Kerosene-burning rotary aviation engine

General aviation's obsolescent conventional engines to be
replaced by jet-fuel (kerosene) powered rotary engine in
keeping with pollution, noise and safety regulations as well
as growing market demand for new engine technology.

In the aviation industry, engine development conditions airframe development. In light aviation, there has been no new engine technology for decades. Other propulsion technologies, such as turboprop or jet engines are too expensive and technologically not suited for this segment. Consequently, very few new light aircraft designs have been certified and commercialised in the last 20 years. The light aircraft manufacturing industry went through its heyday in the '70s and early '80s, after which a conjunction of factors led to a 15-year slump. Today, a convergence of several new technologies has prepared the ground for industry rejuvenation (composite materials, computer-aided design, new manufacturing technologies, new control technologies and novel avionics equipment among others). Little has happened so far because the single most important piece of the puzzle is missing: new engine technology. The two American manufacturers that, together, control 90% of the market are doing very little to change the situation. Industry leaders have voiced their dissatisfaction with the obsolescence of today's engines; new engine technology will have to become available before they develop any new aircraft models. The thriving used-aircraft market is a spectacular testimony of the potential, "frustrated" demand: although 94% of the world fleet is over 15 years old, many of these older aircraft are selling at higher prices than when they were new. In addition, 100LL avgas, the only fuel on which most of the light aviation fleet operate, will soon be legislated out of production because of its high lead content. Most of the existing fleet will need expensive modifications to run on unleaded fuel. Approximately 30% of that fleet, typically the most powerful, most expensive aircraft, cannot be converted at all. Their operators will have to choose between grounding them for good, or re-motorising them, but there is no suitable engine available. Furthermore, it is widely accepted in the industry that the long-term future of general aviation lies in jet-fuel (kerosene) burning engines. The technology of existing aviation engines, dating back to WW-2, makes them unable to run on jet-fuel. MECANAIR ROTARY ENGINE S.A. (MRE) has developed a line of rotary engines running on both aviation and unleaded automotive gasoline, which it will start commercialising in early 2002. Its novel, electronically controlled, rotary technology can be modified to efficiently run on jet-fuel. Leveraging on its 7-years of development, MRE therefore intends to construct a similar-concept aircraft engine able to burn jet-fuel and offering the following advantages over existing engine technology: * Use of widely available, safer and affordable jet-fuel. * Improved engine reliability and flight safety: - Minimum number of moving parts, no stress-inducing reciprocating motion. - A highly reliable engine design. - Reduced pilot workload and risk of human error through optimal electronic engine management. - Safer turbocharger installation (no pressurised exhaust manifold). * Lower operating costs and higher operational efficiency: - Reduced fuel consumption (and lower cost of fuel). - Reduced engine maintenance. - Longer service life (3,000 hours or more, versus 2,000 hours or less for existing engines). - Much reduced vibration levels (reducing some wear-induced maintenance). - Higher cruise speed (better aerodynamic efficiency thanks to engine compactness). - Greater range. - Reduced weight and easy retrofit installation. * Reduced environmental impact: - Reduced gas emissions. - Reduced fuel consumption. - Reduced noise level (propeller speed reduced by 600 RPM among other improvements). It is also worth noting that this technological development will allow European industries to make a significant impact for the first time in an almost 100% U.S.-controlled market. Project Organisation: - MECANAIR ROTARY ENGINE S.A., SWITZERLAND, as project leader. - INSTITUTO DE ENGENHARIA MECANICA E GESTAO INDUSTRIAL (INEGI), PORTUGAL, for moulds and prototype casting. - MOTORAVIA, PORTUGAL, and other Portuguese subcontractors for machining, surface treatments, etc. - DEM TECHNOLOGIE, FRANCE, for the electronic engine management system. - SWISS FEDERAL INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (EPFL) and FRIBOURG SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING (EIF) for modelling, calculations and bench tests. This new engine is intended for both prototype and commercial production in PORTUGAL, including casting, machining, surface treatments as well as ceramic coatings. Keywords: kerosene, jet-fuel, rotary engine, aviation engine.
Project ID: 
2 743
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
1 140 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.