Thielert/Centurion ponders the future

April 2, 2009

In a well-attended and contentious press conference, Thielert Aircraft Engines (TAE) bankruptcy administrator Bruno M. Kubler asserted that the future remained bright for the financially troubled company. Citing demand for replacement parts and engines for the 2,500 Thielert turbodiesels in service worldwide, he painted a cheery picture. Engine production never ceased, he said, despite erroneous rumors. Research and development continues for future engine designs. New employees are being hired. And “we still have the competitive edge over our competitors.”

Progress continues on developing a 155-horsepower version of the basic TAE design, called the Centurion 2.0S. It should be certified by the fourth quarter of 2009, and retrofit kits will be available for upgrading the current two-liter TAE engines.

Even so, none of 50 or more suitable investors have closed the deal on purchasing the company. More investors need to be considered, Kubler said. “We’re going to take it slow and do it right,” he emphasized. Meanwhile, the company has been renamed “Centurion Aircraft Engines,” with the new entity taking over global sales of engines and spare parts.

In a major news announcement, Kubler said that customers who buy new Centurion 2.0 engines in the future will receive free replacement clutches and transmissions after the first 300 hours of operation. This saves customers about $4,590 and effectively extends these mandatory inspection intervals to 600 hours, Kubler said. The offer also applies to retrofit engines as well.

Because the new Centurion company isn’t affected by the bankruptcy proceedings, Kubler said that a new, two-year warranty would apply to all newly manufactured Centurion engines and spare parts—whether they were purchased from Centurion distributors or service centers, or airplane manufacturers.

Things turned ugly when Kubler asserted that Diamond Aircraft Industry’s newly-certified AE300 engine—a 170-horsepower turbodiesel Diamond developed on its own after tolerating complaints of poor reliability and high parts costs of the TAEs it previously installed in Diamond DA40s, DA42 TwinStars, and other airplanes—is not an alternative to a Centurion engine.

“The AE300 can only be installed in DA42 NGs [Diamond’s newest TwinStar], because it is 100 pounds heavier than the Centurions, and requires wing spar reinforcement,” said Kubler. Not true at all, countered a Diamond spokesman.

Then Kubler accused Diamond of reneging on an order for 100 Thielert engines, only taking delivery of 33 engines. “That’s because the engines we received were remanufactured engines, not new ones, and the fuel nozzles weren’t of the correct specifications,” a Diamond official said.

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne | AOPA Pilot Editor at Large, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.