OSHKOSH, Wis. – Lycoming Engines says it is working on as many as 25 "active" OEM engine integration projects for general aviation, most of which are outside of the U.S.

Mike Kraft, senior vice president and general manager of the Pennsylvania-based company, says the number of engines is not so much an indicator of an upswing in the market, but more to trend in niche aircraft.

"If you’re paying a couple hundred thousand dollars for an aircraft, it must fit your mission," he says of the new aircraft programs. "I can’t say that the number aircraft produced is increasing, but I can say that the introduction of new products remains healthy."

One of those new products is Italian airframer Tecnam’s P2010, for which Lycoming is supplying a 180 hp engine. Tecnam announced at AirVenture here on July 30 that it has gained European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval for the four-seat, low-wing single. Kraft says Lycoming will also send the first engines to Tecnam later this year for the company’s P2012 twin, which uses the 350 hp TEO-540 engines, with electronic controls.

For its smaller aircraft, Tecnam uses Rotax engines. "This is their return to Lycoming," he says of the two new Tecnam programs.

Lycoming, the major U.S.-owned manufacturer of piston aircraft engines, builds piston engines ranging from 5 hp to 600 hp for 60 aircraft makers, among them General Atomics for the Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft. Over its 85 years in business, the company has sold 325,000 engines, 200,000 of which are still in service. Kraft says the total number of engines in service is steady, with retired engines counterbalancing new engines coming into service.

The company’s FAA-certified engines range from 100-400 hp, including a 200 hp electronically controlled diesel-powered engine for the Gray Eagle. "That product will make its way into general aviation," says Kraft, adding that the company will eventually certify the diesel engine. Competitor Continental announced at AirVenture that it will certify a 310 hp diesel engine in 2016. Continental also has European certification for a diesel engine for the Cessna Skyhawk. Safran also says it will certify a diesel engine for the Cessna 182 in the next few weeks.

The combination of electronic controls, sensors from the automobile industry and unleaded fuels coming to the U.S. market will be the spark for innovation in new engines and engine controls, Kraft says. Included are single-lever power levers and new engine controls that will simplify what pilots need to know. Kraft says there could be indicator lights for "no takeoff" or for "limited time of operation" before required landing. New unleaded fuels being tested are also providing the opportunity to re-evaluate engine internals as the FAA moves forward with a planned transition to unleaded aviation fuel by 2018, which will include an ASTM specification, type certification and availability of the fuel.

"With the introduction of unleaded controls, we can turn the crank again on legacy engines in terms of fuel, lubricants and materials," Kraft says.

Shell announced in May that it was the first major oil company to develop a lead-free aviation fuel replacement for 100 octane low-lead (100LL) and had started FAA testing. Other fuel producers are also testing fuels for aviation uses. Shell says it meets all key aviation gas properties, with an octane rating of more than 100. The company says the formulation was successful in bench testing by Lycoming and flight tests by Piper Aircraft. "We can confirm it is remarkably close to 100LL from [a] performance perspective," Kraft said in the Shell press release.