AOPA Access

October 1, 1996

Want to save thousands of dollars a year? Get your hands dirty. There are more than two dozen preventive maintenance items a pilot may do, from changing oil to replacing side windows. For AOPA members only, the Pilot's Guide to Preventive Maintenance is available for a nominal shipping and handling charge of $5; it's also available free for member downloading from AOPA Online. As an active pilot and A&P myself, I know how important it is to get the most for every flying dollar you spend. To help get more hours for your bucks, I recommend:

  • Pulling spark plugs for cleaning every 25 hours rather than waiting until they're totally fouled. Plan on saving between $40 and $80 by cleaning them yourself, depending on local rates.
  • Changing your oil every 25 hours. Factory specifications may say 50 hours between oil changes, but 25-hour oil changes will extend engine life.
  • Replacing seat covers, carpets, and side panels yourself. It's perfectly legal under FAR Part 43, if you use approved materials. Aircraft suppliers such as Airtex have materials that will help you to save hundreds or thousands of dollars in sprucing up your aircraft's interior.

Member Questions

Service bulletins. Several members have asked if compliance with manufacturers' service bulletins is mandatory. Basically, no, unless you're flying for hire under FAR Part 135 (air taxi rules). Of course, "not mandatory" is not always the same thing as "not a good idea."

What can you do yourself? The rules are changing. Pilots may now remove and replace self-contained nav and com radios from the panel, excluding transponders, DMEs, or autopilots. You may also update databases in self-contained panel-mounted lorans and GPSs.

Crankshaft AD. Member Ronald Baird, AOPA 913963, of Minnesota was one of hundreds of members asking for details on the proposed Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive. AOPA is working to downsize this proposed AD, of course, but if you're planning to buy an airplane with one of the affected engines, have that inspection (Lycoming SB 505A) done prior to purchase; if pitting is found on the crankshaft, negotiate a price adjustment to reflect a major overhaul within five years.

Things to know about this proposed AD:

  • Crankshaft inspections (and possible replacements) affect all Lycoming 235, 290, and 320 engines and all 180-hp 360-series engines except the O-360-A4G, -A4J, -A4K, -A4M, -C4F, and AEIO-360-B4A engine models.
  • For engines new or overhauled prior to 1984, the Lycoming service bulletin issued on October 18, 1994, requires inspection within 200 hours or one year. For engines new or overhauled after 1984, inspection is due at the next overhaul or engine disassembly or within 10 years, whichever comes first.
  • Subsequent inspections are called for at each overhaul, with not more than five years between inspections.
  • This service bulletin does not apply to engines with constant-speed propellers.

New 720-channel radios. Member Colin Murphy, AOPA 517352, of Texas was one of many members worried about his old 360-channel com radio's becoming obsolete on January 1, 1997. Things to remember include:

  • Not all existing 360-channel airplane radios are automatically junk. Sets manufactured in the past few years probably meet the new FCC .003 percent frequency tolerances. A list of radios that do not meet those tolerances is available on AOPA Online on CompuServe. (See " Tuning a New Com," page 87.)
  • Aftermarket radios (such as the TKM series) sell for around $1,500. The replacements are made to slide right into the existing wiring harness.

Lycoming oil pump impellers (AD 96-09-10). This revises AD 81-18-04R2, which required replacement of either iron or aluminum impeller gears with steel gears at the next overhaul or at TBO, whichever occurs first. For the 45,000 affected airplanes, this new AD goes further, requiring replacement of iron gears after the next 100 hours, not to exceed recommended TBO; aluminum gears must now be replaced within five years or at TBO, whichever comes first. Here's the scoop:

  • Only about 4,000 airplanes may have iron gears requiring replacement in 100 hours; it is possible that the other 40,000 may have aluminum gears, which have five years or to TBO.
  • The FAA is allowing, by waiver, 45 to 120 days if already over TBO.
  • Logbooks or overhaul parts lists should have the gear part numbers. Then call either Lycoming at 800/258-3279 or Superior Air Parts at 214/233-4433 to determine, by part number, which metal was used.
  • The AD references a Lycoming service bulletin (SB524), but it applies only to engines never overhauled. Most have been overhauled at least once.
  • Engines newly built or remanufactured by Lycoming, or parts sold by Lycoming after April 1, 1985, are OK. More details are available on AOPA Online on CompuServe.