The Florida Air Museum is now home to the one-of-a-kind Mooney Tiger.
The aircraft, officially presented to the museum during last month’s Sun ‘n Fun fly-in, joins Mooney’s 1948 M-18L Mite, a single-seat, low-wing monoplane currently on display at the museum.
Formerly known as the Mooney Predator, the Tiger was created to compete for the Air Force’s primary trainer contract in 1989-90. Mooney hoped to win the contract, use the government’s cash to certify the aircraft, then develop a civilian version. The aircraft wasn’t selected for the contract, however, and it languished for the next five years in the back of a Mooney engineering test hangar. Stripped of its engine, canopy and cowling, the two-seater plane was left for dead.
In the mid-1990s, Tom Bowen, then Mooney’s vice president of engineering, felt the plane’s quick spin ability would make it an ideal aerobatic aircraft. In 1996, an extensive refurbishment began. A 300 hp Continental IO-550 engine was added and a new prop and canopy fitted. The original red-and-white paint scheme was replaced by black-and-orange stripes, creating the appearance of a Bengal tiger. The Tiger made its debut at the 1996 Oshkosh air show.
Mooney began preparing the Tiger for aerobatic operation, but the airplane wasn’t certified. Realizing it would take three years and about $5 million to reach certification, the little plane found itself back at the hangar.
But now it’s found a home on the Sun ‘n Fun campus.