Dave Hirschman

100 Miles Per Gallon

December 31, 2008 by Dave Hirschman, Senior Editor

We usually think of airplane flight performance in terms of gallons an hour – not miles per gallon.

But on a recent transcontinental flight in a fairly typical single-engine, four-seat, 180-horsepower general aviation aircraft, I was astonished at my poor mileage. Despite a light load, conservative power setting, high altitude, leaned aggressively, and a tailwind, I was getting a Hummer-like 17 miles per gallon.

By chance, I stopped at Santa Paula Airport (SZP) in Southern California for fuel and an overnight stay. SZP is the home of aeronautical innovator Klaus Savier, AOPA 1252301, and his company, Light Speed Engineering (www.lightspeedengineering.com). Savier has been setting speed and efficiency records for two decades in his experimental, Rutan-designed Vari-EZ – an airplane that serves as a technology demonstrator for products that hint at possibilities for improving the efficiency of the GA fleet.

Savier’s personal airplane gets 50 miles per gallon at 190 ktas, and close to 100 mpg at max range. Sure, it’s a one-of-a-kind creation. But Savier says the GA fleet could get an immediate 20 percent efficiency increase by switching to electronic fuel injection and ignition systems. Will the GA industry ever see the kinds of radical improvements in efficiency and reliability that have come to other forms of transportation? Share your thoughts here.

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110 Responses to “100 Miles Per Gallon”

  1. JimMiller Says:

    I have been a pilot for over 46 years. I recently donated my plane to Wings of Hope because I couldn’t afford it any more. If I could get 100 mpg, I could still afford to fly provided the technology didn’t make the place pohibitively expensive. Who knows, I may have a second chance. Jim Miller

  2. Gilles R. Says:

    It is obvious that the majority of people (not all) who “run” or “work” for the FAA are not in touch with today’s possibilities. They are too concern about the “what if”. You don’t win a war without a fight and it is about time we go to “war” for our turf and I hope all the inspectors and those who inspect the inspectors get their act together and improve what we fly…the airplane and bring it up in today’s standard. Yesterday, a guy landed a Mooney gear up at my airport. How can this happen when I drive a car that if I put it on cruise control it will automatically keeps its (my car) distance from the traffic ahead. The love of flying is old and so are the FAA people’s mentality. GROW UP.

  3. Martijn C. Says:

    It’s still the way it has been for a long time, the aviation industry follows the technical advantages with a delay of at least ten years. Maybe the todays economical crisis will help to push forward some of these fuel consumption innovations. As an AMT for a large European airliner I still see old devices being used. Like flight control computers, they can be very slow especially while uploading a new database for instance. It always reminds me to the Commodore 64 game computers.
    With todays computers they would be able to simulate thousands of flight hours for new devices in a short period of time. This should help the authorities to allow new equipment more easily in todays aircraft, I would hope.

  4. Gus Reynolds Says:

    The article is very interesting and I would like any other info or contact to receive additional data. I presently fly an RV6A with a 180 hp 155k/hr on 10-11 gph. Not great but a lot better than my T310 which uses 33GPH @190k/hr. Engineering like this will certainly developement
    of better equipment and systems.

    Thanks for a good article
    Gus R

  5. Daniel C Hervert Says:

    I love new ideas and new things.that kind of fuel econemy and speed! i have been in the automotive industry for 25 years and specalised in automatic and standered transmissoions for 20. i like the spark he is makeing, but i like mag backup.on the ground its ok for alt.to go out but not in the air. i would like to see the plane to see what its made of. i am just a student pilot but i have a lot of knowledge in areas that might be helpful.

  6. John Schreiber Says:

    I have over 30 years experience as an auto technician, an have an A&P license as well.
    I believe that a 20 percent efficiency increase may be an exaggeration but 15% should be quite feasible. Fixed ignition timing is extremely inefficient, and Klaus is correct about the need for larger spark plug gaps. Electronic port fuel injection is way overdue. The continued fighting over 100LL is another big issue holding back progress. I personally believe that E85 is the way forward for avgas, but Klaus’s ideas should be implemented to improve the loss in range due to lower energy content.

  7. Michael Lloyd Says:

    The EFI/Magneto issue is a classic performance vs. safety conundrum. Clearly EFI is more efficient, but the fact is that EFI has evidenced a materially higher failure rate than a dual magneto system.

    How many people wouldn’t trade all that saved avgas for a running engine the day the EFI cuts out and the engine stops? I’ve had one mag fail and landed at an airport just fine; I know several people who had EFI failure which stopped the engine and had to land in the dirt.

  8. Bob Dell Says:

    300 degrees lean of peak and full throttle at 17.5kft with efi and big gaps! As a 10gph Cardinal owner, the certified io360 seems like a dineasour, so Klaus has my immediate respect for his innovation at 50mpg. I figure 150mph/10gph = 15mpg in my plane, so the 3.3x improvement makes me say shame on Lycoming, Cessna and FAA, even tho my plane is 32yr old technology . What we (maybe ,me too?) CAN do, is take the certified fleet into experimental land and make the FAA FSDO offices overloaded with the required paperwork, eh?

  9. Z-man Says:

    I have spent quite a lot of time flying at SZP and have seen Savier with his airplane, but didn’t know anything about this. I just thought what a nice airplane. I guess I should been more nosey, but it isn’t my nature to pry.
    As for the “controversy” of efficiency over safety: naysayers to replacing magnetos would support not using jet engines, because they don’t have any magnetos. Let me put it this way, there is a way to use EFI safely, but we won’t get there if nobody takes the chance to try. Aviation was born out of risk! I don’t want to see another narrow-minded comment about how it can’t be done. You belong in a cold cave without that risky invention called fire.
    Let’s get this done, it’s not rocket science! Just plain old good engineering.

  10. Z-man Says:

    One more thing about Mr. “efficiency vs safety,” and landing without an engine. If you are a pilot who can’t land an engine-out airplane, you need to get some practice with a good CFI. All pilots are mandated to be able to safely land without use of an engine.
    Every pilot I know can do this. Relying on an engine during the landing phase is the de-facto way to land – this is how we do it on every landing. Engine to idle, no flaps (that’s because we fly taildraggers like the Decathlons, Citabrias, etc). Know how to land your airplane and you don’t need to worry about engine failures.
    Again, EFI and safety can go together; it can be done. Primarily, when safety = good piloting! Good engineering will take care of the rest.

  11. Kees van den Broek Says:

    The (W)right way to go!

  12. David DePaolo Says:

    The last bastion of motor vehicle technology using magnetos was dirt bikes. The argument was that electronic ignition was not reliable enough for the pounding and environment of dirt riding. Magnetos went away over 10 years ago, and now modern motocross bikes are full EFI not only because of emissions and efficiency, but because of ease of starting and RELIABILITY! Aviation needs to adopt modern technology. It’s starting in the cockpit – take it firewall forward.

  13. Blair Simpkins Says:

    O-200? Please, give me a break. Try that with a TSIO-550 and you’ll regret it. Aircraft engines operate with huge safety margins and have combustion requirements vastly different than automobiles. Remember, magnetos are compact, completely self contained and self exciting. Very good for aircraft.

    Am I saying we should not take some steps forward? No. Take GAMI injectors and fine-wire plugs for example.

    For the record: My 4200 lbs 1992 Mercedes used continuous flow injection with 20 mpg highway, and many types of racing engines still use magnetos.

  14. Richard Ferguson Says:

    I have always been an advocate of electronic ignition and electronic fuel injection. The problem is putting these kind of improvments on certified A/C. I currently own 2 A/C. A cessna 310Q and a Rotorway 162F. The 162F has dual FADAC and electronic ignition. Although a Hilo is not noted for it’s fuel economy by the nature of it’s operation and how you use it. It runs very well and starts easy rather hot or cold. The 310 is a whole nother animal. The Continental constant flow fuel injection is the most in-efficient system around . Starts easy when it’s cold but can be a bear when it’s hot! Mag’s are another whole subject. Altho very reliable, not to effecient because of the fixed timing.

  15. Michael Feldbauer Says:

    I have know Klaus for many years and have always found him to be an interesting person with a real passion for aviation. His methodical approach to improving speed and efficiency of today’s aircraft has proven to be a benefit to GA that is if taken beyond the world of experimental aircraft. Keep up the good work.

  16. Herbert Brody Says:

    In their quest for reliability, General Aviation engine design is 50 years behind automotive engine design. FAA is a very conservative organization.

  17. Durwood Morris Says:

    I think this is an awesome idea I know change is hard for us all ,however common sense must prevail.

  18. Samuel Messiter Says:

    At 17,500′ what does it matter what fuel efficiency he gets?
    The grief of oxygen, flight planning and hi-altitude dangers far surpass any economy in my view.
    His expenses to put together such an efficient aircraft, gobble up exponentially any fuel savings…Has he tried hitch-hiking? Cheaper still.
    Get real Herr Savier!
    Samuel Messiter
    AOPA 516395

  19. Lee Taylor Says:

    I fly a Christen Eagle with a dual EFI ignition, old version, and pick up about 60 hp thru it and other minor engine tweaking.
    Two comments. I have been around, instructing for about 40 years now, testing experimental planes and checking out pilots in them. I know of NO instances of EFI failure causing an emergency landing. I personally have had about six mag failures in those years.
    Our current technology, such as is in one commenter’s Cessna Cardinal, isn’t 38 years old, it is approaching 80! That’s when the first of the “modern” engines emerged. Our engines are such tremendous antiques because, well, there aren’t enough of them built to make innovation possible, AND the lawyers stifle innovation JUST IN CASE it MIGHT fail.
    There is a massive amount of new material, new engines, new technology that is out there, but as long as we keep using the “old stuff” on the front of our planes, then——–

    EAA, GET ON THE STICK! I feel the only real innovation will come from my EAA. How about some kind of Association Challenge Prize for the best engine innovation, to be presented in 3 years?

    Come to think of it, I will make exactly that proposal to our guys.

    Lee Taylor

  20. Steve Hurst Says:

    The reason we still have magnetos is proven dependability and complete independence from the main electrical system.

    I have had 2 magneto failures in ~1000 hours that resulted in ZERO forced landings.

    I have had two electronic ignition failures in my car, resulting in a dead stop in the road.
    My father had one of the original US car manufacturer’s electronic ignition systems. He had THREE failures in 2 years, towed every time.

    I find it interesting we have a TBO for engines, propellers, magnetos etc. However I can (and do) rent a 30 year old aircraft with 30 year old radios, switches, circuit breakers and wiring. The electronics we operate until they break, which it turns out, in older aircraft, is quite often. Old radios are notoriously unreliable. I always carry a handheld radio.

    If someone will make a handheld ignition system, I will gladly fly with electronic ignition!

  21. A. C. Donell Says:

    Another angle to consider: We hear so much about LL100 gas being unprofitable for oil companies – and the need for a replacement for it. Seems to me that, with the improvements in technology being used by Savier, the need for LL100 might be eliminated altogether – in favor of ordinary autogas.

  22. Doug Cope Says:

    Klaus Savier is doing exactly the right thing when it comes to driving innovation. With attacks on GA’s fuel efficiency and emissions, we have to clean up our operations or be legislated out of existance. So, either come up with better efficiency in our gasoline powered engines or switch to other technology such as diesel.

    The folks who have used redundancy as an argument against efi should consider that a typical efi system is small and lightweight. There is plenty of room available for two systems – dual plugs, dual coilpacks, dual efi computers, perhaps even dual batteries with new battery technology. All of this (without dual batteries) with less mass than dual magnetos. And that is probably what is set up in Mr. Savier’s Vari-EZ.

    Using analogies to road car failures is useless without documentation. I’d like to see statistics relating to the automobile fleet as a whole before I even considered the argument.

    An article in AOPA Pilot showing the technical aspects Klaus Savier’s system along with descriptive graphics would interest me greatly.

  23. JEP Says:

    Next Generation Certified EFI from Lycoming!

    Oshkosh, WI – July 28, 2008 – Lycoming Engines, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced today at the 2008 EEA AirVenture the launch of the iE2 Series Engine. Michael Kraft, vice president of Engineering at Lycoming, stated “The iE2 is an Integrated Electronic Engine, a technologically advanced piston aviation engine that will set a new standard for piston engine controls.” At the heart of this new engine platform is an advanced electronic engine control system designed to optimize the engine’s safety, simplicity and cost of operation

    Features such as integrated engine electrical power generation, advanced sensor technology, and electronic knock detection have been included in an effort to advance flight safety above and beyond robust mechanically controlled engines. Single lever engine control, improved engine starting and automated preflight safety checks make operating the iE2 as simple as starting and operating most automobiles.

    The iE2 engine’s breakthrough ability to adaptively control the engine on an individual cylinder basis allows performance to be optimized under any operating condition. Exceptional fuel efficiency levels can thus be achieved during climb and cruise. In addition, the iE2 can be configured to run reliably and even self-adapt to a wider range of gasoline, which can include potential Lycoming approved premium automotive fuel blends.

    The first iE2 engine model planned for FAA certification will be the 350HP high performance, twin-turbocharged and intercooled, 540 cubic inch displacement TEO-540-A1A in 2009. Prior to certification, an experimental version of this iE2 model will be available as a power plant option for advanced experimental aircraft.

    See:
    http://www.aopa.org/oshkosh08/articles/080730lycoming.html

    http://www.lycoming.com/news-and-events/press-releases/release-07-28-08a.html

    http://www.avweb.com/news/airventure/EAAAirVenture2008_Lycoming_FADEC_LSA_IO390_198397-1.html

  24. Tony Lowe Says:

    I just love it when people say it can’t or shouldn’t be done, in the presence of people who are already doing it.

    Samuel, you might not fly at 17,500, but that’s not the only altitude where newer technology might help your fuel economy. Can’t you possibly imagine the day when these benefits might come home to you in some way. Until then, I can’t see how Savier’s interest in a better way can really hurt you.

    I’m pretty sure this fellow Savier is not doing this to save a buck right now on his fuel bill. My guess is he’s trying to make a buck by providing value to others (he’s an innovator, probably a capitalist, heaven forbid!). Samuel, it seems you’d like to protect guys like Savier from themselves — keep these crazies from throwing their money down the drain. How about allowing him the freedom to take his own risks on the chance that you and I and others will benefit. We owe our luxurious lifestyle to people like that – technologists – not saprophytes and parasites whose interest is the status quo. It is only natural and human that innovators exist, just as it is for naysayers. Hey, I bet that Henry Ford guy really screwed up your life when he made the automobile affordable to a wide range of people, didn’t he. Good news for you though — Guys like Henry probably “made” hitch-hiking, or at least improved it.

    Just one more question, Samuel: How does an anti-technologist get to be an aviator, or survive as one?

    Tony Lowe

  25. Don Says:

    The folks citing auto CDI failures should remember that no one is advocating single CDI, but fully redundant CDI with 2 pickups, 2 boxes, etc. This leads to battery and alternator concerns. If I thought my aircraft 12V sys was as good as my car’s, I wouldn’t think twice about CDI.
    And I am interested, because I have felt it work. When I couldn’t find anyone to overhaul the mechanical injection pump on a lean running old car, I installed a universal CDI box. Instead of getting hesitation, and sometimes cutting out completely for a moment on acceleration, the car ran smooth and strong at all rpms and throttle settings. A big gap and a pulse with a sharp leading edge can fire a mixture that a mag can’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Don

  26. Doug Borgo Says:

    We debate the safety of EFI vs. tried and true magneto technology and the extremely rare failure of the ignition system in our engines. Every time you depart in anything other than pristine VFR conditions, you take more risk than either of these ignition systems could ever produce. I am only a 700 hour pilot, but when I look back at the few stress inducing flights I have had, only one had anything to do with the mechanics of the airplane. Every other situation was pilot induced. I know that I am by far the weakest link in the possible failure of a flight in my aircraft. I would have no problem flying behind a well designed modern EFI system, even if it means accepting a small additional risk. I know it pales in magnitude to the the risk I bring to the flight, and I am happy to accept that risk every time I enter the cockpit.

    What about having the FAA mandate in cockpit sattelite weather? That would bring huge safety advances to GA. Why do we get hung up on miniscule changes in risk when there are even simpler, magnitudes greater changes that can be made to the brain that thinks it’s in control of all that technology firewall forward.

  27. Jim Curns Says:

    Great work Klaus! I think we are all in agreement that our technology is in GA aircraft has been severly limited (avionics accepted). So what can we do? I agree completely that both AOPA and EAA can help us to ecourage a more progressive regulatory environment in this regard. But there is an important point that we missed.

    This story should go not just to pilots, but world wide. Why? Look at the positive nature of the accomplishment. What a fantastic PR boost this could be for GA in general. It’s the kind of thing that inspires the non flying public about the positive aspects of GA. Thats what we need even more of than than technology.

  28. Jeff Carter Says:

    forget all the debates…where can I buy one of these systems?

  29. Spencer McLennan Says:

    Great Article and I certainly agree with the need to upgrade our technology in the aviation industry…however I do see the benefit of a magneto vs electronic ignition (EIS).

    In a car with the EIS, if you have a power failure (very rare while driving), you can just pull over and call you local triple A to rescue you.

    In a plane with EIS, if you have a power failure (quite common), you are in a bad position that may not result in a favorable outcome.

    What we need is a way that will reduce the fuel consumption in aviation but still allow for the redundency of that a magneto system.

    Certainly there is an answer that is not purely dependent on electrical systems.

  30. Jack G Says:

    Ahh, someone with a brain! Efficiency and glider flying go together well. Why the resistance to automotive technology? The industry and tge FAA especially seem to want to reinvent the wheel.

  31. Harry Sharp, II Says:

    I too have been flying in excess of fifty years. I have had one magneto failure which resulted in an uneventful landing and quick repair.
    However, I have been driving for almost sixty years and had one ignition failure which was due to a wire that had come loose on the coil. I have a heck of a lot of time behind the steering wheel of a land vehicle that I have in my flight log.
    If those who resist the use of EFI do so because of reliabilty and redundancy then they do so because of being old and stupid and fundamentally reluctant to change.
    Skip Sharp
    AOPA 193245

  32. Steve Welch Says:

    There is always room for new technology. As a pilot that has had a total electrical failure over the Sierra’s I was glad to have my tried and true mag’s that brought me home safe. While every pilot has had dead stick training forced landings in high altitude rough terrain are no pick nick.
    That said I am certain that both the efficiency brought by new technology and saftey can be addressed and we can have the best of both worlds.
    Keep up the good work Klaus, it’s forward thinking and taking risk that got us where we are today.

  33. Jim Holtom Says:

    Electronic engine management and redundancy are not incompatible. Racing cars have dual MSD ignition systems with dual pick-ups and dual coils. The driver can select either ignition system – just like mags in an airplane. Modern passenger cars have “limp-home” modes that keep the engine running even in the event of total EMU failure. Cars have had fuel injection for decades because it’s superior and cheaper and with feedback control using O2 sensors and knock sensors the engines can be run very lean and clean. The ONLY advantage of magneto ignition is the ability to keep the engine running in the event of total electrical failure. But we pay a terrible price in lousy fuel economy and emissions for this sole advantage.

  34. John Schreiber Says:

    @ Steve Hurst “2 magneto failures in ~1000 hours that resulted in ZERO forced landings.” If your car had dual ignition systems, you would have driven home, too.

    Automotive EFI and Electronic ignition failures are quite often a result of “low bidder” cost cutting. An FAA approved system would have, at minimum, magneto reliability. Most automotive engine management systems have an MTBF (tow truck type failure) in excess of 2000 hours. I submit that the existing automotive engine management systems are already MORE reliable than magnetos. Once these systems are installed on certified aircraft in a redundant fashion, the existing failure reporting and A.D. notification process will raise the bar to extremely high reliability levels.

    As far as electrical system redundancy, a small alternator in a magneto case, could supply power to the secondary (backup) engine management system. That system could be as simple as a mechanical fuel pump with a single throttle body injector, and waste spark.
    I believe this can be accomplished with less than 6 amps @ 12 volts.

    I have even envisioned an electronic fuel injection/engine management system for exiting carbureted engines, that would leave the entire FAA certified system in place. The existing mixture control lever would be used to turn off the original fuel system in the full lean position, at the same time activating the electronic system, if it was turned on.

    The real problem is this: The certification costs are very high, as every model of engine would have to be certified individually, and economic risk (due to tiny market share) is even higher. Automobile engine managements systems exist for one reason only. Government regulation of emissions and fuel economy standards. Without those laws, we would still have points in automotive electrical systems.

  35. Richard J. Says:

    This cat thinks electronic ignition is great, but he obviously has not yet had an engine failure due to the failure of electronic ignintion. I have, and I know others who have. Some are dead and some are still alive. But, bottom line is, it’s not worth the extra fuel mileage and a smooth idle if u are lying dead in a casket six feet under. For me, it’s magnetos, always and forever@!

  36. Kenneth Hadwiger Says:

    I don’t understand why there is a conflict here. EFI is proven. It’s better and lighter and as efficient. The real problem seems to be knotheaded flyers–the folks who have initially objected to every new development in GA from the Forney Aircoup to tricycle landing gear to 100LL gas. They’re still clinging to LORAN and only recently disbanded radio beacons, despite GPS’ enormous leap ahead. Until I got too old for my own safety, I flew a 1964 Cherokee for 40 years. The reason? It was as “modern” in most respects as the newest GA aircraft! And don’t blame the beauracrats–they like change, but won’t change as long as there are GA flyers yelling at them. Thank goodness for guys like Savier who risk a lot trying to drag pilots screaming and kicking into the 21st century.

  37. Arleigh B. Hughes Says:

    You failed to mention that Klaus routinely makes 250 mph at the Reno Air Races with
    the same engine and airplane. I have seen him make 250 mph just SW of Los Vegas
    which probably is much closer to sea level.

    Why did someone mention EI failure? Magnetos fail about the same or more often than
    EI. I have one EI and one magneto. If either fails, I will land at an airport and have it
    fixed. Actually I will have to check the magneto before I shut down after landing
    (which I will normally do) because the magneto is contributing such a little that
    a magneto failure will go unnoticed in the air.

    A lot of experimental aircraft fly with 2 EI and 2 batteries. I will add a 2nd EI when I
    can afford it (another one will run around $1300)

  38. Phil C. Says:

    All sorts of failure can happen. The fact (anecdotal) that something can fail is no reason for banning it entirely. If high quality elec ignition systems were as common as mags, which would fail most often? Composite structures fail too, should we pull the katana’s certificate?Are we to ban also main spars because they have been shown to fail? In over 3000 hrs I never had any ignition problem but had a crankcase blow up on me once; it did not do much good to have the mags self contained and independent of the electrical system. I’m not advocating that we should do away with crankcases. Electronic ignition has matured. With the proper redundancy, it will be every bit as reliable as the old mags. The technology in airplanes today is profoundly obsolete. The gap between what is available and practical and what is certifiable is so large as to be hard to believe. It will make the transition even more painful but eventually it will have to happen. At some point we’ll do away with the mags and vacuum system altogether and go for all electric/electronic, with the appropriate redundancy, including a back up alternator. Heck you could even add an emergency back up ram air turbine to drive the most essential stuff. There is just no excuse to keep around the same stuff that we had 50 years ago.

  39. John U Says:

    I have an extensive background in marine outboard engines and since the marine industry has used EFI, HPDI and electronic ignition systems the engines have become more reliable, more fuel efficent and frankly easier to service. When I started flying 20 years ago I was amazed at how antquated aircraft powerplant were. Reminded me of marine engines of the 40′s with updraft carbs and old mag ingnitions. EFI or high pressure direct injection for fuel delivery is the way to go as well as electronic ignitions systems and the redundency issue can be overcome. It’s about time we have some inovation in aviation engines!

  40. Andy Says:

    I own a small Volvo Car (Swedish made) repair shop. I have been repairing Volvo electronic fuel and ignition systems for over 20 years. I agree that the FAA should wake up along with the manufactures of aircraft engines and seriously look at computer controlled ignition and fuel systems. I Seldom if ever have “serious” problems with these systems. A good maintained Volvo 240 will run 200-300 thousand miles with out problems. That is alot of hours in the sky. I would put one on my IO-360 in a heart beat if it were available. Thank you for a great article. Andy

  41. Ron Alsop Says:

    A message of HOPE for GA. I’ve been rated since 1971. Past 20+ years flying magazines & PC. Actual flight costs are too high. Many
    of us pilots have waited for affordability. LSA price tags are $100k+.
    New technology like this should take GA by storm, avoiding temptation to overprice and face humiliation like the Big 3.
    The new 3 wheel vehicle built in Carlsbad CA is taking orders for 2010 with 100 mpg and safety first.
    There is no end to American creativity. I say ‘bravo’ to innovator Klaus Savier.

  42. Randall Garriott AOPA 724960 Says:

    John Schreiber points out : “Automobile engine managements systems exist for one reason only. Government regulation of emissions and fuel economy standards. Without those laws, we would still have points in automotive electrical systems. ”

    Many responders have noted that existing A/C engine standards are fossils of the teens and ’30′s. Since these “grandfathered” designs pose NO RISK to the pensions of their present administrators, new proposals which MIGHT contain risk are actively resisted.

    In addition, the Capital risks due to low demand & the Insurance risks due to “legal eagles” make it very difficult to support upgrading the technology despite its benefits.

  43. Shawn D Says:

    It is obvious that the aircraft power plant industry in this country is just like the older aircraft manufacturers in this country….clinging to ancient technology. Everyone knows this. It is far more profitable and less capitol intensive to charge outragious prices for old technology and at the same time cast dispersion on anything that might require soe real competition. Normally, the obsolete products in a market are ignored by the buyers. We are starting to see this in new aircraft like Cirrus, Diamond, Eclipse etc. Why else is Cessna having to buy in with Columbia?

    I think where the market may be impeded in this process is that the FAA has little in house expertise and has a hard time and a lot of heartburn fairly and economically evaluating anything new. The result is the GA users are stuck with high prices and poor performance.

    I do the majority of my business flying solo and would love to be able to buy an aircraft like Savier’ veri ez

  44. Jonathan Smith Says:

    What will it take for us to change? $10.00 a gallon avgas. Maybe the high prices of this summer will do some good. What is the reliability and durability of the back up magnetos if the gear that drives both of the magnetos breaks? Lots of production car motors use seperate electronic ignitions for each cylinder. What about the Northstar that shuts down cylinders for better fuel efficiency if they are not needed. We as consumers need to demand better powerplants. Don’t forget the diesel engine that needs no electronic ignition to keep running. Needs no alternator either. Great article that keeps us thinking. Jonathan

  45. Charles King Says:

    Richard J sounds like the old Battleship mentallity. The “old Navy” thought that the battleship ruled the seas until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Aviation in its’ infancy thought that when the engine failed that the airplane would fall out of the sky. In the old movies you would see an airplane run out of fuel and go into a spin killing everyone. With the small size of batteries, you could have a dual system if it makes you feel safer. Way back when, some one said if you had 2 engines you would be safer . If one quit at night and /or above an overcast, you could could still fly to an airport. Well that works well if you are below about 6000 ft because most normal aspirated engined aircraft can’t hold more than that altitude on one engine. Some can’t hold that altitude

  46. Peter van Schoonhoven Says:

    I have one of Klaus’ ignition systems ( and one magneto) on an experimental biplane with an O-360 Lycoming. It gets 20% better fuel economy than with the 2 magnetos it had before.

    I wish I could install them on my certified Cessna 210 and 172, but I presume the legal issues prevent Klaus from selling them to that market. Too bad for all of us.

  47. JLM Says:

    There seems to be no real debate that the technology actually produces the desired results.

    The real controversy is over reliability which is understandably a greater consideration in the aviation business. Aviation simply has a demand for higher reliability given its inherent dangers upon failure.

    Redundancy is the answer to improving or blunting the risks of reliability. The odds of a dual failure make the initial risk acceptable. Redundancy is not an application of new technology but rather the application of probability to create a higher level of statistical safety. The system is no better, but the odds are!

    The reasons the technology work are based on both simple engineering differences and the experience of millions of similar applications in other industries (e.g. automotive, marine).

    Rather than debating the technology, GA/FAA/we should be focusing on the redundancy issue to increase the level of reliability to acceptable levels. After all, this is the only reason why the current approved solution entails TWO magnetos rather than one.

    I own a 1966 Impala convertible recently converted to electronic ignition — starts and runs better than ever. This is not conclusive evidence of anything other than that it is possible to teach an old dog (engine) new tricks.

    Put the ideas to the test on the engine test stand and put the best brains on it now.

  48. Robert Barndt AOPA 01416311 Says:

    If the argument for not having electronic fuel injection systems is “electronics fails” well, so do magnetos. The computerized electronic industry has come a long way and their advances should continue to be allowed to be more integrated into aviation.

  49. Dan Allen Says:

    I don’t put magnetos in my car because an electrical system failure in my car is an inconvenience, not a life threatening emergency.

    In my 5,000 hours of flying, I have had only one total magneto failure, and the other magneto made that a “non-event”. And that was in a twin. I have had more total electrical system failures than I can remember. I have had three total electrical system failures in the last two years. All three were many miles from my home airport, but I was still able to fly the aircraft home with no restrictions other than having to remain VFR.

    I will gladly sacrifice 20% fuel efficiency to keep my engine running after a total electrical system failure.

  50. Clem Zajic - Canada Says:

    The aviation world is prehistoric in some areas. When you have testimonials like the one above, why haven’t we advanced in these areas of performance. They want us to have the very expensive glass dashes but forget about equipment that would make it easier for GA to afford flying. The costs today are really restricting the amount that I fly.

  51. Carolyn Curles Says:

    I can barely afford to fly our Bonanza anymore. I want one of these airplanes!

  52. Dean V Says:

    Who you all are forgetting, which affects everything nowdays, are the lawyers and insurance companies. They will and do dictate what is safe and economical, not the FAA. Airplanes know are triple the manufacturing costs to pay for manufacturer’s liability insurance.

  53. Jeff Dimov Says:

    Its a sad sad world we live in when we can do something better and dont. If I could get 190 knots and 17,500 ft, I would be flying right now instead of sitting in this chair writing this response. I have a gas-hog of a plane, but I got it, for its utilty which pretty much goes unmatched with a useful load of 1440 lbs. 1967 Piper CHeriokee 235B (13-15 GPH 140 knots) When I purchased it, hangar fees, maintenance and fuel was high, but nothing like how discouraging that it is now.
    To bad we dont have some lawyers, insurance executives and aircraft manufacturing execs that have vision and the will to do something better like Mr. Savier.
    Good Job Mr. Savier!

  54. Dan Gollus Says:

    I have had the opportunity to share time with an engineer from Delphi. We have discussed the benefits of computerized ignition and injection. He has many years of testing and study along these lines and we know for a fact that it is not only much more efficient but greatly contributes to the longevity of the car’s engine. Just think of it, the technology and perks of engine life extended by maybe half! Let’s put this 1930′s technology of a tractor behind us and move forward with something that works! Dual systems makes it more than acceptable for the risk. The beauty of experimentals is that we can do it. Yes I fly an RV6 which is quite efficient but the clean-burning tech. is very appealing and makes sense.

  55. Terry Schmidt Says:

    Apples, Oranges, and perhaps a little Snake Oil?

    Hmmm, Let’s see,
    Long EZ
    17,500 ft, continental o-200 (100hp@sl), 35% power, 3.5 gph.
    1979 Cessna 152
    12,000 ft, Lycoming o-235 (110 hp@sl), 44% power, 3.7 gph.

    Am I missing something? There is a huge difference in airspeed, but I don’t think the ignition and computerized fuel injection show that big a gain.

    I am interested in the 190knots that he trues out at 17,500. That must be a VERY EFFICIENT AIRFRAME. (Long EZ’s are known for being efficient, BTW)

    Put one of those conversions on a 152, and make it do the same numbers. THEN I’ll be impressed.

    I like the idea of Electronic ignition on airplanes, along with EFI. I look forward to seeing one on the airplane that won’t die if the electrical system tanks, which is the one reason I’m sure we still have magnetos, as “inefficient” as they are.

  56. Richard Forward Says:

    I would like to see an extensive article on this man and his airplane. It sounds as if he has proceeded with caution over the years and has data to back up his claims. To bad the Lawyers that make a lavish living off of aviation jump all over change as if it is an open door for wrong doing.

  57. ramiro gonzalez Says:

    Great job ,we need more of this info. i am ready to try it in my stinsons

  58. William Sumner Says:

    It’s about time, out with the old — in with the new!

  59. Sidney Rhodes Says:

    I also think Klaus Savier is doing exactly the right thing when it comes to driving innovation, but what is really new here is the application. For many years now, our cars have been using this technology. It is something we know how to make work and make work well.
    I’m an electrical engineer (chip designer) with a long background in auto mechanics. I put myself thru school rebuilding automatic transmissions. I have owned aircraft with both Lycoming and Rotax powerplants, and have 700+ hours in a LongEZ. I have always been attracted to modern technology.
    My experience with this subject is this: most pilots don’t like anything new when it comes to the engine. Give them the latest radios and do-it-all GPS navigation equipment and they will gladly accept it, but the powerplant is sacred. Just the mere mention of electronic ignition, liquid cooling or Rotax is enough to elicit blank stares of amazement as to how I am still alive. I usually return with the question of,… and where did you park your horse?
    The Rotax 912/914 engines use electronic ignition. It is basically an electronic version of the magneto with an impulse coupler, also with 2 fixed timing settings, derrived not mechanically but electronically. Not as capable as Klaus’ system, but better than Lycosaurus. There are two such electronic ignition modules on these engines and two spark plugs per cylinder. The first electronic ignition unit fires one of the two plugs in each cylinder, the other one firing the other plugs. The ignition units are all solid state, hermitically sealed units powered by a seperate generator mounted on the back of the engine. As long as the crank is turning, your ignition will have a power source, just like a conventional magneto. Typically, the aircraft’s main power source is derrived from a seperate battery and alternator allowing an entirely seperate electrical system for the ignition.
    The advantage of this system is this: You don’t have any gears to strip and dump metal in the engine as the crank position is sensed magnetically not mechanically. The crank position sensors are also redundant, one set for each ignition module. It is much lighter that a mag, and, since there are no moving parts, it is inherently more reliable.
    If Lycoming and Continental would just copy this, reliability of our ignition systems would improve. Change does not have to be revolutionary. Evolutionary would work as well. The obstacles I see are not necessarily directly related to the FAA, but in the way most pilots think about new powerplant technology and the cost of certifying it.
    Sidney Rhodes (most pilots are a bit Amish)

  60. Frank Fritz Says:

    Didn’t Rutan’s other design, the “Quickie” get about 100 mpg at 120 ktas using an 18hp engine?
    Perhaps we need more of a simplified, basic approach to the problem. It’s going to be interesting to see what develops over the next few years.

  61. Hartmut Loch Says:

    Without people like Klaus we would all still be driving steam powered automobiles. I would like to see a detailed report on his technology in the AOPA magazine. Carry on with the good work, Klaus!

  62. Jeff Bayer Says:

    HHO, water injection, something other than the same old song and dance of horizontally opposed piston engines? Please CLICK my name above to read the entire response, in the form a blog post. Here’s the entire link (if they’ll print it): http://blogfloggers.com/av8r/science/100-mpg-airplane-commentary/

    Jeff Bayer
    AOPA 00970792

  63. Philip P. Strazzulla, AOPA01114518, Says:

    As s second generation Bonanza Pilot, and with thoughts on my Fathers 8,000 + hours, and my own 2,900 + hours, in several variants of both Piston and Turbine powered aircraft, I am constantly reminded of the History of Aviation Technology, as well as the acceptance of non-conventional systems and new engineering ideas. While admonishing those with the “If it aint broke-don’t fix it” mentality, I too yearn for the New Cutting Edge Innovations, and “Better Ways to Skin the Cat”, Aviation has long flirted with Diesel Technology, (now in conventional Aircraft running on Jet-A), Liquid Cooled, Turbo-Normalized, Waste-gate Adjustible, supercharged and ever-increasing stages of efficient turbo-fan and turbine powerplants from Williams and P&W, all are welcome, and play an ever increasing role in the next generation of Light Aircraft. The possibility of environmental legislation banning the use of leaded avgas, and the lack of a replacement fuel with similar performance has left aircraft designers searching for alternative powerplants. As a result, companies such as Thielert, have begun offering diesel aircraft engines which run on Jet-A in Europe. A diesel engine may include the potential of an environmentally-friendly and more fuel-efficient option than an avgas engine of the same displacement, or horsepower, unfortunately very few diesel aircraft engines have been certified by aviation authorities, and widespread use of diesel aircraft engines is still a few years in the future.

    However, Engineers and Innovators like Savier are correct in their approach, I do not expect to lug-around #3,300 lbs. + fuel & passengers and expect to have an A-36 achieve 30-GPH, certainly not with our Big Continental, just as an IO-360 will not spool-up an 84″ prop on My Dads C-185 Amphibian build enough thrust for lift-off, no matter how much lake surface is available.
    Electronic ignition has evolved to an industry standard of dependability, (not to be mistaken for Infallibility!), Composite technology too has evolved from vacuum-bagging to structural composite hybrids capable of supporting substantial and balanced extreme structural stress loads. The 1040′s era technology in aircraft presently in existance and daily use today is intellectually obsolete. The realization that We are flying aircraft that have powerplants designed or evolving from 64 +/- year-old Air-Cooled and Oil-Cooled concept’s would not be welcome news to future generations of new passengers & Pilots.
    The present VLJ movement, and the ongoing development of Light Turbo-Fan and Turbine Hybrid Powered Aviation Concepts and the ensuing transition adds to the financial burdens even more than the painful but eventual shock of the increasing Av-Gas $-cost factor, and aviability demise. It will happen, and it is forcast by the same refiners and producers who are reaping the present obscene profits.
    We will soon be faced with all electric/electronic (fuel injected) ignitions,the present and future versions of “Glass Cockpits”, with the appropriate redundancy, back up alternator, generator and cooled vacuum systems. Taking a lesson from Cessna & Dassult even add an emergency deployable ram air turbine to drive the most essential avionics and systems. This development of new technology will also require additional Discipline by Pilots transitioning from our old familier and thirsty piston powered airframes, (not that the Jet-A will be sipped through a straw), however, with “Lighter Composite Airframes, and the opportunity for stronger, less wasteful powerplants, tand he use of Bio-Fuels may yet push-us out of the 20th and into the 21st century.
    Very Soon, we will miss the “Horsepower to Spare”, and wind in your hair nostalgia of those noisy, old radials and big flat piston 6′s that powered so many of our flying experiences,
    I miss them already, The future of aviation is to embrace new technology, continuously, and in ever increasing roles and accomplishments.

  64. Philip P. Strazzulla, AOPA01114518, Says:

    As s second generation Bonanza Pilot, and with thoughts on my Fathers 8,000 + hours, and my own 2,900 + hours, in several variants of both Piston and Turbine powered aircraft, I am constantly reminded of the History of Aviation Technology, as well as the acceptance of non-conventional systems and new engineering ideas. While admonishing those with the “If it aint broke-don’t fix it” mentality, I too yearn for the New Cutting Edge Innovations, and “Better Ways to Skin the Cat”, Aviation has long flirted with Diesel Technology, (now in conventional Aircraft running on Jet-A), Liquid Cooled, Turbo-Normalized, Waste-gate Adjustible, supercharged and ever-increasing stages of efficient turbo-fan and turbine powerplants from Williams and P&W, all are welcome, and play an ever increasing role in the next generation of Light Aircraft. The possibility of environmental legislation banning the use of leaded avgas, and the lack of a replacement fuel with similar performance has left aircraft designers searching for alternative powerplants. As a result, companies such as Thielert, have begun offering diesel aircraft engines which run on Jet-A in Europe. A diesel engine may include the potential of an environmentally-friendly and more fuel-efficient option than an avgas engine of the same displacement, or horsepower, unfortunately very few diesel aircraft engines have been certified by aviation authorities, and widespread use of diesel aircraft engines is still a few years in the future.

    However, Engineers and Innovators like Savier are correct in their approach, I do not expect to lug-around #3,300 lbs. + fuel & passengers and expect to have an A-36 achieve 30-GPH, certainly not with our Big Continental, just as an IO-360 will not spool-up an 84″ prop on My Dads C-185 Amphibian build enough thrust for lift-off, no matter how much lake surface is available.
    Electronic ignition has evolved to an industry standard of dependability, (not to be mistaken for Infallibility!), Composite technology too has evolved from vacuum-bagging to structural composite hybrids capable of supporting substantial and balanced extreme structural stress loads. The 1040′s era technology in aircraft presently in existance and daily use today is intellectually obsolete. The realization that We are flying aircraft that have powerplants designed or evolving from 64 +/- year-old Air-Cooled and Oil-Cooled concept’s would not be welcome news to future generations of new passengers & Pilots.
    The present VLJ movement, and the ongoing development of Light Turbo-Fan and Turbine Hybrid Powered Aviation Concepts and the ensuing transition adds to the financial burdens even more than the painful but eventual shock of the increasing Av-Gas $-cost factor, and aviability demise. It will happen, and it is forcast by the same refiners and producers who are reaping the present obscene profits.
    We will soon be faced with all electric/electronic (fuel injected) ignitions,the present and future versions of “Glass Cockpits”, with the appropriate redundancy, back up alternator, generator and cooled vacuum systems. Taking a lesson from Cessna & Dassult even add an emergency deployable ram air turbine to drive the most essential avionics and systems. This development of new technology will also require additional Discipline by Pilots transitioning from our old familier and thirsty piston powered airframes, (not that the Jet-A will be sipped through a straw), however, with “Lighter Composite Airframes, and the opportunity for stronger, less wasteful powerplants, and the use of Bio-Fuels may yet push-us out of the 20th and into the 21st century.
    Very Soon, we will miss the “Horsepower to Spare”, and wind in your hair nostalgia of those noisy, old radials and big flat piston 6′s that powered so many of our flying experiences,
    I miss them already, The future of aviation is to embrace new technology, continuously, and in ever increasing roles and accomplishments.

  65. Clairence L. Ballard Says:

    I once made a comment to an auto salesman, friend of mine that the new four cylinder auto could not hold a candle to my 1976 Tr7. Dumb!! We left the resturant headed home with He in the rear. When we reached the mountain gap with it’s two lanes asending, He just passed Me in that little new four cylinder and all I saw was taillights fadeing in the distance and at more mpg than my Tr7. The next time I saw him, He didn’t say a word just smiled!! Ain’t technology Greeaat? TAKE NOTICE FAA!!! We need an inexpensive conversion with dual safety back-up of course.

    Clairence L. Ballard
    Dutton, Alabama

  66. Jeff Turcotte Says:

    Excellent! I would not look to the FAA for leadership in technology. We as an industry must lead and show the FAA the possibilities. Keep up the good work Klaus!

    We that operate overseas are undergoing a crisis as leaded fuel becomes largely unavailable. Klaus, you give us hope that their is a long term future for the piston engine aircraft though applied technology.

  67. TOM KISER Says:

    KLAUS HAS PROVEN THE BENEFITS OF ELECTRONIC IGNITION AND FUEL INJECTION. THESE ARE PART OF THE REASONS THAT NEW CARS HAVE SUCH GREAT MILAGE COMPARED TO 50 YEARS AGO. THE FAA PREVENTS THESE IMPROVEMENTS FROM BEING USED ON MY 182.
    TOM KISER
    SIERRA VISTA AZ

  68. Tom Andersen Says:

    The most common way to use EFI in a lycosaurus is to replace only ONE magneto with the hot-sparking computer controlled EFI system, leaving the other thumb-sucking magneto intact.

  69. Tom Andersen Says:

    I meant to say electronic ignition, not EFI. Replace one magneto with the electronic ignition and leave the other alone.

  70. Jeff Bayer Says:

    How about adding HHO, water injection… and maybe some other engine platform rather than the same old song and dance of horizontally opposed piston engines? See the entire post by clicking my name……………..
    Jeff Bayer
    AOPA 00970792

  71. Richard B Britton Says:

    Many thanks to you, Mr. Savier, for opening my eyes to the ignition’s contribution to fuel economy. I shall pay closer attention to it in my future work on engine efficiency. As for electronically controlled multiport or direct cylinder injection of fuel, the advantages are instantly obvious once you study the absolute inability of a carburetor to uniformly feed fuel to multiple cylinders. There is more on this (a chapter on ‘fuel preparation…’) in “Fuel Economy of the Gasoline Engine” by D R Blackmore and A Thomas (1977), pub by Shell Research Ltd and Macmillan Press.

    It’s a horrible shame though that our entire nation has been oppressed by the FAA bureacracy since the early 1930s. The FAA lets airlines carry passengers for profit on aircraft that have upwards of 22 years service history while most of the mid- and upper- class passengers would not be caught dead owning, much less paying to ride a car more than six or eight years old.

    As for the comments of “Z-man” he praises your work while encouraging pilots to be not afraid of a dead stick landing. Foolish man, in fact a blithering idiot he is, and I hope none of your flying readers are misled by him.

    There are many places in and near the continental US where a dead stick landing is almost guaranteed to totally demolish your air craft (or devalue it to zero), no matter how experienced and skillful the pilot. I realize that a good pilot can come out alive from many dead engine landings, but survival from then on is far more tenuous than I’m willing to risk.

    Scenario one: Flying across Long Island Sound, or any other sizeable body of water for that matter. Assuming you get disentangled from the wreck, just how long can you last in cold water. Don’t count on being rescued, or even located, in less than 30 minutes, or even located at all for that matter.

    Scenario two: Flying over forest, I mean nothing but forest for as far as you can see. I’ve been over such forested areas in the US many times, and they are frightening. Just where do you expect to make your dead stick landing? Yes you will come to earth and if lucky, climb out in survivable condition, but your plane is going to be totally trashed. And you can also expect to spend from hours to months before you are located by rescuers, much less retrieved and given medical care. Egads, just read history about many famous pilots who’ve been lost.

    And scenario three: how can you be sure when choosing an open area to emergency land on, that once set up to land on it, you will discover a small power line blocking your path, or wet soil that will cause a noseover, or rocks, or a ditch? Or you may be just so far from civilization that you perish before you’re found.

    Now regarding magnetos, I suggest keeping Mag #1 and using the port from Mag #2 for a timed output shaft to run one electronically controlled ignition system (EIS). An auxilliary (4 to 7 pound) battery charged by a small alternator on the same port previously used by magneto #2 can provide an auxiliary source of power for the EIS. A dashboard switch can offer two choices for powering the EIS, either the plane’s usual 12 volt power, or the auxiliary system.

    Now somebody inform me about an aircraft magneto. Doesn’t the typical magneto, dating back to about 1910 in cars and probably the same in aircraft, have a centrifugal advance mechanism built internally into it’s drive shaft? I can’t believe they could be so crude as to have no advance mechanism.

    One respondent proposes keeping the present carburetor (leaned out) ahead of an EIS system. That’s a really intelligent suggestion, and he should consider applying for a patent if a search shows it to be clear. The extra weight of keeping a carburetor should be less than 10 pounds on a 100 HP engine.

    Once again, my praises to Klaus Savier.

  72. Rick Gaylord, EAA & AOPA Says:

    They may not care, but without modernization of affordable aircraft, the FAA will eventually lose GA to extinction. It seems clear to me that if GA survives, it will be due to innovation supported by improved beurocratic flexibility. It also occurs to me, the future of general aviation may lie in electric power since we all agree that fossil fuels (pardon the pun) are “a thing of the past”. Despite all of our ingenuity, the complexity of the internal combustion engine is its greatest weakness. Its inefficiency is well documented.

    But regardless of where technology takes us, the future looks grim for aviation until the beurocratic/political quagmire gripping GA is relaxed. And as long as we are willing to pay legal council more than the entrepreneur, our collective ingenuity will keep progress at bay.

  73. Jabe Luttrell Says:

    I applaud Klaus’s mileage achievement, not the least of which is reducing drag as well as improving engine efficiency. For those who STILL say aircraft engine technology is OLD, let me remind you that Continental certified redundant FADEC systems for the TSIOF-550, IOF-550, IOF-240, and Lycoming IOF-360 engines and made it available on the market. It still is. What isn’t on the market is an abundance of airplane owners who want to buy new technology instead of talk about the lack of it. New technology companies will wither on the vine waiting for sales while prospective airplane owners buy old airplanes and keep patching them up. Buy a Liberty and get FADEC standard, just like in today’s automobiles. Call Centex Aero in Waco, Tx and get Continental FADEC in you Cirrus or Malibu. There are hundreds of airplanes flying with the Continental FADEC and achieving great mileage and performance, perhaps not 100 mpg but much better than the old mags and carbs. For example, I personally get 22mpg in my Lancair Legacy with a IOF-550, that’s a lot better than the 11mpg I got in my Cessna 182.

  74. Luis E. Hernandez Says:

    I think these are great news for us pilot/owners. If I could do this to my Commander I could realy enjoy my flying outings. Can you imagine the range I can have , Boy.!!! This is amazing, keep up the work.

  75. Jacqueline M. Says:

    Like any new Technology it takes time for it to be accepted. Everytime a hear a small prop plane with piston engine i think how much i dont like this out dated stuff.And NA engines are for the birds,a super charger or turbo is a safety feature.. Now reading this article i find that even the modern electronics are not used because of reliability/safety concerns.There are few reasons a redundant electronic system cant be developed for GA..As an inventor of new power plant technology (patent #6,202,600) I am very aware of how hard it is to bring new ideas to market..I commend Savier’s work and am not surprised that a Burt Rutan design is being used. If 30+ MPG aircraft can be developed combined with glass cockpit then GA sure has a great future IMO. But the 100 MPG story sure did get my interest..

  76. Dave Shields Says:

    I converted my Chevrolet truck to after-market electronic ignition in 1973 and drove it for another 10 years with far greater reliability than the traditional mechanical points and coil had given me. Gas mileage also improved, but probably less than 10%, on average. I think it is obvious that improving the gas mileage of the aircraft we fly is the “next big thing.”

    Our questions should be more along the line of “how can we make fuel efficient engines safer” rather than “are electronic ignitions as safe as magnetos”…

  77. Jean-Francois Reat Says:

    Improving specific fuel consumption is part of the solution, and I agree with others that it is technically possible to achieve this reliably with today’s technology.

    However, optimized aerodynamics is a big part of how Klaus Savier is able to get 100 mpg and 195 mph. The Vari-Eze airframe is slick, but it also has very small frontal area. To achieve that, it has a tight, tandem cockpit and practically no baggage area. It also has significant operating limitations with respect to short and soft fields. Like all aircraft, it represents a set of compromises for its particular mission which may not suit all users.

  78. Michael Lloyd Says:

    Z-Man, your perspective on aviation risk and faith in good engineering are impressive for a Citabria pilot, and you’re certainly entitled to use electronic ignition as you see fit. My personal perspective on risk comes from flying Air Force jets, unlimited aerobatic airplanes, and racing at Reno, and is simply this: saving a few gallons an hour isn’t worth giving up the redundancy of a redundant dual magneto system. If lower fuel consumption is worth the safety tradeoff to you, have at it; that is your personal calculated risk decision. Just don’t fool yourself into believing that you’re getting a free lunch.

  79. KEITH LANGE Says:

    AWESOME STORY… I ALSO HAVE A VARI-EZE WITH A 0-200 CONT. IM TOPPING SPEEDS AT 140 KTS AT 75% WITH FUEL BURN AT 13GPH. WHAT A DIFFERENCE.
    I FLY OUT OF PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA (PFN) ALSO AND WOULD ENJOY E-MAILING SOME IDEAS TO KLAUS. LET ME KNOW IF POSSIBLE. THANKS

  80. Terry Schmidt Says:

    Jabe Luttrel makes a very valid point.

    But until new aircraft prices can be brought down (can’t even touch one for $100,000 anymore), the old ones will continue to be bought (ranging in price from $35,000 up) and “patched up.”

    The fact that there are so many older airplanes available continues to be evidence of the obsolete technologies reliability.

  81. Brian Kraut Says:

    Several people commented about wanting one. See Klaus’s web site at http://www.lightspeedengineering.com/

  82. Michael Kenslow Says:

    WIld claims. He’s taking advantage of winds and your guullibility.

  83. Lew Blomeley Says:

    As Chief Engineer of a small airplane manufacturer (as well as an instrument rated commercial pilot), I work with the FAA certification people all the time. With few exceptions, they are good people trying to do their job. The people are not the problem.

    I’m also very familiar with FAR 23 certification regs, but less familiar with FAR 33 requirements. Again, with few exceptions, the regs are reasonable and are there to make sure we don’t have killer airplanes out there. You don’t just pull an airplane over onto the shoulder if you have a malfunction.

    So what is the problem? Part of it is our society, which has come to believe that government is responsible for our welfare and safety, and that if that fails us, we hire a trial lawyer and expect big compensation. As a result, those responsible for INTERPRETING the regulations (which in turn are interpretations of the laws) require iron-clad proof that their strict interpretations are complied with to the last jot & tittle. It is a CYA mentality that I would probably also adopt if I were in their position. Experience and common sense are not part of the process, which sometimes drives me nuts!

    The rest of the problem is simple economics. Those who are in the airplane business aren’t going to introduce features that aren’t advantageous to them, and at present efficiency isn’t in demand. Fuel is a minor part of the cost of flying, unless you already have an airplane that is paid for, or are a casual renter. Certainly we’d like 50 mpg (or 25 seat miles per gallon) airplanes, but it isn’t near the top of the list for those who can afford a new airplane, which are few and far between. A couple thousand small personal airplanes a year isn’t enough of a market for manufacturers to take a chance on “new” technology.

    Let’s face it, General Aviation is dying, and it isn’t all the regulators’ and trial lawyers’ fault. The General Aviation industry thrived through the ’70s because so many pilots came out of WWII. They are dying off, and are not being replaced by new blood. Those of us who love aviation are loathe to admit that, unless we can write it off as a business expense, a small airplane simply doesn’t have that much advantage over highway or airline travel. If I could afford to own an airplane, I could afford a luxury car for trips of 300 to 400 miles, and a business class seat on an airline for longer trips.

    Fortunately there is hope that General Aviation won’t die out completely, at least in the U.S., because of the relative freedom we (for now) enjoy, organizations like EAA & AOPA, and people like Mr. Savier. There are lots of innovators out there, but it takes demand to bring innovations to the market place. For the foreseeable future that demand is directly related to the number of active pilots, and the number of active pilots is directly related to the expense of flying. It is a catch 22 situation, needing an egg to get a chicken to lay the egg, etc. Fresh eggs are out there, but few are being incubated. NASA’s past and present efforts, while sincere on the part of the people, are a very bad joke. Their spending on aviation innovation isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to the rediculous amounts spent on throwing stuff out into space.

    I’m not advocating that NASA get into the aviation business, but there must be some way that they, in concert with the SBA, FAA and other entities, could enable commercialization of truely promising innovations like Mr. Savier’s. If the innovations bring down the cost of flying, more people will see the advantage of flying themselves and become pilots, which COULD reverse the current trend and bring back a healthy General Aviation industry. But is won’t happen by just wishing for it. As an engineer I am doing my part (both at and separate from my place of employment) to bring some innovations to the market place. Not many people have that talent, but you can use the talent you do have.

    You can support the EAA Young Eagles program and the AOPA’s efforts to promote flying in any number of ways. Just showing your enthusiasm for flying helps! You may have contacts that could help put pressure on our existing agencies such as NASA, SBA, FAA, etc. to better allocate their resources and people to reinvigorating a business segment that has been and can again be a vibrant part of our economy. What it takes to launch one satellite would be a huge boost to General Aviation if it is properly aimed at new innovations.

    OK, I’ll get off my soap box, for now. I will reiterrate, however, that at the end of the day saving General Aviation is up to US, not NASA, the SBA, the FAA or any other government entity. If General Aviation dies it will be because WE LET IT DIE.

  84. Blain Smipy Says:

    There was one poster on here that talked about being able to land a plane with an engine failure. My friend, try that at night over the Rocky Mountains, I’ll take my stone reliable mags and mechanical full delivery system any day of the week.

    You folks seem to miss some critical points here. An electrical failure of ANY type with his system will constitute an emergency. A complete failure could mean your life. I have had in my short flying career of ~1600 hrs at least five complete electrical failures, some of which were at night over the mountains. My engine NEVER missed a beat. They were annoyances, because I had to use my hand held, but nothing more.

    I applaud his innovation but you must temper this with reality. As another poster incorrectly stated the safety of EFI, “because he’d never seen one fail”, I pose this, mags have MILLIONS of hours flight time, how many hours have EFI systems flown? Where’s your data to backup your statement?

    Bottom line, if his system were as reliable as the current systems, don’t you think the engine manufactures would have already put it on their engines? Of course! Their engineers aren’t stupid, if they can make it work they will. Imagine the millions of dollars they could make retro fitting the current fleet, shoot, I’d pay some bucks to improve my fuel economy, if it were just as safe as mags.

    Push the limits….just don’t crash on my house.

  85. Todd Kneib Says:

    There is a common theme among these replies, and that is that the electrical systems of GA planes are crap. Why is this? The electrical systems in cars are vibrated about, frozen and thawed, and subjected to moisture, yet they last for thousands of hours. What is the mystery ingredient that make GA electrical unreliable?

    On the need for reliability side of the argument, if you were only going to take yourself out of the gene pool, there would not be as much regulation, but since you can crash in a populated area, the government must enforce safety for those on terra ferma.

    As for Lew Blomeley’s comments on if the patient will live, I agree that more people involved with help it live. But even on my salary, it is just too expensive. It’s not an economical form of transport over driving on the 300-400 mile jumps, and on longer jumps, the airlines beat the cost. Time saving is negligible when you include plane preflight and weather briefings. So, leaving flying as a hobby, that turns out to be one expensive hobby.

    If LSA had come in at the original expected costs, that would have given GA a big shot in the arm. As it is, you might as well spend the extra couple grand to get a full pilots certificate and by a used GA plane. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the manufacturers, but $35K vs $90K+ for a similarly equipped plane is simple to decide on.

  86. Travis Eaker Says:

    The more I read this the more I call BS! He is flying FASTER at 17500′ than he could at his optimal altitude (power wise). It ain’t possible, aerodynamically speaking. Oh yeah, normally aspirated and a fixed pitch prop too?

    I guess if we knew how many RPM the engine was turning, what prop, and if its been modified besides just the EFI. Some F1 air racing engines (O-200), make well above the 100HP rating.

  87. Travis Eaker Says:

    In reply to Tobb K., about aircraft electrical systems being crap….THEY ARE! Most planes have gone through multiple equipment upgrades, and since any avionics work is nearly cost prohibitive, the technicians cut corners by just chopping the old stuff out, and leaving the old wiring hardware in place. Well eventually this creates an absolute nightmare of dead end wires, electrical leaks and FOD. I could show you a photo of the underside of my panel, and you would run away screaming like a girl! ;) Seriously though, most wiring jobs on the old stuff just stinks. Hence our fear of electrical failures.

  88. Craig Jimenez Says:

    Klaus,

    Nice work on aerodynamic clean-up and engine efficiency. Is 300-F LOP in your operating range, or the point at which your apparently very smooth engine poops out?

    The LASAR system (electronic ignition with mag backup) really improved high-altitude TAS and fuel burn on a Grumman AA5 I used to fly (O-320).

    Is there a published set of references to your design approach and observed performance?

  89. Craig Jimenez Says:

    In terms of reliability, mags can arc at high altitudes unless they are pressurized. I’ve not had this problem. Does anyone have direct experience with mag arcing in the low flight levels?

  90. Tom Lagermann Says:

    What’s wrong with dual EFI? The way I see it the only time your EFI would fail is when you have a complete electronic failure in which case there could be a spare battery to get you back to the airport.

  91. Paul Tackabury Says:

    Attention non-believers: I have been flying Klaus’ LSE ignition systems for the past 15 years and they work. I have a mag and one electronic ign on my O-320 LongEZ and have had NO problems with the electronic ign, but suffered 2 mag failures over 20 years so when I built my Lancair IV I planned on dual LSE ignition systems right from the start. And NO it doesn’t have an O-200 but rather a TSIO-550. I normally cruise about 75 degrees LOP around 10k feet, 17 gph and 205 KIAS–thats INDICATED. Like many GA aircraft today, my LIV is electrically dependent–no vacuum, no round dials–so I designed the power generation and distribution system to be simple and reliable and keep electrons flowing to all critical users–including the ignition systems. Let me assure you this step is essential but once accomplised flying with electronic ignitions is a delight. Easier starting, more efficient climb and cruise (I do both LOP), simpler leaning (the TSIO-550 runs happily from 50 to 150 degrees LOP), more complete combustion (NO CO in the cockpit) and no timing drift as the mag points drift wear. If you ever get a chance to fly in a LSE equipt aircraft–grab it and you will rethink all the tired stories about “good ole mags”. The only thing true about mags is they are indeed old, and heavy.

  92. Greg Lum Says:

    Judging from the high interest and multitude of responses, the next step are detailed articles on Klaus Savier’s system of LSE ignition and fuel injection. What modifications were done on the 0-200 engine and can such be done up the line from 360′s to 550′s. It seems obvious that manufacturers aren’t going to do until a large majority of the repliers say they would buy it. I hope the editiors of AOPA Pilot and EAA Sport Aviation publish these articles. It will be up to individuals to explore rather than Continental or Teledyne.

  93. Paul D Says:

    Teledyne Continental already has a maturing FADEC system for their engines. I don’t know why the finger is being pointed at the FAA in these arguments. In the experimental category you can fly with almost anything you want for power, have at it. But certification is required for standard flying as it should be. A manufacturer just needs to prove reliability. It isn’t fun but then it’s not meant to be.

  94. Dave S - San Antonio Says:

    BRAVO! BRAVISSIMO!

    It’s about time we stopped flying our antique, manually-controlled engines that leave so much room for PILOT ERROR (and consequent engine damage), and the fuel efficiency is welcome “icing on the cake”! One “Thrust Lever”, easy to use, like the jets! And, dare I mention, no more worries about shock cooling… the FADECs should be able to take care of that, too… (why not?). It’s really silly that power management in a jet is so easy, and such a pain on a piston engine because we continue to use half-century-old technology in light aircraft.

  95. Dorian Christopher Says:

    I’ve been telling people for years about ways to get better use, as well as mileage in their cars, but it never dawned on me how ancient the engines on my airplanes were!! I’m excited to see this on the front page of aviation and look forward to applying to my own plane, as I’m about to buy my first!

  96. Kenneth B. Best Says:

    Three letters – STC – are the answer.

    How about this? Savier should sell the technology directly to aircraft owners in the form of an STC. Price it reasonably, so that a payback could be achieved in, say, 2000 hours of flying, perhaps in conjunction with an engine overhaul.

    Who would like to invest in this product? Who would invest in this company?

    Savier – get some venture capital!

  97. Wayne B Says:

    Some of these systems would not pass dynamics and vibration testing to RTCA/DO-160A.

    I would love to see these ignition systems certificated. There needs to be considerable effort in environmentally testing this fabulous technology.

    Efficiency has been nailed by Klaus time and time again, but there’s more to the equation.

  98. Abe Lovelace Says:

    For what it’s worth, I am an A&P with a corporate flight department.

    I am amazed at the unsubstantiated claim that somehow magnetos are inherently more safe that EFI systems. I would like to point out that in almost every field, electronic equivalents of mechanical systems are more reliable by orders of magnitude. This is a fact and has been confirmed many times in many studies. There really should be no debate.

    Consider previous examples of digital electronics replacing outdated mechanical/analog devices. Nuclear ICBM’s, cruise missles, nuclear submarines, the Space Shuttle, every single satellite in orbit right now. All rely on electronic controls, and all are mission critical applications. We might even point out that there is not one modern airliner that uses a mechanical autopilot anymore, or even mechanical fuel control units. Everything has been moved to digital electronic components, and those components have shown to be more reliable, cost effective, and safer than their mechanical counterparts.

    Please, to anyone who still thinks that magnetos are somehow inherently safer than an electronic equivalent, please think before you speak.

  99. Philip Rozzi Says:

    I was very impressed with Klaus’ article. As a retiree from the automobile industry, believe me, I know what electronic ignition and fuel injection has done for automobile engines. They’re cleaner for the environment, give great performance and use 40% less fuel than just 25 years ago. Recently, I switched from a Piper 140 Cherokee (PA28) to a CTLS Sport aircraft. With only 100 hp rotax engine, the performance and fuel economy is amazing. However, the rotax on the CTLS still has an electronically controlled carburetor. I can only imagine what the performance capabilities could be if these modifications could be done to a rotax engine. I would be very interested to hear from Klaus if such modifications could be done and the approximate cost of that. The CTLS is already a composite and a German-designed aircraft. Klaus is right on the money — speed and efficiency are related. Nice job, Klaus. You can contact me at pjrlab@windstream.net.

  100. Bob Marvin Says:

    I flew a Cessna 170 B and a Cessna 180 later. I converted the 180 to carry two persons
    lying down and the right seat reclined to level to carry a third person. It happened once that I did have three pregnant women with birth problems. lI was pray that no one
    would start giving birth in the hour I had to get to a city where there was a hospital. The normal configuration had six seats, two rear seats smaller than the others.
    My 26 years of flyiing were in the Jungle region of the Amazon of Brazil except when
    I was in the USA and had others planes to fly in an easy sitluation.
    In my years of flying I had one magneto go out on two different planes abd it was no problem. With the Cessna 170 B both mags checked out on takeoff but after two landings,
    one in a very short field and another in a cow pasture to pick up a woman and daughter to take to a hospital. After one half an hour both mags went out and I glided to an interior town with a grass field. On terrs firma the plane started again and operated normally on both mags so I checked fuel for contamination and there was none.
    The plane ran fine so we took off again and hallf an hour later it stopped and I was at
    3000 feet and over solid jungle. As pilots, do I was looking always for a place to land and
    saw one house where the owner had cut about a 150 strip to plant. It was a choice to
    land in a tree or in this stump filled field. I chose the field. I was descending out of necessity and lined up with the field. With stalls and flap changes I was able to set down
    in the first 50 feet hardly moving. A stump grabbed my right landing gear and swung. We did a 180 and stopped. A dozen eggs in a bag on the back floor were not even cracked.
    The woman of the hourse cooked them for our dinner.
    A soldier stationed in a village about two miles away saw the plane go down. He arranged four horses to carry out the bodies. No one was injured in any way so we rode
    bare back to the village where we were able to catch a sail boat to a distant city. From there it was a bus trip to town. A fellow pilot chided me for not flying over to be able to
    pick me up at the airport. He loaned me his Cessna 172 and I arrived home at about the hour
    expected. My wife wanted to know why I had Don’s plane. I told her that I had a small
    problem with our plane.
    I went back with a motor boat with tools, including a two volt drill motor I could use with the plane battery. I drilled out rivets, removed the tail section except to cut the stiffener
    to keep the cabin strong. I tried to avoid watching as each component was carried off on
    poles down a narrow path barely not wide enough for two people to walk side by side.
    Everything arrived well. We put it in a sail type round bottom canoe. It held everything with the heavy parts low and the wings strapped to the mast. We towed it out of the stream and at night when the tide was right over open ocean with waves for an hour to get to the port where we loaded it on a truck to take to the airport.
    A mechanic, a master at working with the skin, put the plane together and I did the electrical and control cables work as well as paint etc. The power plant ran fine for half an hour on the tarmac. I arranged a friend to observe and I went up for a trial flight. I flew for 45 minutes over a new road the city was makaing. As I decided that all was well and turned to go back to the field the engine stopped again. I landed and quickly removed one mag. It seemed to be all right but my friend picked me up and took me to the airport where I arranged another mag. I flew back to the airport and replaced the other.
    The engine and mags had only two hundred hours of operation but it was a very hot climate. The power plant heated quickly so I reached for alltitude as soon as possible always. After I discovered that I could get an oil cooler. I flew that plane for four more years with no problem and sold it.
    I like the idea of using automobile components to give more power. As one person noted that he hated working on the mags, I also would be glad to see a change. Keet it up.
    Bob Marvin

  101. Jay Says:

    Ah yes. More “Change we can live with and Change we can believe in.” Where have I heard that before?

    The high tech aviation geek in our article above brazenly asks the question.
    “For all these guys that think magnetos are so great, I only have one question: Why don’t you put magnetos in your cars?”

    Well sir, I don’t always agree with the FAA, but they are charged with aviation safety and in this case, they have a very good reason for clinging to magnetos and it’s called reliability. And the first time your high tech computerized little engine sputters because of a blast of HERF-EMI, a computer failure, a solar flare, a computer virus or just a plain old electrical power shortage like what happened to our little diesel twin specimen from Germany, you are going to be asking yourself why you didn’t think any more deeply than the average American who voted for change while getting his cache/cash cleared. If you have enough altitude when it happens, you might even have time to change your mind and sober up.

    So what if you do get 100 MPG? I know guys that can do that and even better on a bicycle and they are a lot safer than you are when they do it too.

  102. Colt Peterson Says:

    Why can’t you have an electronic ignition system and a magneto running at the same time, using the magneto as the backup?

  103. Don Kelly Says:

    In spite of what some people in this comment train would like you to believe, solid state electronic ignition is more reliable that magnitos. This is a demonstratable fact. If you truly believe in greater safety, then you should be demanding electronic ignition in ALL aircraft. The technology has been in use for 30 years in everything from cars, to snowmobiles, to aircraft.

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