Yamaha Looks At Airplane Engines (Corrected)


Yamaha is dipping a tentative toe into the aviation engine market in a partnership with a Japanese manufacturer. The recreational and industrial vehicle giant will modify one of its existing small engine designs to fit a RANS S-6 to be adapted by ShinMaywa Industries. “Under this agreement, Yamaha Motor will explore avenues for adapting its small-engine technologies to the aviation industry,” the companies said in a joint news release. “ShinMaywa will adapt its aircraft engineering technologies and expertise—garnered through the development of flying boats and various other aircraft—to designing concepts, constructing prototypes, conducting tests, verify autonomous technology and more for small aircraft.”

The companies released no details on the engine or the airframe but images show what appears to be a two-cylinder vertically configured liquid-cooled engine that might be a variation of a new motorcycle engine the company released in 2018. It’s called the CP2, a 700-cc mill that puts out about 70 horsepower. The aircraft has an ultralight look to it with a fabric-covered airframe and two-place cabin. Neither company is making predictions on whether the aircraft will make it to market. “Both companies will use this joint research endeavor to explore possibilities for the commercialization of next-generation small aircraft, and take into consideration the direction and future of the project based on market interest and other factors,” the news release said.

An earlier version of this story stated that ShinMaywa was building a prototype aircraft for the engine. In fact, ShinMaywa is adapting a RANS S-6 for the proof-of-concept aircraft.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. NOW we’re cookin’ with gas !! (Pun intended). THIS idea is long overdue … especially if it doesn’t require avgas, uses automotive technology and is upward scalable to a more reasonable power output. The Honda Fit engines produced by Viking in Florida have proven their reliability and lower cost.

    I wish them well. Meanwhile, over at the eVaporware Aircraft Factory …

  2. Contrast and compare this description of an experimental program with the recent breathless “we’re PLANNING on certifying our new product in the 3rd quarter of next year” press releases (though unlike THIS release, there IS NO HARDWARE for the “concept “ aircraft.

    The idea that a major manufacturer is considering adapting a proven product for a specific market is more exciting that unproven POTENTIAL products from a new company.

    The difference? This is a potential development of an existing program that has running aircraft engines—compared to nebulous ideas of something that has yet to fly.

    This is news—the other is wishful thinking 🤔

  3. Last week and for about the 10th time I checked out the crazy little v8 engines that use two 4 cylinder heads from big Japanese sports bikes. A lower powered one makes 350hp at 10k rpm and the whole engine weighs about 230lb. Yup. And I again wondered about a detuned version with cheap OEM parts – by aviation standards – and a decent TBO…

    If Yamaha is casually asking the question, I’ll be interested to see what they find.

  4. Not to be a negative Nelly but, I would expect that someone in a corner office on an upper floor might take a look at some numbers. Size of potential market vs liability potential . . . nah, everybody’s talk’n electric anyhow. let’s not.

  5. I feel excited everytime I hear news about a new powerplant for G.A. Per Thomas’s foregong comment – sure many will shut down the endeavour when they look at the market conditions, but even those who decide to press on will likely hit a wall trying to get anything in aviation certified.

  6. THIS is where the money is at!

    THiS is what we need and have been talking about!

    The future of more affordable GA and perhaps piston powered aviation in general is exactly this sort of genuine physical real technology.

    • Exactly! Imagine if someone were able to successfully develop — from existing proven technology — a gas fueled aviation engine for ‘the masses’ that’d replace the O-320 and O-360 engines at a far more reasonable price and be more ecologically efficient, to boot. Now marry it up with someone able to use modern manufacturing methods and with deep enough pockets to NOT have to mortgage their futures to the Chinese and I believe there IS a US market, and beyond.

      Don’t believe me? Go to Airventure — or ANY reasonably sized airshow — and see how many non-pilots are looking skyward and wishing they could do the things they’re seeing pilots do. At the right price and under the right conditions — can you spell “FAA … get out of our way for recreational aviation — this idea is a good one … as Jim Hanson said.

      If EAA can somehow get the FAA off of their keisters and get MOSAIC — and more — passed (before most of us are pushing up grass in the bone yards) … the fertile ground for this idea would have a place to grow.

      GOOD LUCK, Yamaha. OH … and don’t get sidetracked by any “electron” lovers. Stick to what you know best. I always liked my ’71 XS-650.

      • Hasn’t Rotax and even Lycoming already looked in to building “modern” O-320/360 replacements already? Not to mention all of the diesel/jet-a engines that are already available.

        It’s great that another company is looking to build aircraft engines (even if it seems it’s starting with just ultralight engines), but I’m not getting my hopes up.

        • My point was, the O-320 and O-360 engines are the “meat and potatoes” of GA powerplants. Focusing on anything powered by something else would be a much smaller market share.

          It’s a darned shame — in this ‘modern’ era of gas fueled engines — that Lycosaur can’t economically build a computer controlled engine variant of those engines. Just look at the difference between a 912ULS and a 912iS. If the price of an overhaul or new O-320 keeps rising … they’ll price themselves right out of existence. Certainly, inflation plays a role but the right engine at the right price would be a winner IMHO. In 1990, I bought a factory new O-320-D2G for $13,500 (one of the engines built for the Piper Cadet). Today, that same engine is approaching $50K. There’s your problem !!

        • I like Rotax very much but they are just as expensive as Lycoming/Continental.

          A simple engine with 1930’s technology should not cost as much as a Mercedes E Class!

          When I’m on my uber reliable Honda Gold Wing cruising hour after hour at high speed effortlessly quietly and efficiently I wonder why this can’t be in an airplane! Apparently Yamaha has the same idea and I like it.

  7. The future of aviation, (if there’s any future at all) is the EXPERIMENTAL Aircraft. Most every new young general aviation pilot I’ve met has figured out that certified aircraft are just too expensive and out of reach. It doesn’t take a very big calculator to figure that out. Yamaha will have little problem finding buyers for a Rotax competitor.

    Who knows, they may start an aircraft engine price war ? 🙂

  8. Suzuki beat them to it several years ago. They offer an 800cc water-cooled, fuel+oil-injected 2-stroke, digitally-programmable dual electronic ignition powerplant for the recreational aftermarket. Its peak power (85hp@6000rpm) is de-rated to what’s necessary for my Mosquito XE285 experimental helicopter. The stock recoil starter is replaced by a electric starter and radiator fan. It’s a sweet engine.

  9. This article makes me want to dust off my copy of Top Dead Center. Kevin Cameron’s writing never disappoints.