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You have choices at TBO timeYou have choices at TBO time

Editor's note: By Bill Ross, Vice President, Product Support, Superior Air Parts, Inc.

Most aircraft owners view TBO as that inflexible point where their engine must be overhauled. But the good news is you do have a few good, cost-effective and safe options to consider before you have to step-up and make that big, and costly engine overhaul decision.

I think TBO – Time Between Overhaul – is the most misunderstood acronym in all of general aviation. The FAA requires engine manufacturers to publish the TBO based on qualified engineering and testing. TBOs are the manufacturer’s best “estimate” as to the lifespan of a properly operated and maintained engine.

Sadly, too many pilots try to “extend” the time until they reach their engine’s overhaul, and cost thereof, by not flying as often as they should. The fact is lack of consistent use is probably one of the worst things you can do to an aircraft engine. The best way to reach TBO is to fly your airplane as often as possible.

One question I get a lot is about your options when you finally reach TBO? You basically have four choices. And while first three are pretty self-explanatory, the forth does require some discussion.

  1. Purchase a factory-new engine.
  2. Purchase a rebuilt engine.
  3. Have your engine overhauled.
  4. Do nothing.

You read it right: do nothing. By definition, TBO is just a “recommendation.” It’s not a law. Many engines go beyond TBO and perform very well.

But, before going that route, you need to ask, and honestly answer, these questions:

  1. What is the calendar time since the engine was new or last overhauled?
  2. What is the oil consumption?
  3. Do you have any persistent oil leaks?
  4. Have you discovered any wear material in the oil during analysis?
  5. What is the calendar and total-time on the engine accessories?
  6. What price do you put on your peace-of-mind?
  7. What price do you put on the safety of your passengers?

Basically, if your engine shows no abnormal wear metal, has good compressions, does not consume oil at an alarming rate and is maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, more times than not you can safely fly past TBO without any issues. And there are folks who do it day in and day out.

My point here is that you can expect to get a full life out of your aircraft’s engine if you fly it often and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.

How to get your free copy of Engine Management 101 from Superior Air Parts

Any aircraft owner or pilot who would like to learn how to operate their aircraft’s engine for greater efficiency and longer life can request a free electronic copy of Superior Air Parts’ popular 144-page book, Engine Management 101, by sending an email to: [email protected]


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