July 2008 Issue
Aftermarket AC: New, Lighter Options
Air Conditioning can be had for almost any aircraft you want, but it will drain your useful load and your wallet.
A few minutes of roasting in the summer sun on a hot ramp will leave most any pilot wishing for air conditioning. Unfortunately, three problems stand in the way: weight, power and cost. Light aircraft AC systems have been around for some time, but recent advances in technology are making the project more reasonable. You can add AC to almost any aircraft you want via several STCs or by field approval. Expect to lose between 40 and 90 pounds of useful load and send the aircraft to the shop for north of 100 hours. But it will give a new meaning to being cool on the ramp. The trouble with AC is that compressing the refrigerant takes serious power, either directly from the engine via a driveshaft and clutch or via an electrically-powered compressor. The engine-driven option is usually used for small aircraft. They work passably on the ground at a high idle, but donít really pack a punch until the aircraft is flying and the engine is turning faster. The compressor must fit somewhere under the cowl but you donít need a high-output alternator.
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