The MU-2 family of aircraft is an international mix of Japanese and American technology. Designed by Mitsubishi, the airframe was built in Japan and shipped to the U.S. for assembly and the addition of engines and avionics. After a brief marketing experience with Mooney in 1965, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary was established. The line was later sold to Beech; however, a call to Beech today will result in more questions than answers. In reality, third-party vendors such as International Jet have taken over support of the aircraft.
While there are many MU2 variants, they can be separated by two things: either by a short or long fuselage and by their engine type. All the MU-2s have some varient of the Honeywell (Garrett) TPE 331 series turboprop. The last two, the MU-2 Marquise and Solitaire, each have two TPE 331-10 engines and are the best performing of the series. The Marquise has more than double the cabin of the Solitaire, providing much more comfort for the Marquise’s typical six passengers (versus a tight squeeze for five in the Solitaire).
Early on, the MU2 had such a high pilot-related accident rate, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) considered requiring a type rating. While that never came to pass, the MU2 today retains a reputation as a “hot” airplane to handle. An experienced pilot with recurrent training is a must for flying this aircraft.
Speed and relatively low operating costs are these aircraft’s strong points. The Solitaire will cruise at over 300 knots and the Marquise, just a little under 300 knots. When maintained well, they tend to be quite reliable. There were 139 Marquise and 66 Solitaires built from 1978 to 1985.