Continental Diesel Piper flight from Germany to South Africa

By Adrian Munro

With a Piper Archer DX registration D-EPCP equipped with a Continental diesel engine, and Garmin G1000 avionics pilots Andreas Albrecht and Wolfgang Biereth left from Kassel Airport in Calden Germany to South Africa. Andreas and Wolfgang of Continental Motors had only three weeks to plan a trip in a Piper PA-28 Archer DX to fly to South Africa. In Africa the availability of Avgas is a problem a major problem and Andreas and Wolfgang wanted to show that a piston aircraft able to fly with jet fuel or Diesel fuel is the ideal solution, not only for Africa but the rest of the world, They called their flight the "Africa Continental Mission" and christened their Archer III with Continental CD-155 engine the "African Queen".

Andreas Albrecht (left) and Wolfgang Biereth(Right) with the diesel engine Piper PA-28 Archer III at Kassel Airport the start of the Africa Continental Mission. Photo © Volker K Tomalla

The extended endurance of the Diesel powered Piper made for lesser stops than the standard Piper Archer. On October 5 they flew a few demo flights in Malta before crossing the long stretch of Mediterranean Sea to Egypt. They flew from Malta to Chania onwards to Crete and then to El Alamein and finally to Egypt. Andreas and Wolfgang hardly got sight of the Pyramids as they had to zig-zag through airspaces before they could land late afternoon in Aswan, a city on the Nile River.

"Although we have eight hours endurance with our standard tanks we planned for legs of five to six hours. Fuel is so far the lowest cost of our trip. One litre Jet A1 is between 80 cents and one euro, relatively inexpensive. However, as you notice, the economy and efficiency of a diesel engine also saves costs. We have so far had no technical problems during the whole trip, we only had to refill with one litre of oil." Wolfgang said."

They took off from Aswan over Lake Nasser for Dodoma, capital of Tanzania. It was breath taking, there was water for miles. After leaving Egyptian territory communication with the ATC became a problem. The desert stretched for miles and miles and only changed an hour before the landing at the Sudanese capital Khartoum. The next day the weather continued to deteriorate, with a few thunderstorms around. "The Stormscope on the screen of the G1000 was really helpful." Wolfgang said.

The terrain then started to rise slowly but steadily. From the border of Sudan and Ethiopia they flew at FL140 increasing steadily until reaching flight level FL160. The approach to Addis Ababa Ethiopia was spectacular because the city is surrounded by mountains but the landing on the 7600 feet high-altitude required full concentration.

They left Addis Ababa early the next morning for the next leg to Kenya's Wilson Airport. After take-off they starting turning out on direct course 190 °towards Nairobi. The climb performance of the DX is, even at that altitude, excellent thanks to the turbocharger.

Landing at Wilson Airport, the home of five flight schools, came as quite a surprise. "The parking lot is so full that we hardly find a parking for our Piper with Cessna Caravans, Piper Cub and even a Dornier 228 all parked on the apron" Wolfgang recalled. Wilson Airport is known as the airfield with the second most landings in Africa where many aid flights go out to Sudan.

The next day demo flights were done with flight schools and operators as part of their main mission. "The interest in the DX was amazing. The pilots and mechanics wanted to know everything about the engine and the aircraft. We did several demonstration flights during the day and everyone was impressed." Wolfgang said.

Their next stop was Lusaka, Zambia where they land and where, to their surprise, they are asked to depart for a military field and to perform a demo for the Zambian Air Force. The weather on arrival at Lusaka was not ideal and it did not improve when they departed. However, with full tanks they then made their way safely to South Africa arriving at Polokwane after a 4.24 hour flight. They cleared customs, re-fuelled and took off for Lanseria but after 30 minutes of flight time the front was moving in and facing a sea of lightning they wisely decided to turn back.

After a night's stay in Polokwane they headed back to the airport in the morning and took off for Lanseria International Airport. After only 1:43 flight time the wheels of the "African Queen" touched down at Lanseria International Airport. The Piper PA-28 Archer DX had arrived at its destination.

Andreas Albrecht (left) and Wolfgang Biereth(Right) with the diesel engine Piper PA-28 Archer III after landing at Lanseria International

In the following weeks demo flights will be held at various flight schools throughout South Africa, after that the aircraft will go down to Cape Town to complete the journey.

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