July 2011 Issue
Aftermarket Air: Portables a New Option
While little has changed in the past few years for installed air conditioning systems, new portable units may hit a sweet spot of cost and capability.
Thereís not a pilot out there who hasnít pined for an AC button to push after just minutes holding short of the runway in the summer heat. But the harsh reality is that aircraft AC systems cost in all the ways we hate: weight, power draw and money. How much? Try 45-90 pounds, several horsepower and five digits before the decimal for the equipment. Now add the install time, which can top 100 hours. Not much has changed with installed systems since we last looked at AC in 2008, except for the option of a "portable" AC unit. Compressing AC refrigerant is either done directly off the engine or via an electrically powered compressor. The engine-driven option is usually used for small aircraft. It works passably on the ground, but doesnít really pack a punch until 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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