In his delightful, often bitingly witty novel, “Tom Sawyer,” Mark Twain used the term “news of no news” to describe the kind of reporting that says, in effect, there’s nothing new to tell you but I’m compelled to tell you something.
Although little of real substance has turned up among engine manufacturers so far this year, what we have learned goes well beyond “no news.” While no surprises were announced or shown at Sun ‘n Fun, for example, a number of innovations appear to be on the horizon.
Lycoming is a good example.
Ian Walsh, a Textron senior vice president and Lycoming Engines’ general manager, only hinted that a significant announcement may be forthcoming at AirVenture, but he did discuss the new 580 and 390 engines and the Advanced Technology Center, which was started last year.
“We’re spending the money to get both those engines certified,” he said. “That’s good news.”
He pointed out that the list of options for Lycoming’s experimental engines is “growing rapidly” and is finding favor “at places like Reno.”
Walsh commented that the company has “pushed well beyond” crankshaft issues, which was reiterated by Fred Hill, manager of Lycoming’s Quality Systems operations. Hill announced that Lycoming achieved registration to the AS9100 aerospace standard of the International ISO9000 at the end of 2006. “Achieving AS9100 registration is a significant milestone in Lycoming’s relentless journey to becoming a premier company,” Hill said. “We intend to keep raising the competitive bar until we are indisputably the premier aviation engine company.”
Electronics will play a large part in meeting that goal, Walsh commented. “We’re taking two different approaches. One is a full-time solution, the other an integrated solution, targeting different customers and different markets.” Walsh said he hoped the company will have something to show at Oshkosh.
“The other big thing we’re working on, as a function of the Technology Center, is alternative fuels,” he said. “We have a very strong arm in avgas engines and there always will be a certain demand for those,” he stated, “but the last real frontier is heavy fuel.”
While Walsh would not discuss the status of that program for the record, he pointed out that the market is ready for heavy fuel, and “we are absolutely committed to building a next-generation engine.” It is “a very large investment project,” he acknowledged, and will be pursued “very carefully,” he said. “We want to do it right.”
For more information: Lycoming.Textron.com.
TRACE Engines, based in Texas, has bought all the technology rights, manufacturing equipment, FAA, Transport Canada and European aviation certifications and all worldwide manufacturing and sales rights for the Orenda 600 horsepower V-8, liquid-cooled aircraft engine seen in past years at many air shows.
Spokesman Derek Parker says that TRACE has “re-engineered the concept of liquid-cooled, high-output turbocharged V-8 engines for a variety of aircraft.” This engine “addresses the aviation industry’s immediate requirement for a modern, cost effective reciprocating engine,” he said.
The Orenda is “fully certified and ready for production,” he stated. The engines and services will be distributed through the Davis Aviation Services distribution and dealer network and Canadian agricultural applications will be marketed by Yorkton Aircraft Services in Saskatchewan, he added.
The Orenda engine is certified for Air Tractor 401 and 402 models and the de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, according to Parker, who noted “a number of aviation engineering groups have begun work on STC retrofit programs for the DHC-2 Beaver, Air Tractor 300 and 500 series aircraft, Ayres Thrush S2R and Ag-Cat aircraft, and will market their kits to operators worldwide.” Other retrofit programs currently underway include the King Air C90, we were told.
Parker described the Orenda engine as “the world’s most affordable and advanced high-power reciprocating engine for utility singles and cabin-class twins. Typical installations will be found in singles with gross weights generally up to 6,000 lbs., and twins up to 12,500 lbs. Replacement of turbine engine designs will increase climb rates and improve performance at altitude,” he said.
The reason for that is a turbine engine’s power degrades as altitude increases, while the turbocharged Orenda V-8s maintain cruise power all the way up, he explained. “An equivalent turboprop engine would need to be rated as much as 1,000 horsepower at sea level in order to match the Orenda’s output at altitude,” he added.
TRACE’s Orenda engines offer power outputs between 500 and 750 hp “without the cost of moving to turboprop power,” Parker said. “TRACE offers a more fuel-efficient alternative that costs significantly less to purchase, repair and overhaul providing operators with savings of up to 35% to 50%. The very competitive level of dollars per horsepower offering opens doors for viable re-powering and new construction of thousands of airplanes,” he said.
For more information: TraceEngines.com.
While Thielert, based in Germany, and its Texas-based subsidiary, Superior Air Parts, had little new to say at Sun ‘n Fun, Thielert did announce several new U.S. certifications for its Centurion 2.0 JetA engine.
The 2.0 earned supplemental type certificates for both U.S.- and French-built Cessna 172s last fall, but a month before Sun ‘n Fun supplemental type certifications were extended to the 172F to 172S, and F172F to F172P series. With some 40,000 172s flying worldwide, the company sees “a significant increase in our sales potential,” said Frank Thielert, founder and CEO.
While the largest potential market for the engines is the United States, Thielert said, the FAA STCs are acknowledged by most countries in Africa and Asia without further testing. “These countries represent important markets for Thielert, because the availability of leaded aviation gasoline is extremely limited there,” he said. “The Centurion engines are fueled with kerosene, the standard aviation fuel, and are not affected by the scarcity of avgas.”
For more information: Thielert.com.
Not at Sun ‘n Fun was a French startup, Price Induction, which has announced its development of a 560-pound thrust, high bypass ratio turbofan engine that it calls the DGEN380. Price Chairman and CEO Bernard Etcheparre said applications for the engine, for which “studies are almost completed,” will be small single or twin-engine aircraft, probably seating four people. He noted that the engine’s development schedule calls for first runs early next year. Working with an unnamed airframer, he added that a proof-of-concept airplane could be flying by late 2008, around the time he also expects European certification of the engine.
Price Induction’s display at the 2006 Paris Air Show attracted a lot of attention as a powerplant for a 3,300-pound four-to-five seater. “This led us to focus on 560 pounds thrust instead of the 450 pounds we intended originally,” Etcheparre said after the show. He anticipated at that time that a DGEN380-powered twinjet would cruise at 220 knots at 18,000 to 20,000 feet, with a range of about 700 nautical miles – ideal for Europe, where distances are relatively small. “Such an aircraft would be a high-end four-seater more than an entry-level business jet,” he said. Etcheparre suggested a price of around $157,000 for a pair of Price’s little engines, “suitable for an aircraft priced from $480,000 to $550,000.”
The DGEN380 is Price Induction’s second engine design. The first was a single-spool engine with variable fan blades, but was “too complex and certification would have been too difficult,” Etcheparre said. The new design is a twin-spool, two-shaft, FADEC-controlled turbofan with a single-stage high pressure turbine driving a single-stage centrifugal compressor. A single-stage low pressure turbine drives the fan through gears, according to the firm’s website. The combustor is conventional, with reverse flow.
The DGEN380 is expected to weigh only 90 pounds. “Our target for two engines and all accessories is 220 pounds,” Etcheparre said. Bypass ratio is 8:1. The high bypass ratio should keep the noise level low, Etcheparre commented.
For more information: Price-Induction.com.
VULCAN AIRCRAFT ENGINES
Vulcan Aircraft Engines introduced its 105 horsepower Raptor 105 at the Light Sport Aircraft Expo in Sebring earlier this year. The four-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid cooled, FADEC-controlled, JetA-fueled engine is designed specifically for the LSA market, company representatives said.
“Using less fuel than a 912ULS and with more power than a 914 in a smaller physical package, the Raptor 105 is the ideal engine for any Light Sport Aircraft,” said Jim Lemley.
Vulcan is holding most numbers close to its vest, right now. As the in-house-written FADEC software is tweaked, the numbers keep getting better, Lemley told us. What we do know is that operating at a low 2,500 rpm while delivering 105 continuous horsepower yields low piston speeds, which should contribute to good engine life. In fact, initial TBO has been set at a respectable 1,500 hours. The propeller is geared at a ratio of 1.148:1. Vulcan’s FADEC is a proprietary system which, its builders are quick to point out, is “not a re-worked automotive unit” although the single lever control “brings to aircraft engines the ease of operation and reliability we expect from our automobiles.” However, Vulcan does market its FADEC to non-aviation diesel engine developers and the high performance automotive aftermarket.
Weighing in at 179 pounds, the Raptor 105 is competitive with the Rotax 912ULS both in price and operating cost, the latter being nearly 40% less than the Rotax, Vulcan says.
As this is written, dynamometer testing is being done near St. Louis, where first flight will take place soon in a Zenith 701. “Testing has gone remarkably well,” Lemley told us. “I’m looking forward to seeing people’s faces when they hear this engine run. It doesn’t sound, feel or smell like a diesel.”
For more information: VulcanAircraftEngines.com.
ULPOWER AERO ENGINES
ULPower Aero Engines, a Belgian company, also had a new LSA engine at the Sebring expo. Unlike the Raptor, the UL260i engine is air cooled, direct drive and burns automobile gasoline, according to John Pescod, the company’s owner and president.
Ignition is electronic and control is FADEC, Pescod said. The 95-hp engine weighs just 160 pounds, dry. Multipoint fuel injection compensates automatically for altitude and temperature.
ULPower developed the engine specifically for use in light fixed and rotary wing aircraft, Pescod said. “It is built to the highest standards,” he stated proudly, with a fully electronic ignition and multipoint fuel injection system as standard. “This engine is the answer to the discerning aircraft owner who desires a modern and efficient aircraft power plant, instead of the decades old carburetor-magneto technology which no one would accept in their automobiles today,” he said.
The engine’s design, he said, “was based around critical issues such as reliability, light weight, excellent performance, a direct propeller drive and modern, proven technology.”
ULPower launched series production of its engine at the end of 2006. Engines now are being delivered to customers.
Asked about pricing, Pescod replied, “If you are looking for the cheapest engine around, you have come to the wrong address. We made the strategic decision to offer the UL260i with high quality components and finishing, electronic engine management and fuel injection as standard features, even though this actually puts us at a price disadvantage in relation to some of our competitors.” The current price is †11,900, or $15,897 at the June 11 exchange rate.
ULPower has an exceptionally informative website at ULPower.com.
AeroTwin Motors is a subsidiary of Nevada-based AirScooter Corp., which is developing a coaxial, counter-rotating, dual rotor “recreational flying vehicle.”
“As we developed the product, we discovered that the light-weight four-stroke engine we required did not exist anywhere in the world,” said Dwaine Barnes, the company’s president. “During discussions with many OEMs, we found that they recognized the same hole in the small engine market. In late 2000 we began to develop a modern, two-cylinder, four-stroke motor that met the needs for our recreational vehicle.
We recognized the market potential for this engine and now manufacture the AeroTwin engine,” he explained. AeroTwin holds a number of patents on its engine technology, most of them for its head and cylinder design and its cooling methods.
The company’s first product is the AT972T, which delivers 65 hp at 4,200 rpm. A new reduction gear box provides a range of reduction ratios and an integrated clutch, yielding smooth power transmission to a wide assortment of propellers, according to Barnes, who says the engine provides smooth, flat torque and quiet operation for “a wide range of sport vehicles” beyond the firm’s own Air Scooter.
It appears that the company is taking a serious interest in military UAV applications, among other possibilities.
So, you see, it isn’t really “news of no news” at all. No big announcements, no surprises, but progress and innovation and some really interesting things to come. We’ll be watching for them.