Continental to offer Jet A engine

May 12, 2010

Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) says it will have a four-cylinder engine powered by Jet A fuel, commonly referred to as a diesel engine, on the market in 2012. That engine will range from 180 to 250 horsepower (a 230-hp engine was shown to reporters this week).

Continental hopes to have a six-cylinder Jet A engine of 300 hp and more available in 2013. Both of the engines will cost a little more than an avfuel-powered engine, but “not an order of magnitude higher,” said Continental official Johnny Doo in a videotaped interview with AvWeb.com.

Doo made the usual arguments for going diesel, including plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to phase out leaded gasoline, and the high cost and poor availability worldwide of avgas.

It was obvious to anyone who has seen or flown the SMA engine that Continental has purchased SMA technology. However, Continental officials would say only that they licensed a technology and did not identify SMA. AOPA Pilot flew the SMA engine aboard a Maule aircraft in 2004.Continental hopes to have the engine, with any changes it might make, certified early next year.

SMA officials also refused to confirm that it was their technology that was licensed. However, other sources indicated that SMA licensed its first-generation technology to Continental, not its latest advances. In other words, Continental got the technology found in the original SR 305-230-1 engine, but SMA kept the technology found in the newer SR 305E engine displayed recently at airshows. SMA will continue to produce and market the enhanced 230-hp engine.

The enhanced engine can maintain 230 hp to 10,000 feet, and can be restarted in the air, should the need arise, from -22 degrees Fahrenheit to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. It can operate to 20,000 feet, while the older technology engine was limited to 12,500 feet. Sources say it has more reliability and can be manufactured at a lower cost than the earlier technology.

While it may seem as though SMA will compete with Continental, that is not the case, according to sources. SMA can’t succeed alone and needed a teaming agreement that lends credibility to the SMA technology. Nearly every engine manufacturer in the world, including Lycoming and those in Europe, who have any interest in producing a Jet A engine have consulted with SMA. Continental is expected to make enhancements to the engine and recertify it, since Continental does not have the original paperwork that won FAA certification years ago.

The licensing agreement came as no financial windfall to SMA. It merely helped pay bills accumulated since development began in 1996. It does bring a windfall of respect from the market for SMA’s enhanced engine. Like Continental, SMA also plans a six-cylinder engine in the future. “It [the licensing agreement] says there is a future for Jet A burning engines,” a source with knowledge of the agreement said.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.