On Monday, Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) and Honda Motor Co. announced they will join forces to study the feasibility of producing a next-generation piston aircraft engine for the GA market. Honda says it has developed a prototype piston engine with "the technical potential for being significantly advanced over currently available engines in terms of weight, fuel efficiency, power output and emissions." The water-cooled, four-cylinder engine is designed to run on unleaded auto gas, Honda spokesman Jeffrey Smith told AVweb yesterday. "The engine is undergoing bench-testing now," he said, "and will have its first test flight soon." The aircraft it will fly in is yet to be determined, Smith said. The TCM/Honda joint study will "evaluate potential business opportunities for both parties to work together toward marketing, servicing, manufacturing and identifying potential product launch customers for the engine." The announcement follows approximately two years of testing of the prototype Honda-designed piston aviation engine at TCM's facility in Mobile, Ala. Of course, TCM is no stranger to aircraft engines, as it has offered new, and re-manufactured engines, ignition systems and spare parts for the GA industry for many years. Honda is the world's largest engine manufacturer, Smith said.
...As Car Makers Try To Sprout Wings
While TCM has long been a household name in aviation, the same can't be said for Honda -- though that could be changing. As AVwebpreviously reported reported, Honda in recent years has worked on several GA powerplant designs, including piston, turboprop, and turbofan engines. Since 2000, the company has also been researching and developing more cost-effective piston aviation engines. And Honda is not the only Japanese car maker exploring the market for winged transportation devices. Toyota flew its Toyota Advanced Aircraft (TAA) project successfully last fall, albeit amid a shroud of secrecy. Will Honda be building an airplane of its own to wrap around that cute little engine? Spokesman Smith had no comment on that yesterday. What we do know is that the GA market has attracted some serious interest -- and potentially, serious competition. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli provided some insight into the Japanese interest in GA manufacturing in an article published last September.