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Superior Air Parts celebrates half centurySuperior Air Parts celebrates half century

Superior Air Parts, a firm founded on principles of making flying more affordable, is celebrating 50 years as an FAA-approved aftermarket parts manufacturer. The company emerged in 1967 with an engine valve guide and now holds parts manufacturing authority (PMA) for 3,500 items related to Lycoming and Continental engines.

Bill Ross, the vice president of product support for Superior Air Parts, describes some of the engine operating tips in his book, "Engine Management 101," made available during EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 24. Photo by David Tulis.

“We’ve literally had 50 years of literally trying to make flying more affordable,” said Superior’s CEO Keith Chatten during a news conference on July 24, the opening day of EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

“There was a need that could not be met by OEMs,” Chatten explained, referring to original equipment manufacturers as he detailed Superior’s cylinder manufacturing innovations and improvements. In 1970, the company achieved PMA status from the FAA “just as a manufacturer would,” Chatten explained. Since then, engineers have gone on to develop manufacturing processes that improved upon cylinder designs that had basically stagnated for decades.

“A little bit of fair competition has a significant effect on the industry,” Chatten noted as he detailed engineering advances for cylinders, which he described as “one of the most expensive parts” of an aircraft engine.

Superior’s XP-Engine Series kit engine for the experimental aircraft market paved the way for its certified Vantage Engine. “It makes logical sense” to move from the experimental market to the certified market “at a little better price point,” than what OEMs can charge, he explained.

There are “over 2,000” Superior engines in the marketplace, and the powerplants range in horsepower from 150 hp to 215 hp. Chatten noted that an FAA-certified Vantage Engine powers American Champion’s rugged two-seat High Country Explorer aircraft.

In the future, he says he hopes to see Superior bring “more PMA parts and more type certificated parts” to the marketplace and predicts owners will see new engine designs, including diesel-powered options.

“There’s definitely a need for more power and more efficiency and that won’t change. But they [engines] need to be affordable, too.”

The company put together Engine Management 101, a paperback engine operating tips book that was released at AirVenture to help mark Superior’s anniversary. In the digital world where it seems nearly everyone is an expert, “there’s a lot of room for unsubstantiated technical data,” said Bill Ross, vice president of product support, who said the publication aims to set the record straight.

The book covers topics including alternative fuels, engine baffling, cylinder compression testing, ways to extend engine life, and more. Ross describes himself as “an airplane owner and lover of aviation just like you,” and the guardian of his family’s restored 1966 Alon Aircoupe.

Ross said it was challenging to write a book that encompasses Superior’s engine workshops. “If it helps them [pilots] get a little more life out of their engine then we’ve done our job.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Aviation Industry, EAA AirVenture

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