Firewall Forward & Engine
The decision is made but now where is the MONEY?
Prior to Oshkosh 2000, the top of my list was the Franklin 350. One had been installed and was flying on a KIS Cruiser in South Africa. I was encouraged by that and had discussed the possibility of obtaining the engine mount and all baffling from the same builder (professional builder). There were several issues to overcome including problems with clearance of the carburetor and the nose gear. I had hoped to eliminate that by going with fuel injection. Unfortunately, I could not find anybody who was offering fuel injection on the Franklin with the exception of Ellison. The Ellison is a throttle body injection and that still posed the problem with the nose gear. Add to that, a discussion with two builders from South Africa who were also building KIS Cruisers and familiar with the Franklin equipped plane. They filled me in on the latest details which were not real encouraging. Seems they are having a very difficult time cooling the engine and have already had to pull it to replace cylinder liners after 10 hours. (I have since learned that this was not an accurate account and the problems had more to do with the long term storage of the engine.) Conclusion: The technical issues and downsides were getting too much for me.
That left the Continental IO-360 and the Powersport 215 (Rotary). I had, for the most part, put the Lycoming IO-360 as out of reach price wise, besides I have never liked the rough running characteristics of the engine. My preference was running toward the six cylinder Continental engine. I liked the Powersport Rotary but think it's over priced for an auto conversion and is not proven to my satisfaction for a family 4-place cruiser. (Possibly a good choice for RV-6 or such.) So, the list was getting pretty short by the time I visited Continental. (I did visit Lycoming but received little response and was largely ignored. Damn, they are proud of themselves.)
Now we get to Continental. First I would like to say that I have never had better treatment anywhere than the Continental / Aerosance / Mattituck people gave me. They were outstanding and spent a great deal of time with me explaining all the options and prices. I must give them credit, they are trying harder and showing more interest in the needs of the builders and owners. Not only was I able to talk at length with representatives of all three companies but they introduced me to the owners of three aircraft flying their current offerings. I was impressed by both their professional attitudes and their products.
Mattituck and Aerosance are both part of the Continental Engine companies. They were offering a new experimental engine called the XP-360. The XP-360 was the Superior XP-360 engine being assembled and marketed by Mattituck. Aerosance was offering a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system which would turn the XP-360 into an IO-360 with electronic ignition and computerized mixture adjustment. This was a combination that solved many of the problems I had always had with the 4-cylinder engines. It promised to produce a smooth running and reliable engine at a much more attractive price.
AeroSance FADIC System (Fully Automatic Digital Engine Control)
If you haven't taken a good look at the AeroSance FADIC system,
do so, it is truly moving the aircraft engine into the 21st Century. It's
redundancy and control of the engine should help both fuel economy and engine
life at the same time. Just imagine being able to do an optimum lean
on ALL cylinders and not just the hottest one. (and you don't have
to do it!) What I liked most was when the pilot of an RV-6 with a FADIC equipped
O-360 described the startup as sounding like and feeling similar to a turbine
engine. It started smooth and slowly (NO not that slow!) wound up to power
instead of lurching to a start. He also indicated a much smoother operation
in all ranges, easier hot starts, and cleaner oil due to less fuel
Custom Planes (The FADIC Engine Control from Aerosance)
(If you don't subscribe to Custom Plane from Private Pilot, I would highly recommend it. It is far more oriented to the builder than Kitplanes which seems to be geared to the shopper.)