Continental Extends TBOs, Certifies Diesel

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For years, we've heard that the technology exists to extend engine TBOs beyond the normal 2000-hour recommendation and now Continental has done just that. It recently announced that it will extend the TBOs on many of its popular engines by 200 hours and, for frequently flown engines, by 400 hours. According to the company's Bill Ross, who we interviewed at Sun 'n Fun, this might not immediately mean much to Part 91 operators who aren't required to adhere to published TBOs, but for for-hire operators who are, the cost savings amount to as much as a 20 percent of the overhaul price, a substantial savings.

So how'd they do it? In this podcast, Continental's Ross told us that improvements in technology have allowed the company to achieve tighter and more consistent parts tolerances and that coupled with statistically proven results from engines in service convinced the FAA to approve the higher TBOs, effective immediately. Moreover, no special trend monitoring is necessary during the extended TBO period. As for the 400-hour extensions on engines flown 40 hours a month, Ross said that research on representative engines conclusively showed that they experience less wear when flown frequently, something owners and operators have seen in the field for years. The specifics of the extended TBO program can be found in Continental's Service Letter 98-9 (PDF).

The longer TBOs will apply only to engines manufactured during 2012 and beyond, including new production and rebuilt engines built to new quality standards Continental has established. "Each year we move more toward the digital age with very sophisticated CNC machinery that's able to streamline processes and improve quality," Ross said. Continental also revealed that it has certified its TD300 turbo-diesel engine, although the news of it was kept low key. Continental bought its basic diesel technology from the French company SMA, but has pursued its own developmental path to improve and certify it. Ross said Continental also has a launch customer for the engine but he declined to name it. We're told to expect more information at AirVenture.