What kind of airplane engine should you put
into your kitplane?
Should you use a standard aviation airplane
engine? Or should you convert an automobile engine?
is a lot of discussion on this topic all
over the net, at EAA meetings, and at fly-ins across the country. Here are some of the main
topics I’ve heard,
and my views on them:
Engines are easier to install.
are a couple of
firewall forward kits that
make it just as easy to install an auto-conversion as it is to install
standard airplane engine. Eggenfellner,
Vesta and Powersport offer everything from small, turbo charged engines
Corvette engines to Mazda Rotaries. These are just a few of
have engine kits in the 200HP range for an RV-8.
So it shouldn’t be any harder or take any
longer to install than if you bought a Lycoming engine and Van’s
engines are safer.
the standard airplane engines have a lot more hours flying than auto
fact doesn’t make them
safer. If we followed the logic a step further, we would have
to buy a
built airplane instead of building our own.
No thank you.
Continental failures happen all the time.
Planes land with one jug fouled, on one mag,
rod. But nobody
makes a big deal of it,
it is the way these engines are. But
when one auto-conversion lands with a problem, there is a lot of press
commotion. I believe this is the manufacturers and
distributors of the
engines working their public relations and marketing, not necessarily
truth. The newer auto engines have been factory tested and
are safe. Yes, now
and then they
fail, but no more
often than the standard airplane engines.
I don’t know of anyone who has done the study
and run the
numbers to compare
failures per flying hour. So
all we have is opinions.
auto conversion kits cost around $30,000 by the time you have
installed, including mount, cowl, and prop.
Some are cheaper, some more expensive.
A new Superior XP-360 engine costs
for the engine. By
the time you add
accessories, mount, cowl
and prop, it will cost about the same as most auto conversions. You can lower your
firewall forward cost by
putting together your own engine package, it will just take more time
effort. "But wait"
you say, "Vans includes
the mount and cowl in the price of the plane."
True, but if you are installing a different
can get the Finishing Kit price
reduced by not ordering the mount
way oversimplify the
costs of the two engine options, it breaks down like this:
||AUTO ENGINE KIT
from Vans) -800
from Vans) -800
real savings come
useful life of the engine. Parts
engines are almost 10 times more expensive than those for auto
engines. You’ll pay
about $500 for a new aviation
alternator and at least $250 for a rebuilt one, while an auto
run you about $50. An
aviation fuel pump
will run about $200 while an auto one is just $30.
you reach TBO
you will really
see the difference. The
average airplane engine overhaul
runs around $20,000. The
engine overhaul runs around $2000.
fact, you can buy a brand new auto engine and throw your old one away. Now you have a zero time
engine and over
availability is almost always better for the auto conversion. Let's say one
Saturday you are flying behind
a Lycoming and stop in for that $60 hamburger at your favorite small
when the voltage regulator stops regulating.
have a couple of choices. You
the battery while you eat, then get home on minimum electrics and
repair it at
home (I don’t ever recommend doing this), or you can ground the plane
wait for Monday when the part can be sent from a warehouse. If the same thing happens
auto conversion, you get a ride into town, stop at the local AutoZone,
can be home before the day is through.
what makes you feel good. If
it makes you feel that much safer, spend
the extra money and get the airplane engine.
For me, I can’t see spending that much money
to buy really
technology when I can install much newer for a much better price. So I chose an auto engine. Click
here to read about my selection.
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