The Cessna Aircraft Company is looking to make small planes a little cheaper to fuel and greener to fly with its new Cessna Turbo 182 NXT. Unveiled on Monday, July 23, at the 2012 Airventure airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the aircraft is a single-engine prop plane that is the first to burn Jet A aviation fuel. This change makes the plane cheaper to fuel, get better mileage and performance, as well as operate more environmentally friendly.

Small prop planes like Cessna's burn what’s known as “Avgas," (short for aviation gasoline), which is similar to regular gasoline, but contains tetraethyl lead (TEL), a toxic substance used to enhance combustion stability. It’s been used for decades, but it is a bit like the two-stroke gasoline of the skies when it comes to efficiency and the environment.

Until now, that’s been the only option for single-engine piston aircraft, but Cessna’s achievement is to build the first plane of its type that uses a Safran-made 230 horsepower SMA diesel engine that burns Jet A aviation fuel. That is, as the name implies, the fuel that jet aircraft burn.

The advantage of the switch in fuels is most obviously that Jet A is cheaper than Avgas. It also improves the plane’s performance considerably. The Turbo 182 NXT burns 11 gallons per flight hour, giving its 87 gallon (329 liter) fuel tank a range of 1,025 nautical miles (1,898 kilometers) at its maximum cruising speed of 155 knots (237 km/h, 178 mph). That works out to 30 percent to 40 percent less fuel burned than Avgas engines of the same class.

Based on the Cessna Model 182 Skylane, the Turbo 182 NXT has a passenger capacity of four people, can carry 1,000 pounds (454 kg) and reach a maximum height of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). The propeller runs slower than previous aircraft, so the turbocharger runs quieter, and there are also no lead or carbon monoxide emissions. The aircraft has undergone extensive reliability and flight testing and is expected to go on the market next year with a list price of US$515,000.

Source: Cessna