On climb-out, we dialed in direct to Junction VOR on the G1000, made the turn and continued the climb. The initial rate of climb was around 1,300 fpm, but unlike most other piston powered singles I've flown, the Acclaim just kept right on climbing at that rate, or close to it. At 12,000 we put on the masks-the Acclaim has built-in oxygen-and at 18,000 feet we switched over to 29.92 on the altimeters, again something I'm not used to doing in a piston single. We were able to maintain 1,000 fpm on the VSI through and slightly beyond 20,000 feet. Even for the next 5,000 feet, we were able to climb at 800 fpm until we reached the airplane's ceiling of 25,000 feet. Total time from liftoff at Kerrville (including maneuvering) to 25,000 feet was around 25 minutes.
So, how fast is the Acclaim? Well, once we leveled off, we waited for things to stabilize, which took a little while. Once things were stable, the G1000-isn't it nice not to have to do the math any more?-was flickering back and forth between 234 and 235 knots. That's fast, as fast as the Columbia 400's top advertised mark, but not faster. But still, 235 knots in a piston single? Well, that's pretty darned impressive, and Mooney pilots have reportedly done a little better than that. The fuel burn was about 20 gph, though Arrimbide says that the fuel flows will probably decrease a bit as the installation is tweaked.
After making our turn back southbound at Junction VOR (the northern limit of Mooney's approved test range), we were cleared for the descent back down to 7,000 feet, a whopping 18,000 feet to lose. The speed brakes help, but Acclaim pilots will have to be careful to keep their descents shallow enough to protect their passengers' ears, which means pre-planning is important. One of the main benefits of a pressurized airplane is that even when you're descending at a high rate, the cabin descent rate is much more passenger friendly.
On our way down we leveled off at 20,000 feet, where our true airspeed was 225 knots at 22 gallons an hour. We stopped again at 10,000 feet, where we were truing out at a still impressive 208 knots at 22 gph. In fact, the Acclaim's performance at 10,000 feet is more impressive to me than its numbers at 25,000 feet. Ten thousand is a non-oxygen altitude that many pilots will actually use in a nonpressurized airplane when there's not mountainous terrain to top. At 208 knots, you can cover a lot of ground without burning a lot of fuel in the climb and without having to don the masks.
Speaking of range, the Acclaim is going to have a lot of it, though exactly how much will depend on how much the airplane weighs once it's certified and on how much optional fuel capacity the owner decides to add, 102 gallons or 130 gallons. Figuring an empty weight of 2,350 pounds, about 100 pounds more than the normally aspirated Ovation2-and that figure doesn't include air conditioning or anti-ice-the 102-gallon-capacity airplane will have enough full-fuel payload for a couple of svelte pilots and light bags. The 130-gallon airplane will be able to carry a single FAA-standard 170-pound pilot and about 100 pounds of bags. Of course, you can always leave fuel out, and it's likely that owners with the higher capacity tanks will get used to doing just that.
There's not a lot to say about the Acclaim's handling characteristics, mostly because they're so similar to other Mooneys, which is to say, the airplane handles beautifully. The biggest difference, as Arrimbide pointed out, is that the nose feels slightly heavier. Otherwise, even at higher altitudes it handles like a Mooney, solid and smooth. And it's good in bumpy air, too, the wing loading of 20 pounds per square foot helping to weather the ups and downs of turbulence nicely.
Approaching back to Kerrville, I slowed the airplane down and set up on a long final for Runway 12. It's important to remember that even though the Acclaim is a 235-knot airplane at altitude, it still wants to approach at 80-85 knots. In fact, keeping the airplane slow enough is key to making consistent landings. I bounced mine just a little bit.
Acclaim pilots will have to be sure that they have enough practice landing, as this new model is so fast and can go so far, in many cases they'll be flying right past airports they formerly would have landed at for fuel. Mooney is taking orders for the Acclaim, for which it expects to earn FAA approval and to make first deliveries before the end of the year. For more details about the airplane, visit www.mooney.com.