The city of Chattanooga offers visiting pilots a choice of activities—and you want to get there fast, taking advantage of the great airports with a wide range of services at KCHA and KAPT. So your aircraft choice can reflect that mission, consider starting with a real every-pilot’s airplane, the Cessna 182, or moving up in speed—the Mooney M20 series—or moving on to the innovative blend of the fast and economical in the Van’s RV-14.
Classic: Cessna 182T Turbo Skylane
The original approachable aircraft, with a blend of utility and ease of handling, the Cessna 182T Turbo Skylane balances the needs of most pilots traveling with an adult companion (and a child or two) into the city for a long weekend.
With a 235 hp turbocharged Lycoming TIO-540-AK1A engine up front, the Skylane can climb up to 20,000 feet msl and cruise at a stately 165 ktas. We like how the Garmin GI 275 electronic flight instrument takes its spot in the panel to back up the Garmin G1000 NXi integrated flight deck, starting with the 2021 models.
You can make it nonstop from your home base up to 971 nm away—and with a takeoff distance of 1,385 feet and landing distance of 1,350 feet (both over a 50-foot obstacle), you won’t need half of the runway at Chattanooga’s Lovell Field to get in, leaving you a great margin of safety.
Fast: Mooney M20 Series
Because life comes at you fast, you may want to fly faster—and that’s where the storied Mooney line excels. A case in point is the Mooney M20 series, which runs to the M20R, the Ovation. It caps off the M-series manufactured in a range of variants from 1955 through 2019. The Ovation proved popular from its launch in 1994 for its 280 hp Continental IO-550 powerplant (de-rated from 300 hp). From that max power setting, the Ovation can cruise up to 190 ktas, should you desire—and you will need the speed brakes on the descent so that you don’t hit the redline: VNE is 195 knots indicated. Economy mode also shines in the Ovation with the ability to keep a respectable 176 ktas while burning just more than 10 gph and ranging past 1,200 nm.
Up front, the M20 series had a variety of evolving avionics in the stack; models beginning in 2005 featured the Garmin G1000 integrated flight deck. It may just be the two of you; however, the useful load isn’t a strong suit, though the latest company ownership is working on a gross weight increase for the series.
Modern: Van’s RV-14A
Want to expand your options, when it comes to fuel economy, speed, and innovation in the panel? The Van’s Aircraft RV-14A should be on your radar—even if you don’t plan to build the airplane yourself. The RV series of experimental aircraft offer an unmatched level of user-friendly builds and pilot-friendly designs.
Normally matched to a 210 hp Lycoming IO-390 Thunderbolt engine, the RV-14A is the tricycle gear version—there’s also a tailwheel model. Both seat two people and feature a cruise speed of about 176 ktas. At that speed, you can expect a range of 815 nm.
Pilots put everything from a Garmin G3X Touch to experimental options from Dynon, OP Technologies, and GRT Avionics in the flight deck. Autopilots by TruTrak (now BendixKing) and Garmin help lighten the load on a long cross-country flight.
This article was first published in the 2022 Southeast Adventure Guide of FLYING Magazine.