Superior’s Vantage Engine receives FAA type certification
By Joe Escobar
On April 15 at the EAA’s Sun-N-Fun air show in Lakeland, Florida, Superior Air Parts Inc. held a press conference at which the FAA presented the company with a type certificate for the company’s Vantage Engine®. The engine is a four-cylinder, horizontally opposed, 180-horsepower engine. Superior anticipates full production certification for the engine in the fourth quarter of this year. Let’s take a look at this aircraft engine that is the new kid on the block.
Long time coming
According to Superior, this engine has been a long time coming. Charles “Chuck” Dedmon, Superior’s president and CEO, says, “While the actual decision to obtain a type certificate on the Vantage Engine was made in 1996, it is actually a development process that has spanned some 30 years. Every part that Superior has designed and produced has been a step in the long and detailed process.”
Ties to the XP-360 engine
Looking at the Vantage Engine, one may question what the difference is to the Superior XP-360 engine. Well, the Vantage Engine is virtually identical to Superior’s experimental XP-360 engine. Superior says that from a technical and performance standpoint, the XP-360 and the Vantage Engine are basically identical, the biggest difference being that the Vantage Engine is type certified while the XP-360 operates purely under the experimental category. Superior says that it will continue to offer the XP-360 engine to the experimental aircraft community. In fact, the company says that the experimental engine offers them the ability to test the market by introducing new technologies and product enhancements for the XP-360 engine prior to obtaining certification for the parts on the Vantage Engine. They expect the XP-360 market to continue to grow with the engine being the conduit for them to be able to introduce product improvements and performance enhancements into the general aviation field.
The initial TBO established with the type certificate is 1,000 hours. Superior is currently performing additional testing on the engine in order to substantiate a projected TBO of 2,000 hours, which the company expects to have in the fourth quarter of this year.
As far as the engine warranty goes, the company says it will cover the engines for three years or to TBO, whichever comes first. In order to be covered under the warranty program, the owner would need to perform service and maintenance checks at regular intervals as prescribed by Superior.
Although the Vantage Engine is type certified, it is not yet certified on an airframe. If an owner wants to replace his existing engine on his Cessna 172, for example, it could be done but it has to be done through obtaining a Supplemental Type Certificate. Superior says it is planning to obtain STCs for the Vantage Engine on the most popular aircraft that are currently using the Lycoming 180-horsepower engine, including the Cessna 172, Piper PA-28 series, and earlier Mooney 210s. Superior says that because of the sheer fleet size, the first STC that it is looking at is for the Cessna 172 family. Superior will own the STC outright and will make its use available to qualified shops at an “attractive price.”
Here are some of the engine advancements that Superior says are inherent to the Vantage Engine:
Dynamically balanced VAR steel crankshaft. The Vantage Engine incorporates an SAE 4340 Vacuum-Arc-Remelt (VAR) steel crankshaft. Each crankshaft is balanced to within one-quarter oz-inch to help reduce engine vibration, component wear, and pilot fatigue.
Computer optimized camshaft intake and exhaust valve lobe design. The camshaft of the Vantage Engine is designed for better cruise economy, lower valve-train loads, and smoother idle and power operation. The camshaft intake and exhaust valve lobes have been computer optimized. Lower valve-train loads result in a reduction of camshaft and lifter spalling, valve-train and guide wear, and friction. Precisely timing camshaft lobe valve events enhances economy and overall performance. Idle and power vibration characteristics are also computer optimized to reduce component wear.
One interesting fact about the Vangage Engine is that it can be operated on unleaded automotive gasoline. The engine is certified to run on either unleaded auto gas or 91/98 Avgas. “We believe that the option to run on unleaded auto gas as well as with 91/98 Avgas will be very attractive to a growing number of aircraft owners around the world,” says Tim Archer, senior vice president for Superior.
Improved crankcase. The Vantage Engine’s crankcase is made from aerospace grade AA C355-T71 stabilized structural aluminum alloy. The reinforced crankcase cylinder deck eliminates deck-to-deck cracking. A balanced oil system lubricates the crankshaft and camshaft from either side of the crankcase. This reduces oil pressure fluctuations and equalizes oil flow through the entire engine, including the lifters. Pressurized oil lubricates the crankcase thrust face, reducing friction on the loaded surface of the case where the crank pulls the case forward.
Dynamically balanced connecting rods and pistons. The connecting rods in each engine are statically and dynamically balanced. Precision machining of the forgings and installation as matched-weight sets yields a statically and dynamically balanced set of connecting rods that reduces vibration and wear. In addition, the pistons are weight-matched to assist in the dynamic balance of the engine.
Oil sump with an improved, high-flow induction system. A smoother intake manifold and plenum system reduces aerodynamic drag for better breathing of all four cylinders, while at the same time a plenum turbulator improves air-fuel mixing. Tuned intake tubes balance the intake air runner length to further improve engine breathing. Polished stainless-steel intake tubes eliminate corrosion from the elements.
Tri-metal bearings. The main and rod bearings use tri-metal bearing material. They are 40 percent stronger than conventional aluminum bearings.
Now that Superior has achieved type certification for the Vantage Engine, what is next? Well, the company says it is looking into several possibilities including the certification of a 160- and 200-horsepower model as well as certification of models featuring different induction system configurations. It is also exploring the viability of offering new electronic ignition systems and other engine management systems such as Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC).
These have been a few highlights of the new Vantage Engine. Since the announcement at Sun-N-Fun, there has been plenty of buzz in the industry. How will this new kid on the block fare? How will the other OEM manufacturers react to this new competition? Will there be companies in the future manufacturing PMA parts for the Superior engine (which was based on PMA parts developed for the Lycoming engines)? Stay tuned as AMT covers this developing story.
Superior Air Parts Inc.
621 South Royal Lane, Suite 100
Coppell, TX 75019