This airplane runs on natural gas

Is compressed natural gas the aviation fuel of the future? This plane is a start.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor on

With solar-powered airplanes taking to the sky it's easy to get excited about the possibility of a future with airplanes running on alternative fuels. Now there's more to get excited about with the first aircraft run on compressed natural gas.

Aviat Aircraft's Husky CNG is a small aircraft that can run on natural gas or aviation fuel at the flip of a switch. Aviat recently flew the plane about 1,000 miles, with a top speed of 143 miles, to the annual AirVenture conference where the aircraft was unveiled.

Will CNG be the aviation fuel of the future? It's tough to say, but there are benefits.

“Among the many advantage of using CNG are fuel cost savings, cleaner burning fuel and no lead emissions,” said Greg Herrick, president of the Aviation Foundation of America, in a news release. “I’m impressed with how Aviat readily agreed to tackle this project, working with a team of engineers and craftsmen within the aviation and natural gas industries. The result is a sophisticated solution which can be readily applied to a variety of piston powered aircraft.”

More specifically, CNG:

  • is 80 percent less expensive than the national average of aviation gas;
  • reduces smog pollutants by 90 percent and CO2 by 30 percent; and
  • burns 138 octane versus aviation gas which burns 100 octane.

This technology is still being used on a very small scale. And even if it is scaled up to power much larger planes, there will still be challenges in switching to natural gas, including changes in infrastructure (much like the challenges faced by electric vehicle industry).

But even if your intercontinental jet isn't flying you on natural gas anytime soon, the new plane could benefit the aviation industry as more than just a novelty.

“One aspect we’re particularly excited about is the opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of learning to fly,” said Herrick. “If a flight school installs a simple CNG refueling station they can cut the cost for the student’s fuel, perhaps by thousands of dollars. And, the fuel is available where ever there is a natural gas line.”

Here's a closer look at the plane from AVweb:

Read more: Aviat (Via Wired)

Photo: Aviat

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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