A Visit to Teledyne Continental Motors

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

TD 300 engine program

TCM recently acquired proven Jet-A or diesel fuel reciprocating engine technology through a strategic purchase. Johnny Doo says, “This was a clear-cut technology purchase and transfer.” As to the source of the technology, TCM only stated it came from an unnamed European company. TCM feels this technology purchase will provide it with the ability to produce engines that operate on Jet-A fuel for the general aviation market in a short period of time, in order to meet the market needs for American piston aircraft products to expand into the non European international markets. TCM feels that interest is developing in emerging international markets where Av-fuel availability and a fuel distribution network are not available. When Av-fuel is available in these areas, it’s at a considerably higher cost than Jet-A. In order to be part of this emerging market, TCM is positioning itself to provide a general aviation engine that operates on Jet-A.

The engine is a four-cylinder horizontally opposed air-cooled engine, with a direct propeller drive. The TD 300 is rated for 230 hp at 2,200 rpm and 250 hp at 2,500 rpm. It has an electronic engine control with a mechanical backup system for the pilot to use if needed.

TCM expects a baseline certification early in 2011, and engines will be available in 2012 with a range of horsepower ratings between 180 and 250. The engine will weigh approximately 420 pounds or 450 pounds with accessories. A 300 plus hp variant engine, the TD 450, is being planned which is based on the same technology and construction. TCM is looking at the 2013 timeframe for the TD 450 engine. TCM plans to produce these engines for the airframe manufactures first and the STC aftermarket segment second. “The TD 300 will be manufactured right here in Mobile,” says Suda.

Alternative fuel strategy

There’s been much news this year regarding the potential change to UL Av-gas. Ross says, “Any fuel that is not lead-based will come with changes to the overall operation and cost of an aircraft. We want to be in a position to manage the new fuel specification whatever it ends up being.” The strategy at TCM includes a commitment to focus on supporting the current aircraft fleet and to work with industry in providing a timely and safe path to the potential retirement of leaded aviation fuel.

In 2008 it began a formal and proactive program regarding alternative fuels for its family of engines. It’s been researching many segments of the overall alternative fuel issue including compatibility and effects on the existing fleet of aircraft, alternative fuel candidates such as 94 UL, 100 octane synthetic fuels, automobile fuels, and the use of Jet-A. All of this while giving consideration to a wide variety of engine specifications.

One issue is the current high-compression ratio engine installations. TCM feels a worse case scenario would be a top-overhaul style of modification to a lower compression ratio rating in order to operate on a non 100 octane UL Av-fuel. Normally aspirated engines will require some level of modification to improve detonation margins. This may come in the form of ignition timing control or the lower compression ratio modification. Turbocharged engines may require some limited operating requirements, such as lower power settings or retarded timing in hot temperature conditions. However, TCM also feels its FADEC system would address some of these potential affects.

TCM believes the best choice for the industry is a 100 octane unleaded fuel. However, since one does not yet exist, the company is focusing on a baseline unleaded fuel such as the 94 UL. Doo says, “For the lower compression ratio engines of 7.5:1 and lower, initial testing indicates no changes will be required.” TCM reminds us that most of these engines were originally certificated on 80 or 91 octane fuel. In the end, the company believes that any transition will occur over time, allowing it the opportunity to finish development of solutions it has on the drawing board for the existing fleet to allow the plane owner to keep flying without major changes or cost.

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