As we go to press, the FAA is seeking comments on a proposed airworthiness directive requiring the recall and replacement of some 2000 cylinders built by Engine Components, Inc., the San Antonio, Texas parts house thats a leading supplier of aftermarket cylinders.
As weve reported in previous issues, the affected cylinders may be in danger of cracking due to a faulty heat treating process. ECIs Ed Salmeron told us that of 2000 or so cylinders affected by the recall-all for large displacement Continental engines-there have been 37 incidents of cracking. He said none of these have resulted in accidents and most have been discovered on the ground by compression checks or when troubleshooting rough running engines.
The engines involved are limited to the Continental O-520 and O-550 series engines, as detailed in ECIs service bulletin MSB04-1, revision 1. This bulletin can be found on ECIs Web site at www.eci2fly.com. (From the home page, scroll to the bottom for a PDF version of the bulletin. Or contact ECI at 800-324-2359.)
Salmeron told us that problems arose during the heat treating of the cylinders prior to assembly. Heating is normally a two-step process, with the first stage called a solution heat treatment at 960 degrees F.
The second stage of the heat treatment is called the ageing phase and is done at 550 degrees F for two hours. ECI believes the operator running the heat oven got confused over the timing cycle and did not give the affected cylinders the full two hours of ageing heat.
As a result, the cylinders are just outside the upper range of acceptable hardness and are thus more brittle than theyre supposed to be. Cracks have occurred between the head and barrel, at the mating point.
Salmeron told us ECI has been recalling and replacing the cylinders on its own for many months and that some 80 percent have already been replaced. The new AD, the comment period for which was to close in mid-June, comes late in the process. But Salmeron says ECI, nonetheless, supports the AD, which is the first in the companys 59-year history.
The FAA reserves the right to issue ADs and we knew that. We didnt disagree with it because it forces people to comply with the recall, he said. ECI says there has been some confusion about what cylinders and engines are affected by the recall. As noted, the AD/recall doesnt apply to all of ECIs new-maufacture cylinders, only the Continental 520/540 line.
ECI is providing replacement cylinders, plus a $2000 allowance for removal and replacement. Initially, said Salmeron, for-hire operators were given priority for replacement. However, ECI has now caught up with replacement production and owners seeking new cylinders shouldnt have to wait more than a week to have their orders filled.
The recall requires replacement of the cylinders at the next maintenance opportunity but within no more than 50 flight hours. The affected cylinders were made by ECI between September of 2002 and May of 2003 and are described in the service bulletin by serial number.