ECi Parts, Lycoming Engines, 100 Aircraft "Affected"

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The FAA says only about 100 aircraft will be affected by an Airworthiness Directive (AD) that takes effect June 22 concerning certain connecting rods manufactured by Engine Components Inc. (ECi) and installed in Lycoming 360- and 540-series engines. The AD resulted from a single engine failure in a Cessna 172. In the preamble to the AD, the FAA says a faulty grinding machine at ECi's San Antonio plant turned out connecting rods in which the journal bore wasn't a perfect circle. The resulting stresses caused fatigue failure in one of the rods of the engine that failed. The FAA's action has not arrived without controversy. When the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was released, ECi immediately protested, saying it did not believe there was a flight safety issue and suggesting there were other problems (an oil blockage) with the engine that failed. AOPA also chimed in. AOPA said the aviation community was "blindsided" by the NPRM because the FAA didn't consult with industry before issuing it and that it too had seen no evidence of safety concerns. But the FAA stuck to its guns. "We confirmed that a manufacturing defect existed in the ECi connecting rods," the agency writes in discussing the comments it received on the NPRM. "The FAA has determined that this defect was the most probable cause of an engine shutdown and forced landing incident." The agency also notes that ECi fixed the equipment that was drilling the non-circular holes.