7 January 1980: In response to a challenge, Alan W. Gerhartner, the chief flight instructor for Logan and Reavis Air, Inc., Medford, Oregon, flew a four-place, single-engine Mooney M20K, N231LR, s/n 25-0025, from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Washington National Airport (DCA) in 8 hours, 4 minutes, 25 seconds. This qualified as a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and U.S. national speed record of 486.20 kilometers per hour (302.11 miles per hour).
Gerharter had beaten the previous record held by a Malvern Gross flying a Cessna T210, N5119V, by 3 hours, 3 minutes, 23 seconds. When Gerharter arrived at DCA, Gross was there to meet him. (Gross’ records: FAI Record File Number 965 and 966).
Gerharter had made temporary modifications to the Mooney for this flight. He had two 25 gallon (94.6 liter) fuel tanks mounted in place of the rear seats, bringing the airplane’s total fuel capacity to 122 gallons (462 liters). The right front seat was removed and two oxygen tanks installed. In an effort to reduce aerodynamic drag, he removed the boarding step at the trailing edge of the right wing.
Waiting for advantageous weather, Alan Gerharter took off from SFO at 6:49 a.m., PST, 7 January 1980. He climbed to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) and adjusted his power settings to 75%. Though he had meticulously planned a Great Circle Route, electrical problems caused his primary navigation system and autopilot to fail, so he had to navigate as he made his way across the country. The airplane used 103 gallons (390 liters)of fuel during the transcontinental flight.
FAI Record File Num #13854 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – current record
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C-1c (Landplanes: take off weight 1000 to 1750 kg)
Category: Not applicable
Group: 1 : internal combustion engine
Type of record: Speed over a recognised course
Performance: 486.20 km/h
Course/Location: San Francisco, CA (USA) – Washington, DC (USA)
Claimant Alan W. Gerharter (USA)
Aeroplane: Mooney M-20K (N231LR)
Engine: 1 Continental TSIO-360Alan Gerharter’s world and national records still stand.
The Mooney M20K is an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane is 25 feet, 5 inches (7.747 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 1 inch (10.998 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 3 inches (2.516 meters). Its empty weight is 1,800 pounds (816.5 kilograms) and gross weight is 2,900 pounds (1,315 kilograms).
The M20K is powered by a 360-cubic-inch-displacement (5.90 liter) air-cooled, fuel-injected and turbocharged Teledyne Continental TSIO-360-GB-1 six-cylinder, horizontally-opposed engine, producing 210 horsepower at 2,800 r.p.m. and turning a two-bladed McCauley constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 6 feet, 2 inches (1.879 meters).
The Mooney M20K was marketed as the Mooney 231, a reference to its top speed of 201 knots at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), or 231 miles per hour (371.8 kilometers per hour). It is an all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable tricycle landing gear. The airplane has a maximum operating altitude of 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).
The M20K was certified in 1979, 24 years after the original M20 entered production and it was produced until 1998. The M20 series continued in production with follow-on models until 2008.
Mooney M20K N231LR, s/n 25-0025 was issued an Airworthiness Certificate on 27 December 1978. It is currently registered in Florida.
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopesby