AOPA and six other general aviation organizations are asking the FAA to withdraw a proposed airworthiness directive affecting ECi cylinders used as aftermarket replacements on thousands of Continental Motors 520 and 550 engines until the GA community receives the information and time needed to respond.
A letter dated Aug. 30 asks the FAA to withdraw its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and provide the data and analysis justifying the proposed airworthiness directive (AD). Alternatively, the letter asks the FAA to provide the information and then give pilots and industry an additional 120 days to respond.
“The NPRM says the AD was prompted by reports of head-to-barrel separations and cracked and leaking cylinder heads. But so far the FAA has provided no supporting data or reports. Without that information, it’s impossible for us to determine whether an AD is warranted, if the proposed AD makes sense, or if there are better, less costly solutions that will protect pilots,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs.
The FAA estimates that proposed AD FAA-2012-0002 would cost $82.6 million and affect 6,000 aircraft with certain Airmotive Engineering Corp. replacement cylinder assemblies marketed by Engine Components International Division, better known as ECi. But AOPA and others are concerned that costs could actually go much higher and that the replacement of thousands of cylinders in the field could ultimately compromise, rather than enhance, pilot safety.
The proposed AD recommends the repetitive inspection and early retirement of affected cylinders. It would also prevent new installations of the cylinders in question.
But the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) previously looked into reports of cylinder problems and in February 2012 issued far more conservative recommendations. The NTSB called for 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).
“With no supporting FAA data, we have to wonder why the FAA’s proposed solution is so much more radical than the recommendation from the NTSB,” Hackman said. “As far as we know there have been documented problems with some 30 cylinders among the approximately 30,000 sold, and none of those problems has resulted in an accident. If the FAA has additional reports or risk analysis data showing a more severe or widespread problem, it really needs to make that information available to the GA community.”
In addition to AOPA, signatories to the letter include 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.