Peterson’s Performance Plus
There are many things in aviation that we’d all like more of: more runway in front of us, more altitude below us, more speed, more fuel in the tanks, more legroom for passengers, more useful load and more engine power all come to mind. Of those, power is one of the most useful because it can compensate for many other factors (it won’t help with passenger legroom, unfortunately). More power gives a shorter takeoff roll, which can make a short runway seem longer; it usually provides higher speed and better high-altitude performance and, in many cases, it can provide more useful load. The manufacturers all know this, and as airplanes (especially higher-performance models) are revised, bigger engines are often offered as an option—and in some cases, eventually become standard.
But, how do pilots get more power? Traditionally, this has involved trading up to a new airplane (or a newer model of an old airplane), but with the cost of new airplanes rising, another option is increasingly popular: modifying an existing airframe with a new engine. The range of options this opens up is mind-boggling. Depending on your preference (and bank account) it’s possible to do anything from changing cylinders to adding a few horsepower, all the way to replacing everything forward of the firewall (and quite a bit behind) to install a state-of-the-art turboprop that will take you into the flight levels!
Fair warning: Modifications like this involve some of the most complex, time-consuming and (especially at the higher end) expensive work done to airplanes. Aside from the cost of the new parts, you have to pay for skilled technicians to do the installation work—and indirectly, you also pay for the engineering that goes into designing the mod and associated supplemental type certificate (STC). You won’t find prices in what we have below because the work will vary from one airplane to another—if you’re seriously interested, call a vendor for details.
Air Plains Services (www.airplains.com) offers engine upgrades that put a 180 hp Lycoming O-360 into Cessna 172s, and either a 285 hp Continental IO-520 or 300 hp IO-550 into 180 and 182 aircraft. Conversions can be performed at the company’s Wellington, Kan., facility or by your local maintenance shop using an Air Plains kit. The company also offers a unique Inpulse water injection system that allows Cessna 188, 210 and Beech Barons to fly on 91 octane unleaded gasoline.
Even turbine drivers want more power, and the XP engine upgrades from Blackhawk Modifications (www.blackhawk.aero) address that by upgrading Beech King Air (C90, E90, F90 and 200) and Cessna Caravans with late-model Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines. According to the company, this will increase cruise airspeed, service ceiling and rate of climb, and in some cases, a gross weight increase is available at extra cost.
Then, there are the piston-single pilots who want to fly turbines: O&N Aircraft Modifications (www.onaircraft.com) has them in mind with its Silver Eagle I and II conversions for pressurized Cessna P-210 and unpressurized 210 aircraft. Both mods involve complete replacement of the existing engine with a Rolls-Royce 250-B17F/2 turbine coupled to a reversible Hartzell three-blade prop. The mods also involve a new all-metal instrument panel with a turbine gauge cluster. The company claims dramatically shortened takeoff and landing distances, and reduced noise levels plus better rate of climb and high altitude cruise to “slice block times by an average of 20-30%.” The mods also provide a 140-pound payload increase.
Soloy Aviation Solutions
Back in the piston world, the folks at P. Ponk Aviation (www.pponk.com) offer the Super Eagle conversion that puts a modified Continental O-470 (using O-520 cylinders for additional displacement) or TSIO-520 on most Cessna 180 and 182 airframes. Not surprisingly, adding 35-45 additional horsepower produces shorter takeoff roll, better climb and faster cruise. It also offers a longer time between overhauls (TBO), which the company claims gives owners a lower operating cost per mile.
Some people aren’t satisfied with just an engine mod. The Katmai and 260SE packages from Peterson’s Performance Plus (www.katmai-260se.com) are focused on back-country short-field performance. Both mods start with a Cessna 182, upgrade the powerplant to either a fuel-injected 260 hp Continental IO-470F or 300 hp IO-550 and add a high-lift canard which, according to the company, allows the airplane to be safely flown at speeds down to 55 knots. Additional options include reconfigurable interiors designed for camping, on-board standby generator and a BRS parachute.
Earlier this year, Premier Aircraft Sales (www.flypas.com) announced a program to install a 135 hp, liquid-cooled, Centurion 2.0 turbo diesel and, optionally, a Garmin G500 glass panel in Cessna 172 airplanes. According to the company, benefits of this package will include single-lever power control, reduced fuel burn and less cabin noise.
RAM Aircraft (www.ramaircraft.com) offers engine upgrade STCs for a slew of airplanes, including 160 hp for Cessna 172, 310 hp for early Cessna T-206/T-210 and 160 hp for Piper PA-28-140 and -151. The company also offers STCs to upgrade twins including Beech Baron, Cessna T-310/320, 340, 402 and 414. In addition to the STC (which typically includes required drawings, flight manual supplement and placards), the company offers a variety of installation hardware kits.
Redbird Flight Simulations is aiming their RedHawk conversion (redhawk.redbirdflight.com) at flight schools. Starting with a Cessna 172 M, N or P (bring your own or they’ll find one for you), the company takes the airframe down to bare metal, replaces worn parts (including the firewall if needed) and rebuilds it with a Centurion turbo-diesel engine, Hartzell Bantam three-blade carbon-fiber prop and all-new avionics. The company claims that the result is a “better than new” trainer with 20% lower operating costs for 35% less than a brand-new Lycoming-powered Skyhawk from Cessna.
Rocket Engineering (www.rocketengineering.com) is another outfit dedicated to eliminating turbine envy among high- performance piston pilots. It offers conversions that replace the factory engines in Beech B-36TC Bonanza, B-58P Baron, B-60 Duke and Piper PA-46 Malibu with Pratt & Whitney PT6A turbines. The company calls the resulting airplanes the Turbine Air, Cougar Baron, Royal Turbine and JetPROP, respectively. In addition to the usual performance improvements, the company notes a longer 3,600-hour TBO.
Soloy Aviation Solutions (www.soloy.com) converts Cessna 206 Stationair and 207 Skywagons to turbine aircraft powered by either 418 or 500 hp Rolls-Royce/Allison 250 engines swinging full-feathering constant-speed Hartzell props. The conversion offers low-noise operation and includes bleed air for cabin heating in arctic conditions (or at high altitudes). According to the company, these conversions are widely used in applications such as police surveillance and skydiving. The 206 conversion is compatible with floats.
Texas Skyways (www.txskyways.com) offers a range of upgrades for owners of Cessna 180, 182, 185 and 210 aircraft, with horsepower options ranging from 250 hp from an O-470-U/TS in early Skylanes to a whopping 310 hp from an IO-550-N in later-model airplanes. In addition to performance benefits (maximized if the customer installs a three- blade Hartzell Buccaneer prop), the company claims a TBO increase to 2,500 hours due to improved lubrication; it also says that these engines can be installed without any modification to the airframe or cowling, and with no additional restrictions to flap speeds.
Texas Turbine Conversions
Just when you think you’ve heard of every possible rationale to change engines, how about a turbine owner who wants more power? Texas Turbine Conversions (www.texasturbines.com) specializes in skydiving. Their Supervan 900 is a Cessna 208 Caravan with a 900 hp Honeywell (Garrett) TPE331-12JR turbine replacing the factory-installed 675 hp PT6-A-114A. Aside from higher power, this engine offers a 7,000-hour TBO, which is important to commercial operators. The company claims lower overall operating cost, reduced fuel burn for a given airspeed and better endurance. They also offer a similar conversion for the de Havilland DHC-3 Otter.
Tornado Alley Turbo (www.taturbo.com) specializes in turbonormalizing—a form of turbocharging in which the intake manifold of a conventional reciprocating aircraft engine is provided with sea-level pressure at high altitudes. They offer modifications for Beech model 35 and 36 Bonanza, Cessna 177RG Cardinal, 185 and Cirrus SR-22. The company’s most extensive modification is the Whirlwind TCP for A-36TC and B-36TC Bonanzas, in which the factory TSIO-520 engine is replaced by an IO-550. All of Tornado Alley’s conversions result in simpler operation than conventional turbocharging systems and higher performance at altitude by comparison with stock airframes.
Wipaire (www.wipaire.com) is known mainly for floatplane conversions, but floatplane operations benefit from extra power, so it’s not surprising that the company has branched out into engine (and other) modifications. The company offers higher-power engines for Cessna 182, 185, 206 and 208, de Havilland Beaver and Twin Otter aircraft. According to the company, their 315 hp IO-580 conversion is the highest power option available for the Cessna 182. It comes with a new Hartzell prop, engine monitor, heavy-duty engine mount, prop governor, 90 amp alternator and optional gross weight increases.