San Angelo Airport shares a history with Mooney of Kerrville. In the 1960s, Mooney set up a workshop in one of Mathis Field’s hangars to assemble the Mitsubishi MU-2, a twin-engine turboprop. Mooney won the contract with the Japanese manufacturer to assemble the new twin. When Mooney ran into financial difficulties in the late 1960s, Mitsubishi took over the San Angelo assembly plant and operated in Mathis until 1986. Among the customers who owned the MU-2 was Modesta Williams, wife of Midland oilman Clayton Williams. Much of the infrastructure used by Mooney and Mitsubishi over those two decades remains at Mathis, including the aircraft painting facility now operated by Ranger Aviation. Ranger has long been a Mooney dealer. John Fields, owner of Ranger, still flies a Mooney M20E and a Mathis MU-2.
Flight training in the Mooney dates back to the late 1990s when a group of Mooney aircraft owners and pilots held mass training to attend the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, called AirVenture. The fly-in usually takes place at the end of July each year. The group made a name for themselves at the Mooney Caravan. Today, the caravan is organized into eight wings across the United States. In Texas, the Caravan group is called the Texas Wing.
In order to qualify to fly in mass training at Oshkosh each year, each pilot must be certified as a Caravan Training Pilot. At regional clinics across the country, Mooney owners and riders come together to learn, practice and achieve Caravan ready certification. This year, the Texas Wing will host approximately 30 Mooney aircraft, along with their owners and pilots, for a three-day training clinic. Caravan pilots range from doctors, lawyers and airline pilots to ex-military pilots who would otherwise miss the formation flight since leaving the services.
During the clinic, newcomers learn the basics of formation flying, such as fingertip close formation and formation approaches and landings. The program requires two or three two-hour flights a day where the training maneuvers will be practiced in a ring of training areas located approximately 20 miles around the San Angelo navigational aid called SJT VORTAC which is located at about 1 mile northeast of the main trail.