March 2, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
In what appears to be the largest crankshaft-related service bulletin yet, Lycoming has notified field shops and distributors that it's calling for the "retirement" of 5100 additional crankshafts in certain -360, -390, -540 and -720 series four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines. The newest action follows close on the heels of Lycoming's last recall of nearly 400 crankshafts for -360 series engines last fall and brings the tally of affected crankshafts to some 7500. While last fall's action was a "recall," the latest mandatory service bulletin -- SB 569 (PDF file, here) -- requires the retirement of serial-number-specified crankshafts within the next three years, by Feb. 21, 2009, or at the first opportunity before then if the crankcase is opened up for overhaul or prop-strike inspection. The distinction between "recall" and "retirement" is one that some owners may not like.
In previous recalls totaling some 2400 crankshafts, Lycoming has paid for the engine work to various degrees, even reimbursing owners for hangar expenses and loss of use in the 2003 recalls. Not this time. Owners affected by the crank retirement will get a discount deal on the replacement crankshaft -- $2000 for the shaft, plus a box full of free parts such as gears, bearings, piston ring sets, connecting rod bolts and nuts and seals. But they're on their own for engine assembly, repair and reinstallation, which field overhaul shops tell us will add another $4000 to $5000 to the job if the crank is replaced proactively or before the engine reaches routine TBO. Further, owners will have to ship the retired crankshaft back to Lycoming to obtain the discount price, also at their own expense. The $2000 offer applies to crankshafts for any engine and is substantially below list price for a new part, especially for six-cylinder engines.
Property Rights Ruckus Concerns FAA
Lycoming says it will ramp up production of replacement crankshafts but as in previous recalls, priority will go to government operators and Part 121 and Part 135 operators, with private owners last. What's not known is if this recall withdraws all of the potentially defective crankshafts from the market. (We queried Lycoming about this but haven't received a reply yet.) The crankshafts in question were manufactured between March of 1997 and March of 2002. In a separate letter to distributors, Lycoming's Michael Everhart said, "While there have been no incidents involving these crankshafts, Lycoming Engines, in cooperation with the FAA, continues to monitor and analyze the approximate 5100 affected shafts. Lycoming Engines is instituting this proactive retirement from service to be consistent with our long-standing commitment to product quality and our customers."
Several engine shops we interviewed report mixed reactions to Lycoming's announcement, since many of them overhauled the engines that will now need replacement crankshafts. It's too soon to gauge customer reaction or, more important, how many owners may want to replace their crankshafts proactively. And what about those who don't? A mandatory service bulletin can be ignored by a Part 91 operator. "First, it's not an AD note, it's a service bulletin," says Allen Weiss of Certified Engines in Opa Locka, Fla. Does that mean Certified would allow a customer to reuse a retired crankshaft? "Yes. But we would probably get that in writing and have the customer sign a waiver." Weiss told us he believes Lycoming's price on the replacement crankshaft is a good deal but an owner who overhauled an engine 500 hours ago may not necessarily agree. We don't yet know if Lycoming will push for an AD upon expiration of the three-year retirement period.
The growing furor over the alleged abuse of local governments employing "eminent domain" powers to grab land from the existing property owners could threaten GA airports in Alabama, according to the FAA. The agency's Mississippi Airport District Office has written the Alabama Department of Transportation saying eminent domain legislation now before the State Assembly could prevent local authorities from keeping trees trimmed and providing enough space for the safe operation of about 90 publicly owned, public-use airports, according to a report in Alabama Aviator. Eminent domain is the power of a government to take over private property if it's regarded as necessary for the community as a whole. Until a Supreme Court ruling last year, that meant property for widening roads, installing services or creating parks. But the city of New London, Conn., took eminent domain a step further last summer and seized private property so that it could be redeveloped by private interests. The Supreme Court ruled in the city's favor, saying that economic development is a well-established role of civic government. In the same decision, the court ruled that state governments could put curbs on the use of eminent domain by civic governments. Most states have either created new eminent domain laws or are in the process.
On The Trail Of Stolen Avionics
What may set the Alabama bills apart (S.B 466 and H.B. 622 -- follow up, here) is that legislators there deal specifically with airport land acquisition. Under the proposed laws, only Class 1 cities, those with a population of 300,000 or more, would have eminent domain rights to buy land needed for airports. The FAA routinely hands out grants for land purchases to improve airport safety and, according to Alabama Aviator, is concerned that local authorities that get this money will have their hands tied by the limitations imposed by the proposed legislation. It wants the communities operating all 90 public-use airports to have those powers. According to Alabama Aviator, the FAA views eminent domain as a last resort for obtaining airport land but it's an option the agency says local governments need to retain to level the playing field with private landowners.
If weather, vacation or your winter slumber has kept you from visiting your plane recently, it might be a good idea to get reacquainted. And if, like a growing number of aircraft owners on the Eastern Seaboard, you discover big holes in the panel where your avionics used to be, check eBay. Connecticut pilot Tim Vecchiarelli and his King KN-64 DME are expected to be reunited soon after Vecchiarelli's wife Allyson discovered the stolen device posted for sale on eBay by Avionics Masters, a Florida-based avionics dealer. "I just thought, what the heck. I mean what else is someone going to do with it?" she told AVweb. Within minutes she matched the serial number of a DME on the auction site to the one that used to reside in the couple's Piper Warrior. The DME was among five items gently removed from the panel sometime last month in what now looks like a series of avionics thefts along the East Coast. Tim Vecchiarelli said he has no doubt Avionics Masters had no idea the DME was stolen because it took him at least three weeks to report the theft -- and therein may lie part of the thief's modus operandi. Between the terrible weather that has plagued the Northeast and a sore back, Vecchiarelli hasn't been flying for more than a month. He's been turning the prop once a week to keep oil circulated but for at least three weeks he didn't take the canopy cover off the airplane. In early February, one of his tie-down neighbors noticed some of the cover straps were loose. Vecchiarelli said he put it down to the high winds the area received about that time but now he thinks that might have been when the theft occurred. It wasn't until late in February that he took a look inside.
Seeing Red In The Evergreen State
Avionics Masters owner Jim Scully told AVweb that as soon as the Connecticut State Police contacted him about the DME, he pulled the listing off eBay and shipped the equipment back to the Vecchiarellis. Scully said the DME was in a consignment of salvage items his company bought as part of its normal business -- finding and reselling used avionics. The company's policy is to check serial numbers against an FAA list of stolen equipment and this DME cleared because of the delay in reporting it stolen. Scully said he wouldn't characterize avionics thefts as common. "They happen, though. We've had a few," he said. Scully said there are some relatively simple precautions owners can take. Besides the obvious actions of locking planes and hangars and keeping the parking areas lit, Scully said installing a homemade security device might frustrate would-be thieves. Most avionics are installed with Allen bolts. Scully suggest cutting sections of a cheap Allen key the thickness of the receptacles in the bolts and using them to fill those receptacles so that an Allen key won't fit the head of the bolt. "They're usually doing this at night and when [the Allen key] won't work they'll go on to the next plane," he said. He recommends using a cheap key for the slot fillers because they tend not to fit as precisely as good quality tools and they're easy to remove with a magnet when necessary.
Most people know that alcohol and airplanes don't mix, whether in the pilot or in the fuel tank. That's why some Washington State aircraft owners are lobbying state officials to modify proposed legislation that would require the addition of up to 10 percent ethanol, by volume, in all motor fuel sold in the State. It would start with 2 percent, to be added by Dec. 1, 2008. Ethanol reacts with seals, lines and other fuel-system components on (unmodified) aircraft and can cause maintenance or safety problems. There are about 600 airplanes either originally designed or STC'd to operate on car gas in Washington and that's enough for EAA to mobilize its members. EAA has asked its members to contact the governor and state senators to put an exemption in the bill allowing ready access to fuel without ethanol. "This action is critical to aviation safety," the message to members reads. EAA also notes that aircraft owners are not alone in the battle. Ethanol-blended fuels are also not recommended in engines used in a variety of terrestrial recreational vehicles like ATVs, boats, snowmobiles and collector cars.
Some states have recognized various risks posed by ethanol-blended fuels and taken steps to ensure the availability of pure gasoline. For instance, last month the EPA revoked for California a long-standing mandate that refiners add ethanol to gasoline, but the decision will only go into effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register this summer; refiners do not yet know how it will alter the mix, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. EAA's home state of Wisconsin permits unaltered gas as long as it fits the "premium" octane level of 91 and EAA is suggesting that Washington adopt a similar exemption. Most users of ethanol-free fuel have neither the money nor the inclination to be storing large quantities of fuel so it has to be readily available through the regular distribution system. Assuming ethanol-free gas is available alongside the tipsy fuel, EAA said it's imperative that the pumps be clearly marked. As oil prices trend upwards, it's likely ethanol blending will be considered by many jurisdictions as a way of reducing dependence on oil imports. Washington legislators also see some home-grown economic benefits by way of using the state's agricultural capacity to produce the ethanol.
Airline executives who make up the Air Transport Association, which represents most of the major carriers in the U.S. have agreed to accept a system of user fees to replace ticket taxes "and other fees" currently collected to fund the FAA's now $14.3 billion budget, according to a Bloomberg News report. The collection of some $10 billion collected annually from the taxes and fees would be swapped for one "based on use of airspace," a step the report says "will be the basis of industry lobbying aimed at persuading Congress to change the way it finances the air traffic control system." Paying for actual use of the system may include take-off charges and metered fees based on use of air traffic control services. Alphabet groups hadn't had time to respond by our deadline. The imposition of user fees at the airlines' invitation puts the spotlight on the FAA, which some fear is seeking to impose similar fees on GA. From our perspective, there's been a noticeable uptick in major media attention to the National Airspace System in the past few months (the threat of VLJs, the FAA's financial woes, the political interference of Congress). Some might interpret that press push as a preamble to a pay-as-you-go system that (some feel) could save the cash-strapped airlines a bundle. Guess whom that could leave to take up the slack? Stay tuned...
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say the FAA and FCC should maintain their bans on cellphone use on airliners and consider broadening the ban to computers and other non-broadcasting electronic devices. Airlines should also be compelled to install monitoring equipment so pilots can detect signals that might disrupt their instruments. The researchers found that the interference with aircraft systems caused by all electronic devices was greater than previously thought, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The team concluded that the in-flight use of electronic devices "will, in all likelihood, someday cause an accident by interfering with critical cockpit instruments such as GPS receivers." And, surprise, surprise, they discovered that not everyone obeys the current rules against cellphone use. The researchers gathered their data by putting monitoring equipment on aircraft during flight. The equipment picked up signals (including up to four cellphone calls per flight) from all the sources and the researchers said they were surprised at just how much the signals interfered with the aircraft's electronics. Previous FAA studies indicated that non-broadcast devices didn't pose any threat but the CMU study suggests otherwise. "We found that the risk posed by these portable devices is higher than previously believed," researcher Bill Strauss said in a release that announced the findings.
It used to be that kids not happy with things at home would run away and join the circus. Nowadays, they grab the keys to the old man's Mooney and fly away to Mexico. At least, that's what two California teens would have done if there'd been gas in the plane, according to police in Big Bear, Calif. The two 14-year-olds managed to get a parentally owned Mooney M20 off the ground from Big Bear Airport on Sunday after one of them had a fight with his parents. They stayed in the air for about 10 minutes before running out of gas and made a relatively safe deadstick landing in the desert near Joshua Tree. A witness saw the boys wheeling the plane out of its hangar and called police but deputies arrived too late to prevent the takeoff. Authorities didn't catch up to them until some park workers came across them standing near the broken Mooney. The boys had (up until that point, anyway) only minor injuries but, judging by photos of the plane, they'll be mowing lawns and painting fences for a long time to pay for the damage.
On March 22 and 23, the FAA is holding public meetings in Kansas City, Mo., on what to do about keeping safe and serviceable the aging machinery that flies in regular service around the country. Expect to hear plenty from pilots, maintenance experts, crash investigators and the like, but in terms of overall impact on the continued use of 40-, 50- and even 60-year-old aircraft, the constant denominator is the insurance business. Avemco spokeswoman Lauretta Godbey said the company's chief underwriter, Jim Lauerman, will speak from experience and offer suggestions in his presentation. "We want to let people know that we are thinking about this issue and we are concerned about this issue," she said. Lauerman, who has extensive experience in aircraft underwriting, can only offer his own perspective on the issue but she said it's likely that his thoughts will be echoed in insurance company boardrooms across the country. She said Lauerman is also planning on offering tips to the owners of aging aircraft on how to help keep insurance affordable for them.
Inspiration sometimes comes from unusual sources and a Princeton University scientist's examination of the air flow through a car's sunroof may someday make jet engines quieter, speed up stealth aircraft and make better micro air vehicles. What Clarence Rowley has demonstrated, through a Princeton-worthy series of calculations and experimentation, is that the sound created by the turbulence at the barrier between slow and fast moving air can be cancelled in much the same way that noise-attenuating headsets give pilots a quieter ride. Using wind tunnels and models resembling a car sunroof, Rowley analyzed the forces responsible for the wind noise that leads many of us to wonder why automakers would cut holes in the roof in the first place. Then, he installed a microphone to channel the noise through a computer which, using those calculations, offered an equal and opposite response to an accompanying speaker, thus canceling the noise. "The physical mechanism is actually very simple," Rowley said. The same setup can be applied to jet engines and the bomb bay doors on aircraft, but Rowley is concentrating on applying the technique to create model-size aircraft that fly as fast as birds but maneuver with the agility of insects. We wonder what that equation looks like...
News In Brief
After 16 years of legal wrangling, a Hawaiian pilot who's blind in one eye has been told to start over again in his bid for compensation from an airline that refused to hire him. Bruce Pied has maintained a valid ATP rating for the full 16 years (one of more than 200 one-eyed ATPs on the FAA's register, according to The Associated Press), worked for other airlines (he amassed more than 1,200 multi hours) and, at one point, was awarded $1.4 million in compensation by the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission over Aloha Island Air's (now Island Air) decision not to hire him, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,. The airline, which appealed the commission ruling, says it's free to hire whom it chooses and even though the eye problem was the reason they chose not to hire Pied, it's not discrimination because according to the FAA he's not disabled. Now, the Hawaii Supreme Court has "cleared the record" on the case and ordered a new jury trial to start from scratch. Pied, now 53, lost sight in his eye from a bout of shingles when he was a teenager but that didn't stop him from playing sports or learning to fly. The affected eye follows the good eye and appears normal. In 1990, Pied got a job offer from Aloha Island but, when he voluntarily informed the airline about the eye (he didn't have to), the offer was rescinded. The airline maintains that it has the right to hire the safest pilots possible and, even if Pied can prove that the blind eye is the reason he wasn't hired, he has no recourse because he's proven the condition is not a disability. Pied's lawyer said the situation isn't as unusual as it seems and crops up frequently in discrimination cases. "Their argument is that Mr. Pied is not disabled. Therefore, they can discriminate against him," he told the Star-Bulletin.
An international aircraft registry went live today allowing airlines, individuals and governments to register their interests in airframes, helicopters and engines in a one-size-fits-all database. Proponents say the registry will save governments and industry billions of dollars...
Retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, a former Flying Tiger and author of God Is My Co-Pilot, died at the age of 97 in Warner Robbins, Ga. He was officially credited with 13 kills with his P-40 but estimated the actual total was 22...
The National Air Traffic Association has joined the call for federal mediation to try to settle its contract with the FAA. The agency called for mediation in November and the union rejected it. NATCA President John Carr said the union decided to ask for mediation after recent talks in Seattle failed to create much movement...
Adam Aircraft may get a $50 million cash injection from Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. as part of a deal to take over maintenance and repair of the A500 piston twin and A700 jet. The investment option would allow Adam to ramp up production of aircraft quickly to meet an anticipated heavy demand.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Say Again? #60: ATC 303 -- Bedrock ATC
The history, the basics and the bedrock of ATC is all about making sure two planes don't get to the same point in space at the same time. You thought the space-time continuum only had to do with Einstein? Not even close, as AVweb's Don Brown discusses in his next 300-level ATC course.
Landing, when it has to be right. Dick Taylor offers an approach of standardized technique to conquer the engine-out landing. Use it with care every time you fly and you'll be one step closer to mastering your aircraft's unique aerodynamic profile. Click through to learn.
Don't Wish Your Airplane Had All the Bells and Whistles
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/
Avidyne's New TAS600 Systems Deliver Active-Surveillance Traffic Awareness Protection Under $10,000
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked if you're worried about the controller shortage.
Most of you an overwhelming 88% of those who responded feel controllers are the single most important part of the flight system. We'd better have enough, you said, and they'd better be properly compensated!
7% of those who responded (just under 100 individuals at press time) thought that controllers are important but didn't believe the FAA would allow a controller shortage to jeopardize safety.
Another 3% of respondents (under 50 of you at this writing) thought there might be more controllers to fill demand if NATCA were willing to negotiate lower salaries.
And a tiny 2% of you (24 people at press time) aren't concerned about the so-called "controller crisis."
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Lycoming's crankshaft issues continue. Have the recalls and retirements affected your impression of the company and its product?
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We've always heard it's best to do your preflight checks before the rotors are spinning. Then again, we're not lucky enough to have a flight suit that matches our aircraft's paint job, so who are we to question this brave soul?
This week's winning photo is from Gary Grass of Port Alberni, British Columbia. Like all our first-place winners, Gary will be receiving an official AVweb baseball cap in the mail, as a "thank you" for submitting. To win one of these hats for yourself, all you have to do is submit your aviation photos. Each week, we'll choose one first-place winner and show you the best runners-up, right here on AVweb.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
"One Final Look"
Gary Grass of Port Alberni, British Columbia (Canada) reminds us that it's never too late for one last pre-flight check. We're not sure what the back story on this photo is, but it made us curious enough to name Gary this week's "POTW" winner.
|AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.|
"Ghost of an Era Never to Be Forgotten"
Mark DeFrancisco of Glendale, Arizona sent in several photos of the Collings Foundation's restored B-17 Flying Fortress, the Nine-O-Nine but our favorite photo was this one of the bombardier's seat.
More close approaches! We always get a kick out of these photos, and regular "POTW" contributor Dan Valentine of London, England (U.K.) delivers up a fun one.
"New Feathers for the TBM 850"
Ah, airplane premiere events! John Hayes of Tucson, Arizona captures the surreal atmosphere and general circus-excitement with this photo of Socata's TBM 850 premiere party. John writes, "The grand unveiling revealed the plane draped in mist and surrounded by beautiful, feather-clad showgirls. It was spectacular, and everyone wanted to order one."
John adds, "There were probably even a few new TBM 850s ordered!"
"Short Final for Shelter Cove"
Two approach photos in one week? When you've seen this one from Ralph Finch of Davis, California at its full-size, you'll realize we couldn't pass it up. This one makes a great desktop wallpaper!
"DCA in 1979"
Jean Aker of Gaithersburg, Maryland takes us back in time. For those who don't recognize the gate, this is Washington National Airport in 1979, as seen from a UH-1D en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
"Coming to Get Shane Before the Freeze-Up"
According to Mike Radford of Anchorage, Alaska, Yoder Lake is accessible only by floatplane (when it's warm) or snowmobile (during the freeze). Shane here was apparently ready to leave and no wonder, considering that the trip is only 45 minutes by plane, but can take over 5 hours by snow!
Michael H. Burnett of Richmond, Virginia takes us home this week, with a quick photo of his Cessna 172 instrument panel during a night flight. Stay safe out there, Michael and thanks for sharing.
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.Names Behind The News
AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
Today's issue was written by news writer Russ Niles (bio).
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