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The Latest Lycoming Engine Airworthiness Directive: What You Need To Know

by Greg Reigel 31. August 2017 08:41
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Are you one of the estimated 778 unfortunate aircraft owners affected by the latest Lycoming airworthiness directive (“AD”)? If you are, I am hopeful this article will help you navigate your current situation.

The Airworthiness Directive

On August 4, 2017 Lycoming issued a “Mandatory Service Bulletin” requiring inspection, and potentially replacement, of connecting rod bushings in certain Lycoming engines that had been overhauled or repaired using replacement parts. The MSB identified the potentially affected engines and replacement parts, and it also included instructions for completing the inspection as well as the installation of replacement connecting rod small end bushings. It also indicated that the inspection and/or replacement be performed within the next 10 hours of engine operation.

As we know, although a manufacturer may state that its service bulletin is “mandatory,” for most operators flying their aircraft strictly under Part 91, service bulletins are not, in fact, mandatory. So, when it was issued, the MSB wasn’t mandatory for most Part 91 operators.

Unfortunately, the FAA received 5 reports of uncontained engine failures and in-flight shut downs due to failed connecting rods on certain Lycoming engine models identified in the MSB. Based upon its evaluation of the information available to it, the FAA determined that an unsafe condition existed or could develop in products of the same type design. As a result, on August 10, 2017 the FAA issued the AD with respect to the Lycoming engines requiring compliance with the MSB in order to prevent uncontained engine failure, total engine power loss, in-flight shut downs, and possible loss of the aircraft.

And, as we also know, an airworthiness directive is mandatory, regardless of the particular regulations under which you are operating. So, if your aircraft’s Lycoming engine is one of those specified in the MSB/AD you have no choice but to comply with the AD if you want your aircraft to be airworthy.

Cost of Compliance

According to the AD, the FAA anticipates that initial compliance with the AD (the inspection of the connecting rod small bushings) will cost engine owners approximately $1,425 in parts and labor. If connecting rod replacement is required, the FAA estimates the additional parts and labor costs will range from $2,170.00 for a four cylinder engine up to $6,850.00 for an eight cylinder engine. Of course, these are just estimates and they do not take into consideration any warranty coverage or variations in the costs of parts or labor.

Fortunately, this AD isn’t as extensive, or expensive, as the 2006 Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive. That airworthiness directive required replacement of the crankshaft in approximately 3,774 engines to the tune of about $16,000 per engine.

So, what are your options if your options if this AD applies to your engine?

Warranty Coverage

One option is to pursue a warranty claim with Lycoming. Lycoming has several types of warranties: New and Rebuilt Engine Warranty; New Non-Certified Warranty; Overhauled Engine Warranty; and Replacement Parts Warranty. You will need to determine which warranty applies to your engine and then file a claim with Lycoming. Lycoming will then determine whether you have coverage and, if so, to what extent. Although I haven’t reviewed Lycoming’s various warranty programs, the coverage typically includes parts only. And it certainly does not cover loss of use or other losses an engine owner may suffer as a result of the AD.

Litigation

If you don’t have warranty coverage, or if you are unsatisfied with the warranty coverage applicable to your engine, you could also consider suing Lycoming to try and recover the costs of complying with the AD and any other losses you suffer as a result of the AD. However, given the anticipated cost of compliance, unless you have other significant losses as a direct result of the AD, the cost of litigation would likely exceed your losses with no guaranty of recovery. (Although given the number of affected engines, I wouldn’t be surprised if some owners attempted a class action lawsuit against Lycoming).

Also keep in mind that manufacturer’s warranties typically include language making the warranty your sole remedy and excluding your ability to pursue other claims for recovery against the manufacturer. So I would anticipate that Lycoming would raise this and other legal defenses in responding to any lawsuits. But litigation is certainly an option, although not necessarily a practical or preferred option.

As you may recall, the Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive resulted in numerous lawsuits brought by engine owners against Lycoming. Of course the cost of compliance for that airworthiness directive was significantly higher than the current AD, which certainly made the economic analysis for litigation more attractive in that situation. Some lawsuits were brought by engine owners in their individual capacities, and others sought class action status on behalf of all affected engine owners. Lycoming also sued its crankshaft manufacturer, although it ultimately lost the case.


Conclusion

The bottom line for most engine owners affected by this AD is that they will need to comply in order for their aircraft to remain airworthy. How or whether they are able to recover their costs of compliance will initially depend upon how Lycoming handles the warranty issues. If Lycoming doesn’t treat its customers fairly, I would anticipate at least some litigation. However, whether such litigation will be successful is hard to say at this point in time.

Making an Upgrade Decision

by David Wyndham 9. August 2017 09:53
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The owners of a turboprop were facing the possibility of significant avionics upgrades in the next few years. In addition to adding in ADS-B, they were considering a major upgrade to their avionics suite. They also had a good offer on a new aircraft that, when delivered, would have everything they were looking for, albeit at a higher initial cost.

The upgrade would add value to their current aircraft and might make it easier to sell.  What path was best for the owners? When does it pay to do the upgrade, and when doesn't it?

The FAA requires ADS-B to be installed by 2020 to allow aircraft to use the air navigation system. If not done, the aircraft is essentially no longer flyable in its current capacity. Avionics installers have been warning that there is not enough capacity to complete ADS-B installs in all the remaining aircraft before the deadline. With residual values already low for most models, an older, non-compliant aircraft in 2020 may be unsellable except for parts.

Some long range turbine aircraft may require even more avionics upgrades to operate globally, especially in Europe. These FANS requirements and similar also can add considerably to install. But, as with ADS-B, they won’t add value but just allow you to retain the value in the aircraft and keep it flyable in the future airspace.

When to Do the Upgrade

After keeping the aircraft compliant with air navigation standards, upgrades fall into two categories:  adding new safety features and adding new capabilities.   If you need the advantages of a new aircraft, such as more range, speed or cabin volume, but don’t want the acquisition expense, the upgrade path may work.

There are a number of avionic upgrades available from companies like Avidyne, Garmin, Honeywell, Rockwell-Collins and others. Third party specialists are also doing modifications that range from updated navigation gear to a full (glass) panel replacement. When looking at new systems, consider what the current variant of your aircraft (or closest relative) has for its avionic system. Done right, these systems enhance both safety and reliability.

Possibly you may seek to add performance, such as better fuel efficiency or range.  Companies like Aviation Partners, Raisbeck and Blackhawk have been quite popular for many years.  They, and others, have aerodynamic and engine upgrades that allow your current aircraft to fly faster, further, or both. Sierra Industries offers Williams engine upgrades for older Citations that add speed and range. 

In between refurbishment and new is remanufactured. Nextant Aerospace is remanufacturing older Beechjets into Nextant 400XTi's - complete with new engines, new avionics and a new interior. Nextant is being joined by an engine upgrade from Textron. Other companies offer engine modifications as well.

For the passenger cabin, interior specialists offer all sorts of options for in-flight entertainment and airborne Internet as well as new seat designs and modern materials. If you need "more" as in seats, payload or room, your only true alternative is acquiring a larger aircraft.

Considerations

Before you undertake such a major project, consider your current aircraft’s age. Older aircraft cost more to maintain than newer ones. Wear and tear items, aging aircraft issues, and engine overhauls all drive costs up. Your aircraft must be in excellent mechanical condition and essentially free of corrosion, otherwise don't consider the upgrades.  

Do the upgrade if it has value to you. If it has value in the market place, so much the better but do it primarily for you. Unique is great with art, not with aircraft. Stick with established programs with a successful track record. Do equipment upgrades that mirror the new models or closest equivalents. Those will tend to have the best impact on resale value and also maintenance supportability.

For example: upgrading the engines on a King Air C90 can run to over $700,000. Adding in a new avionic system can run to another $750,000 or so.

A stock 20-year old C90B sells for about $1 million.  Looking at today's market, its doubtful that the upgraded C90B can recoup 100% of the upgrade at resale. The engine upgrade will add to the aircraft’s value, but don't do it just to resell the King Air after the retrofit.  The avionics are great and add to the capability and situational awareness of the pilots.  

If you are planning to sell in the next few years, these major upgrades won’t pay a full return and you won’t enjoy them long enough to benefit. Best just to do the ADS-B and start shopping for a replacement. Budget carefully and talk to other operators who have done the same upgrades. Look at the tax considerations as these upgrades may need to be capitalized. Consider the cost of borrowing the funds needed to upgrade or replace.  As long as your current aircraft is in excellent mechanical condition and you plan to keep it for the next few years, the added utility and flexibility of the upgrade may add all the value you need.

The turboprop owner above elected to acquire the new aircraft and retain the current turboprop while adding just the ADS-B.

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David Wyndham | Maintenance

Documenting Maintenance and Inspection Records

by Greg Reigel 30. January 2017 09:38
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The primary job of an aircraft mechanic is to service and repair aircraft and their components/systems. And once he or she has completed an inspection or item of maintenance, 14 C.F.R. §§ 43.9(a)(maintenance) and 43.11(a)(inspections) require the mechanic to “make an entry in the maintenance record of that equipment.” Typically, this means writing the information in the aircraft’s maintenance records (e.g. the aircraft’s log books).

But what happens if the aircraft owner or operator does not provide the mechanic with the aircraft’s log books? Sometimes the log books are not with the aircraft or the owner or operator simply forgot to bring them with the aircraft. In other cases, the aircraft owner or operator refuses to bring the aircraft’s log books to the mechanic, preferring to maintain possession of the aircraft’s log books. Can the mechanic require the aircraft owner or operator to deliver the aircraft’s log books before the mechanic will sign off on an inspection or maintenance?

The regulations do not require that the mechanic have physical custody of the aircraft’s log books or maintenance records. While the mechanic may make delivery of the aircraft’s log books a condition for performing the applicable inspection or maintenance, the implications of that business practice are beyond the scope of this article. So, if the mechanic does not have the aircraft’s log books, how is he or she supposed to make the required entry?

Well, according to a recent Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel, the mechanic does not need to have the aircraft’s log books in order to make the required entry. Rather, a mechanic may simply make the required maintenance entry, even including an approval for return to service, on a piece of paper and provide it to the aircraft owner or operator for inclusion in the aircraft’s log books or maintenance records.

Remember, under 14 C.F.R. § 91.417 an aircraft owner, not the mechanic, is required to keep the aircraft’s maintenance record to document that required inspections and maintenance have been accomplished. However, since making an entry in an aircraft’s log books exposes a mechanic to the potential for both regulatory and civil liability, it is also a good practice for the mechanic to keep copies of all of the entries he or she has made in the maintenance records for customers’ aircraft.

And whether an entry is made in the aircraft's log books or simply written on a piece of paper and delivered to the aircraft owners or operators, it is also important for the mechanic to exercise the same care with what he or she writes, or does not write, in connection with aircraft service and repair as the mechanic does in actually performing the work. After all, by making that entry the mechanic will be responsible for that inspection or maintenance.

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Fixed Based Operators (FBO) | Greg Reigel | Maintenance

The Speedtwin and Upset Prevention & Recovery Training (UPRT)

by Joe McDermott 8. September 2016 16:58
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No matter which sector of the aviation industry you work or play in, you will know the feeling upon seeing an aircraft type you just cannot put a name too. Well, I grew up assembling plastic Airfix kits, studying each new addition of The Observers Aircraft Guide, reading every new issue of Air Pictorial, Aviation News and countless other magazines to keep up with the latest developments. As I got a bit older regular visits to the big aviation show cases at Farnborough (UK) and Paris (France) helped keep me up to date with developments across the industry.

Nowadays it’s easier, it’s all on the internet, just Google or Wikipedia it or search YouTube. Except it isn’t, not always.

I was recently invited to oversee ramp operations at an air show support airfield. On looking at the list of acts I noted something new to me, a Speedtwin. Just what the hell is a Speedtwin? This led to much head scratching!

Further investigation via the web turned up a very limited amount on Wikipedia, and nothing on YouTube.

At the show I meet the demonstrator pilot and Managing Director of Speedtwin Developments Ltd., Malcom Ducker and fired off a barrage of questions about this unusual twin to which he gladly responded in detail.

The Speedtwin is a British designed and built light, twin-engine, 2 seat, tandem configuration aircraft that has superior performance, strength and flexibility when compared to other similar aircraft. Its superior maneuverability and twin-engine layout make it uniquely suitable for the soon to be introduced EASA and FAA requirement for all airline pilots to undergo Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), as loss of control in-flight has become the No.1 single cause of air transport accidents.

The Speedtwin is the only fully aerobatic, civil, multi-engine aircraft around and is stressed to +6G and -3G, meaning it is tough and highly manuverable aircraft making it ideal for the UPRT role.

The Speedtwin’s short, rough field performance, twin engine configuration and economy make it highly suited for many other roles including maritime surveillance, border patrol and protection of remote industrial sites such as oil and gas installations.

It is specifically designed to operate from short, grass or desert strips hence the tail-wheel configuration, giving the operator great flexibility as it can be based anywhere there is 100 metres of dirt!

Visibility from the cockpit is superb and is an outstanding feature of this aeroplane. It is probably the best performing and safest aircraft in its class.

The example I examined is a prototype, made of aluminium with 2 x 205 hp engines and fixed pitch propellers, which is a bit like driving a car stuck in 3rd gear. Even so it has a good single engine performance, which means it is suitable for any over-water or other hostile terrain flying duties such as maritime surveillance, fisheries protection and other coastguard type duties. The production version will have constant speed props, which will enhance the aircraft’s performance significantly. It will be able to loiter on one engine while in the search area giving an endurance of more than 8 hours. The 400 litre fuel tanks give the aircraft a range of over 1000 miles or 1700km.

The aircraft has received UK CAA Permit certification and continues to be used for development and demonstration flying. Further investment is now required in order to achieve full EASA certification, which once received will enable the Speedtwin aircraft to enter commercial production.

Due to the relatively low cost of manufacture, (it is of all aluminum construction), the Speedtwin aircraft can be both competitively priced and highly profitable. It is estimated that the aeroplane can be manufactured for US$240,000, and sold for US$480,000.

Interest in putting the Speedtwin into serial production is mostly coming from China and the Middle East.

Malcolm Ducker flew Hawker Hunters in the Royal Air Force and was a training captain with Cathay Pacific Airways, flying Lockheed Tristars and Boeing 747-400s before seeking new challenges in aviation by taking on Speedtwin Developments Ltd

Malcolm says that the Speedtwin is a delight to fly and he enjoys flying it even more than the big Boeing and even the supersonic Hunter! No surprise for me there, as I walked up to him following one spirited demo flight I could not help but notice that he was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat!

The manoeuvres Malcolm make during his display included ½ Cubans, loops, barrel rolls, aileron rolls, Derry turns, wingovers and steep turns.

Photographs: courtesy of Frank Grealish, WorldAirPics.com

What does it cost, really?

by David Wyndham 5. July 2016 10:24
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I had a call from a customer who's flight department flies a popular mid-size business jet. He was looking at the variable cost we publish and comparing it with his own. After adjusting for fuel cost, his variable cost was almost double what we publish. He called me to try and figure out the cause of the diffrence.

My company specializes in understanding and explaining the costs associated with owning and operating an aircraft. One of our published databases calculates an average hourly operating cost. Many in our industry and in Government use these numbers as benchmarks or as should-cost figures. We do publish an explanation of terms defining the ground rules we use, and I've spent many a phone call like the one above  discussing and explaining what we did it that way, or how to adjust them for your situation. 

My call that day led to a fruitful discussion that identified the discrepancy in costs as the maintenance costs. After a couple questions, we figured it out. His aircraft has predominantly calendar based inspections. Much of the scheduled maintenance inspections were based on the number of days since last accomplished and not the hours flown. For our costs, we were showing about 380 flight hours per year. His utilization was about 130 to 175 hours per year - less than half of our assumption. A quick bit of math showed his maintenance cost average per flight hour were more than double what we published. He was also on a parts by the hour program that also had hourly billing minimums. Knowing how much he flew and the fact the jet's maintenance was calendar based  led us to understand that there can be significant variability is the cost to operate that aircraft.

When did you last ask the question, “How much does our aircraft cost to operate?” The answer will vary in relation to where you are between scheduled inspection and maintenance work. Sometimes significantly.

Required maintenance schedules vary, but a typical one might look like this:

- Routine airframe & engine checks every 500 hours or 12 months.

- More complicated airframe checks every 1,500 hours or three years. 

- Engine mid-life inspection every 2,500 hours. 

- Airframe heavy maintenance every eight years. Often, while undergoing heavy maintenance, the aircraft gets paint and interior refurbishment, maybe some new avionics and cabin upgrades. Costs can be $500,000 to $1.5 million depending on the “extras” added.

- Engine overhaul at 5,000 hours. Cost could be $500,000 per engine unless engines are on a guaranteed maintenance program.

- Aging aircraft inspections once the aircraft reached 12 years of age or older.

If you fly the above aircraft under 500 annual hours, much of your scheduled inspections will be determined by the calendar. Fly 500 or more annual hours and the hours flown drive the maintenance.  Where the aircraft is in age and hours will also impact its costs.  What if at age eight the aircraft just had a major maintenance inspection, avionics upgrades, and refurbished paint and interior adding to the cost of an additional $1.0 million? Due to the downtime to accomplish all that, the hours flown that year might have been only 250 hours. That cost for this one year will have just consequently ballooned to $2.25 million, or $9,000 per hour! If the CFO were doing a cursory review of your aviation costs with an eye to reduces expenses, you'd better be prepared to explain all this!

Answering To answer the question "How much does the aircraft cost" really depends on who you ask and when you ask. Give someone a very broad question and you will get a wide range of answers depending on the individual's perspective and timeframe.  You need to track these costs at a level of detail that leads to understanding. You need to be able to communicate these costs, in plain words, to the management or financial executive.

None of the answers are "wrong" or "right," only they are merely different. Knowing this, when you are talking about aviation costs with various professionals, you should keep in mind who you're talking with (and their unique perspective) so that you can understand their needs when they ask "What does the aircraft cost to operate?"


 

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David Wyndham | Flight Department | Maintenance



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