
Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft regs, then Mooney also will have to slow
the plane down. Because the Toxo is designed to fly with a very
wide range of powerplants, this should be possible.
Antonio Castelo spoke to the press, apologizing unnecessarily
for his English (beats my Spanish). "It's a composite aircraft, a
very fast light sport aircraft."
"Light Sport Aircraft is a new category for us," Nelson Happy
said. "It is also new technology for us -- composite pre-preg
construction." What makes Mooney interested in other companies'
designs? "We are interested if it is a good product and a money
maker.... We need to be diversified to make money." Nelson
acknowledged Mooney's flirtations with buying other well-known
aircraft lines last year, and explained why these post-AASI
investments didn't come to pass: "We did look at those lines, and
they really were old technology." And that was not where Mooney
wanted to go. Hence, Toxo.
"It [the Toxo] will be a 'Mooney,'" Nelson said in answer to my
question. "Definitely." And the name? "It already has a name:
'Toxo'. That's the name." The one question we couldn't get
answered: Will the tail get turned around?
Stay tuned to Aero-News for the answer.