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Small Plane Can Fly on Compressed Natural Gas

Airplanes are far behind automobiles when it comes to the transition to more efficient and environmentally friendly fuel sources (some of them still use low-lead fuel, in fact). That increases the cost to fly small aircraft because the fuel is more expensive, and it also increases pollution.

Aviat Aircraft hopes to change that. Earlier this summer the company debuted a version of its Husky aircraft that can fly on compressed natural gas (CNG). The plan can operate on both CNG and 100 low lead aviation gasoline. The Husky CNG is on display this week at the AirVenture 2013 event in Oshkosh, WI.

During a test flight between Oshkosh and the company’s factory in Afton, WY, Aviat found that the aircraft engine performed better and ran cooler on CNG. The company estimates the Husky could fly for as much as seven hours using the fuel. Greg Herrick, president of the Aviation Foundation of America, originally approached the company with the idea of using CNG in a small plane earlier this year.

“Among the many advantage of using CNG are fuel cost savings, cleaner burning fuel and no lead emissions,” Herrick said. “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. The result is a sophisticated solution which can be readily applied to a variety of piston powered aircraft.”

While a CNG refueling structure doesn’t exist at any airports right now, the company thinks that flight schools might embrace the concept, since it would reduce the cost of fuel for small aircraft. CNG is up to 8%  less expensive than aviation gasoline (which sells for around $6 a gallon). It runs cleaner and can help improve engine life, since the engine oil remains cleaner.

Source: Aviat Aircraft

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Brian Albright

Brian Albright is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to [email protected].

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