AutoPRSUs engine discussion

Discussion in 'General Auto Conversion Discussion' started by pfarber, Aug 29, 2019.

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  1. Jan 5, 2020 #101

    Geraldc

    Geraldc

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    Completely agree.If my accountant would release the funds for an RV I would not be here.
    I would be building one.
    But I suspect for the majority of people here who are building something an auto conversion would be fine.
    Imagine a Pietenpol with a Rotax.
    Also the many VW motors are based on an airplane motor.
     
  2. Jan 5, 2020 #102

    ScaleBirdsScott

    ScaleBirdsScott

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    I think there's something very valid to the point that most people buying the RV are doing so because it's such a known quantity and it's a big club. It's not about experimenting or even really about saving money to a point. It's about getting a great value for the money you are going to spend. Most RVs don't seem to be budget builds, and are basically "riding on dubs". Combine that with the discount on the Lycoming you get, absolutely I don't think there exists a price point at which any other engine would gain any significant ground without a literal decade of working for a foothold.

    I havn't looked at the numbers more than what's in this thread but as mentioned, until it's been in production and proven for many years with many valid examples, the demand for a non-standard option on the RV line is going to be less than the demand for alternative engines on other airframes where you often see a smattering of different engine options and there is not a clear and direct standard option, or where many builders look at the default and say "stuff that".

    For reference, I could try to market some Verner radials to the RV crowd, and certainly the 7 or 9 could be made to work on a 7 or 8 easily enough; but, I think there's maybe 4 people working on an RV-8R project? And all of them are going with the Rotec as far as I know, following the example of the original. Meanwhile there's a happy market in the Hatz and Kitfox and so-on that, sure, the vast bulk of them are using old standard boxer engines but, there's a lot of history of people exploring.

    Now, if someone wants to develop a $10-15k V6 engine with whatever belt or gearbox or direct drive stroker kit makes sense to get 150-200hp and the thing doesn't weigh more than an equivalent Lycoming then, without hesitation I'll be first to ask to design a plane around it. Heck if I can get any sort of success out of ScaleBirds I'll help make it reality if need be. I agree that I'm sure there's a demand for that option on the market (assuming it's possible) I don't think that market is the Vans crowd yet, but certainly there are other designs that would beg for it. And maybe after 5-10 years of proving its mettle as a reliable and steady and reputable option, after a few pioneers experiment and prove it out, maybe it can catch a notable % of the RV marketshare.
     
  3. Jan 5, 2020 #103

    Saville

    Saville

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    It seems to me that the 100-200hp engine arena is not the place where auto engines would ever be considered. You are talking the low end of horsepower so you are talking the low end of money. You aren't going to gain anything with respect to size going to an auto engine.

    That's why, when I posed my question I asked why aren't manufacturers building/modifying auto engines for airplanes at the high end of horsepower - say 300hp on up. I asked if it was because the market is not clamoring for a lot of 300+ hp engines?
     
  4. Jan 5, 2020 #104

    TXFlyGuy

    TXFlyGuy

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    And there's the main issue. Most builders (assemblers) would rather fly behind 1940's tractor motor technology than with a modern fuel injection / ECU controlled, efficient power plant.
    That bias has been around a long time. And it shows now sign of abatement.
     
  5. Jan 5, 2020 #105

    pfarber

    pfarber

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    Well it seems that many people simple don't know how to business.

    If you set a FWF price point of $10-$15k for 150hp-200hp would it be an immediate hit? No. You're a new player in the market. You need to build the brand. You would need to fly several RVs, fly them HARD to log hours, and prove to Vans that you're an acceptable substitute (and they can also make money off if).

    You would need to dumb it down to the RV builder level and support it with white gloves.

    The negative view of car motors is not due to the car motor, but due to the bad installs, and when a business DOES try and sell them, they do so with mixed results. Viking? Eggenfeller (sp?) Blanton v6? All have already muddied the water.

    If you look at the Vans forums, there ARE quite a few people interested in car motors due to COST. Most of the people replying, when giving their experience always go negative because THEY tried to install a car motor, and THEY couldn't make it work.

    There is no question that car motor conversions work. The question is the COST and QUALITY of the package. But a good 3-5 year plan aimed at Vans kits would be a smart gamble if you can get costs down, could get some RVs flying, and some good press. EDUCATION, PRICE and SERVICE. Those would be the keys. The motor itself is a done deal.

    Would it be the perfect fit? No. Car motors are about cost. If you want the BEST solution, pony up $30k and buy a lycoming. And some people will never, ever consider anything else. But with smart marketing, education, and pricing you could definitely see a part of that 300 RVs a year wanting a 'good compromise' for their build.

    Marketing idea #1:

    Airplane in the background. A $20,000 pile of cash/gold/silver next to a 100lbs of barbells.

    Tag line would be $20,000 or 100lbs of payload, what would you rather have in your pocket?

    Then quickly compare the specs (GPH, HP, RPM at prop) and end with "Flying with Brand X engines give you a complete package and money left in your pocket to actually fly it'
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2020
  6. Jan 6, 2020 #106

    TFF

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    Rather is not really the problem. Value is the problem. The RV value diminishes with odd engines. There is one thing that resonates in aviation, “I got to get my money out when I’m done”. Most airplanes fly on borrowed money. Most do not treat their aircraft like a car. Cars depreciate by a big bit fast. Your choice is to sell it every three years or drive it till dead. When an airplane is bought, the buyer expects to get every penny back or it will not work.

    The RV crowd in general are trying to get more for their money. Why buy a Mooney when I can put the money to a RV7. The RV is an all around airplane which is the selling point, but what it really is about is traveling. It’s got five hours of fuel at 160 kts and under 10 gal of burn for the four cylinder ones. Maybe 7. What do you want when flying 300 miles away from home? No problems. If you do have a problem, how fast can you get it fixed at the airport? Remember you probably have your significant other with you. When you start stacking the deck, why bet a different way? When you are too old to fly, the Lycoming RV is worth probably 80% what you put in. Most other homebuilts are only worth what the engine is. That’s why you see $30,000 Starduster Toos and Skybolts with 360s and sometimes 540s. About $25% of what it takes to build one from scratch today.

    For a plans built oddball, a builder for the love of building may think about it. A lot of times, the builder is not an engine guy; they are like a hobby furniture maker that wants a different project. In the certified world it’s the opposite. A&P students think, I can work on engines so why not work on expensive engines and get payed well. They get their first job and they realize touching an engine is relatively rare. It’s systems that break. Airframe and engines rare.

    It comes down to the people who build don’t want to do engines, and the people who do want to play with engines don’t get the chance. Engine guys don’t want to build. Pilots first don’t want problems.
     
  7. Jan 6, 2020 #107

    Neal Scherm

    Neal Scherm

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    Having built aircraft with both certified AND experimental propulsion over 40 years, I can offer an observation.

    Builders that want Certified engines are the "non tinkering" kind. They want plug and play and proven simplicity. They do not care about the maintenance and repair costs involved because they don't plan on owning the plane long enough to be concerned. Some are probably already looking for their next plane a week after their first flight.
    YES, any aircraft with a certified Lyco/Conti engine will be worth more than a non certified engine. No question about it.

    Builders that are interested in alternatives are really pilots that love to build as much as they love to fly. They like to think outside the box and devise new ways to do things. EXPERIMENTERS...
    That's why it use to be called experimental aircraft. Now it's amateur built so some folks can feel like they fit in LOL.

    You don't save money installing an alternative engine in the 100-200 range. With just about everything being one off, it costs almost as much as a slightly used spam can engine. Takes LOTS of time to install and will NEVER be 100% until the builder (mostly by himself) has figured out and killed all the gremlins and hopefully NOT himself or others. I have lost several very good friends to those gremlins I am sad, so sad, to say.
    They will save money on maintenance and repairs for sure, but they will lose a ton when they sell it, donate it or keep it forever.
    They don't look a an aircraft as an investment. Most aren't out to make a buck (although they will lie to themselves and say they will :). They are building for the fun and EXHILLERATION of flying a plane THEY made. Not some guy in Kansas or Florida. (no insult meant to Randy). There is nothing more exciting than strapping on a plane that you conceived and put together with your own little hands and leaving Terra Firma behind. If you haven't done it, it can't be explained. If you have, I respect you greatly. A spam can Vans, Rans or anything with a certified engine is just another airplane...

    However, I have seen some extremely professional auto conversions installed and flying reliably. Areomomentum is the first one to mind. I am actually looking at one of their engines for Solo.
    They have a great design and seem to have spent the time and brain power to do things well. Price point is good and if they build a reputation like Jabiru did they have a fantastic opportunity to make up for the Eggenfellers of the past.

    It can be done. Garage machine shops are popping up all over. 3d printing in metal AT home is now possible. You can get a good desktop CNC machine that will cut metal for under $5000. An EAA chapter can get one of both and "rent" the use of them to recoup the cost. I see, and hope for a great resurgence in the EXPERIMENTAL end of our hobby. Alternative engines are a great addition to that universe.

    In the end each person will make their choice on what moves them most. Some will buy and some will build. One of the GREATEST freedoms we have available to us is the ability to make that decision ourselves and enjoy the fruits of all that labor.

    Just my .02

    N
     
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  8. Jan 6, 2020 #108

    TFF

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    I also think it has to do where you live. An auto conversion maybe the only way someone can afford to fly in Europe or Africa or some other region.

    In the US if you are not picky and have the flying talent, you can get a flying airplane cheap. You may find a rudimentary IFR airplane for $25k. Non Pitts single seat biplane, $10k. If you want a known icing Mooney or Cirrus you are going to pay $300+ along with other high end planes, you are not getting it any cheaper.

    LSA in the US is only valuable for people who had heart attacks. It’s not a low cost alternative here.

    If my only chance to fly was to build a zenith with my Triumph Spitfire engine, I would. In parts of the world, you would.
    I swept up a biplane repair project. Repaired and recovered it for a total of $4000. Bought the original engine and prop for $2000, put another $1000 in. It’s being assembled for flight. These kinds of projects are everywhere. Many are being thrown away because nobody is buying them.

    A real experimenter can do anything, they are not going to ask any questions. They just do. Talent will succeed.
    When it comes to off the shelf, the guarantee is what someone wants when they plop the money down. It becomes a hassle or no hassle. Loose money or not loose money. Most don’t have the talent to just fix it themselves and move on.

    I think the the most frugal budget gets picky in the wrong way. Money is tight so being selective is important, but it can’t be done for zero. The hangar queen projects are more bang for the buck than half of what most imagine they can do on their own. The problem is they can’t do what their imagination comes up with. Question is do you want to fly or fulfill your imagination. In this hobby finishers are the ones heralded, not the idea guy.

    Middle of Africa, three bike chains on a well pump engine, I’m down with it. Somewhere in Ohio, you can do more with less work and money. The people who have a Bridgeport at home are are the ones that make sense in the US. If you need what a $40,000 engine does, your not doing it for $1000.

    Personally I want people to make auto engines fly. I don’t like when people want more than it is functionally. Complaining where you buy in at does not fix anything. Fixing it is all that matters.
     
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  9. Jan 6, 2020 #109

    rv7charlie

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    Close. The reality is that those who can afford an airframe that truly needs 300+ HP can also afford a Lyc or Cont in that power range, and aren't likely to be interested in risking their $100K-$300K airframe to an 'alternative' engine. That said, there are a few offerings. The Robinson V8 conversions for SeaBees, Quiet Aviation (I think in FL) for Cessnas, and a guy who's name I forget that's offering a LS conversion for the Murphy Moose/Super Rebel (videos on youtube). Oh, and AutoPSRUs, though it wouldn't be on my list of choices.

    There just isn't a viable market for a commercial conversion product. When priced to make it profitable as a business, you're going to get so close to Lyc/Cont prices that no one will be interested. Powersport ran into that with their 210 HP rotary. Fine product, but priced the same as a Lyc. I think they sold maybe 3 engines before going out of business. Another husband/wife company also tried it with the rotary, using proven RWS drives & controllers; I don't think they sold a single engine. The biggest movement to 'alternative' at the moment is the increasing adoption of automotive style ignition/injection controllers *on Lyccomings* among the RVx crowd. And honestly, that makes a pretty impressive engine (except for the price, of course).

    edit: The rotary does 'work' in the 150-250 HP range, and if done right, is *lighter* than a comparable Lyc. But it's a *ton* of work (I can show you the proof) and if you purchase a commercial drive, total installed cost will be the same or slightly higher than a mid-time Lyc (I can show you the numbers). Not many are willing (or, honestly, able) to do the work to make it fly.
    Charlie
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2020
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  10. Jan 6, 2020 #110

    pfarber

    pfarber

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    Yes, yes you do. I have shown the numbers. I agree that there is residual value in an certified motor, but look at it this way:

    New pilot on an IFR/CPL/ATP track. That's a lot of hours to fly. The traditional method is CFI/CFII. Some do buy a cheap IFR plane for hours. And yes, they will sell once they have the time in. But these are also the people that have little time and will have the money for a pretty much top of the line plane (aka these are not your market) once they get to the 'I want to buy my forever plane'.

    You want the PPL/IFR pilot that might get a QBC (which are $30k-50k+ most places) and will follow the pack. These folks you can pick off. Not a lot because they are still lemmings. But again, Vans put 300 planes a year in the air. Would you like 20% of that? 60 sales a year is a tidy profit if you net $5k a motor. A good side hustle until you build name/brand recognition.

    Then you have the tinkerers and hard core pilots that just want to tinker fly. They are not lemmings and know a good value when they see it (or can be convinced).

    The numbers are there. The market is there. Its a good conversation to have with people who can see potential. Pick a problem, solve it, market it, sell it, support it. Profit.

    Is it easy? lol no. 99% of the people will never get off their butts and do anything.
     
  11. Jan 6, 2020 #111

    pfarber

    pfarber

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    You can't just 'sell' a conversion. You have to PROVE IT. You have to put it in airplanes and fly them coast to coast on speed runs. You have to find the most popular kit and install one in it and make it fly. The engine wasn't the problem, the lack of awareness was.

    The most important thing to realize is that you are not selling a reliable car engine. They are. They run great. Have since the very first airplane ever flew under powered flight. You have do one of the hardest things there is: educate people.

    An engineer/tinkerer is THE WORST person to sell a product. You need that type-A personality salesperson who can show the product and close the deal. A business without a salesperson is just stuff on a shelf.

    I've heard of quite a few auto conversions. They all failed as businesses. They tried to sell a product and not solve a problem.
     
  12. Jan 6, 2020 #112

    Lendo

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    rv7charlie, can't disagree with anything your saying. The Rotary can produce the power, however the cast iron housing are heavy, I remain unconvinced about Aluminium housings (until convinced otherwise) and look forward to the Super Light steel housings that Powersport produced which were an Oven Brazed product and expensive to produce. New Technology, Laser Sintering and PWM printing are at the moment still too expensive, but hopefully not for too long. I just need to win Lotto :)
    With Bill (on HBA) looking to produce the PSRU, you will see a low weight, well designed, moderate cost, reliable package.
    George
     
  13. Jan 7, 2020 #113

    mcrae0104

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    Yes, there have been many failures. But to say they all failed overstates the case considerably.

    Is Great Plains a failed business?
    Is Aeroconversions a failed business?
    Is Hummel Engines a failed business?
    Is FlyCorvair a failed business?
    Is Aeromomentum a failed business?
    Is Viking a failed business?
     
  14. Jan 7, 2020 #114

    Russell

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    I fall into Neal’s description.
    I did not install an auto conversion because it is less expensive. I did not install it because it is easy … if it were easy Lyc would have been out of business long ago. I prefer not to take the path of all the sheep. I love the challenge of doing what I have been told a thousand times, “it can’t be done”. I have over 4800 hours of flight time and the first flights of my Subaru conversion were the most adrenaline pumping of my life. Even today with over 830 hours on my conversion, this is the most exhilarating, heart pounding and fun aircraft that I have ever flown.
     
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  15. Jan 7, 2020 #115

    pfarber

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    If any of the businesses are here don't take this personally, its just a critique from a nobody on the Internet.

    They are meager offerings skimping along. They don't serve a core market and are the quintessential 'niche product'. Are they successful? Well, you have to define success. I've never head of half of them, the other half I have head very bad or at least troubling things. I read Kitplanes, EAA Sport Magazine and many E/AB web sites, so it's not like my head is in the sand. I've sorta kinda followed the Corvair movement when I head about them in the 80s. LIke VWs they were popular with the new composites and scratch built planes of the time.

    Would I buy from them? No. They simply miss the market. E/ABs live at the 150-200hp range. That's where you're talking mid to upper scale two and four place cruisers.

    Look at the most popular designs: side by side, low wing, 150mph XC with IFR ability. Those planes need 150+ hp to be usable. Yes as I have posted before... there are 3 car motors that fit that criteria. There are 34 certified motors that do also.

    Who is hitting the target market? Not car motors.
    Who is getting put into 300 RVs in a year? No car motors (or at best a low single digit %).

    This is really simple: If you want to sell car motors, you can either go niche (and by definition, remain small) or you can jump into the biggest market segment, with the largest customer base, with the most amount of money, building the most popular planes. Can I make this any simpler?

    Maybe my 'Mr Wonderful-esq' approach is to blunt. But when I look at the number of registered AC with those manufacturers engines listed I get so palrty numbers:

    https://registry.faa.gov/aircraftinquiry/EngRef_Inquiry.aspx

    Corvair lists 8 registrations

    Viking lists 5 registrations.

    Aeromoment(ium) lists 2

    Jabiru lists 7

    So I think I am correct when I say that no, those businesses are not thriving.
     
  16. Jan 7, 2020 #116

    Geraldc

    Geraldc

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    Those are model designations not number sold
     
  17. Jan 7, 2020 #117

    ScaleBirdsScott

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    I think the market is there, but the development costs and time to market and time to build the brand/fleet and prove the mettle means it seems like a business in which you spend a lot of money (probably would take a good $100k for a garage builder on a budget who already has the shop ready to go) to earn maybe (likely) only a little money. As I see it, we're talking 5 years minimum from fielding a commercially viable product before reaching the sort of sales levels that might reach the 50-60 sales/year that would make for a "good side hustle". If my experience selling Czech engines is any indication of the sort of adoption rate you can expect the first 3 years at bat, it is probably in the 6-10/year range.

    The biggest problem in this field is that people don't usually have a project ready to go and they just have to choose the engine. Often they've chosen the engine by day one, or at least have one more-or-less in mind unless something comes along. Some people will poke and poke and ask endless questions for an engine they plan to buy 3 years from now for the kit they plan to buy next year. Even someone who has a project that maybe needs a new engine, or someone with a plane where the engine they were going to use is no longer the best option and so they're willing to go your way instead, is at best 6-months from when they get your motor to having it maybe in flight worthy condition. And then they turn out to live far from anyone and are retired and have about zero ambition to show up to any events or take any good photos of their results. Rare is the professional who buys your engine and has it ready to display at Sun N Fun a scant few months later. (Rare, but the best usually are.)

    So if we figure 3-5 years of R&D to come up with a viable and proven and vetted product offering. Another 3-5 years of exposure before enough flying examples get out there that people can get some actual real-world impressions to go off of, and that whole time you're basically out a ton of money and hope to make some back when you start moving engines. How much cost per engine do you really have to amortize? Is it the best investment one could have made?

    A lot of people in this world it seems to me tend to just prefer drawing airplanes than camshafts, so a lot of the dreamers who will spend that 5-10 years pursuing some dogged dream are bashing ribs.

    And yet still there are out there some crazy few who do seem to offer some engines. But I'm gonna go out and say most started into it as a hobby or side income with no grand vision, and it grew into something sustainable on its own merits, and maybe some strategic aims were had with picking new product developments but based on the existing data and competencies of each shop/engineer.

    So in my mind, anyone who has the time, drive, and energy to spend a ton of money building and breaking and designing and assembling (with utmost care every time) aircraft auto-conversions probably could make better money in some other way. So they have to be singularly stupidly driven to want to solve this specific problem, and have all the right confluence of skills, experience, networking, etc for it to be the best possible way they could uniquely hit that target. Otherwise, if it's someone with just a pile of investment money looking for a business opportunity, it's a mighty big risk.

    And then it wouldn't even likely be the "better" solution just the "cheaper" one. (And even that has been debated here as actually being possible or being cheaper. And so even if it can be done, there's no guarantee the product hits those numbers.) And most guys like me aren't out there looking to sacrifice their energy to be the cheaper alternative to the same result. We kindof want to do something that leaves a mark or improves the status quo or something. And certainly being the guy that makes an affordable 150-200 HP auto conversion is like, filling a market need and people will be your friend for it. I think it's awesome! And I know a few business people (notably over in Taiwan) who are all about hitting that bottom dollar with pride and for whom the sex-appeal matters not one iota. But those guys aren't the designer/engineers I think who would succeed in a good product. In my experience they take your dream and crush it down to a bastardized version that doesn't actually retain the value to the customer and just exists, cheaply, for the uninspired to happen along amongst the dozens of others. And for us designers/engineers (and marketers), usually being the budget options it's not as sexy as, say, being the guy that delivers a big V8 engine or a radial engine or designs some cool composite jobber.

    So really it's someone who can't escape their destiny to eventually build the perfect auto conversion engine, who will show up with the right pieces of the puzzle all aligned at the right time. Then we might see it. Maybe they're already out there grinding' away.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2020
  18. Jan 7, 2020 #118

    aeromomentum

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    At the moment we (Aeromomentum) are mostly in the "Rotax" market. The "Rotax" market is about 95 to 141hp at this time. This market is actually fairly large and robust with many aircraft needing power in this range. Keep in mind that Rotax has sold over 50,000 912 engines in the past 20+ years. I think this is a bigger market than EAB engines of 150hp to 200hp and the price per hp seems to be higher. Rotax engines are not cheap and their parts prices are extreme. For many reasons, many people do not like Rotax.

    This market includes lots of alternative aircraft like weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyrocopters, etc. along with Zenith, Ran's, Sonex, Kitfox, Aventura, Searay, Savannah, RV-9, RV-12, Chipper, SeaMax, WW1 replicas, Tigermoth, Highlander, Bushcaddy, Jabiru, Thatcher, KR2, Q2 and many more.

    We will soon be delivering new engines in the 170hp to 260hp range. This puts us into the RV market. Due to past issues with other alternative engine builders that are now defunct this may be a hard market to crack. But I hope our more methodical engineering based approach will help us make headway.
     
  19. Jan 7, 2020 #119

    Neal Scherm

    Neal Scherm

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    Location:
    Riverside, CA

    Keep up the diligence and hard work and it will be worth it. The time has come for an 150 - 200hp inline 4 and/or V6 success story. Yours is a prime candidate.
    Don't forget about us 100hp guys :)

    Fly safe,
    N
     
    mullacharjak likes this.
  20. Jan 7, 2020 #120

    pfarber

    pfarber

    pfarber

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2019
    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    35
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    No, these are registrations that
    Then its worse that it seems.

    Aeromementium sells 6 engines, but according to you only two ever made it into a registered AC.

    So 66% of one companies engines have never made it into a flying AC.

    These are the facts, I know the nay-sayers are always going to try and tear down anything they personally don't have a stake in, because if they can't figure it out, it can't be done.

    Conversion companies are simply not marketing to the mass audience. 3 choices vs 34.

    Conversion companies are not making a product that fills the biggest need. They are in the niche market and by definition, will remain small.

    The motors themselves are not the problem. The installs, done by people in the past, have given car conversions a bad name. There are plenty of conversion motors flying. But not in the segment that needs them the most. Very, very, very, very few people are looking for an LS6 that can do 500hp for $75k. That is not the E/AB's biggest segment.

    The largest kit manufacturers planes, of their most popular models, require 150-200hp. Yet car conversions are concentrating on the 90-117hp of 350hp+. Can you miss the target by any wider margin? There are 300 customers, per yer, looking for a motor. Yet the conversion market is simply ignoring them. When its hot, sell ice cream. Find a problem, offer a solution. When 300 people ask "where can I buy a 150hp engine" your answer CANNOT BE "I have a nice 110hp motor for sale".

    I dread the reply from the nay-sayers... but I know they will chime in with their bad advice.
     

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