Calls For "Retirement" Of 5,000+ Crankshafts
dollars. That's the current price tag on Textron/Lycoming's effort
to, in the company's words, "proactively retire" thousands of
engines with potential crankshaft problems. Now, Lycoming has
announced yet another bulletin -- SB 569, which calls for
replacement of over 5,000 crankshafts on engines ranging from
the O-360 to the IO-720.
Unlike earlier service bulletins, however, the latest warning
from Lycoming affects crankshafts that, to the company's knowledge,
haven't failed to perform as designed -- and that rubs
the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association the wrong way.
"Even Lycoming concedes that there have been no failures with
these crankshafts," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of
regulatory and certification policy. "The FAA needs to do its
homework and ensure that there is compelling, risk-based data to
support what will be an expensive proposition for owners."
SB 569 calls for the crankshaft to be replaced whenever the
crankcase is opened, the engine overhauled, or within three years,
whichever comes first. That's not the worst of it, though: unlike
previous ADs where the company paid all expenses for replacing the
crankshaft, Lycoming is only offering to provide a $2,000
"crankshaft kit." If the SB requirements are written into an AD,
AOPA reports owners could face a $6,000 to $7,000 bill within three
While it's customary for the FAA to solicit user input and
experience before issuing an AD, the agency has not yet done that.
However, the Wall Street Journal reports the FAA is preparing to
step in and make all Lycoming service bulletins related to
crankshafts into Airworthiness Directives.
Already, Lycoming has set aside $190-million -- most of it
insurance money -- to deal with the existing problems found in
crankshafts for a wide range of aircraft.
Textron has tried to recoup some of its money already on the
crankshaft debacle, by suing the company that made the defective
parts -- Interstate Southwest, Ltd of Navasota, TX. In a strange
legal twist, however, the judge ordered Textron to pay Interstate $96
million in damages -- after the jury found that
Textron defrauded Interstate by hiding design defects and other
problems with its engines.
That verdict is now under appeal. Meanwhile, Lycoming owners are
on the edge of their seats, awaiting word on whether the latest
service bulletin will result in an Airworthiness Directive.
AOPA is "strongly urging" the FAA to go through the
Airworthiness Concern Sheet (ACS) process, which allows the FAA to
consult with owner groups and type clubs to obtain operational data
on crankshaft problems, and consider alternatives before issuing an
AD. Such a directive would hit owners with a $35 million bill for
repairs, according to the association.
AOPA also argues that if crankshaft replacement is warranted, it
should be based on time in service -- rather than an arbitrary
calendar time. "The FAA seems to be receptive to that," said
Gutierrez, "and that would have a real cost of ownership benefit
for most private aircraft owners."
"In three years, some owners may still have less than 500 hours
on their crankshafts," said Gutierrez. "That is why it is essential
that any retirement scheme not be arbitrary but based on solid data
that indicates when the failures are likely to occur."
AOPA will also be urging Lycoming to provide the same kind of
benefits to owners as it has with the previous ADs -- namely,
covering the costs of compliance.