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Flying across the U.S. on biofuel: SMA’s piston engine powers a transcontinental trip


May 13, 2016

Safran business unit SMA’s piston engine once again demonstrated its versatility by powering an aviation milestone – and eco-friendly – round-trip “bioflight” across the United States.

The SR305-230-series powerplant – which is retrofitted on a Cessna 182 from the Paramus Flying Club in New Jersey – used a 50/50 blend of Jet-A fuel and renewable Camelina plant seed oil to power the 5,000-nautical mile coast-to-coast round trip. The flight was the first transcontinental journey performed with biofuel in both directions.

Ross McCurdy, a science teacher from Rhode Island, piloted the bioflight and was accompanied by his 12-year-old son, Aedan. In completing the trip from Rhode Island to Santa Monica, California – and back – the engine performed 50 hours of flying in 10 days, using nearly 600 gallons of fuel.

“This milestone underscores that SMA’s piston engines are ready for the future,” said Thierry Saint Loup, Vice President of SMA Engines, who oversees the company’s U.S. presence in Grand Prairie, Texas. Saint Loup joined McCurdy for the trip’s legs from Texas to California and back.

“Our versatile engines are capable of operating on many different types of certified fuels for aviation – from Jet A, Jet A-1, TS-1 to No. 3 fuels, and even biofuels that provide greater benefits for the environment,” Saint Loup added.

SMA’s four-cylinder SR305-230-series engines address the issue of increasingly scarce and expensive aviation gasoline for reciprocating piston engine aircraft (also known as Avgas) for the general aviation community. They also provide a 30-40 percent reduction in fuel consumption when compared to powerplants that use leaded Avgas. This results in significantly longer range, endurance or payload, therefore increasing the versatility of the aircraft.

SR305-230-series engines have been selected to power Cessna’s Turbo Skylane® JT-A® single-engine aircraft, and the Delfin single-engine aircraft from OAP (Odessa Aircraft Plant). The Cessna 182 conversion upgrade is available through Soloy Aviation Solutions. SMA also offers a six-cylinder SR460 engine, which provides 330-400 hp for the higher-performance general aviation market.

Ross McCurdy teaches Chemistry and Alternative Energy at Ponaganset High School. He holds a Commercial Pilot’s License with Instrument rating and is a recipient of the 2015 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators for his extraordinary dedication to education through real-life applications with his students and other members of the Ponaganset community.

This spring’s cross-country trip follows an earlier bioflight McCurdy performed with the Cessna 182, during which he flew 500 miles from Rhode Island to Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina in 2013 – fueled by a 50/50 blend of Jet A and refined, used cooking-oil biofuel.

Both flights were accomplished to demonstrate the potential of aviation biofuels and renewable energy, as well as the high efficiency and versatility of aviation diesel engine technology. In addition, they promoted aviation and real-world science education.