Bi-Fuel Airplane Could ‘Dramatically Reduce the Cost of Learning to Fly’
Wyoming’s Aviat Aircraft and the Minneapolis-based Aviation Foundation of America will unveil the first piston-powered aircraft that can operate on CNG and aviation gasoline at AirVenture 2013 this week in Oshkosh, Wisc.
The modified Husky A-1C – “America’s favorite taildragger” – has been fitted with a single Type IV fuel cylinder from Hexagon Lincoln. The aircraft’s 200-horsepower, four-cylinder Lycoming aircraft has been modified to run on either compressed natural gas or avgas “with the flip of a switch.”
“Among the many advantage of using CNG are fuel cost savings, cleaner burning fuel and no lead emissions,” Aviation Foundation of America president Greg Herrick says in Aviat’s announcement. “I’m impressed with how Aviat readily agreed to tackle this project, working with a team of engineers and craftsmen within the aviation and natural gas industries.
Avoiding $6 Per Gallon Avgas
“The result is a sophisticated solution which can be readily applied to a variety of piston powered aircraft,” Herrick said.
Regarding the choice of a Type IV fuel cylinder, “The newer generation tanks are of course preferred due to the lighter weight,” Herrick told F&F. “A lot of progress is being made in tank technology, for example the new 3M tanks just now going into production.”
CNG power is up to 80% less expensive than the national average of $6-per-gallon aviation gasoline, Aviat says. And, there is no lead in CNG – lead “is currently a significant issue with aviation gasoline.”
Engine Oil Stays Cleaner
Engine oil remains significantly cleaner, therefore improving engine life, Aviat says, while aircraft performance is enhanced as CNG typically burns 138 octane versus the 100 octane of avgas.
“One aspect we’re particularly excited about is the opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of learning to fly,” Herrick said. “If a flight school installs a simple CNG refueling station they can cut the cost for the student’s fuel, perhaps by thousands of dollars.”
“While adapting our standard Husky aircraft into this dual fuel configuration was not without challenges, it was well worth it,” Aviat Aircraft president Stu Horn said in his company’s announcement.
“The performance and ease of operations have exceeded our expectations,” he said. “This is a remarkable proof-of-concept airplane.”
Aviat Husky is designed for off-airport landings, for recreational flying, and for observation and cargo hauling operations. “It can be flown at any time of the year and needs little more than a clearing to be able to land.”
The Aviat Husky CNG flew more than 1,000 miles from Aviat’s headquarters in Afton, Wyo., to Oshkosh. Flight endurance at 65% power setting is approximately seven hours.
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Source: Aviat Aircraft with Fleets & Fuels follow-up