Continental Expands Diesel Aircraft Engine Product Lines

 - July 30, 2014, 7:00 PM
Continental Motors unveiled its latest diesel engine, the 310-hp CD-300 series, on July 29.

“We’re excited about our expanding customer base,” said Rhett Ross, president of Continental Motors, commenting about the growing number of aircraft manufacturers that have committed to jet-A-powered diesel engines. The newest customer for Continental’s CD-155 engine is Cessna, which selected the 155-hp diesel to power its Turbo Skyhawk JT-A.

Ross made a more significant announcement for Continental yesterday at EAA AirVenture 2014–the unveiling of the new three-liter V6 CD-300 series diesel engine. “Not only is this in development, it is flying today,” he said. The first CD-300 is a turbocharged 310-hp engine, based on automotive technology, and turns at 2300 rpm. The engine’s critical altitude is 8,000 feet and service ceiling 25,000 feet. Continental is targeting a time between removal (TBR) of more than 2,400 hours, according to Ross. The engine is ideal for four- to six-seat airplanes, he added. “We are now in certification and coming out of hardcore development, and we expect delivery of prototypes in 2015 and finishing certification in 2016.”

The Continental diesel family now covers three main series: the CD-100, CD-200 and CD-300, with horsepower ranges of 100 to 200 hp; 200 to 300 hp; and more than 300 hp, respectively. A year ago, Continental acquired the assets of Altenburg, Germany-based diesel engine maker Thielert and adopted Thielert’s Centurion brand name. Now Continental’s diesel engines are all being marketed under the CD (Continental Diesel) brand name.

The CD-230, which received FAA certification in December 2012, earned type certification validation in China on July 3, becoming the fourth Continental diesel engine so approved in that country. The CD-230 is an air-cooled design and produces 230 hp at 2200 rpm.

More than 4,000 CD-100-series engines are installed in more than 2,000 aircraft, and they have logged more than four million flight hours. “They have the highest reliability of any piston engine,” Ross noted.

Continental Motors is not limiting developments to the diesel engine market, although that seems to be growing rapidly, with Glasair developing a TD-155-powered version of its Sportsman, Piper Aircraft receiving EASA certification for the TD-155-powered Archer DX in April and Redbird’s RedHawk. Premier Aircraft Sales’ Skyhawk diesel upgrades also use Continental engines.

“Gasoline is a large part of our customer base,” Ross said. The resumption of production by Mooney Aircraft is a good sign for Continental, as is Flight Design’s certification program for the Continental-powered C4. Continental is also part of the FAA-industry Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative, which aims to replace leaded avgas with a suitable unleaded fuel.

Continental is also expanding its services product line and has consolidated maintenance businesses under the Continental Motors Services brand. The company’s light aircraft maintenance facility in Fairhope, Ala., was merged with Mattituck Services last year to provide complete piston-engine MRO services. The company also is buying Southern Avionics and Communications of Mobile, Ala., and is adding talent for a propeller shop and business jet maintenance. “We don’t intend to stop,” Ross said. “MRO is a growth opportunity, and we’ll have more announcements later this year.”