The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) took an unusual step on Nov. 14, telling the FAA it supports a more conservative approach to handling problems affecting thousands of Continental engines with aftermarket ECi cylinders. In formal comments filed on the FAA’s proposed airworthiness directive (AD), the NTSB asked the agency to take action “more consistent” with NTSB recommendations released in February 2012, saying there was no available evidence to support the FAA’s more drastic proposal.
The NTSB recommended repetitive cylinder inspections and the removal of cylinders with serial numbers manufactured between May 2003 and October 2009 once the affected engine reached its recommended time between overhauls (TBO).
But the proposed AD released by the FAA calls for repetitive inspection and early retirement of affected Airmotive Engineering Corp. replacement cylinder assemblies marketed by Engine Components International Division, better known as ECi.
“It’s very unusual for the NTSB to weigh in on a proposed airworthiness directive in this manner after it issued a recommendation,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president for regulatory affairs. “Then again, it is rare for the FAA to propose going so far beyond an NTSB recommendation. We agree that the FAA proposal goes too far given the evidence, and we’re worried that it could dramatically raise the cost to aircraft owners and even create more safety problems than it solves by forcing the replacement of thousands of cylinders in the field.”
The FAA has estimated the proposed AD would cost $82.6 million and affect 6,000 aircraft with Continental 520 and 550 engines. But AOPA and others are concerned that costs could actually go much higher.
In September, the FAA agreed to extend the comment deadline for proposed AD FAA-2012-0002, following a request by AOPA and six other organizations, including the American Bonanza Society, Cessna Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, National Air Transportation Association, Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management Inc., and the Twin Cessna Flyer organization.
AOPA will file formal comments on the AD in advance of the Dec. 11 deadline and is encouraging members who have experience with the affected cylinders to do the same. Comments should include the pilot’s name and personal experience with the cylinders, including whether or not they have had any problems. Comments should also provide operational data, including the number of hours on the cylinders.