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 16, 2011
Austrians are moving ahead on Diesel airplanes
Jason Paur, of Autopia internet publication, writes: Two Austrian engine makers are developing a 280-horsepower diesel engine for the general-aviation market. They say it will be the most powerful diesel-aircraft engine available (which is true today), and it will burn standard jet fuel. Austro Engine joined Steyr Motors to develop a lightweight version of the Steyr M1 diesel widely used in the marine and special-use market. The aircraft version is slated for a pair of composite aircraft that Diamond Aircraft, another Austrian firm, has in the works. The new six-cylinder engine will offer 280 HP, which is 110 more than the current engine used by Diamond. Austro Engine is developing the diesel mill for Diamond’s new DA50, a single-engine airplane with five seats that is aimed at the popular Cirrus SR22. The more powerful diesel is also intended for a new twin-engine airplane being developed by Diamond and known only by the ambiguous name of FSA, or Future Small Aircraft. Diesels are gaining popularity in the aviation world because of their efficiency and ability to burn Jet-A, the same fuel used by jets. Most piston-powered aircraft burn a special version of gasoline known as 100LL (low-lead). It is hard to find in many parts of the world, especially in remote corners, and tends to be more expensive than jet fuel. Diamond Aircraft has been a leader in using diesels. In the United States the company’s current twin-engine airplane, the DA42, is available with smaller, four-cylinder engines. In Europe the company’s single-engine aircraft, the DA40, is also available with diesel power. Diamond plans on flying the new engine on a DA50 later this year. (Autopia 3/7/11)
On the Steyr website we read: The M1 Monoblock engines have been developed without compromise for the most selective markets, ambient conditions and operational profiles. Our strategy was to select the most durable heavy duty materials for the core engine and to design the whole surroundings in light weight materials, compact and without "ad-on"- compromises. For this we have chosen monobloc design from special alloy, mechanical Unit injectors, electronically controlled with injection pressures up to 2000 bar, oil pan as a lower sound encapsulation, carries all auxiliaries and reduces noise and vibration. All of these together with the experience of our highly skilled Engineers resulted in lowest weight in the class ( less than 1,2 kg / HP ), unrivalled compact dimensions, highest power density ( up to 92 HP / lt.) and lowest fuel & oil consumption (no figure specified.)
I like Diamond’s concept of the Future Small Aircraft being a twin-diesel, and I already wrote here why I believe in it. Since I wish them well, I also hope they will abandon their small D-jet project which seems to me too late, too slow, too small, too short ranged for its price, and coming at a time when the business jet future is not at all as bright as it seemed ten years ago (never forget that the whole world business jet market was always built on a gigantic tax loophole, and that President Eisenhower was very happy in 1952 hopping around in an Aero Commander 560 worth 0.75 million in today’s dollars…).
Steyr is a very, very serious partner in the diesel field who has no experience of aircraft market yet. It looks like the M1 is an excellent marine engine, achieving 1.2 kg/HP (which is good for marine, but on the high side for aviation) thanks to a specific power of 92HP/liter which is also high. We expect that this engine, same as the Austro and Thielert engines, will need a gear drive, a clutch, and some kind of flywheel. It is certainly a good idea to target at 280HP, filling a vacuum, and addressing such very popular workhorses as the Cessna 206 together with the Cirrus, Piper PA46, Bonanza, DA50 kind of planes. Lets wait for the first Diamond prototype demonstrating this engine. A mystery remains: How will the Diamond-Austro group of companies finance their obvious plan to offer a complete range of aero diesel engines? We all know by now through previous experiences that this undertaking can easily cost around US$ 200 to 300 million from design and testing to engine certification to the last STCs for at least 8 to 10 different models with at least 2-3 major airplane builders. No one yet has invested that kind of money in the aerodiesel venture. This is why neither Thielert, nor Austro, nor Snecma/SMA, nor Continental (SMA licensee), DeltaHawk or Wilksch has yet reached the objective. Continental (through AVIC) and DeltaHawk (through Sunward) are now Chinese. So is Cirrus. Will Christian Driess, Diamond and Austro’s CEO, also find a big brother in China (or South Korea)? In any case, Asia, led by China, is the sole but big, growing, future market for GA and for small piston-engined planes. Small growing markets are in Latin America, too small yet to really support a GA industry. Elsewhere in the developed world, including especially in the US, the market is mature, ageing, unprofitable, and shrinking. On top of that Asia now has the will, and the money. If you can’t lick them, join them…
posted at 7:09 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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