Maintenance Matters

February 2009 Issue

ECI Titan Cylinders: Buy Them Or Not?

These jugs have been plagued by head-to-barrel separations and owners are steamed about an AD requiring 50-hour compression checks.

Given the number of product recalls, airworthiness directives and service bulletins floating like confetti on New Year’s, the phrase "quality control" has a certain hollow ring in general aviation. Owners have become understandably cynical that few companies in the industry are capable of—or at least committed to—building quality parts, none more so than some recent buyers of Engine Component Inc.’s Titan cylinder line. As much as any single component line, Titan cylinders from ECI have allowed field shops to remain competitive against Lycoming and Continental, who would otherwise own the market and could set prices accordingly. (They may be about to do that—see the sidebar on opposite page.) But the Titan product line ran into a snag last year and both the FAA’s and ECI’s response has left some owners steamed. The FAA contends that a serial-number-defined range of Titan jugs is sufficiently at risk for barrel-to-head separation to require an AD calling for 50-hour compression test inspections. But ECI demurs on this, claiming there’s nothing wrong with the Titan line, while conceding there have been at least 45 head-to-barrel separations in a population of about 16,000 cylinders. If the cylinders were defective—as the FAA seems to claim—ECI would presumably be on the hook for making customers whole in some way. But ECI disagrees with the AD and says there’s nothing wrong with the Titan line. Customers are caught in the middle—most get no help from ECI, but have to pay for compression checks at 50-hour intervals. That’s not a trivial cost, by the way. Forty AD checks are required over the 2000-hour life of a typical engine and at $150 per, that adds $6000 to the TBO run. It’s essentially the equivalent of paying twice as much for the cylinders. One owner recently contacted us to point out aircraft equipped with the affected Titans have reduced market appeal—if not value—compared to those equipped with other cylinders.

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