Aircraft engine maker Continental Aerospace Technologies announced yesterday at EAA AirVenture that it is jumping into the urban air mobility fray, becoming a partner with, and making an investment in, Florida-based eVTOL builder VerdeGo Aero, which was founded by Erik Lindbergh, Embry-Riddle Eagle Flight Research Center director Pat Anderson, and Eric Bartsch. The VerdeGo is a two- to three-seat tiltwing design powered by hybrid integrated distributed electric propulsion that features a diesel engine. “Revolutions in aircraft come from revolutions in propulsion,” Lindbergh said, adding, “This is the most exciting time in aviation I’ve seen in my career.”
Continental CEO Rhett Ross said the investment was consistent with the company’s goal of remaining the “first choice in GA [general aviation] power” and comes as the company announced significantly improved sales; a new $75 million, 285,000-sq-ft manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama; better customer service; and a new replacement power offering for the ubiquitous Cessna 172.
“Over the last 12 months our OEM customer base has expanded by more than 150 percent with seven different rides,” Ross said. Those new airframes include the Piper Pilot 100/PA-28 and the Diamond DA-50, which is currently in certification testing. “We’ve increased our product investment by more than 28 percent between 2018 and 2019. We are now investing more than 5 percent of our revenue in new product innovation. We are committed to bringing value and competition to the industry and our prime products engine sales are up 70 percent year-over-year and our spare parts sales have grown more than 6 percent year-over-year.”
Ross said the new manufacturing plant in Mobile will open in September. “We’ve been operating in circa-1930s buildings with 1930s equipment and still building a fine product,” he said, adding that the new factory contains space to add the most modern manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing.
Ross said the company’s customer service is greatly improved and enhanced. Continental has hired additional technical service representatives, built up a $30 million spare parts inventory, and slashed parts shipping time. “Two years ago we were shipping 60 percent of parts within 24 hours. Now that number is 98 percent,” Ross said. “We now have a prime IO-370 engine that is able to drop into a Cessna 172 series R and S aircraft.”
That 180-hp engine comes with a two-year warranty, a 2,200-hour TBO (2,400 hours for high time/frequency users), a price guarantee, and is priced less than a factory overhaul. Continental also has launched Engine Shield and Fleet Shield service and support programs with guaranteed overhaul turn times—Continental pays a penalty charge if the guarantee is not met—transparent pricing, and factory exchange programs.