RED A03 in a Fletcher FU-24 during take-off.

RED A03 installed in the Fletcher FU-24

Recently a Fletcher FU-24 took its maiden flight in New Zealand, now using the modern common rail compression ignition RED A03-003 engine with 500 HP, replacing its original 400 HP 8 cylinder AVGAS engine.

Diesel Air New Zealand Ltd., in New Zealand, and RED Aircraft, in Germany, have been working hard to retrofit the classic PAC FU-24 Fletcher. An iconic single engine, low wing propeller STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft. It is widely used as an agriculture crop dusting aircraft as well as for dropping parachutists. This aircraft first flew in the middle of the 1950’s and has been in production in various variants till 1992.

Classic aircraft, like the FU-24 Fletcher, are facing more and more challenges to operate due to their older engines that are burning expensive, lead containing, AVGAS fuel and where maintenance becomes more difficult due to parts shortage. For this reason RED Aircraft is working on a number of projects to modernize these classic aircraft.

Diesel Air New Zealand has done a marvellous job to install the RED A03 engine into the Fletcher’s airframe. After the installation and engine certification with the New Zealand Aviation Authorities, the Fletcher recently took to the skies, showing off her impressive performance with the new 500 HP Compression Ignition (CI) engine.

Bill Sutherland, owner of Diesel Air New Zealand commented:

“We were more than pleased with how EUC (ZK-EUC, registration of the aircraft ed.) performed on its maiden flight. Our test pilot, Bill O’Connor, a widely experienced Fletcher pilot, could not get the smile off his face.

We now have the supervised Flight Test Schedule to get through to complete our Experimental phase. We will get onto this very quickly, to then be able to demonstrate the economics of the operation of the RED A03. We have a conservative estimate that the V12 will operate consuming 20% less fuel than the 400hp Lycoming 720, while producing 25% more horsepower. If the comparison is made  with the 550hp turbine engines already fitted to Fletchers the fuel saving is a minimum of 40%.

Our target for the fitting of the A03 engine are topdressing- and parachuting companies operating Fletchers.

Diesel Air New Zealand Ltd will be the STC holder and are using Phoenix Aviation Maintenance (2021) Ltd, a closely aligned aircraft maintenance company, to provide engineering support. RED are in the process of organizing worldwide product support. Diesel Air (NZ) Ltd Have applied to be included.”

The RED CI engines boost an impressively lower fuel consumption, less maintenance intervals (that are faster to do) and high reliability thanks to its redundant systems and engine data logging systems that show performance trends of many components in the engine. Along with many other improvements, the engine is certified for more efficient fuels such as Kerosine. Tests with SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) are positive and a certification process is projected. The engine that the 500 HP RED A03-003 replaces in the Fletcher, is the Lycoming IO-720-A1A, which produces a maximum of 400 HP. The use of the RE A03 will reduce the operating costs of this iconic aircraft considerably.

This is a retrofit project we are very excited about and will make sure to keep you posted on our various channels. The pictures enclosed show the engine installation and the first take-off with the RED A-03. For further information regarding fitting of the RED A03 into the Fletcher please contact Bill Sutherland.  Email willden2@xtra.co.nz