When Porsche shoved a 911 engine into an airplane
Porsche takes to the skies
It's common knowledge that Porsche is one of the biggest names in the car industry, what you might not know however that they were also involved in the airplane industry a few times. Going as far as making the 3.2L flat six usually found in the back of the 964 generation 911 available as a sort of crate motor for airplanes.
The ambitious program started in 1981. Porsche already had experience with converting car engines into plane engines thanks to the Rheinflug RW-3 and the Pützer Elster B, Some of the first German aircraft produced after the second world war. Those were powered by the Type 678, a modified version of the Porsche 356 engine.
Keen to get back into business, Porsche set out on modifying their current 911 engine to be used in small aircraft. Easier said than done as simply bolting a propellor to it wasn't going to cut it. Alot of research, development the PFM 3200 emerged.
Compared to the usual engines found in light aircraft it was a technological masterpiece. Electronic fuel injection, better fuel consumption, a dry-sump oil system just like racecars perfect for doing aerobatics and it made almost no noise whatsoever thanks to the mufflers.
It was easier to use as well. In conventional piston powered propellor airplanes you have three separate levers controlling the throttle, propellor and mixture. With the Porsche PFM however this was reduced to just one. Push it forward to go faster and pull it backwards to go slower, easy as pie.
To promote the engine Porsche organized a trip around the world with Mooney, the airplane manufacturer they were working closely together with during development of the engine. Mooney was to offer the PFM engine in their popular M20, sort of like the ford fiesta of the sky.
The plane covered in the iconic Rothmans livery spent a total of 600 hours circumnavigating the globe. The first maiden major voyage of the PFM was a resounding succes.
It is a shame than the engine was an enormous flop on the market. It may have been smoother and easier to operate but it was also heavier and ten times more complicated. The high tech nature of the engine also made it vastly more expensive. Everyone agreed that it was a nice thing to have, but nobody really needed it.
Only a meager 80 engines were ever sold. Most of them were found in the Mooney M20L while the others can be found in more custom made planes like the Colani Comoran. After spending approximately 75 million dollars developing and producing the engine, Porsche abandoned the project in 1991.
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