Diesel-Powered Aircraft Engine: The Next-Gen Airplane

What’s the next big thing for general aviation airplanes?

Airbus had already manufactured the biggest aircraft with the A380. Smaller aircrafts have slimline seats. What else could aircraft manufacturers think of for their next-generation aircraft?

Are we likely to see the next-gen airplane looking like this?

Are we likely to see the next-gen airplane looking like this?

How about diesel-powered engines for general aviation airplanes?

Diesel-Powered Engines For Aircraft
Diesel-powered engines suited for aircraft are also being developed by several major aircraft driven by the need to find alternative sources of fuel for airplanes. According to an aviation consultant, Brian Foley, the majority of the piston aircraft models today are likely to have at least a diesel option.

Foley said he foresees the family of aircraft moving to diesel in the near future. Wichita’s Cessna Aircraft, for instance, has recently demonstrated its commitment to diesel as they announced the development of diesel-powered aircraft engines.

Jet Fuel vs Aviation Gasoline
Think about the difference between diesel gas and gasoline when you compare jet fuel and aviation gas. Aviation gas is always recommended for use on airplanes, but there are some airplanes that also run on automotive gasoline. Aviation gas shares the properties of automotive unleaded gas.

Jet fuel, on the other hand is highly purified kerosene. This type of fuel is likely to gel or form ice crystals in cold temperatures if no additives are mixed. Except for this, jet fuel can be poured straight into a diesel engine and it would run without a problem.

Aviation gas is used to run the majority of the smaller and single-engine propeller driven aircraft while jet fuel is used to run the larger twin-engine propeller driven aircraft. And yes, there’s jet aircraft which also runs on jet fuel.

Cessna Takes The Initiative
Cessna currently has two diesel-powered airplane engine models:

  • The Turbo 182 Skylane JT-A – the first model that is due for delivery to its first customer later this year and will be in the commercial market by mid-2015.
  • The Turbo 172 Skyhawk JT-A – the second model launched at the AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in last month and is scheduled for offering as a factory option in 2015.

A prototype of Cessna’s Turbo 182 Skylane JT-A with diesel-powered engine.

Alternate Fuel Source For Light General Aviation Aircraft
As efforts are pushed for the aviation industry to find new alternate fuel sources and to align with changes on environmental regulations, aircraft manufacturers are doing their bit. Modern aircraft parts are tweaked in the process through aerospace precision machining in order to keep the aircraft light and use less fuel. But such efforts may not have been enough for the aviation industry to make the aircraft attractive to potential buyers.

Suitable Fuel Replacement For Aviation Gas
In addition, environmental advocates are seriously calling for a ban on aviation gas which is used in the majority of light general aviation aircraft. And while the automotive industry had been successful in replacing leaded gasoline with unleaded fuel, a suitable replacement for the aviation industry has been more difficult and has taken much longer.

It’s in the works but is likely to take some more time. And while waiting for that, aircraft manufacturers venture into diesel engines in order to address the current fuel source challenge.

Other Than Aviation Gas
The unstable and dwindling supply of aviation gas has made it difficult for aircraft manufacturers to attract buyers as they are reluctant to make any purchase knowing that the future of the fuel that powers the aircraft is uncertain. In addition, countries outside Europe and North America have always been challenged by the short supply of aviation gas. If and when aviation gas is available, it is incredibly prohibitively expensive.

High Initial Cost vs Savings On Fuel Costs
In terms of investment, buyers of aircraft can quickly recoup because diesel engines use about 30% less fuel than other engine types. So even if planes with diesel engines are initially costly, owners are able to get the engine to pay for itself in 2 to 4 years maximum. The initial high cost is offset by the savings made on fuel costs.

How do you feel about flying on board an airplane with a diesel-powered engine?

Article Sources:
http://www.aviationpros.com
http://www.dailymail.co.uk

James Spader
 

Comes from a long line of American manufacturers and small business owners. His passions have always been journalism and World War II history. When not working, he enjoys cooking and competing in amateur chess tournaments.

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Filiberto

I hear that the initial customer deliveries of Cessna’s new diesel-powered 182 JT-A won’t be made until sometime in 2015 as engineers continue to hone the design. From what I understand, there were a few stumbles in the test program that included an engine failure and forced landing in a cornfield outside Wichita, Kansas, in August 2013.

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John

I know we’re talking about Cessna planes, but what about large airliners? In the past, air travel has mainly focused on getting people to their destination in the safest and fastest way possible. In the future, however, travelling could be an entirely different experience – integrating different stages of the journey or possibly changing how passengers pay, and making the excursion so enjoyable that passengers may want a trip to last even longer.

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David

The future of airplanes I think goes beyond the type of fuel that pushes them. The effects of IT-enabled aircrafts will be all-pervasive, providing the industry with the means to tackle long-standing areas of operational inefficiency, including: New levels of automation and efficiency in cabin and cockpit communication – compared to traditional data link services such as ACARS. Access for crews and passengers to high-speed networks and communications – cockpit communications, in-flight entertainment, etc.

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