Premier Expands Diesel Cessna 172 Program

Before it has even sold its first diesel Cessna 172 conversion, Premier Aircraft Sales announced a vast expansion of the program to cover all Skyhawks from the 172F model first built in 1965 to modern 172R and S models.

Earlier this year Premier announced the diesel upgrade program, which replaces the Lycoming engine in a 172R or S with a 135 horsepower Continental/Centurion 2.0 liquid-cooled engine running on jet-A. The $289,000 upgrade includes the original airplane, the new engine, new paint and interior and a new avionics suite consisting of the Garmin G500 system paired with a Garmin GTN 750 touchscreen navigator.

Premier also announced the availability of a Hartzell Bantam three-blade composite propeller, which allows the converted Skyhawk to climb 50 to 75 feet per minute faster and cruise 5 to 7 knots faster. The Centurion engine, meanwhile, burns half the jet-A fuel compared with the original Lycoming burning avgas.

Premier chose to focus first on the 172R and S models because they include the Bendix/King KAP 140 autopilot. But owners of older Skyhawks going back to the 172F can choose a "cafeteria style" upgrade path that can include whatever the owner wants or doesn't want — including the airframe or not, depending on whether the customer already owns a 172. The program price also includes a fresh annual.

The price to do just the engine upgrade is $100,000. Premier says that price point has generated a lot of interested from flight schools flying Skyhawks with engines nearing TBO. "One of the first calls I received was from a flight school in the Caribbean," said Premier vice president of operations Art Spengler. "They are paying $9 a gallon for avgas and jet-A is available for $4 a gallon." With math like that, he said, "a flight school can't afford not to do the upgrade."

Premier is close to completing its first conversion. Spengler said the company will use that airplane as a sales demonstrator out of its base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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