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Continental Builds on an Innovation Growth Plan
By James Wynbrandt
July 26, 2015 - Continental Motors CEO Rhett Ross said the company has a simple plan for future growth: “Innovate, innovate, innovate,” he told a crowd at the company’s display here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (Booth 229-234).
As part of the plan, Continental announced completing acquisition of Engine Components International, Precision Machined Parts, Airmotive Engineering Corporation, Aircooled Motors, Sterling Machinery and Process, EC Services, and the Titan engine line from Danbury Aerospace (DA). The acquisition bolsters Continental’s move into engines for experimental aircraft through the Titan brand, which offers four- and six-cylinder engines ranging from 145- to 305-hp.
Ross said going forward Continental will incorporate “next generation electronic engine controls across our full range of products,” and expand into higher horsepower engine families.
The Mobile, Alabama-based company is currently expanding engine maintenance capacity at its facilities in nearby Fairhope, Alabama, where it plans to offer airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for aircraft ranging in size up to mid-size business jets. The company is also evaluating an MRO location in Europe.
Commenting on the global market for its products, Ross said, “North American and Europe are very mature, they’re not really growing,” with the general aviation piston market in the U.S. expanding half a percent annually. “But there are still some 200,000 aircraft and engines in service, and the same thing on a smaller scale in Europe. [But] we see huge growth opportunities in Africa and China.”
Continental, owned by AVIC (Aviation Industries of China), is also “investigating locations in China to establish a maintenance center that will have the same capability” as its U.S. facility, with particular emphasis on diesel engine work. Though the China market isn’t growing as quickly as anticipated, Ross said the company will eventually add manufacturing capacity there. Citing the “classic hockey stick growth chart” of auto sales in China, he said, “We don’t think we’re anywhere near the hockey stick curve yet, but we have to plan for that.”
Continental also recently debuted a new, production-ready version of its diesel powered CD-230 engine. The improved 4-cylinder, air- and oil-cooled 230-hp engine has a 9,800-foot critical altitude and 20,000-foot service ceiling. Performance limits in hot day operations at full power have been increased to 113˚F, and operational capabilities in cold weather are also enhanced.
The engine is aimed at markets where avgas is either prohibitively expensive or unavailable, and is suitable for both fixed- and rotor-wing applications, and for OEM and retrofit installations. Ross said Continental already has interest in the engine from aircraft manufacturers that he declined to disclose. “Unfortunately, OEMs get very worried about pre-announcing,” he said. “They don’t want to hurt current sales. I can say they are large and interesting customers.”