Continental Will Push Diesel Conversions (CORRECTED)

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With avgas north of $12 in many parts of Europe, Continental Motors says its ready to push diesel conversion programs for its line of four-cylinder turbocharged diesels. At Aero in Friedrichshafen, Germany this week, Continental CEO Rhett Ross said he expects the diesel conversion market to pick up.

“We have a number of installation center partners that are working hard on this. We’re adding Mattituck Services as an installation center. Of course you know about Redhawk and as you heard at Sun ‘n Fun last week, Premier announcing that it’s starting to market the Centurion. We see that aircraft being very viable in the European market because of the fuel price difference or the total lack of availability. That’s where we’re seeing the demand,” Ross said.

He made the comments in this podcast the day after Piper announced it will use the 155-hp Centurion 2.0s in the new Piper Archer DX, which it plans to deliver early next year. Ross also said the 2.0s will find a conversion market in an unlikely but practical place: Diamond DA42 twins originally equipped with the 1.7 or 2.0 Centurion engines. Ross said Continental has entered into a partnership with Diamond to convert these aircraft to the 2.0s. This is somewhat surprising because Diamond launched its own engine company, Austro, because of dissatisfaction with Thielert Aircraft Engines, which built the original engines for the DA42. Austro diesels are used in new-manufacture DA42s but they are also approved for conversions in the original DA40 and DA42 aircraft.

As for the rest of the world beyond the U.S. and Europe, Ross said he sees the fuel of preference as diesel and Jet A. “If you don’t have to create a second infrastructure on an airfield, it just make the economics easier. We’re talking about a lot of places that could use these aircraft and they don’t want to have to truck in a second fuel,” Ross said.

Despite its strong tilt toward diesel, Ross says Continental will continue to support gasoline engines. “Gasoline for engines, in an unleaded form, will be around for quite a long time. We’re working with Shell in partnership on their 100-octane option. And we are certifying, in partnership with Flight Design, for their C4, the IO-360, on Total 91 and some other formulations, maybe including some limited auto fuel.”

Ross says he remains skeptical of true mogas as an aviation fuel, despite many OEMs claiming airplanes are mogas capable. “If all you’re doing is buzzing around the airport at a couple of thousand feet, it’s going to be OK. But if you’re trying to jump into your Bonanza or your Cirrus and run up to 20,000 feet and expect the kind of performance and reliability, it’s not going to happen with those fuels,” Ross said.