Aviat Flies World's First CNG Airplane at Oshkosh 2013

propane cng airplane

Avgas costs nearly $6 per gallon these days, and the lead-enriched petroleum-based fuel is highly, highly toxic. So, why not build a plane that runs on low-emission, high-octane CNG? Aviat has done just that, and they’ve released their new, clean-burning aircraft at the Oshkosh 2013 aviation show!

The Aviat Husky A-1C shown here (called “America’s favorite taildragger”, by AviationWeek) has been fitted with a single Type IV fuel cylinder from Hexagon Lincoln. The aircraft’s 200 hp, four-cylinder Lycoming aircraft has been modified with a 10:1 compression ratio in order to run well on either compressed natural gas or avgas at “the flip of a switch”, much like the bi-fuel cars Chris covered last month.

“Among the many advantage of using CNG are fuel cost savings, cleaner burning fuel and no lead emissions,” says Greg Herrick, president of the Aviation Foundation of America and one of the people behind the Aviat’s Oshkosh unveiling. “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. One aspect we’re particularly excited about is the opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of learning to fly,” Herrick says. “If a flight school installs a simple CNG refueling station it can cut the cost for the student’s fuel, perhaps by thousands of dollars. And the fuel is available where ever there is a natural gas line. If a training plane uses 10 gallons per hour, the cost of fuel alone could be reduced by $40 to $60 per hour.”

In addition to the cost-savings, the 138-octane equivalent CNG fuel has some other advantages. “Performance and ease of operations have exceeded our expectations,” notes Herrick. “This is a remarkable proof-of-concept airplane.”

Better performance, lower cost, improved safety, and reduced emissions make switching to CNG a no-brainer, and 3M is getting set to put the CNG aviation tanks into mass production later this year. So, expect to see more CNG fueled planes at next year’s Oshkosh – and don’t forget to remind your idiot neighbor that putting Avgas in his car won’t make it go faster, it will just cost him more money and give him permanent brain damage.


Source | Photos: Aviat, via AviationWeek.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.