From the Cockpit Part 25: Mooney M20J

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 25 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

As word continues to spread of Rankin’s yearlong endeavor, offers from pilots with their own planes come out of the woodwork. “Word is getting out and most people appreciate what I’m trying to do, promoting aviation,” he says. “You’re always going to have people who just want you to fit into the norm and not challenge yourself, but, by and large, everyone’s excited about it.” At an invitation from Terry Ogle, a Navy veteran who flew gunships in Vietnam, Rankin heads out to Peter Prince Field in Milton, FL where Ogle’s Mooney M20J awaits. Scheduling the flight proved difficult, with a number of cancellations almost scuttling the venture, but it turned into a particularly memorable flight that Rankin’s glad he took.

A stalwart and slick aircraft designed to comfortably zip the pilot, a couple friends (in a four-seat cockpit with leg room) and a couple bags through the night in style and comfort, the M20J may not boast a reckless resume like some bush craft or aerobatic trickster, but what it does, it does well. “It’s a good popular aircraft,” says Rankin, who found no real quirks or challenges—just a real smooth flight. And fast, with the M20J topping out at 201mph, thanks to an aerodynamic design with retractable gear and flush rivets, though Rankin kept the airspeed to around 160mph. “Owners that have them, love them,” he says of the plane, and it’s no surprise that some variant of the M20J has been in production almost uninterrupted since its first flight in 1955.

But the real star of the day was Ogle—Navy pilot, Vietnam vet and the man who got the Pensacola bus company to paint his M20J from nose to tail like the American flag. A flight instructor after his service, Rankin may have trained under him, but for being assigned to a different base. Stepping into the cockpit together, conversation was automatic. “It was one of those flights that’s over before you know it because you’re enjoying the conversation,” says Rankin.

What Rankin didn’t know at the time, soaring through the clouds for a blissful 45 minutes with Ogle, was that this was to be Ogle’s final flight and he was hanging up his wings. To fly legally, every pilot needs an annual medical evaluation showing them capable and sound to take the responsibility. Ogle decided to pass, letting Rankin know only after, via phone, that he’d made the decision. “I was quite honored,” says Rankin, to have been with Ogle on his last flight, to share the experience and the stories, though sad in a way. “Terry’s an amazing guy.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin and Terry Ogle fly the Mooney M20J. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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