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New Jets? New Pistons!...

When the introduction of personal jets made a splash at Oshkosh three years ago, we expected 2003, the centennial of powered flight, to be the year of the engine -- the jet engine. Surprisingly, it’s the piston engine that seems to be attracting the spotlight, with the unveiling of details on Bombardier’s new line of six-cylinder powerplants and a surprise appearance by a new four-cylinder engine from Honda and Teledyne Continental. This joint venture between the Japanese automaker and Mobile-based Continental has long been rumored, but neither company hinted that the engine would make its debut at AirVenture 2003. It did and we’ll admit we’re intrigued.

...Bombardier Opens The Curtain...

First, Bombardier, whose Rotax engines are well-known to the experimental aircraft community. Recall that back in May we reported that the Canadian-based recreational products conglomerate announced it would market two new aircraft engines, the normally aspirated 220-hp V220 and the turbocharged V330T at 300 hp. Both are 120-degree V designs, with single overhead cams, water cooling, fuel injection and what Bombardier calls "true FADEC" or full authority digital engine controls. They’re also geared with 5000- to 6000-rpm engine speeds reduced to cruise prop speeds below 2000 rpm. Displacement for both models is a sparse 189 cubic inches. That much we knew. What surprised us at a Tuesday-morning news conference is how economical Bombardier claims the engines will be. Stated specs call for a brake specific fuel consumption of .42 pounds per horsepower/hour for the V220 and .41 for the V300T, both at 75-percent power. In an interview after the morning press conference, program director Klemens Dolzer told us initial engineering flight tests in a Murphy Moose experimental and a Piper Arrow are turning in even better economy than originally planned.

...Testing Time

If these numbers hold up to further scrutiny, Bombardier appears to have achieved something of an efficiency breakthrough for geared, high-rpm engines. (For operational comparisons, Dolzer says those numbers translate to 13.5 to 14 GPH in the Arrow, which is obviously a higher fuel burn than the Lycoming-powered version but at a higher altitude and true airspeed, thanks to the higher horsepower.) Even more impressive -- again, if it pans out -- is that Bombardier thinks a 2000-hour TBO will be quickly achievable if not available at the introduction of the engines, which is planned for 2005 through a combination of OEM and STC applications. Dolzer told us that because of the engines’ unique design --integrated cylinders with water jackets and Nikasil coatings -- a typical overhaul might not even require accessing or addressing the cylinders at all, something the typical aircraft owner would certainly welcome.

Bombardier’s staff soothed the press Tuesday with all the right words but thus far, of course, they’ve produced only test engines. However, the hardware we were shown in Bombardier’s booth looks close to being production-ready. How much? Bombardier’s Luc de Gaspe Beaubien, director of sales, wouldn’t give us hard numbers but pledged that the engines would be competitively priced. For more, check out our streaming video coverage and the Bombardier Web site.