DeltaHawk Engines Inc.
Innovation: Multi-fuel general aviation engines
More than 167,000 piston-engine aircraft operating in the United States rely on aviation gasoline, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. As the only remaining leaded transportation fuel, avgas is the largest contributor to lead pollution in the country.
If all goes according to plan, however, Racine-based DeltaHawk Engines will begin production of an alternative engine early next year that would instead burn jet fuel. Christopher Ruud, chief executive officer of DeltaHawk, said the reason avgas is still used is a lack of any alternative.
“We’re trying to create the market alternative,” he said.
The plan is to have FAA approval for the engine by the fourth quarter of this year.
While others have tried to adapt engines from other applications, DeltaHawk is designing its engine with the sole purpose of powering an airplane. A piston engine that burns jet fuel is a challenge on its own. Dennis Webb, director of marketing and certification, pointed out an airplane engine also needs to be lightweight, small, operate at high power and be highly reliable.
“You put that all together, it’s an extraordinary engineering challenge,” Webb said.
Ruud said a talented group of engineers is pushing DeltaHawk’s designs forward and advances, like using 3D printing to validate and experiment with part designs, have also helped.
DeltaHawk also benefits from a major investment several years ago by the Ruud family.
“It takes a lot of money to employ approximately 50 people with no revenue,” Ruud said. “It’s a big barrier to entry for anyone in the marketplace, but especially for a startup.”