Piper is preparing to deliver its first aircraft equipped to fly with automobile fuel.
Piper vice-president engineering Dennis Olcott says the manufacturer plans to deliver this summer to a Malaysian customer a batch of Warrior piston trainers that will be able to fly with auto gas.
Peterson Aviation has been offering for several years a Federal Aviation Administration-certificated kit that can convert the fuel system of Warriors and other PA-28 models to accommodate auto gas, but this is the first time Piper has delivered an aircraft with this equipment.
Olcott says there is growing interest in piston aircraft that accept fuel types other than traditional avgas. He says most of this is from overseas, particularly regions of the world "where it's very difficult to get avgas", with the biggest demand from Asia.
Piper, which was acquired last year by an Asian investment firm, recently opened an office in Brunei as part of a push to grow its presence in the region.
Piper says its Asian sales campaign already has generated several orders and leads, particularly for its training aircraft. In response, Piper announced at Sun n' Fun it is significantly increasing production of its Warriors and Archers. Piper only delivered nine Warriors and Archers last year but expects to produce at least 100 in 2010.
Olcott says Piper is working on several projects involving alternative fuels, but the manufacturer is not yet ready to disclose details.
Cessna vice-president worldwide propeller sales John Doman says Cessna is also looking at non-avgas options for its piston line. Doman says using auto fuel on Cessnas is trickier because its aircraft are all now powered by fuel injected rather than carburetted engines.
"It's a difficult issue but the industry is tackling it," he says.