Is Austria Powering
the Future of GA?
I have only known one person in my life from Austria, but she is a person well worth knowing. This woman is driven, she is wildly funny in a good way, and is a joy to be around, in all her energetic glory. Her love for the country in which she grew up is evident – all it takes to get her going is to ask her about Austria and then sit back and take a verbal tour that would make Rick Steves smile.
I mention this because after spending many evenings with her recently at arts performances and backyard bar-b-ques, I can better understand how the engineers at Austro Engine in Weiner Neustadt, Austria might operate. I can more easily see them going into work early, pushing the slide rule hard until after dinner, and then rushing off to down a few pints of whatever "beverage" they drink at the pubs over there. It is this devotion to their work that may be behind the ascent of Austro Engines as the possible next King-of-the-Hill in general aviation diesel powerplants.
And I am not the only one noticing this either. No, another important GA manufacturer in Weiner Neustadt has jumped the Austro Engines bandwagon too, according to this on aviationweek.com:
"Diamond Aircraft Industries has begun flight testing its DA50 Magnum four-seat, all-composite light aircraft. The 3,263 lb. gross-weight DA50 is powered by a new, four-cylinder, 170-hp. diesel-cycle piston powerplant called the AE 300 from Austro Engine. The first flight took place on May 14 from Diamond's plant at Weiner Neustadt in Austria with company CEO and owner Christian Dries as pilot in command, assisted by chief test pilot Soeren Pedersen."The aviationweek.com story reports that the Magnum is not the only Diamond to receive the AE 300, reporting that Diamond's DA40 TDi Diamond Star and DA42 TDi Twin Star will also get the engine. This news appears to let us know precisely how fast Diamond is running away from Thielert's powerplants.
As environmental pressures continue to hammer away at 100LL, these new smaller Jet A diesel engines look very attractive. I predict we will be hearing lots more from Austro Engines, so here is a little about the company from their web site:
"Austro Engine GmbH, an independent and privately held company, develops and manufactures rotary and Jet A1 piston engines for various original equipment manufacturers of small aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. The company was founded in 2007 and inherited the engine business from Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH, a world-class designer and manufacturer of a wide range of innovative and modern General Aviation aircraft. Their brand new 7,600 sq. meter facility is located in the Civitas Nova industrial area in Wiener Neustadt, Austria."So we will watch this rising star in the engine biz carefully, and cheer them on as they move towards profitability and possible greatness. Would I fly behind a Jet A-burning diesel, hell yes...you'd have to be a fool not to. Magnetos, we don't need no stinkin' magnetos! Forget about fouled spark plugs or a mixture control knob, no, with a FADEC power quadrant and a couple of tanks of Jet A hanging off your wings, you just firewall the throttle and vanish into thin air, simple as that.
There are many reasons why the 18-wheelers pounding our highways into submission all run monstrous diesel engines. Yes they make lots of torque, and yes, they are economical considering the power they produce. But the serious juicy trait of any diesel engine is dependability:
When you are at FL120 over the Rockies at night in IMC, you want a nice dependable diesel cranking away out there in front of your firewall. And if you really think about it, when was the last time you saw a big rig stranded on the side of the road due to engine failure? Sure, they pop plenty of tires, and the drivers occasionally do fall fast asleep at the wheel, but those diesel engines just keep on cranking out the ponies no matter how hard you push them. I know this because in my other life I spent a total of about 10 years driving those beasts, delivering bananas in the 80s and tortillas in the 90s...hating every second of it.And the last time I stepped down out of the cabover Kenworth I called "home", I vowed never to set foot inside another one, ever. So far, so good on that promise...but that doesn't mean I won't use their engine technology to someday power my airplane.
Now THAT would be sweet revenge on the Diesel Gods that tried to kill me.