Imagine what the automotive industry would be like today if it relied on the same motors that came out of Detroit in the 1950s – engines without electronic fuel injection, computerized control and monitoring systems or CGI cylinder blocks. Imagine the inefficiency, the pollution and the maintenance hassles. Shockingly, that is exactly what General Aviation continues to rely on: antiquated, dirty, gas-guzzling power plants that have remained virtually unchanged for half a century.
Despite great advancements in airframe design, propellers, avionics and safety systems, the very backbone of the industry is woefully outdated. New engines are needed to carry this industry into the future – modern engines that are more efficient, more cost-effective, more maintenance and pilot friendly, and more environmentally responsible.
Fulfilling this dire need was the opportunity of a lifetime for engine designers Michael Fuchs and Steven Weinzierl. Having successfully launched numerous engine designs into full-scale production in the automotive and motor-sport industries, the two men knew firsthand what it would take for a similar launch in the aviation arena. With more than 40 years design experience between them and a keen interest in flying from their childhood days, they had a thorough understanding of the cutting edge technology needed to bring general aviation into the 21st century. What’s more, as they surveyed the industry early in 2004, they found no competition for their expertise.
While others clearly recognized the industry’s dilemma, their answers to modernization amounted to mere modifications of existing car motors – tweaks to diesel engines that were then stuffed inside airplanes, as if a motor that once drove four wheels could now drive a prop just as efficiently. “It was ludicrous,” recalls EPS President Michael Fuchs, who helped design the diesel powerhouse behind the Ford Super Duty light pickup truck and couldn’t fathom why anyone would take an engine like that and use it to power a plane.
Fuchs and his fellow engine designer and EPS Vice President Steven Weinzierl believed strongly that airplane engines begged to be rethought from the ground up, building on state-of-the-art clean diesel technology. “No one was looking at this problem and asking what they could do if they started fresh,” recalls Weinzierl. “And that was crazy considering the decades of advances we’ve had in engineering, in electronics, in manufacturing, in computer-aided modeling. For engine designers like us, this was a dream we just had to pursue.”
The challenge was also a road to freedom. In the automotive industry, no matter how talented or creative you are, designs are ultimately hampered by a noose of regulations, and that noose is getting tighter all the time. Engine designs are highly constrained, and, ironically, the result is an inefficient automobile engine designed to meet government requirements. In aviation the regulatory environment is nowhere near as strict, so Mr. Fuchs and Mr. Weinzierl finally had the opportunity that is every engineer’s dream: to build the most efficient engine imaginable. And more efficiency means less waste; such an engine could not only be more powerful and economical, but also “greener” than anything aviation had ever seen. This was an irresistible chance for two long time engine designers to test their mettle and see just what their knowledge, imagination and talent could accomplish once freed from arbitrary constraints.
Confident they could radically redesign the airplane engine and revolutionize the GA market, the two designers quit their jobs in 2006 to form Engineered Propulsion Systems (EPS), intent on setting a new standard for propeller-driven airplanes. Working with a small, hand-picked team of top-notch engineers, they spent the next four years rethinking every aspect of the typical engine and crafted an entirely new design, patenting a number of unique advancements along the way. Unlike the competition, this new motor was reconfigured specifically for airplane installation and was designed to optimize propeller rotation, extracting every ounce of efficiency while greatly increasing ease of pilot operation.
Innovation, aviation and manufacturing are the key strengths in Wisconsin, and EPS is working on all three.
Governor Scott Walker – Wisconsin
To ensure production quality and keep costs competitive, they decided early on that they would manufacture the new engine in-house. In 2011, with the proof-of-concept design complete, they began lining up manufacturing suppliers and production partners, including Bosch General Aviation Technology, a subsidiary of Robert Bosch GmbH. “It was paramount that we control the process from beginning to end,” explained Fuchs. “Everything has to be done precisely according to specifications. You simply cannot rely on outsiders over whom you have no control to produce these parts successfully. Every engine company understands this.”
Because of their unique approach, the EPS engine is like nothing the aviation world has ever seen. It boasts the best fuel economy of any general aviation engine on the market. Because it takes advantage of modern European diesel engine R&D, it not only burns the green, environmentally-sound fuel that consumers are demanding, but it reduces fuel costs by more than 40 percent over some gasoline engines. This translates into a more than 50 percent increase in mission range, while costs per payload pound are cut by half or more.
The Graflight V-8 Engine boasts more than 350 horsepower yet it is lightweight, rugged, compact and quiet. It takes full advantage of electronic engine management and monitoring systems that significantly reduce pilot workload and chance for pilot error. These systems also stretch maintenance times to an unprecedented 3,000 hours TBO, significantly cutting maintenance and repair costs over the life of the motor. The precise savings the Graflight V-8 provides will ultimately depend on its usage, but there is no arguing the fact that it offers extraordinary advantages over today’s standard engines: it will save significantly on fuel and maintenance, it is cleaner and greener for the environment, and it will increase the intrinsic value of any airplane by enhancing payload capacity.
For pilots, that means a whole new flying experience with unprecedented ease of operations, a new standard of reliability, durability and safety, and the freedom to fly further or faster in this remarkable new design. For those who are concerned about the future of our planet, it means a faster path to eliminating the leaded Avgas fuel that virtually all general aviation aircraft are using in the United States and Europe today, and it means that airplanes will be flying more efficiently, and thus more cleanly, than ever before in history. And for those looking to ensure that manufacturing stays strong in America, it is worth noting that while a small fraction of parts will be manufactured overseas, the majority of this engine will be built at the firm’s headquarters in New Richmond, Wisconsin, keeping jobs and growing business for workers right here in the U.S.A.