OSHKOSH: Cessna adds diesel Skyhawk to GA fleet

With 100 low-lead avgas becoming increasingly scarce in Europe and Asia, Cessna has added a new variant of the ubiquitous 172 with a diesel engine.

The Turbo Skyhawk JT-A joins the Cessna 182-derived Turbo Skylane JT-A as the company’s answer to the growing avgas problem.

The Skylane JT-A, powered by the four-cylinder, Safran SR305-230E diesel, has been delayed by more than a year in certification testing, but the milestone is “really close”, says Joe Hepburn, Cessna’s senior vice-president of customer service.

For the smaller Skyhawk JT-A, Cessna has selected the Continental CD-155 diesel engine with a $65,000 option charge over the $370,000 price tag for an avgas-fueled Cessna 172, Hepburn says.

The diesel engine produces more thrust at cruise altitude than a piston, raising the Skyhawk JT-A’s speed to 131kt (242km/h), or 5kt more than a standard Skyhawk, Hepburn says.

It also functions more efficiently than a piston engine. Flying from point to point, the range of the diesel-powered version increases as much as 58%, Hepburn says. Training fleet operators should see a 25% improvement in fuel consumption, he adds.

Cessna also is considering diesel engines for other light aircraft, such as the Stationair and TTx. Now, the company has two different engine suppliers, which could improve the internal competition on future products, he says.

Diesel-powered aircraft are not new to general aviation, but their significance is growing due to widespread concerns about the toxicity levels of 100 low-lead avgas and its increasing scarcity outside the USA.

Piper Aircraft, for example, intended to bring the diesel-powered Archer DX to the EAA Airventure at Oshkosh, this year, but customer demand in Europe forced the company to keep the prototype aircraft on its current sales tour overseas, says president and chief executive Simon Caldecott.

The Archer DX, powered by the Centurion 2.0S engine, is priced at $399,500, a roughly $60,000 premium over the Archer LX, he says.

Lycoming is not widely credited as a diesel engine manufacturer, but company officials have touted the company’s quiet inroads into the market over the past year. Lycoming now has two diesel engines powering aircraft, says Michael Kraft, senior vice-president and general manager.

The Lycoming DEL-120 powers the US Army’s General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1C Gray Eagle and EL-005 drives the Textron Systems Aerosonde Mk4.7G, he says. Although both models are unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), Lycoming designed the engines for use in the general aviation fleet, pending customer interest, he says.