Engine History in the Making

Centurion 2.0 diesel engine

"Think globally, act locally." That’s the business mantra of the newly formed Continental Motors Group, the world’s first and only truly global producer of piston aircraft engines. What does it mean to you? Well, a few things actually. And they're all pretty important.

First, Continental Motors, founded in 1929, is suddenly a part of a much larger entity with major manufacturing centers in the United States, Europe and China after China’s AVIC International acquired Continental in Mobile, Alabama, as well as Thielert in Germany, now known as Technify Motors. Development of gasoline piston engines is slowly taking a backseat to diesel power, the centerpiece of which is the Centurion 2.0, built in Germany. It won't be Continental's last diesel, either.

You might not be aware of this bit of aviation trivia, but more than 4,000 Centurion diesel aircraft engines have been delivered since production began, originally under Thielert in 2002. Cumulatively they have flown 4 million flight hours. Not only are these jet-A-burning Centurion diesels extremely fuel efficient, they’re also reliable. The in-flight shut down rate per 100,000 hours of the Centurion 2.0 over the last year, for example, has been just 0.61, far better than aviation gasoline engines on the whole and a big improvement over the original Thielert diesels. We can now safely say the Continental/Centurion diesel is pretty much bulletproof.

As we reported in today's eNews, Piper has announced a diesel version of the Archer to be called the DX model. Targeted primarily to European flight schools, several Centurion-powered Archers are expected to be sold in the United States once deliveries begin next year. Redbird and Premier Aircraft Sales, meanwhile, have announced diesel STC upgrades for gasoline-powered Cessna Skyhawks using the Centurion engine. It's only a matter of time before more such announcements are made.

But probably the biggest development to come from the creation of the global Continental Motors Group is what the Hong Kong-based entity is planning in China. Consider the statement made by Tian Shan, the new president of Continental Motors Beijing, as she offered up a bold prediction today at the start of Aero Friedrichshafen in Germany about the future of GA in her country.

"AVIC is committed to the global market, but has a special place and obligation to bring general aviation products to China," she said. "Today, we see true growth opportunity in China, with the final comprehensive opening of nationwide, low-altitude airspace expected in 2015. The huge potential for civil and business flights will soon lead to an increasing number of aircraft in service. As a gasoline and diesel engine manufacturer, maintenance and training service supplier, we are prepared for this historic opportunity."

It’s just another example of how the new Continental Motors Group is thinking globally and acting locally — all while writing aviation history.

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