Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

FADEC Comes Of Age

Simplifying engine management with Teledyne Continental

Spark advance also is tightly controlled, making hot starts and flooded starts a thing of the past. Additionally, the spark is automatically adjusted for every phase of flight, from full-power climb to mid-power cruise to descent. TCM estimates fuel savings on the order of 12% to 15% with FADEC installed, in contrast to current continuous-flow-fuel-injection and magneto-controlled engines. At any power setting above 65%, the FADEC system automatically adjusts mixture to best power setting. When the pilot commands a power setting below 65%, the system can operate the engine at 50 degrees lean of peak for optimum efficiency.

Because the system is all electric, TCM’s FADEC includes an independent backup battery to keep the electrons flowing in the event of a total aircraft electrical failure.

While it won’t be impossible to abuse a FADEC-managed engine, it will be more difficult, since there’s no longer a mixture or prop control to mismanage. The pilot will simply have the option of pushing forward to go (at the cost of higher fuel burn) and pulling back to slow.

FADEC will store all parameters of engine control and allow later diagnosis of any engine problem. From Continental’s point of view, warranty claims on FADEC-equipped engines should be easier to settle, as the company will be able to analyze a record of recent operation and pinpoint the cause of any problems.

In addition to better engine efficiency and its improved long-term health monitoring and diagnostics, FADEC offers a high level of automatic engine protection against out-of-normal operation. For that reason, it’s safer, especially with a dual-channel FADEC installation that provides redundancy against a failure. It minimizes component problems such as starter and alternator failure as a result of starting problems.

Continental is currently experimenting with a number of FADEC applications for a variety of general aviation models, hoping to earn STCs for aftermarket sales. Continental FADEC engines have been installed in a Cessna 172 and 210, a Beech Baron and a Diamond Eclipse. The company also is working toward OEM certification for installation as original equipment in a number of production aircraft. Continental estimates the cost for retrofitting a FADEC system will be between $2,500 and $7,500, depending on engine and aircraft type.

FADEC has the potential of bringing a whole new perspective to piston-engine flying. It’s hard to imagine: No more hot-start concerns, no more worrying about detonation, and perhaps most important, no more arguments about running lean of peak.


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