Small Airplanes of the Near Future May Run on Natural Gas

In the near future, it may become both cheaper and greener to fly small planes

Photo: Marcus Obal

Like Dylan, cars and buses are going electric. But planes are having a harder time making the transition. Electric planes exist, but they’re tiny. But electric planes are not the only option for greener flight, Wired reports. In Wisconsin, Aviat Aircraft just debuted the first aircraft that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG).

While still a greenhouse gas, natural gas is less polluting than the low-lead fuel many planes run on today. It’s also cheaper, meaning pilots may be pretty eager to adopt the potential new fuel alternative.

While the cost savings is an added benefit, CNG will dramatically reduce the pollutants emitted by smaller airplanes that are now burning the typical aviation gasoline known as 100 low lead.

Aviat converted one of its Husky airplanes to fly on both 100LL and CNG, and they flew it to Oshkosh from the factory in Afton, Wyoming. The airplane is equipped with both tanks and can run on either fuel at the flip of a switch.

Aviat told Wired that the plane actually ran better when using natural gas rather than aviation gasoline—the engine remained cooler.

Around 190,000 small aircrafts are flown in the United States, whether for crop dusting, recreation or travel. The biggest impediment to getting the industry to adopt compressed natural gas, Wired reports, are the infrastructure challenges, like installing new tanks in airplanes and fueling stations at airports.

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