Aviation Pioneer Launching a Dream In grade school, while other students doodled, Al Mooney sketched airplane designs. By high school, he was reading every handbook for pilots and aeronautic designers that he could find. In 1925, at age 19, Al was working as a draftsman by day and designing airplanes in his free time at night. A year later, one of his designs for Denver-based Alexander Aircraft went into production. More advanced designs followed, with Al leaving his indelible mark on each. But the Great Depression came along, too, bringing the fledgling aviation industry to its knees. World War II changed all that, and in 1946 the Mooney name entered aviation history. There, in a weatherworn hangar along a windswept airfield in Wichita, Kansas, brothers Al and Art Mooney recruited businessmen G.C. Yankey and W.L. McMahon to help finance the launch of Mooney Aircraft Company. Two years later, in 1948, the four certified the company’s first aircraft, the Mooney Mite (M18), an all-wood, single-seater with retractable gear, a cantilevered, laminar flow wing and the revolutionary forward-swept tail. From the beginning, this single-engine powerhouse captured pilots’ hearts, instilling a special loyalty that some called Mooney Mania. When asked what he attributed this to, Al once responded, “Tremendous trifles.” It was a modest statement for a man who had managed to unite the soul of a fighter aircraft with the efficiency of a sports plane. Al simply saw things from a pilot’s perspective. And he designed his aircraft accordingly. Down to the smallest detail. Such as a mechanism, operated by a small handle, that let the pilot easily integrate the flaps and stabilizer. Or rubber disks in the landing gear for problem-free shock absorption. Building a Legacy Innovation after innovation followed. Mooney Airplane Company’s headquarters and manufacturing operation moved to Kerrville, Texas, in 1953. The move did more than let the Mooney brothers be closer to the family farm. It began a relationship with a community and workforce that continues to be strong today. Al Mooney left the company in 1955 after Charles Yankey died. He worked the rest of his career for Lockheed, designing business jets. Mooney Airplane Company owes much to the man who lent it his vision and his name.
Today it is known for its long and rich history of producing high-performance, highly sought single-engine aircraft and for pioneering the performance/value equation. Al Mooney died in 1986 at the age of 80. But his name and innovative spirit live on.