by KURT RAND
There is an airplane on the west coast today
that flies admirably without gasoline. It uses a
new fuel that costs just four cents per gallon
Throughout this winter and early spring a conventional two-place monoplane has been flying at altitudes up to 14,000 feet on a series of test flights. The ship, a high wing cabin job with a standard Lambert L-266 five-cylinder 90 h.p. radial, has been operating without gasoline.
Its fuel--a liquefied gas with a butane base and containing propane plus an inexpensive formula mix, the nature of which the inventor will not reveal--costs less than four cents a gallon! The liquefied mixture of butane and propane is delivered in 400 gallon lots by Parkhill-Wade, distributors of Shell petroleum products at Los Angeles, at 3 1/2 cents per gallon. The formula mix costs a small fraction of a penny for each gallon, according to the inventor.
The inventor, or developer, is Harvey A. Beilgard of Beverly Hills, Calif., who built his own motor and plane in 1910, learned to pilot it himself at Lake Forest, Ill., and has been flying ever since. Beilgard, who started his remarkable tests with the standard Lambert about four months ago, reports his motive power infinitely superior to gasoline. The liquefied gas weighs but 4.65 pounds per gallon as against better than six pounds for standard fuel. It gives him, he claims, an hour of flying for each four gallons consumed, as against 5 1/2 gallons of gasoline.
"Whereas the Lambert is rated with gasoline at 90 h.p. at 2,375 r.p.m.," Beilgard says, "preliminary tests indicate that I am getting about that output at 2,150 r.p.m."
"The only alterations I have made in the conventional gasoline fuel system consist of a high pressure line to a compensating valve of my own design, which changes the fuel from liquid to gas and a small valve which opens into the intake manifold when the throttle is advanced."
Beilgard and his pilot-mechanic, Edmund Whiting, have toured California from San Diego to San Frqncisco in the plane. During this period, according to Beilgard, there has been an hourly saving of 16 pounds per hour in fuel weight.
"This is computed on the basis that 73 octane gasoline, used at an hourly rate of 5 1/2 gallons, weighs 34 1/2 pounds as against four gallons of the butane-propane formula weighing 18.6 pounds," Beilgard declares.
Beilgard at present is faced with two problems. The first is the design of a lightweight high tensile steel container for the liquid which, under temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, exerts a pressure per square inch of from 40 to 50 pounds. The present tank is of heavy, low grade steel and, while satisfactory, absorbs some of the weight advantage given by the liquefied gas. The second is to reduce the exerted pressure through a perfected chemical mixture.
Beilgard sets forward an amazing list of advantages which his fuel has over gasoline;
"The fuel will not form ice," he says. "It enters the manifold pre-heated by its own change from liquid to gas. The gas, being dry and under pressure, fires immediately at any outside temperature."
He explained that to start the motor a turn of the propeller sufficed, usually.
"Engine performance is increased almost half again, as far as power is concerned," he continued. "It is possible to raise the compression ration to 12 to 1 in a specially designed motor because of the absence of detonation and pre-combustion."
He declared that he could, by building his own power plane, get 189 h.p. with the same displacement as that of standard current motors developing only 90 h.p. with gasoline.
"We have greater flexibility of engine control, due to efficient fire propagation after the fuel has passed through the mixing mechanism," he said.
Recently, to prove the efficieny of the fuel, he climbed to 14,000 feet in the monoplane, put the nose down in a dive and held the throttle well back until he was at 500 feet. Then he shoved the throttle wide open and the motor caught immediately in spite of the chilling dive through winter air.
Beilgard's tests, he claims, have shown that cruising radius can be almost doubled, due to the lightness and greater efficiency of the fuel. Another claim he makes is that oil consumption is decreased because the gas is dry and does not blow by to dilute crankcase lubricant.
"In addition to this," he says, "wear is reduced because there are no impurities to get into the oil."
He points out that cylinder temperatures can be more uniformly controlled because of more efficient combustion of fuel. The fuel turns into power rather than being dissapated into heat. "Furthermore," he declares, "fuel pressure cannot drop because the fuel maintains its own pressure in its natural condition. Pumps, strainers, floats and other complicated equipment are eliminated. Carbon formation is reduced because of the efficient combustion of the fuel."
"The fuel is especially valuable in combat flying. The feed system is not affected by acrobatics. There is no carburetor float. The mixing mechanism operates perfectly in any position. Efficient operation is assured whenther it is in updraft, downdraft or horizontal position. Ovbiously, there is no added weight for carburetion. In fact, weight is cut down as well as operation is simplified. The mechanism is much lighter than the conventional carburetor."
Butane and propane, the chief ingredients of the liquefied gas fuel, are end products in the manufacture of gasoline. They are the "higher gasses," two among several. Butane gas has been used in the operation of tractors and on some other motors. But this is the first time, Beilgard is sure, that the gasses in any form have propelled airplanes. He say that the octane rating of his mixture is about 120.
"The amazing thing about the fuel," he says, "is that it burns so slowly within the cylinder heads. It has the effect of steam. There is less vibration in the Lambert with the gas than there is with ordinary gasoline."
In discussing his tank problem, Beilgard says he feels confident that a suitable ball tank can be constructed. This tank, of high tensile steel, would have a tendency to deflect bullets in military usage. It would have the appropriate size to hold the conventional gallons of fuel, giving his present ship a cruising range of about 600 miles at his present cruising speed of 120 m.p.h.
Beilgard is no neophyte who has stumbled into something accidentally. His experiments with gas have covered a period of more than 10 years. He has been flying for 30 years. He was a roustabout in the Indiana sand dunes camp of Octave Chanute during the glider days of 1901-1902.
He was born in Milwaukee July 8, 1889. He attended the University of Wisconsin and took post graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was attached to the Chanute camp in the course of two fummers and there het the Wright brother, who believed that man could fly in motor-propelled heavier-than-air ships, and Glenn Curtiss, who was toying with the same idea.
He entered the garage and motor sales business at Lake Forest, Ill., to get enough money to continue experiments which he started with huge kites, some with pull o between 60 and 80 pounds. He was with Curtiss in 1910 and 1911. During this period, in his spare time, he bult his own motor and his own airplane --a job which resembled both the Bleriot and Antoinette monoplanes.
"you might say it contained the best features of each," he says.
He taxied it up and down the field at Lake Forest until other pilots began to kid him about his tendency to stay on the ground. Then one day he took off, circled the field at approximately 300 feet and made a perfect landing. And a pilot was born.
His career since that time has been dotted with airplane construction, barnstorming, racing plane design, motor design and building and practically every other phase of aerodynamics and aeronautics. In 1930 he conducted his first experiments with gas-propelled motors. He went into it in a big way, creating a 500 h.p. job which was to be operated on butane. In size, it was not as large as the 225-h.p. radial which was then considered the last word. Encouraged by backers, he ran it successfully for 20 hours. However, in 1930, there was little enthusiasm for this kind of experimentation and little commercial market for 500-h.p. motors. In fact, the ship in which the motor was to have been installed succumbed to the economic stress of the period.
He abandoned the work to turn his attention to racing planes. Then, four years ago, he decided to design anoteher gas motor, developing about 125 h.p., to power a ship of his own construction. His first plan was to build a plane to seat four, sell around $4,000, cruise about 120 m.p.h. and land at about 20 m.p.h. with slots.
He first evolved an experimental two-place job with slots. Then he discovered not long ago that the Lambert would operate on the new formula mix, abandoned gasoline, got an "X" on the ship and put in his present eight gallon gas.........in fact, there's a state law in California prohibiting its use in automobiles on public highways. Beilgard says--but Shell was interested.
"The ship," he adds, "has flown perfectly ever since."
What of the future of the gas? Beilgard isn't interested, at the moment, in the construction of a motor with a 12 to 1 compressions ratio for private planes--a thing he believes will come ultimately. His first concern is in converting large motors which he will pick up for freight use and the construction of huge cargo planes.
"The chances are," he says, "with the present rate of air transportation development in Central and South America and in Alaska, roads won't be built to any great extent and neither will railroads. At the present time, 25 cents-a-gallon gasoline makes air transportation of cargo prohibitive. The profit or loss virtually lies in the cost of the fuel. If I can produce a five or six-ton freighter powered by conventional motors which will use gas at less than four cents a gallon, freighting will become profitable. Furthermore, I have some rather radical ideas in regard to the contruction of the freighters. One plane is to build the ships with removable fuselages. These fuselages can be loaded while separate from the airplane and then installed in a substantial framework. The plane will take off with the loaded fuselage, land at the destination and leave it, picking up another to save time. In case of motor failure, the fuselage can be dropped from the air over uninhabited country if no reasonably good landing place is available and the plane can be landed much more safely without cargo."
Courtesy of Jim Beilgard