Although avgas is expensive, there is no shortage in the U.S., and oil companies continue to support its production and distribution. Nonetheless, Cessna Aircraft has decided to outfit its best-selling 172 Skyhawk with a diesel engine. Starting in the middle of next year, Cessna dealers will sell the Skyhawk TD powered by a 155-hp Thielert turbocharged diesel engine installed under an FAA supplemental type certificate (STC).
Cessna’s intended acquisition of Bend, Ore.-based Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing, announced late in September, will complement Cessna’s latest piston-engine development, the next-generation piston (NGP). Not much is known about the NGP; Cessna showed the all-composite high-wing, which is in flight test, at the 2006 EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis., but only by flying it over the airfield, thereby denying attendees a close-up look.
Beginning with the 2008 model year, Cessna 172 buyers can pay $15,000 more for a 155-hp, two-liter turbocharged Thielert diesel engine-powered Skyhawk instead of the current avgas-burning 180-hp Lycoming version. Cessna dealers told AIN that the factory diesel Cessna 172 will retail for $298,500, including Garmin G1000 avionics and integrated GFC700 autopilot.
Record high fuel prices have served to concentrate minds on how to keep operational costs from spiraling. This cannot be other than good news for Thielert Aircraft Engines, which is recording burgeoning sales of its Centurion engines. With avgas difficult to obtain in some parts of the world, the general aviation market has been eagerly turning to diesel power both for the easier access to jet fuel and the need to cut costs.
Ravi Tripuraneni is here at NBAA’06 promoting his design for the RT-700, a new piston-powered twin-engine airplane with a three-lifting-surface design similar to that employed by Piaggio’s Avanti turboprop. “Obviously we are looking for funding,” said Tripuraneni, president of Aviation Technologies International, based in Orange, Calif.