Just back home from a couple of days at AERO Friedrichshafen, Europe’s top General Aviation show, and I’ve had time now to think about some of the headline stories.
There’s Piper’s decision to adopt the Centurion 2.0s turbodiesel engine and create a new model, the Archer DX. Piper and Centurion worked together to make a great job of integrating the German engine into the Archer airframe, creating what’s known as a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC).
An STC avoids the need to go through the whole type certification process from scratch. In this case, it’s justified – both the airframe (Piper Archer) and engine (Centurion) are already type certified and well known items with plenty of history.
The hard part is integrating the engine into the Garmin G1000 avionics. The G1000 has the Primary Flight Display and Multi Function Display and also shows the engine instruments as an electronic display. It’s been done before of course. Diamond Aircraft has the same setup in its first generation DA40 singles and DA42 twins – Centurion engines and Garmin G1000 displays. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
The real reasons Piper has gone down the turbodiesel route are two-fold. First, it desperately needed to find an engine which could use a different fuel from avgas. Second, the news that Centurion has been bought and absorbed into the Continental Motors Group, financed by Chinese money, gives Piper the confidence to use the engine. They can be sure of the future of the engine, plus continued support, spares and technicians who can work in the field to solve Aircraft on Ground (AOG) problems.
The Piper Archer DX is aimed squarely at the flight training market, here in Europe where avgas is expensive, but also in Asia Pacific where it’s both expensive and not readily available. The Centurion engine burns Jet A (kerosene) or automotive diesel fuel, or a mix of both in any proportion. Both fuels are cheaper than avgas and the Archer DX burns less anyway. Piper says the aircraft will cruise at 114 ktas, at 70% power, burning 22 litres of fuel per hour. That’s significantly less than the 180 hp avgas engine.
So, it seems like a win-win situation for Piper, Centurion (now Continental) and flight training schools. Problems with the Centurion engine are a thing of the past. Continental went to great lengths at AERO Friedrichshafen, where the Archer DX was announced, to point out that in-flight engine failures for the Centurion engine are well below standard industry rates.
Centurion/Continental has also worked well on extending the Time Before Overhaul (TBO) times for the engine. To be honest, that success is down to the careful, meticulous work done at Centurion while the company was under the steady helm of the German administrator.
You’ve got to go to Germany, stay there and spend time understanding the national rationale before you realise Germans don’t do things badly, especially when it comes to engineering. They might not tell jokes very well, but they really know how to make machines work and turn a basically solid company around.