First Word: 09/05

More Crankshaft Recalls
Any day now, Im hoping to hear that satisfying clunk that indicates that Lycoming has finally hit bottom and is on the rebound. But the only noise this month is the sickening crash of more bad news from Williamsport in the form of another crankshaft recall, the latest somewhat less all encompassing than the last, which took months and millions to sort out. And then there was the lawsuit in the aftermath of that recall, in which Lycoming is now appealing a $96 million judgment, all because of faulty crankshafts.

If youre a Lycoming owner, you have to wonder how much more of this Lycoming can sustain before someone in the corner office at Textron decides the division would be better off making toasters or car parts. We wish Lycoming well, but we wish even more that theyd get this crankshaft business fixed once and for all.


Death by Blogging
Product reviews are the bread-and-butter of Aviation Consumer and we rarely equivocate. We establish testing protocols, do the trials and make our picks based on disclosed findings in the articles. Thats what readers expect of us and we try to deliver. But occasionally, this process is like sneaking up on the edge of a muddy hole; if you lose your footing, you sink up to your hips in the goo.

Thats what we did in the August issue, when we picked JPIs EDM series as the best engine monitor. As we do each August, that issue reprised the best products and services we had reviewed during the previous year, our Gear of the Year awards. We provide this feature for two reasons: Long-time readers tell us they like the review and new subscribers, many of whom join us with the August issue, can, at a glance, get up to date on our recent recommendations. The JPI recommendation appeared at the end of a list of products we found to be outstanding. Frankly, it shouldnt have.

Recall that in our June issue, we explained how JPI had set off an eruption of negative e-mail and blogging by encoding the output of its engine monitors so third-party software such as Excel or the specialized EGView couldnt read the data. Based on this, our engine monitor recommendation tilted toward Electronics International monitors if datalogging was important. If datalogging is less important we felt-and still do-that JPI makes the better hardware and user interface, even if the companys customer service needs a lot of work, in our estimation. The Gear of the Year notice didnt explain this fine point thoroughly enough and it should have. The lesson for us is that if an otherwise good product requires that kind of equivocation to explain its shortcomings, it doesnt belong in Gear of the Year in the first place. These awards are reserved for truly unblemished products. Oversight noted.

I fear the lesson is lost on JPI, however. The company complained to us when we declined to permit them to reprint the article for marketing purposes, something that may or may not have smoothed over the ruckus they caused in what I view as a fundamentally bad business decision. In my opinion, what JPI should have done months ago is to reverse the encoding decision, admit it was all a mistake and move on. But theyre sticking to it and, as a result, many who inhabit blogs and newsgroups continue to stick it to them. Some of the customers are so vehement that one e-mailed me to accuse Aviation Consumer of picking JPI because we want their advertising dollars, this despite the fact that this magazine has never carried commercial advertising.

How can such a little thing spin so out of control? Theres no question that blogs and newsgroups, which tend to lather themselves into a frenzy over the smallest issues, have inflated the importance of JPIs decision. Nonetheless, the customers have a point. Buyers dont like having their options arbitrarily limited after the purchase of expensive equipment. JPI would do well to embrace that principle.

-Paul Bertorelli