Thursday, August 10, 2017

Federal Aviation Administration Orders Checks, Repairs to Some Propeller Planes With Lycoming Engines: United States air-safety regulator says there have been reports of severe engine failures stemming from defecting connecting rods

The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor
Aug. 10, 2017 8:37 p.m. ET

U.S. air-safety regulators have ordered swift inspections, and if necessary replacement, of components of Lycoming engines on nearly 800 propeller-powered aircraft, warning that part failures can result in total power loss.

The mandatory safety directive issued Thursday is unusual because it covers a wide range of recreational aircraft models, and requires extensive checks and modifications to begin within the next 10 flying hours without any opportunity for normal public comment.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it acted in the wake of five reports of severe airborne Lycoming engine failures stemming from defective connecting rods, metal parts that link pistons with crankshafts. A spokesman for Textron Inc., Lycoming’s parent company, said it wasn’t aware of any injuries or deaths resulting from these uncontained failures—instances in which internal ruptures cause parts to suddenly shoot out of engines.

Neither Lycoming nor the Federal Aviation Administration identified the specific aircraft models, but the company’s engines power the majority of U.S. recreational, or general aviation, aircraft. Over the past two months the company voluntarily issued safety bulletins alerting customers and spelling out repair procedures. The Federal Aviation Administration directive, however, is mandatory.

The number of affected engines could grow globally, according to industry officials, because the Federal Aviation Administration order covers only U.S.-registered aircraft and foreign regulators are still assessing how many more planes may need inspections and repairs.

The total also could change because engines include those manufactured or rebuilt in Lycoming’s factory, as well as those refurbished elsewhere. It may be difficult to identify or track down some of those refurbished or overhauled engines, according to industry officials.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman didn’t have any comment and didn’t elaborate on the safety directive.

The hazard stems from substandard bushings provided by a subcontractor and installed on connecting rod assemblies over a 15-month period spanning 2015 and 2016, according to Lycoming. The company projects seven out of 100 bushings will need replacement.

Lycoming has a long history of serious safety hazards stemming from manufacturing missteps. Between 2002 and 2006, the company and the Federal Aviation Administration worked to resolve fracture-prone crankshaft issues and other problems that ultimately subjected more than 7,000 propeller-powered aircraft to federal safety mandates, recalls and temporary groundings.

The earlier problems also involved substandard parts provided by a subcontractor—which spread throughout Lycoming’s manufacturing and inventory chain—and eventually required novel inspection procedures to spot problems. In 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration was still striving to pin down the overall engines affected.

On Thursday, Lycoming said its quality-control system identified the “difficult to detect” problem with connecting rods, and the company has worked with distributors to purge suspect parts and “develop a method for identifying suspect bushings.”

Lycoming said the latest safety hazards are “unrelated to any Lycoming authorized design change,” and are separate from connecting rod safety hazards previously identified by Australian and New Zealand aviation authorities.

Original article can be found here ➤

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