Is new technology worth the investment?

Q: I am about to change my Alfa Romeo boxer engine to a Lycoming O-360A1F1 on my experimental Glastar aircraft. I read your answer recently to a question if LASAR is really useful (Will my engine benefit from new technology? Jan. 12 issue). Its actual price is $2,500. Do you think that it is really worth this high sum?

My mechanic has doubts, saying he is not confident in electronics — that if the electronics don’t work, the engine will stop. He also says that standard magnetos usually always work.

G. FRANK, Italy

A: I appreciate the fact that you read my article on the LASAR system. One thing I overlooked when explaining the system is that any interruption of the three data sensors — manifold pressure, cylinder head temperature, or rpm — and the system automatically reverts to the fixed timing on the engine just like the LASAR system was not there. Therefore, the engine would not stop as a result of the LASAR system experiencing an electronic failure.

I wish I could answer your other question regarding whether the LASAR system is worth the investment. There is no doubt it has some advantages over standard magnetos, such as a much hotter starting spark and the ability to adjust the timing for optimum engine performance at cruise power. However, are these requirements something you really need for the type of flying you normally do? If you usually operate in colder climates where starting may require a hotter starting spark or you do a lot of long distance cross country flying, then the investment may be justifiable. It’s a very difficult question that has to be decided by your own personal choice.

Also, how familiar is your maintenance technician or facility regarding the LASAR system? If it’s a system they have little or no experience with, then this may cause them some concern until they acquire the proper training and any special equipment that may be required to properly service the system.

Paul McBride, an expert on engines, retired after almost 40 years with Lycoming. Send your questions to: AskPaul@GeneralAviationNews.com.

Comments

  1. I’ve done some testing with the LASAR system to determine the benefits and compatibility with the Power Flow Tuned Exhaust, available mainly on Certified aircraft (but also on the Glastar/Sportsman.) The bottom line is that at higher altitudes (7500 or above) where the LASAR does most of its spark/timing advance for better economy, it can substantially reduce the benefits (gain in power/economy) of the tuned exhaust. In some cases, we have reports of the engine running a little rough at high altitudes. According to LASAR’s tech reps, the LASAR system is not to be used with any other engine or exhaust modifications (for a certified aircraft.) Because the LASAR system was designed before the Power Flow, it can’t know or learn a better timing pattern that would be optimized for both. It is my understanding that the new owners of the LASAR system don’t intend to modify it, either. So, as Paul mentions, you should really determine what kind of benefit or advantages you are looking for before investing in this or any other modification. The tuned exhaust system was designed for and works very well with the traditional, fixed-timing magnetos that are on 99% of all certified aircraft. If someone reading this would like more specific information about the compatibility, they can contact us at info@powerflowsystems.com. Darren Tilman, Chief Test Pilot, Power Flow Systems, Inc.

  2. I bought the LASAR system as standard equipment on a Lycoming A1A last year on an RV8A– brand new engine. The paperwork from Lycoming stated that the engine was equipeed with the LASAR on it’s test run in the test cell. Van’s has the option of equipping the engine with the LASAR system right from the factory. It starts easily without a primer system and runs very smoothly. I can get 7 to 8 gph at 165 mph indicated down low around 1500′ agl. Van’s did a test some year’s ago on the gph issue and basically said that the LASAR system will saved from .75 fph to 1gph. Seems about right. I have 140+ hours on the airplane now. Never had a problem with anything on the engine or for that matter not much of anything else either. If you save 1gph and fly a lot then the pay-off will come much sooner. As far as mechanics not being familiar with it I have not had that problem. It’s pretty much straigtforwad in that it runs the mags and if something goes wrong it just reverts to the old system of two timing ratios.

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