First Flight, first Cross-Country of Maule/SR 305
It was just over a week ago, that the Maule M-9 took off from
Moultrie (GA), with its new SMA SR 305 doing the work. Now, that
Maule is in Oshkosh, some 800nm away from its home base, and it's
working "great," according to the SMA crew here.
We had a look at that Maule, and saw that the installation looks
every bit "OEM." ANN talked with engineer David Wright, a technical
advisor at Maule, and he told us, "It went together the way we
planned it... and it worked." We kept probing for unanticipated
problems, even of a minor nature, and he was convinced that this
was as straightforward an installation as he's ever seen. "There's
18 hours' flight time on it," he said, "and it's been absolutely
As part of pre-flight testing, the aircraft was tied down and
run at full throttle, until it overheated. Only... it never
overheated, even in the Georgia sun. "It got up to [operating]
temperature, and just stayed there," Wright said.
On the trip up to Oshkosh from Moultrie (GA), the single-lever
control yielded about 11gph in cruise, at speeds that were, he
said, "...what we planned."
"The engine is easy to fly," due to its inherent nature. The
prop, a Hartzell 3-blade that looks like it came from an aerobatic
ship, turns 2200rpm. It turns 2200 rpm in takeoff, at cruise -- all
the time. Only the load changes, as called for by the single-lever
control. One more nice touch: Maule got a particularly appropriate
N-number: 305SR. [Interestingly, SMA's TB-20 test sled, in England,
got registration "GOSMA." --ed.] Compared with the usual gas
engine, Wright said, takeoff started just a tad slower ("You have
to get the turbo to spool up," he said, "and that takes a few
seconds"), but once it got going, "it's at least as fast" as the
gas-powered model, he said.
The diesel Maule, just a few days in the public eye, will be
delivered starting next Spring. Oshkosh show pricing was pegged at
an introductory $200,000, "and we have orders," David told us.
But wait -- there's more:
In just a few weeks more, a
Vulcanair P-68 twin will be taking off with a pair of these new
230hp engines, which will represent not only the first flight of
the SMAs as the only power on a twin, but also the first SMA
flights in Italy.
Back in Florida, Aerodiesel Propulsion, on the Atlantic coast in
Ft Lauderdale, has formally agreed to do the STC work on getting
the SR 305 into a PA-28 Dakota. Expect an Archer STC shortly after
the Dakota approval. (SMA believes that Dakota will be flying to
Sun 'n Fun '04.)
SR and SR
SR 305 in SR21tdi: if you're looking for a diesel-powered
Cirrus, the formal announcement of the Cirrus SR21tdi project was
made by SMA. As the official company release notes, "SMA and Cirrus
expect to be able to release more detailed information on the
project and aircraft availability toward the end of the year."
More STCs in the works...
Additionally, SMA's own work on the C-182 and TB20 is
progressing on two continents, with ten people dedicated to the
programs, and over 300 flight hours' accumulated on the two test
aircraft, so far this year. (The 182 program has traveled from
Embry-Riddle, to Reilly SuperSkyrocket, and back now to SMA, as of
SMA's order book is filling up, as well, with "over 200" firm
orders for engines or aircraft upgrade kits. To support anticipated
roolout, SMA plans to have five US distributors, and 3 Canadian,
set up by the end of this year. In June, Tule River
Aero-Industries, in California; Aurora Aviation in Texas signed up
this month. Spares are in the pipeline, and SMA's 24/7 hot line is
either already up, or is just about to be.
This is a 'performance' engine:
There's little doubt that SMA is
looking to surprise some traditionalists with the power that this
4-cylinder machine produces. "This is a performance engine," said
Miriam Dunn, SMA's marketing boss. "In fact, [a conversion] is not
an 'engine swap.' People shouldn't think of it that way. This is an
aircraft upgrade -- you can fly into the 21st Century without
buying a whole new airplane.
The diesel engine's strong marketing suit outside the USA is
fuel cost, a product of both the economy of the engine (gph) and
the price of diesel vs avgas. SMA's Chairman and CEO, Antoine
Grenier, told ANN, "The US market asked for performance, and they
are getting performance. In Europe and most other places, they also
look for increased range, safety, operating costs, fuel costs...
and they are getting that."
Mr. Grenier told the crowd at Oshkosh, "We are now ready to
change the cost of flying." And the technology: fewer moving parts,
fewer parts overall, compression ignition vs. spark, less