TCM, Aerosance System...
The car you drive to the airport almost certainly has one, even the garden tractor you had to use before giving yourself permission to fly might have had one. Now, your airplane can have a Full Authority Digital Engine Control system keeping everything happy under the cowl. Aerosance and Teledyne Continental Motors announced FAA approval for their FADEC system that will be standard or optional equipment on the Adam A500, Cirrus SR22, Diamond C-1, Lancair 350 and 400 and Liberty XL-2. There is also a retrofit kit for Bonanzas and STCs are in progress for Barons and Cessna 210s and 206s. Aerosance's Web site calls it possibly "the most significant technical development for light GA aircraft propulsion of the past half century," but what is it?
...Better Performance On Less Fuel...
It's essentially a computer (actually two computers, one of which is a redundant backup) hooked to various sensors at key points of the engine, which feed data on temperatures, pressures and other variables. The computer then optimizes all the factors that keep an engine going round and round. To this point, keeping all those adjustments like mixture, carb heat, etc. in order has been the pilot's job ... and some do a better job than others. With the electronic brain making those decisions, the pilot is left with one lever and two choices: faster or slower. Aerosance claims the system will cut fuel consumption by up to 15 percent and prevent mixture-related catastrophes. With all that power in the realm of the microchip, it's important that it keep processing even under conditions unfriendly to the average silicon brain. The FADEC chips are all shielded against electromagnetic impulses caused by transmitters and lightning. A FADEC-equipped Lancair became the ultimate test bed for that shielding when it was hit by lightning in July. According to the pilot, the engine never missed a beat ... we didn't ask about his heart. All that bulletproof convenience comes at a cost, however. FADEC hits the market at an "introductory" price of $9,999.
The ultimate judges of whether it's worth it will be customers, and Diamond Aircraft CEO Peter Maurer is betting it will be a popular option. "It's certainly the correct way to move forward," he said. "I welcome it. It's time it came to piston-engine aircraft." He said that on larger engines the 15-percent fuel savings alone would be a major incentive. For those with smaller mills, like the IOF 240 in the Diamond, the prospect of longer engine life is also a potential benefit. "We would expect that we would have longer TBOs," said Maurer. Fleet operators and schools should be particularly interested in that ... although clearly until the market is flooded with FADEC, a student trained on FADEC aircraft alone may find his or her education ... limiting. Still, perhaps the biggest benefit will come down the road by attracting new pilots who might have been intimidated by all the switches and dials and the knowledge needed to run them properly. "If you make the airplane easier to operate then aviation becomes more attractive." Or at least attractive to a broader audience.