Aviat Aircraft has introduced the first airplane able to run on both standard aviation fuel and compressed natural gas. The airplane is the first to fly on CNG, opening the door to use a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline.
Alternative fuels have been a pressing issue in general aviation, with many small airplanes still burning low-lead fuel, something the car industry phased out decades ago. But aside from the environmental benefits, the reduced cost of CNG can also help make flying small aircraft less expensive, and the test airplane that debuted in Oshkosh is the first step in realizing its potential.
“One aspect we’re particularly excited about is the opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of learning to fly,” said Greg Herrick, an aircraft owner who spearheaded the idea to convert an airplane to operate on CNG. “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.” That’s not an insignificant sum when you consider the cost of getting a pilot’s license can run near five figures.
Herrick owns an Aviat Husky, a popular small aircraft aimed at pilots who like to fly in and out of grass runways and other atypical airports. While the cost savings is an added benefit, CNG will dramatically reduce the pollutants emitted by smaller airplanes that are now burning the typical aviation gasoline known as 100 low lead.