Continental: Diesel Line Expanding, STC’s Planned


Continental Motors’ Rhett Ross said Tuesday that the company has no intention of abandoning its large-displacement avgas engine customers, but that diesel technology has become the company’s short-term developmental focus. “The most important thing for us is diesel technology,” Ross said in a press briefing, adding that Continental’s China-based parent, AVIC, has provided the necessary capital and expects development to go forward aggressively.

Accordingly, Ross said the Continental’s launch diesel, the four-cylinder TD-300 with an output of 200 to 250 HP, is scheduled for FAA certification later this year, with serial production in place by early 2013. When asked if Continental had any OEM commitments for the TD-300, Ross was noncommittal. But he did say Continental sees a viable market in the very territory SMA recently abandoned for its diesel: diesel conversions for the Cessna 182. SMA did a handful of these in North America and Europe, but never found much traction for the idea, although owners we’ve talked to seem to like the conversion.

As we reported on Monday, Cessna surprised many with its announcement that it would certify a diesel-powered Skylane with the SMA SR305-E, its latest version of a four-cylinder Jet A piston developed more than a decade ago. Although the license agreement prevents it from saying so, Continental based its diesel engine on technology bought from SMA in 2010 with the idea of advancing development on its own. However, that agreement is for base technology, not production or licensing of the engine itself.

And according to Ross, Continental has done just that. It plans two other versions, the TD220 in the 160- to 180-HP range and the 300- to 350-HP TD450, a market no one has cracked yet. Ross said such engines could find a market as replacements in popular cabin-class twins or singles, many of which use Continental large-displacement engines.

But Ross was careful to say Continental won’t abandon its avgas customers. “Please don’t walk out of here thinking were abandoning our higher horsepower avgas engines,” Ross said. He said the factory will continue to provide parts and service for those engines and will work in the recently announced FAA avgas replacement framework to find solutions for customers that work no matter what the fuel. “Continental is agnostic on fuels,” Ross said, adding that it will provide engines that the market demands. As for the STCs for conversions, Ross said it wouldn’t approach these as demonstration projects, as SMA did, but as full-scale programs aimed at model populations large enough to be profitable. AVweb will have a podcast interview with Ross later in the week.