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.
DieselAir Research, Inc., the publisher of The DieselAir Newsletter, offers strategic intelligence services to the aircraft industry, its suppliers and its customers who ambition to benefit from this global change of paradigm which will mean new markets, new concepts, new services, new materials and components… You may be interested in our services if your firm designs and/or manufactures aircraft and components, aero engines, avionics, propellers and engine components, fuel systems or additives, advanced materials, or industry specific machinery for manufacturing of these; or provides aviation services such as fuel production or distribution; flight training, aircraft chartering, maintenance and operations (FBO’s); or airport management and design, traffic control, hangar, materials handling and storage equipment; or consulting and financial services for these industries; or advertising, sales promotion, trade shows, specialized publications.
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News of February 25, 2007
Special report: Yesterday they were skeptical. Now they get impatient.
From my observation point at DieselAir Newsletter, I have seen US pilots attitude drastically change after three events closely following each other: the availability of the Diamond DA 42 Thielert twin in the US; The decision by Cessna dealer Van Bortel to propose the Thielert 135HP as an option on new 172s; and the STC finally secured by SMA for the conversion of Cessna 182 models M to S. Yesterday, US pilots, professionals and aircraft owners were skeptical: "Not for the US" was the general attitude. "Diesel is for these poor Europeans who pay an arm and a leg for fuel." This has completely changed. The attitude today is more like: "My Cessna 210 is coming to TBO. I want a diesel. Why can't I retrofit it right now? What are they waiting for?"
Let me explain one thing I learned after 55 years following world aviation technology (I am 69 and was building model aircraft when I was 14, do not forget.) An airplane is faster than any other transportation vehicle when it flies (which is not very often). Apart from that, everything, and I mean everything in the aviation industry moves slower than in any other industry. This is a regulated industry, and it is not getting better. Make an experience: Procure a 1960 Operating Manual for a Cessna 172 model of that year; the same, for a 172 of the seventies; same again for one of 1995; and same again for a 2007 model. And look at the manual volume, in sheer number of pages, each time: It has exploded. And to make it worse the GPS manual that goes with it is another manual of the same size! The old joke was that what makes an airplane fly is money. The new joke is there is good news now: It consumes money, but it produces something: paper work! More and more of it!
That diesel is coming makes no doubt anymore. How fast it will come? Slowly, very slowly but surely until 2010 in my opinion. Then it will accelerate somewhat as more mechanics and shops are certified and licensed to sell conversions through STC's which will be more numerous and accessible.
This means that there is a big opportunity today for business: Invest in STCs for diesel conversions of known aircraft models and types. You can assess at one million dollars the cost of an STC for a simple single engine airplane, at 2 to 3 million for a light twin or a complex single. But there are models around which, once STCd, will sell for decades, because the same plane, once refitted with diesel and what goes with it plus a state of the art avionics, becomes a totally different plane. A Cessna 152 diesel will be a true mini-IFR cross country plane. A Piper Aztek, a minimal trans-oceanic aircraft. And so on.
Meanwhile, when will new STCs become available? We expect the Piper Dakota SMA at any time now. The Cessna 206 Thielert V8, within 18 months to 2 years. The Cessna 400 series and Beech Duke with Thielert V8, within 2-3 years. We cannot say for sure for retractable singles because the front wheel well remains a problem to lodge the added heat exchangers, but it was done for the SOCATA Trinidad so it will eventually be done for all popular singles, through a costly STC each time. Volunteers to co-invest in an STC? Contact us.
posted at 7:50 PM
What is a "common rail" diesel?
The Vulcan Raptor uses so-called "common rail" technology, a term you will read more and more when talking about aero diesel. Common rail is common on European diesel automobiles but not applied to aero diesels until now. In theory a common rail diesel system works just like the fuel injection in your car. A pump provides fuel at a certain pressure to a reservoir, called the rail. All of the injectors are connected to the rail, hence the term 'common rail'. The injectors open and close as commanded by the fuel injection computer, usually referred to as the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) or ECM (Electronic Control Module). In practice, the differences between spark ignition and compression ignition fuel injection systems are significant. In your car, the fuel is maintained at a constant pressure, usually between 36 and 72 psi. In the Vulcan common rail system the fuel pressure is variable, depending on engine need, and runs between 5000 and 26100 psi (no that's not a misprint, it's 26,100 psi). Timing the fuel injection also requires far more accuracy than a gasoline engine. The Raptor can use Diesel #2 which is the fuel you can get at a regular gas station. Jet A is the jet fuel commonly available at most airports. #2 diesel is a better lubricant than Jet A and in the past most diesels engines required a lubricant additive to run Jet A. The Vulcan system was designed from the onset to use Jet A and does not require the use of any additives. Interestingly, even though #2 diesel and Jet A have different weights per gallon, a fact that pilots need to keep in mind when computing weight and balance, they have almost the same energy content per unit volume. This allows the pilot to mix approved fuels in any ratio in the tanks. We expect that gradually all aero diesels will accomodate any of the two fuels, but Vulcan is the first to openly offer it on the market. Other info (Vulcan Aircraft engines website)
posted at 7:44 PM
Vulcan Aircraft Engines, LLC was formed to bring world class turbo diesel technology to general aviation.
Vulcan Aircraft makes an initial entry into the Light Sport Plane market, with the Raptor 105. It is a diesel engine intended to compete directly with the Rotax 912 ULS and Rotax 914. Using less fuel than a 912ULS and with more power than a 914 in a smaller physical package, the Raptor 105 may be the ideal engine for any Light Sport Aircraft. Vulcan has gone to great lengths to produce an engine that is comparable in weight with equal HP gasoline engines, much less existing diesels. Gasoline powered aviation engines in this range generally weigh 1.5 to 2 lbs per HP. For example, the Rotax 914 is rated for 100 HP continuous operation and weighs 166 lbs for a weight to power ratio of 1.66 to 1. The Raptor 105 produces 105 hp continuously and weighs 179 lbs for a weight to power ratio of 1.7 to 1. Also it currently meets all applicable emissions regulations and is ready to meet proposed future standards. Most aircraft in the 80-120HP range have gasoline engines. The advantages of diesel engines are already well-known. The problem has been in two very important areas; weight, and cost. The Raptor brand engines are a direct replacement for gasoline engines and are intended at a cost that is comparable with existing gasoline engines. All Vulcan engines are made in the United States. (Vulcan Engines Website 2/07)
posted at 7:42 PM
A Novel Rotary Diesel Engine for General Aviation Aircraft
The NASA 1998SBIR project refers to the design and production of a novel rotary diesel engine for General Aviation aircraft using the patented Rand-CamTM fluid compression cycle. The innovation is the design of a light weight (1.0 lb./hp), highly fuel efficient (<0.30 lb./hp-hr), multi-fuel, low-noise/low-vibration engine which will reduce aircraft manufacturing costs, improve light aircraft performance, reduce fuel consumption, reduce engine noise and exhaust emissions. Phase I will evaluate a 125 BHP Rand Cam diesel engine, which has been developed as a stationary power unit, to determine the operating characteristics of the engine in typical airplane missions. Phase I effort will also include the preliminary design of a 225 BHP class engine, to be fabricated and tested in Phase II, to assure the suitability of the engine for GA aircraft missions. The proposed project is consistent with the objectives of Subtopic 05.02 to effect dramatic reductions in light aircraft engine acquisition and life cycle costs; operate on multi-grade fuels, reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions; reduce community and cabin noise, increase aircraft performance, safety, and reliability; and increase passenger comfort. The project is also consistent with the goals of the NASA General Aviation Propulsion Program (GAP) and the NASA Small Airplane Transportation System (SATS). The direct commercial potential for the proposed project is the manufacture and sale of a general aviation airplane incorporating the proposed diesel rotary engine technology. · Production and sale of rotary diesel engines to other light aircraft manufacturers. · Production & sale of rotary diesel engines to other users such as marine & auxiliary power units. Global Aircraft Corporation is currently certifying its GT-3 Trainer airplane under FAA Part 23 Regulations. The Company is in the process of starting production of a revolutionary new composite propeller that has been developed under the NASA SBIR Program. The Company currently has available funding to construct the initial production facility by November 1998. Global has adequate financial reserves in the current credit facility to finance production of the Rand Cam rotary diesel aircraft engine to be developed and FAA certified in Phase II. Assuming the goals of the Phase I and Phase II Projects are achieved, Global Aircraft will team with an existing engine manufacturer to FAA certificate, produce, and market the rotary diesel engine to both domestic and international aviation markets. Several engine manufacturers have indicated an interest in producing the engine when it is proven technically feasible. A recent market survey by the Company indicates that the potential marine market for such an engine is ten times larger than the aviation market. This market does not require the expensive costs of FAA certification and offers a lower cost start-up market for the engine. The lower start-up costs and increased production volume for the marine market will greatly benefit the aviation market by lowering production cost and spreading development and manufacturing tooling costs over a substantially larger market volume. Principal Investigator is Michael R. Smith, Global Aircraft Corporation, P.O. Box 850, Starkville, MS 39760. (NASA 1998 SBIR Phase I PROPOSAL NUMBER: 98-1 05.02-2800)
posted at 7:17 PM
News of February 02, 2007
News from Thielert: The 160HP diesel goes into production
The successor engine to the Centurion 1.7 goes into series production: It is the Centurion 2.0. The expansion of production capacity at the plants at Lichtenstein/Saxony and Altenburg/Thuringia and the associated recruitment of new staff have largely been completed as scheduled. The company already started series production of the Centurion 2.0 und Centurion 4.0 aircraft piston engines in the last quarter. The Centurion 2.0 is the latest development stage of the Centurion 1.7 and has also 135 HP. The latter engine has in recent years made a considerable contribution to the growth and success of the company, with over 1,500 units delivered for general aviation. In the Centurion 2.0, Thielert has been able to demonstrate that the proven and reliable design is upwardly compatible. The new engine will in future replace the Centurion 1.7 in all installations. The Centurion 2.0 has a greater engine capacity, particularly in order to meet the requirements of the US market. Thielert has developed an own engine block in the course of the development and approval process, which is especially designed to meet the demands of aviation. The European and US aviation authorities approved the engine in August and October 2006. Similarly, the Centurion 2.0 has been approved for installation in the Cessna 172 since August last year. The Centurion 2.0 is supplied to Diamond Aircraft Industries as an installation kit, and built into the successful DA40 TDI and DA42 Twin Star aircraft. Diamond is experiencing strong growth and has customer orders stretching beyond the end of 2007. Planning security for the Thielert AG companies is also further improved in 2007 by a second major and several minor OEM customers.
As announced in November, Thielert AG has won additional contracts from its US customer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). Thielert was able to complete important developments in the forth quarter. As part of the ER/MP (Extended Range/Multi Purpose) program for the US Army, the current contract for the year 2006 was increased by 50 percent and was already relevant for the forth quarter earnings. These development services were related to the engine for the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) "Sky Warrior". Thielert is the exclusive engine supplier for this program. GA-ASI will start with serial delivery of the Sky Warrior in mid of 2007.
Superior Air Parts, Inc., a subsidary of Thielert AG, has also grown strongly in the last year and was able to consolidate its market position. The measures taken in restructuring the organisation after the acquisition have been successful.
Comments: Thielert's weakest point was the perceived lack of power of their 1.7 engine, giving 135HP and presently recommended for retrofitting the Cessna 172 on which it however does an excellent job. But for the US market, 135HP sounds a bit thin... We are really waiting for a 160HP engine, a huge retrofit market is opening. we expcet this to come soon. Let's wait to hear more about the extra weight on a fully retrofitted aircraft.
posted at 5:35 PM
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Every month: news, facts, and comments on the coming revolution for piston-engines aircrafts between 130 and 400 HP: Retrofitting a diesel engine to run on Jetfuel or Kerosene, reduce Gallons/Hour by some 30%, eliminate ignition systems (magnetos, spark plugs) and their problems, eliminate mixture control, increase TBO to 2,400-3,000 hours, increase performance between 6,000 and 12,500 ft., and drastically reduce Operating Costs.
The letter is intended for piston engines aircraft owners, manufacturers, fleet operators and FBOs, re-manufacturers of engines for these aircrafts, manufacturers of engine components and ancillaries, and all professionals acting in decisions of engine exchange or refitting at TBO, in North and South America, Pacific Rim, African continent, and all parts of the world were Avgas, Mogas, Kerosene and Jetfuel are available.
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