Aircraft engines that use less and better fuel

Airmotive Technology engines are able to run on standard fuels, a breakthrough in the aviation industry

Airmotive Technology engines are able to run on standard fuels, a breakthrough in the aviation industry

Richard Schulz of Airmotive Technology says there is a crisis in the general aviation industry. “Most fixed wing and rotorcraft airlines are forced to operate in a very inefficient manner, using lead-based fuel.” This is because they are using old technology, which came along just after World War II, but has stayed around. “Add to this the lack of availability in many parts of the world of avgas, and the stringent regulatory nature of aviation, and it is easy to see why there has been stagnation in the development of new general aviation engines.”

His company Airmotive Technology hopes to change this by producing an engine that is not only manufactured to green standards but is also energy efficient due to its development and fuel consumption. “Our engines are easy to operate and maintain,” explains Schulz. “They’re manufactured using simple equipment and are designed so they can be easily serviced and maintained in remote areas.”

The breakthrough is that this allows them to run on lead-free fuel, coal-to-gas fuels and on biofuel. That’s a big deal in an industry that has required special infrastructure to move its own fuel around. “These capabilities ensure they are coming close to meeting the standard regulations set for urban vehicles emissions,” he says. They are also very quiet, which means the echoing whine of plane engines that makes living near airports such a pain will become a thing of the past. 

Schulz started work on the revolutionary engines in 2003, alongside colleagues Raymond Bakker and the late Geoff Cronje. They ran into funding issues, which meant the project made slow progress, but by 2014 a restructuring allowed development to accelerate. Recently they were showcased at Oshkosh, the world’s biggest airshow that takes place each July in Wisconsin, US.

“We were very well received,” says Schulz. “Our order book is full.” A great start for a company whose aim is to be the powerplant of choice for general aviation by 2025.

Schulz is also the chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Technology Station at Durban University of Technology (DUT). “In development, preference is given to female undergraduates where possible, and several of these young ladies [have] moved on to become respected engineering professionals,” he says. “The test pilot who flew our prototype aircraft is a female. We have training policies that are progressive and allow a sustainable trajectory of employee and staff progress to more responsible and rewarding positions. We estimate direct job creation in the next three years will be in excess of 65 quality jobs.”

With these figures it’s easy to see how the project meets the goals of the NDP, creating jobs and supporting technology innovation. If all goes according to plan Schulz believes Airmotive Technology will not only revolutionise the general aviation industry, becoming a major global supplier, but he believes the projected annual GDP will be around SA R200-million to R300-million in foreign earnings per annum. This from a sustainable product that is manufactured using green technology, recyclable materials, with the least negative environmental impact.

Little wonder the tagline is “Flying should not cost us the earth!”

Special mention: Belgotex Floors — zero waste and massively improved efficiencies

Leading the way in best manufacturing practice, Belgotex Carpets have revolutionised their 100 square metre industrial plant outside Pietermaritzburg and invested heavily in sustainable processes.

As a result the factory has been awarded six stars in South Africa’s first custom Green Star SA Existing Building Performance rating, for an industrial facility from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

The six-star certification recognises “World Leadership” for sustainability practices in all aspects of their plant and carpet manufacturing operations. The rating is based on adherence to sustainability criteria that include management, energy, water, transport, materials, land use, ecology and emissions.

As well as meeting all the criteria, Belgotex is affecting real change throughout their value chain. For instance, they have adopted a dry-manufacturing process that is a complete switch to solution-dyed ranges, resulting in a 100% reduction in water consumption, as well as reductions in chemical and energy inputs.

Additionally, they acquired a R5-million recycling machine that allows them to recycle waste fibre and yarn back into their production line. This effectively reduces waste rates from the carpet production process to zero. It also offers up to 20% energy savings, resulting in lower production costs and reduced CO2 emissions.

Further investment includes the installation of a R17-million photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant, energy-efficient LED lights and automatic motion sensors, and extensive plant upgrades to more energy-efficient equipment.

“Our main goal is to operate a sustainable factory wherever economically and environmentally feasible,” explains Kevin Walsh, chief operations officer at Belgotex Floors.

“For us, it makes good business sense. It improves operational efficiencies, product development and social upliftment, and positions us as industry leaders.”