News, facts, and comments on the coming revolution for piston-engine aircraft.
In 1998, one diesel engine flew on a converted airplane for the first time since 1945. Today, close to 4,000 singles and twins are flying. This is the beginning of a worldwide trend which will eventually allow a rebirth of the piston-engined aircraft, around new specs and new missions.
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News of May 22, 2013
Diamond Air news: The DA52-VII twin diesel is available now
“Once you will fly this aircraft, you may find out, there is
nothing like the DA52-VII on the market today.” Says Christian Dries, Chairman,
Diamond Air. He might also say that there is nothing like Diamond Air either,
and still be quite right, if one considers these:
Diamond airplanes and their diesel Austro engine, the AE300,
are designed and manufactured by the same group of companies, the AE300 being
exclusively used so far on Diamond airplanes.
That company is not North American, nor German, nor Chinese,
nor French: It is Austrian. (Its North American subsidiary is in Canada.)
The DA 42-52 family
of twins happens to be at the same time the only diesel twin on the market. But
wait! It also is the piston-engined twin which sells the most in the world. Of
course this isn’t saying much, because the two other twin pistons still
available anywhere in more than confidential production numbers, the Beech
Baron and the Piper Seneca, are produced in still lower quantities than Diamond’s
figures... But at a time when the concept of a piston-engined twin seems passé
(the safety advantage of a twin has vanished in statistics many, many years ago…)
the situation of the Diamond twin is truly unique.
The Diamond diesel planes, DA40, 42 and 52, are dominating by
far the world population and market of diesel aircraft. But… still a strong
majority of Diamond diesels uses the Centurion Thielert engine, another 4-cylinder
In-Line liquid cooled, geared engine derived from the Daimler Benz (Mercedes)
technology, who was the original OEM supplier to Diamond when the firm first went
diesel. It seems amazing that Diamond and Centurion’s stockholders never came
to an agreement to combine forces on the engine market: Centurion’s customer
service presence in the world is now quite global, and its engine is OEM’d or
STC’d now on several airplane models.
General characteristics of the DA52 VII are:
Click here to read more.
posted at 10:18 AM
News of April 22, 2013
The Cirrus SR2XDH DeltaHawk diesel seems attractive compared with other Cirrus models.
The Cirrus SR20
retrofitted with the DeltaHawk diesel V4 2-stroke 200HP is designated SR2XDH. DeltaHawk
publishes on its website the following specs:
SR 2X DH (1)
Empty Weight lbs.
Gross Weight lbs.
Useful Load lbs.
Full Fuel Payload lbs.
Fuel Capacity gals
Fuel Burn gph / hr @ 75% (3)
Climb Rate @ S/L
1000 fpm (3)
Max Cruise kts.
(1) All numbers are estimated and are subject
(2) Targeted conversion price plus your
(3) Can maintain max climb rate to 18,000'
comparing, apples for apples, the Cirrus SR of 200HP, Avgas against diesel:
It looks like
the diesel version is 40 Lbs. lighter for same power. This is due to the
2-stroke structure. But the full fuel payload comes out the same because Jet
fuel is heavier than Avgas.
The fuel burn at
75% power is 22.6% less, but the cruise speed at 75% is higher by 40 kts, due
to the higher ceiling. This explains the range of 1067 nm. If the SR2X cruises
at same speed as the SR20 of 156 kts, we can safely expect a much lower fuel
burn and even longer range.
If I read the
tariff right, you will pay $332,000 for a new SR20 and then $100,000 for the
posted at 4:59 AM
News of April 14, 2013
OPOC diesel engine development is progressing, but moving away from the aircraft market.
Detroit Bureau publishes: Detroit-based
power train company EcoMotors has landed a $200 million deal to produce its
innovative OPOC (Opposed Piston Opposed Cylinder) motor in China, a deal that
initially will see the “breakthrough” engine design used for stationary
generator applications – though the U.S. company’s chairman says off-road and
commercial use, as well as automotive applications could follow. The OPOC concept
has generated significant interest in recent years because of compact size, low
emissions and high efficiency. EcoMotors claims it can be as much as 50% more
efficient than an advanced turbo-diesel, though the strategic agreement with
Zhongding Power, based in Zuancheng, China, may be the real test to prove that
advantage in the real world rather than a laboratory test bench. Zhongding
plans to begin producing its version of the OPOC in 2014 and hopes to have
capacity in place for up to 150,000 of the engines annually – projecting
potential revenues of “over US $1 billion.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a
key EcoMotors investor. “This agreement is a key milestone in bringing our
innovative engine technology to market and underscores the potent disruptive
force” EcoMotors claims the OPOC engine can be, according to a statement from
CEO Don Runkle. The potential for the engine – some versions of which are small
enough to carry in a briefcase – has drawn significant interest since EcoMotors
began to go public several years ago. Among the key investors in the
company are Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Silicon Valley’s legendary fund
manager Vinod Khosla, of Khosla Ventures. The basic design of EcoMotors’
engine, meanwhile, was developed by Peter Hofbauer, former head of powertrain
development at Volkswagen AG. But the basic concept behind it dates back
decades and a much less efficient version was once used by the Soviet military,
The suburban Detroit firm has been
negotiating deals with a number of possible customers, including one with the
big truck maker Navistar that continues to move ahead, Runkle told
TheDetroitBureau.com in an e-mail following the announcement of the Chinese
deal. But the strategic agreement with Zhongding could be the real breakthrough
by putting the first version of the OPOC into production by sometime next
year. The initial application will be for “genset’s,” the executive
explained, or stationary generator, “then off-road, then commercial vehicles.
We are also in discussions with them for a second smaller engine that would be
applicable for passenger cars. We also have three other customer LOI’s (not yet
public), two of which are potential pass car applications.” Runkle hinted three
“U.S.-based companies” not yet identified are also exploring applications for
the OPOC. With its high efficiency, low parts count and claimed ease of
manufacturability, the new engine might seem a perfect fit in a world where the
conventional internal combustion engine is facing tighter emissions and mileage
standards around the world.
That said, EcoMotors still faces an
uphill battle. There have been a number of potentially promising alternatives
to the time-tested gasoline and diesel engines that dominate the auto industry
today, including the Wankel, Stirling and two-stroke. The Wankel, or rotary,
recently went out of production when Mazda ended the run of the RX-8 sports
car. An ambitious Australian firm, Orbital, set up a plant to produce its
version of the rotary near Detroit around the turn of the Millennium, but that
project never got underway and Chrysler eventually turned the facility into a
conventional engine plant. The Chinese deal could be the real test to see if OPOC
is ready to prime time.
After first promoting a helicopter design (notably with Eurocopter), then a
truck application (with Navistar), OPOC seems to find significant interest in
China, but for the mass market of genset’s, later industrial vehicles and possibly
automobile. Zhongding Power will invest $200 million aiming at volume of
150,000 a year. This is definitely not the aviation market. For aircraft
applications the geometry of the engine is not at all favorable because the
double opposed cylinder design means an engine which spreads very wide on both
sides of a propeller axle. Unless one adds a bevel transmission gear and shaft, which is
heavy, costly, delicate and not very efficient. One mystery around the OPOC
engine is its fuel efficiency. The only claim published is “up to 50% more fuel
efficient than existing turbo diesels.”
We would love publishing something more accurate such as a figure for
Specific Fuel Efficiency in kWh per gram or Lb. of fuel or other.As of now, the FairDiesel project in the UK is the only one claiming at most 150 grams per kWh for small and midrange powers, a figure which is still theoretical but has been validated, and its architecture is ideal for both airplanes ans helicos.
posted at 3:18 AM
News of March 04, 2013
Surprise: Two Cessna 206 (models G and H) equipped with the Centurion-Thielert V8 are flying in France.
I have been invited to visit the
Gap-Tallard Airfield in South-eastern France by Charly Baum, and by Icarius-Aérotechnics.
Charly is an old subscriber to DieselAir. I first discovered that Gap-Tallard
is the most active GA airport in France, while hosting several flight
academies, two civilian FBOs, an avionics business and a facility of the French
Air Force. Gap-Tallard is 2,000 ft high. It will by 2014 host a new aerospace
engineering school which is Charly’s baby after years of lobbying between the
airport, the regional university academy and the help of the regional
government (A region is the French equivalent of a Laender in Germany and of a
State in the U. S.)
Charly is an experienced French pilot
and parachute jumper, who has, with his son and associates, his feet in two
1. The GAP parachute
center, which attracts students and instructors from all over Europe and uses
several Pilatus PC6 and one Cessna 206G diesel equipped with the
Centurion-Thielert V8 4 liter. Charly also owns personally a magnificent Cessna
206H, also converted to the V8 diesel, refurbished like new, with state of the
art avionics. These planes were the reason of my visit since until then I
believed that, out of the 7 Thielert V8 diesels built, all were now idle due to
lack of spare parts and customer service; and I was wrong.
2. Icarius, which
operates and maintains several Pilatus PC6 STOL high wing, fixed gear tail
dragger monoplanes with a 600 to 750 HP turboprop. The PC6 is known in the US
as the Fairchild AU23. These are multipurpose planes which are mostly used in
Europe for parachute jumping. Icarius also buys, refurbishes and sells PC6 to
How come that these Cessna 206 are
still airworthy? Charly told me the story: He was from the start an enthusiast
of the 206 diesel for parachute jumping. He was, in 2007, mandated by the
French Parachute Federation to promote the 206 diesel concept as an economical
vector for ‘chuting. Compared to the ubiquitous Pilatus which burns 45 gph, it
is smaller and much cheaper to operate, and it does have an impressive payload
for its size and weight with a take-off weight of 3,800 Lbs.: 800 to 1,100 Lbs.
according to fuel load. And it burns 12 gph at 75% power (135 Kts) and 9gph at
cruise economy, around 110 Kts. So in 2007-08 he purchased a 206G in Ireland
and a 206H in Belgium, and ordered from Thielert the V8 kit which Thielert was
just beginning to promote when the firm went Chapter 11.
With the 206 V8 operating at 2,000 ft ASL, they execute 6 ‘chute rounds per hour at 5,400 ft ASL, 3 rounds per hour at 12,000
ft ASL, and 2 rounds per hour at 15,300 ft ASL. The V8 is a bit heavier than
the original O-540 Avgas, but a heavy nose actually helps stability for that
kind of mission. With extra fuel tanks meaning 120 Gallons total fuel, range
with reserves can exceed 1,100 NM. I asked him how he explains that automobile
engines havs such a poor reputation when converted to aircraft, he told me very
seriously: ‘The Centurion V8 is exactly a Mercedes-Benz V8 diesel 4-liter. I
suggest that no one told our two engines that they were now flying…’
But what about the service? I asked
him. Charly says that at the time of Thielert’s reorganization under the
Centurion flag, Thielert was proposing for the V8 a 100 hour TBO on the usual
sensitive add-on: Clutch, gear and HP pump. 100 hour is of course very short,
especially at a price well above €11,000, which, says Charly, spends almost
exactly the fuel cost saved by diesel on gasoline engine, and was discouraging
for most 206 operators. But it was compatible with a parachute operation in
which what matters most is producing as many jumps as possible in a day with a
reliable, trouble-free plane. And that is what Charly’s 206 is: If the TBO
constraint is respected, the engine prove being extremely reliable despite the
very harsh conditions of use, with a fast repeat of take-offs, steep climb,
level flights and quick descents. His 206G has 750 hours and his 206H, which is
not equipped for parachuting, has 200. And ever since 2007 Charly has obtained
TBR quick service and delivery from Centurion, to this day.
So what’s going on? We are aware that
Centurion-Thielert definitely is a going concern thanks to a very effective
restructuring and a methodical policy to make of their engine a highly reliable
machine now with a proven, international record. Charly’s experience
with execution of the TBR which gave his hop several occasions to actually
scrutinize any possible wear and tear damage is that, in fact, the engine could
right now accept a TBR of 200 and maybe 300 hours. Why isn’t Centurion proposing again its V8 for 206
refitting, considering that, if more of these engines were flying, Centurion
could quickly optimize the TBR kit and drive its cost down. It is up to
Centurion to answer…
posted at 8:34 AM
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