A Visit to Teledyne Continental Motors

Lightweight engines, FADEC, diesel engine technology, and alternative fuel research were a few items discussed.


In May a group of aviation journalists were invited to spend the day at the Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) headquarters in Mobile, AL. The TCM leadership team explained the TCM organization and presented information on some of the latest research and development taking place at TCM. A short factory tour was given where we were able to see first hand machining of engine parts and assembly of several engine types.

Rhett Ross, president of TCM, welcomed the group and provided a high-level overview of the current TCM organization. Ross explained that in recent years several of the senior leadership positions at TCM have been filled with people from the automobile industry — himself included. TCM feels this has brought new production, operational, and customer support practices, into the business of producing and supporting their aircraft engines. TCM reported there are some 80,000 active aircraft flying today with 100,000 to 120,000 TCM engines.

Mike Gifford, director of factory services, reported the TCM Customer Call Center and Technical Support receives approximately 10,000 inquiries per week by both telephone and the internet/email. Gifford explained that about one-third of the inquiries come from aircraft/engine owners and two-thirds come from distributors. He went on to say, “Our goal is to answer inquiries within 24 hours.”

Ken Suda, senior vice president of Operations, stated that TCM has a strong commitment to North American including the Alabama locations. “We plan to keep work in Alabama,” says Suda. He went on to say that current production levels, which include new and remanufactured engines, average eight per day and it has untapped production capacity with its second and third shift operations.

New product development

TCM highlighted four individual products or areas of research and development (R&D) that are currently at the forefront within the company; the O-200 family of engines, an expanded full authority digital engine control (FADEC) product line, the introduction of the Jet-A/diesel fuel reciprocating engine, and a strategy regarding alternative or unleaded (UL) Av-fuel. Let’s take a closer look at what TCM is doing in these areas.

The O-200 engine

The O-200 engine has been used in many applications of general aviation aircraft for decades. Many student pilots have learned to fly behind the O-200. The O-200 Lightweight engine is a FAR 33 certified engine with a compression ratio of 8.5 to 1 and a dry weight of 199 pounds, or approximately 24 pounds lighter. It is adaptable to lower octane fuels for potential use in international markets. TCM is also looking at developing a lower compression O-200D which it stated will be equivalent to the earlier O-200A model engine. The compression ratio would be approximately 7.5 to 1 and it would also be an unleaded aviation fuel capable engine. This would improve the potential for using Av-fuels found in emerging international markets, provided well-managed and controlled maintenance and operations processes are followed, and fuel storage and distribution systems are in place.

Given the possibility of an un-leaded Av-fuel future, TCM is also reviewing the use of automobile fuels in certain aircraft engines, and based on results of more research, it may consider working with fleet operations groups on professionally managing the use of automobile fuel in certain applications of the O-200 engine.

FADEC products

TCM first launched its FADEC product on the Liberty aircraft powered by the 125 horsepower TCM IOF-240-B engine. This program has produced 20,000 hours of operating experience on approximately 100 aircraft. According to TCM there are six airframe manufacturers located in both the United States and abroad that now have active TCM FADEC programs ready to launch on their aircraft. There are nine normally aspirated and three turbocharged TCM engine models certified for the TCM FADEC system. Johnny Doo, senior vice president engineering and product integrity, says, “We are ready for FADEC if the market requests it.”

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