Winning the Engine Lottery
Not one you want to win!
Here I was flying along with 3 other CT’s on our way for breakfast and a happy camper. I was the leader that day and decided to take a new route to our breakfast airport. What a good decision that was that day and I didn’t even know it. I was in mid sentence giving the ATIS information to the others when my engine burbled for 2 seconds then back to normal. It burbled again 2 more times, but after the third time it stayed and I tried to pull back to idle and it remained, then I tried WOT and it remained.The longer this went on the rougher then engine became. It felt like I was running on 3 cylinders or worse. I didn’t know what was up at that time, except landing was soon to come. All the temps and pressures were normal except for the right side EGT which instead of 1400F was only 700F. I was out in farm country with lots of roads for landing. The airport we were headed to was 9 miles further and I was entering nothing, but housing sub-divisions. I wanted to pick my landing spot and not have it picked for me and make the front page of the newspaper. You can keep that 15 minutes of fame!
Decision time, try for the airport as the engine got rougher and most likely land on someone’s street or land on a farm road? The farm road was looking pretty good, but one of our group jumped in and said I was right on top of an airport. It wasn't on the GPS, but later we found it on a paper map. I was only 1500’ AGL. I couldn’t see the airport because I was literally right over it. I tipped the wings and sure enough there it was a private strip. Who says miracles don’t happen! I was at idle and I swung way out to the left and tear dropped in at zero flaps and crossed the numbers at 80 knots with a nice long runway under me. No chance of coming up short on this approach since I was on top of the airport. A nice touchdown and I was able to taxi the very short distance to a tie down spot. This was a very nice and high dollar private strip. I pulled the plugs on #1 cyl. and they were black and wet. Well there was nothing more to do with what I had there. The engine would start, but knocked and banged so I shut it off and tied it down. Hopped in another CT and off for breakfast. That was March 23rd on a Friday. Sunday the 25th I went up to the airport with a 26’ U-Haul truck and I was very lucky to have 7-8 of my good friends that volunteered to come help. (Thank You All ) We drained the fuel, pulled the stab off and hung it along the wall in a strap sling with blankets in the truck. Then we pulled the wings and hung them wrapped in shipping blankets along the walls in some straps. A friend had made two wood ramps and we just pushed the CTSW up into the truck. I did have to pull the prop because of the sweeping arc of the rear door. It took maybe 30min. for 3 people to unload it all.
Back home I found this during the investigation. The plugs on cyl. #2, 3 and 4 all looked normal , but #1 cyl plugs were black. A cold compression test revealed cyl’s #2, 3 and 4 were 84 psi with an 87 psi test pressure and #1 was only 75 psi. I pulled the #1 valve cover and the outer facing (#1 exhaust) rocker arm was mushy and the inner intake rocker was rock solid. I then pulled the head and everything looked good. I pulled the cylinder and it looked okay. I pulled out the #1 intake lifter and it came out easily and looked in good condition. The #1 exhaust lifter would not come out. It would rotate freely and was shortened. They are about the size of a fat thumb.
So what happened? Here is where I won the engine lottery. This only happens to 1-2 engines worldwide each year. The hardness coating on the #1 exhaust lifter face broke down. Now the lifter rubs against the cam, metal to metal and the cam just grinds it down into dust. No slivers or large chunks, just dust. When this happens you will get no prior warning and it will fail right now. The engine had 833 hrs. and the last inspection was at 808 hrs without any issues. The magnetic plug at this inspection and every inspection was clean. Now the magnetic plug looked like it had a dust beard, the oil filter had very fine dust in it, I drained the oil over 4 magnets and it had dust in it. When I finally pulled the oil tank it had a lot of metallic dust in the bottom. The engine case was eventually split and the dust was everywhere and in everything. It had ruined and was in all bearing surfaces, other lifter surfaces, piston pins, it was everywhere and that made this engine not
re-usable or cleanable. The lotto winner!!!! Wupeeeeee
I have preached about good detailed paperwork and documentation and here is where it paid off. I sent Rotax an email and then filled out a Rotax CSIR (Customer Service Information Report) and I had to send them a copy of my entire engine logbook. Because of all the detailed documentation since the aircraft was new, i.e.. on time scheduled maint complied with, oil analysis, all SB’s documented and complied with, hose change, oil changes on time, ect… Rotax stepped up and offered to replace the engine within about 48 hrs. Poor or little paperwork equates to good luck on help or how long it might take. This is a Dec. 2006 CTSW. I did have to pay for the 833 hrs of use ($7200), but that was nothing compared to $18,300 for a new engine. Yes I was way out of warranty, but Rotax stepped up to the plate with what they call a “good faith” offer to help out because bottom line this should never happen. Thank You Rotax.
New engines do not come with a radiator, exhaust pipes, muffler, fuel hoses or oil hoses. All the hoses needed to be replaced. The coolant reservoir needed to be relocated more forward on the engine which meant new hoses. The oil pressure sender is the new Honeywell. The starter casing needed to be rotated 180 degrees to get the cable lug facing outward. Better do this before you put the engine mount on because the starter mounting screws will not come off with the engine mount in place. The extra mounting brackets on the starter needed to be cut off. Some parts had to be removed and remounted to get the engine mount on. The new engine has different oil fittings over the old style. There were a few other minor parts that FD uses that Rotax does not. This new engine has the new soft start system. That’s good.
The engine is up and running with 5 hours of time and everything looks good. For now I’ll keep a few more feet of altitude under me until I get a little more time on.
Now I have a zero time engine so maybe all isn’t bad.
Someone was looking out for me that day. I was flying higher than normal, I picked a completely different route than normal, I was over an airport when it happened, I made a great landing, I had great friends to help me not only get home, but bring her back 2 days later.
Yes, I would rather have not spent $7200, but all things considered it all worked out in the end and the ending was a good one.