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 March 31, 2009
The Tecnam Eaglet with Gemini 2-stroke diesel engine will be demonstrated at AERO Friedrichshaven.
Production By Powerplant Developments of the Gemini 3 cylinder, 6 piston engine will begin in Hastings, UK in April 09. But testing is not completed either for the engine or the plane. Click here to read more.
posted at 11:06 PM
News of March 30, 2009
How will Diamond handle the aero diesel market? Comments on recent news.
Christian Dries, owner and chief executive of the Austrian airframer, admits in an interview to Flight International that the year 2008 has been a disaster: Blow one was the bankruptcy in May of Thielert, the German supplier of the Centurion 2.0 diesel engine that powered the twinprop Diamond DA42 and diesel versions of the DA40 piston single. Diamond and Thielert were not able to reach terms for continued cooperation. Blow two was delays in obtaining European certification for its own Mercedes Benz-derived aero diesel, having set up a neighboring sister company Austro Engine for the purpose. The European Aviation Safety Agency certified the 170hp (125kW) Austro AE300 only during the first quarter of 2009. Blow three affected another big project: the single-engined D-Jet ‘personal light jet’, for which Diamond has more than 600 orders. It will be built in Canada at its London, Ontario factory. Again, certification is delayed. A decision to swap jet engines plus other minor problems delayed to 2010 the likely start of production. The market for Diamond s $1.4 million D-Jet looks in fact less promising than it did when the program was launched in 2003 amid much publicity about the prospects for very light jets and the on-demand air taxi market. Since then, a number of air taxi start-ups have foundered, including US D-Jet customer Point2Point, along with VLJ pioneers Eclipse Aviation and Adam Aircraft. However, even when the hype was at its highest two years ago, Dries was careful not to get carried away, stressing the D-Jet s appeal to owner-flyers rather than as a charter aircraft. He is convinced the D-Jet will be attractive in an economic slowdown to owner-flyers looking to ‘step down from bigger aircraft’.
To top it all, Diamond is affected by the downturn in the private aviation industry. Deliveries of the DA42 fell from 98 in 2007 to 69 last year, and the DA40 from 80 to 33, although much of that was due to the lack of engines. Diamond has laid off in total some 450 employees in Austria and Canada. But as he prepares for Aero 09 in Friedrichshafen and the Paris air show, Dries is upbeat about Diamond s long-term prospects. One of the bright spots has been a burgeoning security and surveillance market for its €3 million spyplane - the DA42-derived MPP (multipurpose platform). Diamond handed over 17 of the types last year to customers as diverse as the UK Royal Air Force (thought to be operating them in Iraq), Austrian firefighters and the Niger government. Diamond expects to deliver between 50 and 60 MPPs this year. We know from other sources that the general security and surveillance market is one of the fastest going ones remaining today despite the recession; and its potential as an aero diesel application is obvious since it essentially needs a large autonomy. The aircraft is a standard DA42 offered with optional aerial sensors in bolt-on pods on the nose, roof and belly. The aircraft is securing a reputation, says Dries, because it offers a solution to so many missions, particularly for customers ‘without deep pockets’. As a result, Diamond is targeting local law enforcement and security agencies in Europe as well as governments in Africa and Latin America for which the products of the big defense manufacturers are out of reach. The MPP is much more affordable and quieter than a helicopter, easier to operate than an unmanned air vehicle and capable of staying in the air for 13h with two crew. ‘The MPP is now our biggest and most important business,’ says Dries, who will unveil at Paris an upgraded version of the aircraft, with a more effective engine muffler. ‘If it is 200m [650ft] above your head, you will not hear it,’ he says. ‘The silence of the aircraft will be a huge marketing advantage.’
The European approval of the Austro engine has come as a relief to Diamond, which will - after a hiatus of almost a year - begin deliveries of diesel-powered aircraft again, firstly equipping the whitetails at its factory. ‘It is six months too late, but at least it has happened,’ sighs Dries. After the Thielert crisis, he did consider launching a rescue bid for his supplier, but fell out with the administrator. Instead, production is ramping up at the new Austro factory immediately behind the Diamond works, where Dries expects between 500 and 700 engines will be delivered this year, although it has a capacity for 3,000. So far, Diamond is its sister company s only client, but Dries says there has been ‘a lot of interest from other manufacturers’. Dries expects much of the business to come from Diamond owners swapping their Thielert engines once they reach their warranty limit. ‘As time goes on, we expect most of the fleet to be replaced after 1,000 hours,’ he says. Although more expensive and heavier than its Thielert counterpart, Dries says the Austro engine is ‘more robust’ thanks to cast iron cylinder blocks instead of aluminium, as well offering 20% better fuel economy. With Diamond hoping for a quarter one 2010 certification for its single AE300 diesel-powered DA50 Magnum - a longer, roomier version of its DA40 to rival the Cirrus SR22 - the company is set to emerge from the downturn with a strong product line up.
Christian Dries is certainly the most enterprising, courageous and persevering aircraft manufacturer in the General Aviation segment, and one can only wish him a well deserved success. He made history.
The questions which remain are:
Whether an aircraft engine, diesel or other, can be directly derived from an automobile engine. So far, The Thielert venture has only confirmed the old fears about liquid-cooled engines, geared propellers, separate cylinder heads and use of multiple metals and alloys within the engine structure. The only automobile engine which remained constantly present - on the very light airplane market - is the old Volkswagen Beetle engine, and it was an opposite cylinder air-cooled: One could call it an aircraft engine adapted to automobile! Will Austro Engine finally provide a convincing demonstration, even if a somewhat heavy one?
And then, it appears more and more that diesel will be attractive on airplanes flying at least 500h per year, either for professional applications or for flight training. The professional market wants at least 300HP engines. The flight Academy market wants very light and simple engines. As of 2009, it looks like the Dries group of companies is far from proposing a V8 300HP+ as Thielert attempted to do, and DeltaHawk, Wilksch and PDD-Gemini are slowly but surely making progress with 2-stroke diesels of 100 to 160HP. Can the DA40 with the Austro 300 offer a viable alternative? Wait and see.
In that context, what can the new Thielert do to remain present, now that it has obviously lost its main customer? That is the toughest question.
posted at 5:11 AM
News of March 09, 2009
New Hybrid Propulsion System For Aircraft
Flight Design GmbH, which makes the popular CT line of light sport aircraft (see http://www.flightdesign.com/index.php?page=product&p=35), has announced it will debut in early April, at the Aero show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, a hybrid engine concept for light aircraft. The concept engine is based on 'a well-established certified aircraft engine' mated with an electric booster only used to boost performance for takeoff and climb, according to the company. 'The result is an optimized engine in respect to size, weight and fuel efficiency for cruise,' Flight Design said in a news release, that offers 40 additional horsepower when demanded, or redundant power in the case of fuel starvation. Flight Design has worked for two years with Franz Aircraft Engines (an engine dealer and refitter in Schechen, Germany, see http://www.franz-aircraft.de, to develop the hybrid, which it promotes as a short- to middle-term solution for efficient environmentally friendly aircraft still waiting for readily available electric or hydrogen powered propulsion solutions. Unlike concept cars that never make it to the mass market, Flight Design does have consumers in mind.
Flight tests are expected to take place in 2009, in 'an existing airplane,' and the company says preliminary talks with EASA have already taken place to create a realistic pathway to certification. April will show how they have done it, but Flight Design claims they have managed to keep the installed weight low enough to increase the load-carrying ability of small aircraft flying with the system, opening 'new possibilities for general aviation.'
The Flight Design MC LSA will be exposed at Oshkosh 2009 in April. It is made out of steel, light alloys and composites.
This could be an interesting concept when applied with a small 2-stroke diesel: A 100HP diesel plus an electric booster of 40HP could pull a 4-seater airplane. Whether Avgas, Mogas of Jetfuel, it all depends on the extra weight caused by the battery and electric motor... (AVwebflash 3/9/09 plus DieselAir comments)
posted at 4:04 AM
The Tecnam twin: A promising concept.
The Tecnam P92 Eaglet is an all aluminum airplane that combines the best features of their high wing aircraft line into one improved platform suitable for primary and advanced training as well as cross-country needs. It received its US Airworthiness Certificate on 1/11/2008. It is manufactured by Italian aircraft manufacturer Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam S.r.l. in Capua Caserta, Italy. (www.tecnam.com) The Eaglet is presently equipped with the Rotax 912S.
Powerplant Developments Ltd. (PPD) is supplying two samples of its Gemini 100HP 2-stroke diesel to Tecnam for flight evaluation testing. Later PPD will supply its 125HP if first results are favorable. According to PPD, the Gemini engine is very low weight for a diesel and it provides greater efficiency and higher torque than is found in current available engines.
Powerplant Developments is a UK based Company of four principals located in West Sussex. Managing partner Tim Archer, PPDs CEO, is based in the United States. Their Gemini family of two-stroke diesel engines is currently in development starting with the Gemini 100HP engine which is being targeted specifically at the LSA market and certified via ASTM Standards. Other engines of the same basic two-stroke design and up to 600HP are envisioned as the line matures. Archer stressed that supplying general aviation with a reliable alternative diesel engine is the primary focus of the Company. The Gemini 100 weighs in at just over 155 pounds dry (with starter, alternator and fuel system) and 190 pounds wet with required ancillary accessories. The Gemini 125 - essentially the same engine with turbo charging added - weighs 170 pounds dry and 205 pounds wet. The Gemini 100 is a geared engine of 1.6/1 ratio. When asked if the gearbox would have time limitations as it does for a competitor, Archer stated that, 'it would not.' The Gemini 100 and 125 are two-crankshaft, two-stroke, three-cylinder, six-piston opposed designs with mechanically driven superchargers required to maintain positive pressure for induction and scavenging. The combustion chamber is formed between the opposing pistons (so the Gemini is another scaled down version of the Junkers Jumo diesel of the thirties, which was regularly demonstrating 0.345 Lb/HP-hour of Specific Fuel Consumption); inlet and exhaust ports are formed by orifices in the cylinder walls. This engine, same as the old Jumo, must be geared because the two crankshafts are connected by a gear transmission, with the propeller on an intermediate shaft. The Gemini 100 maintains sea-level performance to 5,000 feet while the Gemini 125 -- with turbo charging added -- maintains sea-level performance to 15,000 feet. As currently envisioned, all engines above the Gemini 100 will be supercharged and turbocharged and any used for aviation will be certified via FAR 33.
The Tecnam twin with diesel, depending on price, can one day change completely the US professional and private twin market. One could expect a fuel consumption of 7Gal/h, and a long range. One advantage of the opposite piston design is that the gear transmission is balancing stresses on the gear driving the propeller: It is symmetrically actuated. (Aero News Network 8/08 plus DieselAir comments and update).
posted at 1:40 AM
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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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