December 2007 Issue
First Word: 12/07
Five years ago, when we began covering the emergence of diesel engines for aircraft, I thought we were certainly looking at the next big thing. I still think that, but the latest bright shiny object has lost some of its luster. Beginning on page 4 of this issue is an in-depth report on ownership experiences with aircraft diesels and the news is hardly joyful. I used the word "tarnished" in this report and I chose it carefully. Bottom line: After three years in the field in meaningful numbers, owners are pleased with the performance and economy of the market-leading Thielert diesels, but they are clearly unhappy with what many describe as poor reliability, high maintenance costs and, most troubling, weak factory support from Thielert. Make no mistake—the market forces favoring diesel are all but overwhelming. Avgas is scarce in parts of the world and expensive everywhere. Cost-sensitive owners are thus spring-loaded to at least consider, if not enthusiastically support, more efficient powerplants. Some want economy for economy’s sake. Even so, the entire diesel idea could still tank and take a portion of the GA market with it.
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