Archive for the ‘Debonair’ Category

The Deb Revisits Sun N’ Fun

Friday, April 4th, 2014

It’s been an eventful week for our/your sweepstakes Debonair. It’s been on display now for four days, and many, many AOPA members and other visitors have made the pilgrimage to AOPA’s new tentsite to see the airplane. The comments and observations have been uniformly positive, and the usual banter–”watch my plane for me,” “give me the keys now,” and so on are mainstays of planeside conversations.

Many remember the Debonair from last year’s Sun N’ Fun. Back then, the panel was completed, but nothing else. It had its bad old mustard-colored paint job (the one you see at the top of the page), and the seats were pretty beat up. What a change this year! New interior from Air Mod, new basecoat from KD Aviation, decal paint scheme from Scheme Designers, and a replacement engine from Genesis Engines by D’Shannon. The engine has all of six hours–max–on it after the flight to Sun N’ Fun.

The engine has drawn the most curiosity. Some have noticed that the alternator belt is slightly misaligned in its pulley run. This will be addressed at the annual inspection, which comes right after the show when I fly the plane back to Santa Fe Aero Services, who installed the spiffed-up Aspen-, Garmin-, and Electronics International-laden instrument panel one short year ago.

Visitors also like the new battery box, and have plenty of questions about the engine’s new power rating (260-hp).

For the many out there who can’t make it to Sun N’ Fun I thought I’d give you an idea of what it’s like to have Debonair display duty at the show. First off, AOPA Pilot staffers do three-hour shifts standing with the plane, answering questions, and in general hosting AOPA’s showpiece in front of the tent. The shifts go from 9 a.m-12 p.m., 12-3 p.m., and 3-5 p.m. There’s a shade structure over the right wing, so there’s some sun protection. But don’t forget the hat and sunscreen!

The day starts around 7:30 a.m. when I show up to clean the airplane. Temperatures are in the mid-60s, and there’s a layer of ground fog as you make the way from the parking lot. Central Florida is a humid place, so what do you expect? You expect a low of dew on the airplane, that’s what.

This makes for a wet, grimy mess on the airplane, which is white of course. I’ve been using microfiber towels to wipe the plane down. It takes two passes to get the water and dirt off. A squeegee helps to clean the wings, but mainly it’s a towel job.

Here are some shots of the display environment to give you the feel of the place.

Wide shot of display and shade structure to the left

Wide shot of display and shade structure to the left

The funky cleaning towel. The soil here is a mixture of dirt and sand, and it gets into everything.

The funky cleaning towel. The soil here is a mixture of dirt and sand, and it gets into everything.

We use a plastic chain to make sure the avionics aren't tampered with during the show. Also, I've been updating the Aspen data cards and need quick access.

We use a plastic chain to make sure the avionics aren’t tampered with during the show. Also, I’ve been updating the Aspen data cards and need quick access.

Podium signs like this one describe the Debonair's features and contributors to the project. There are three signs in all.

Podium signs like this one describe the Debonair’s features and contributors to the project. There are three signs in all.

ECi's sign describes the Debonair's new cylinders.

ECi’s sign describes the Debonair’s new cylinders.

Air Mod's sign showing the old and new interiors.

Air Mod’s sign showing the old and new interiors.

Checking out the STC'd engine. A lot of people like the D'Shannon baffling and baffling seals, which are colored to match the upcoming final paint scheme. Blue baffle seals? Yep.

Checking out the STC’d engine. A lot of people like the D’Shannon baffling and baffling seals, which are colored to match the upcoming final paint scheme. Blue baffle seals? Yep.

Are those Aspen displays? Yes they are!

Are those Aspen displays? Yes they are!

Your typical scene. High temps have been in the 86-89-degree range, with no wind. Great airshow weather!

Your typical scene. High temps have been in the 86-89-degree range, with no wind. Great airshow weather!

We call these "tunnels." They both draw attention to the airplane and keep golf carts and  motorized scooters from the wingtips. They have a collapsible, spring-type tube inside, and are hollow. The joke is that staffers pop the ends off and sleep in them.

We call these “tunnels.” They both draw attention to the airplane and keep golf carts and motorized scooters from the wingtips. They have a collapsible, spring-type tube inside, and are hollow. The joke is that staffers pop the ends off and sleep in them.

 

Hope you enjoyed the little tour. See you again soon ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first cross-country

Monday, March 31st, 2014

It was with great anticipation that I fired up N75YR this morning. The mission: Fly the airplane to the Sun N’ Fun Fly-In, where it is now on display at the AOPA booth. But first things first. I desperately wanted to know how the Debonair would perform on its first cross-country flight. Today would be the first real-world flight for the overhauled/converted IO-470-N.

Let me end the suspense right now by saying that there were no disappointments! Engine start for the 37-degree, 7:30 a.m. departure was uneventful, and the start procedure was identical to the one I’d learned worked best on the predecessor engine. The trick is to use less throttle during the priming for a cold start. So the best drill here is to go mixture full rich, then use slightly less than half-throttle while you hit the auxiliary boost pump (it only has a “high” pump speed switch position) for maybe four seconds. Then pull back the throttle so that it’s in the barely-cracked position. Now move the magneto switch to Start and the engine will respond every time. That’s the cold start drill.

Those of you with time in big-bore Continentals like the 285-hp IO-520, or the 300-hp IO-550 can get into trouble starting the Debonair if you prime like mad using full throttle. The Deb will flood if you do that. Trust me, I know.

Preflight checks done, I line up on home-base Frederick, Maryland’s (KFDK) runway 30 for the takeoff, then firewall it. I’m right at gross, with all tanks full for the 728-nm trip to Sun N’ Fun’s Lakeland Airport (KLAL). The airplane lifted off into a slight crosswind, and soon I was climbing out at 100 KIAS and 900 fpm. Not bad at all.

Turbulence was forecast, and the forecast was correct. The climb to 6,500 feet was bumpy, and any rolling motions were exaggerated by all that fuel out there on the wingtips–20 gallons, or 120 pounds, per side.

John Clegg, director of operations at Genesis Engines by D’Shannon told me to “run it like I stole it,” meaning run it at high power, to help seat the ECi cylinders’ rings properly. So I did. Level at 6,500 in severe-clear conditions, I firewalled the throttle, set the propeller for 2,580 rpm, and used the Electronics International MVP-50P engine/systems analyzer to lean 50 degrees rich of peak EGT.

When things settled down, the Aspen PFD told the tale. At 76 percent power I was doing 170 KTAS while burning 17.3 gph. That’s a Bonanza-style cruise speed, friends. But the Bonanza would get that speed using a 300-hp engine. This Deb does it on 260-hp.

Airspeed fluctuated in wave activity as the S-TEC System Fifty autopilot worked to keep the altitude steady. Pitch angles varied as the nose rose and fell trying to compensate for the up- and downdrafts.

As the airplane burned fuel, its weight went down and by the second hour of flight I was looking at 178 KTAS, but burning 18.5 gph to get 78-percent power, in keeping with the “stolen airplane” performance profile. Nice.

And did I mention that I had a tailwind? Oh, yes, 35, and sometimes 50 knots’ worth. My groundspeed hit a high of 215 knots at times, then settled down to a more modest 183 knots by the time I reached Florida.

Oh, and did I mention that my flight path was straight as an arrow?

Bottom line: four hours, 12 minutes after takeoff, I landed at Lakeland. Non-stop, of course.

A great flying day in a great airplane, I’d say!

Stand by for more Debonair news during the show. It will be interesting to see how visitors to the tent react to the engine upgrade. Maybe you’ll stop by? Hope so.

Just in time for Sun N’ Fun …

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

…. the Debonair’s new engine is installed and ready for break-in. Yours truly was on hand for the final installation checks at Aero Engines of Winchester, located at the Winchester, Virginia Regional Airport last Friday. And the new engine’s first flight.

A view of the Debonair's 260-hp Continental IO-470-N, installed and ready to fly.

A view of the Debonair’s 260-hp Continental IO-470-N, installed and ready to fly.

Side view shows the new baffling, complete with seals colored to match the airplane's final paint scheme. The original orange breather hose on top of the engine will be replaced with new hosing that will also match the paint job. The new ECi cylinders seem huge in comparison to those in the previous engine.

Side view shows the new baffling, complete with seals colored to match the airplane’s final paint scheme. The original orange breather hose on top of the engine will be replaced with new hosing that will also match the paint job. The new ECi cylinders seem huge in comparison to those in the previous engine.

 

By the time I arrived the engine had had its first engine ground run, which included fast-taxi tests. All was in order, but when I started the engine for its first flight the oil pressure read zero! So it was with disappointment that I shut it down. Soon, four mechanics were elbow-deep in the engine compartment. A mechanical oil pressure gauge was fitted to the engine to determine if the Electronics International MVP-50P digital engine/systems analyzer might be giving faulty data.

Turns out we were on to something. A second start showed healthy oil pressure on the mechanical gauge. That meant the problem was either with the MVP-50P, or in the wiring feeding it. Sure enough, a misconnected transducer wire was discovered, and the subsequent start showed normal oil pressure readings on the MVP-50P. What a relief!

First impressions? The engine runs smooth–much smoother than its predecessor–and has the throaty sound you’d expect of a bigger Continental engine.

During the pre-takeoff runup, I made sure to check that all the engine controls–magnetos, boost pump, throttle, propeller, and mixture–performed as expected. All the engine indications were normal during the published runup done at 1,900 rpm, and again at full power. Which required extra pressure on the brakes, by the way. It was a hint of what was to come.

Did I feel like a test pilot? Hey, I was a test pilot, by definition if not profession! And I certainly sensed all eyes were on me from the time I taxied out. Hey, no pressure…..not!

Then it was line up on Winchester’s runway 32, stand on brakes, full power, another look at engine indications (all in the green and normal), and brake release. N75YR surged forward and we were off to the normal rotation speed of 89 mph/77 knots. That took a few short seconds, then it was time to pull. (Incidentally, the takeoff airspeed is seven knots faster than the original airplane’s, according to the Airplane Flight Manual Supplement that comes with the engine conversion.)

And we’re airborne!  Vy is 104 mph/90 knots, and I held that speed until reaching 3,000 feet above the airport. Then it was time to orbit the field for a half-hour or so to make sure everything worked properly in flight. That’s the test-pilot part. Of course, I’d already scoped out the territory around the airport for suitable forced-landing spots. There were several that would be in easy gliding range once I got to, say, 500 feet above pattern altitude (1,700 feet msl/980 agl), but not so many below that. Turns out I didn’t need them anyway.

I kept the power up and had an uneventful time of it, and was glad to have the ADS-B traffic information to help me locate the traffic below in the pattern. The MVP-50P reported all was normal under the hood.

After 45 minutes or so, I descended and entered the pattern for a landing. The “new” engine’s first flight was a success! A postflight check showed no oil leaks or other anomalies, so it was off to AOPA’s home base at the Frederick (Maryland) Municipal Airport. With me was Paul Harrop, a producer of AOPA Media’s weekly “AOPA Live This Week” webcast, who videotaped the day’s events.

This means you should check next week’s AOPA Live broadcast for footage taken the day of the first flight.

On the short, 15 minute trip home I jotted down some information: at 75 percent power, N75YR was showing 168 knots true airspeed on 16 gph flying at 3,000 feet msl. Now those are preliminary numbers, mind you. But that’s a good 16 knots faster (and one more gallon per hour) than the previous 225-hp engine’s performance.

I’ll provide more information about the airplane’s performance after flying it to Sun N’ Fun. I plan to leave on Saturday March 29, and hope to make the flight nonstop by topping off all the tanks. That will give me 114 gallons and about five hours of endurance with reserves–which should be more than enough for the approximately 775 nm flight from Frederick (KDK) to Sun N’ Fun’s location at the Lakeland Linder Airport (LAL). Of course, it all depends on fuel burn, true airspeeds….and the winds and weather.

Besides, we’re in the engine’s break-in period. As with all break-ins, the advice is to run the engine hard so that the piston rings seat properly, so fuel consumption and speed will depend on the results of sustained flying at power levels of 75 percent, or more.

Thanks again to Genesis Engines by D’Shannon for its outstanding overhaul and conversion, and to Aero Engines for itsskill and attention to detail (they also dressed up the firewall and engine compartment) in the installation procedure.

I hope you’ll come by AOPA’s tent at Sun N’ Fun to see the airplane and its “new” (actually, zero-timed since major overhaul) converted engine–converted under a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) held by D’Shannon Aviation. Even if you can’t make it, I’ll do a couple posts from tent-side, if that’s the word.

I’ll be there to answer any questions, and to show you around this almost-fully-restored classic airplane. See you there, and as always, check back for more posts in the Sweepstakes Logbook.

 

 

The installation begins

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Just this note to let you know that Genesis Engines has completed the engine build, and director of operations John Clegg even drove the new engine from Genesis’ shope in Mooresville, North Carolina to Aero Engines of Winchester (Virginia) to see the job through.

The engine looks great, and is even done up in colored baffling seals that match elements of the final paint scheme. Even the engine block, which is painted a dark blue, matches one of the fuselage stripes. By the way, Clegg says that this blue paint is a match for the engine block colors used in new Ford F150s.

The Debonair's IO-470-N, waiting to be installed and with all-new, well, everything.

The Debonair’s IO-470-N, waiting to be installed and with all-new, well, everything.

The firewall and engine compartment have been cleaned and dressed for the Sun N’ Fun show as well. And I thought the firewall was a hopeless case, what with its 50 years of grime.

The good-as-new engine compartment, here almost complete. New Lord mounts have also been installed.

The good-as-new engine compartment, here almost complete. New Lord mounts have also been installed.

One personal touch is the signature on the accessory pad. “Earl Ramey” it says. Meaning that Earl literally signed off the engine work.

Next up, after the reconditioned exhaust stacks from Dawley Aviation are installed, is a test run and first flight. That should happen next week, and I can’t wait to be the first behind the new powerplant.

Parts prep

Friday, February 28th, 2014

I’ve had requests to show comparisons between the bad old internal parts of the Continental IO-470-LCK and the new ones being used in its replacement, a 260-hp Continental IO-470-N. Genesis Engines by D’Shannon is assembling the new engine as we speak, er, write, so it’s a good time to have a look. Genesis’ John Clegg put together some photos, which show the parts fairly clearly.

Clegg says that D’Shannon goes a step beyond standard practice when it comes to their engine buildups. This includes treating many internal parts with what’s known as a REM finish. “”Basically, it’s a deburring and hardening process that makes oil adhere better to gears and other moving parts,” he said. How can you tell if the parts have been REM-finished? They appear uniformly brighter.

Similarly, a process known as jet-coating is used on air-intakes. This is a heat treatment that helps prevent corrosion.

Gears, piston wrist pins and other components, old and new, side by side for comparison.

REM-finished gears, push rod tubes, rocker arms, pistons, connecting rods, wrist pins and other parts, old and new, side by side for comparison.

Jet-coated air intake manifold

Jet-coated air intake manifold, along with the new oil cooler in the background.

The Debonair's new ECi camshaft, resting in its crankcase journals. Cadmium plating gives the cam its golden appearance. Thanks again, ECi!

The Debonair’s new ECi camshaft, resting in its crankcase journals. Cadmium plating gives the cam its golden appearance. Thanks again, ECi!

That’s it for this Friday’s report. By this time next week the engine should be assembled and its first test run completed. In two weeks, the engine will be installed in the airplane and ready for first flight.

Rod-and-crankshaft action

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Rome wasn’t built in a day, the saying goes. And so it is with the Debonair’s engine upgrade. Right now, the pressure’s on to finish the job well in advance of Sun N’ Fun, so all you sweeps winners out there can see the latest improvements in person.

So where are we with the engine buildup? Most needed parts have been received, and that includes the new crankshaft and cylinder assemblies–as was reported a few weeks ago. The cylinders are from ECi, so thanks again to the folks there. Dawley Aviation of Burlington, Wisconsin is inspecting and modifying the exhaust components to fit on the new engine, Precision Hose Technology has come through with a new set of oil and fuel hoses, so thanks go out to Robert Williams for his help there.

Here are a couple of shots showing the connecting rods and crankshaft as they begin coming together at Genesis Engines by D’Shannon:

The six new ECi connecting rods being readied for installation.

The six new ECi connecting rods being readied for installation.

Putting one of the connecting rods on the crankshaft.

Putting one of the connecting rods on the crankshaft.

The plan is to ship the completed engine to Aero Engines of Winchester (Virginia) on March 10. It will take Aero Engines about three more days to install the engine in the airframe, attach the hoses, exhaust, and other components. So that makes it approximately March 14-15 when yours truly takes the new engine up for its first flight.

Sun N’ Fun runs from April 1-6 at the Lakeland (Florida) Linder Airport, but I like to get there earlier than that so the plane can be set up right after AOPA’s tent goes up. Right now I’m planning on getting there March 29 or so.

Stay tuned.

First Look: ECi Cylinders

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Time for another Friday report, Debonair fans!

This week saw the six new ECi cylinders delivered to Genesis Engines by D’Shannon, and the disassembly of the entire original engine. ECi’s account manager, Jim Ball (“JB”) explains that the new cylinders have dome-shaped combustion chambers, whereas the old cylinders have comparatively flat combustion chamber domes. This promotes the more efficient movement of the fuel/air mixture into the chamber, and the exhaust movement out. Here is a shot that shows one of the old, -K engine cylinder assemblies next to the new ECi cylinders:

Out with the old (left) and in with the new (right) cylinders

Out with the old (left) and in with the new (right) cylinders

Here’s another shot that shows the differences in the shapes of the combustion chamber domes. Notice the new valves in the -N cylinder head:

The -N cylinder head (right) is deeper than its predecessor. It's all shiny-new, too!

The -N cylinder head (right) is a tad deeper than its predecessor. It’s all shiny-new, too! The assemblies come with matching pistons (foreground). Notice how the -N cylinder’s valve seats are set at an angle; the -K valves are installed in a parallel arrangement.

Genesis is also providing new accessory-, oil pump-, and magneto drive gears:

Oil pump gears, old (left) and new. Notice the wear around the base of the old shaft.

Magneto drive gears, old (left) and new. Notice the wear around the base of the old shaft.

The crankcase for the -N engine is beefier than the old -K engine’s. It’s often called the “heavy case,” an example of which is shown below. How can you tell that it’s a heavy case?  Notice the “bumps” that surround the bolt holes along the top of the case in this shot of one half of the case assembly. The -K engine crankcases have flat-topped case halves:

The new, stronger crankcase. It's painted blue to match one of the paint scheme's color elements. In front of the case is a sample of one of the -N engine's exhaust stacks (the shiny one), which come with four holes to fit over the new engine's four mounting studs. Compare that to the -K engine's two-stud arrangement. Again, all of this makes for more strength to handle the extra horsepower.

An example of a “heavy case.” In front of the case is a sample of one of the -N engine’s exhaust stacks (the shiny one), which come with four holes to fit over the new engine’s four mounting studs. Compare that to the -K engine’s two-stud arrangement. Again, all of this makes for more strength to handle the extra horsepower and  provide extra durability.

What was discovered when the old engine was disassembled? There were signs of wear on the crankcase bearings, John Clegg said. “I don’t think it would have made it to TBO,” he added. So that’s confirmation enough for us: we made a good decision to go with an upgraded engine.

As always, stay tuned for more news as it happens. I’ll be away next week, but I’m betting that when I return, and as we close in on the end of February, this replacement engine will be well on its way to completion. We still have to obtain a new oil cooler, so that’s just one of the items on the punch list. Genesis won’t re-use the oil coolers of any engine that has experienced elevated levels of contaminants in the oil. The contaminants remain trapped in the old oil cooler, and would simply recirculate into the oil of the new engine.

Flying the Debonair

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Happy Friday, Debonair Sweepstakes fans and followers! While we wait for Genesis Engines to evaluate the condition of all the original -K engines’ internal parts, I thought I’d take the time to share a video with you. It appeared on AOPA’s last week’s weekly video webcast–AOPA Live This Week–or ALTW as we call it around the building.

It was a cold winter day when I took up Paul Harrop, an ALTW producer, up to demonstrate steep turns, stalls, and a lazy eight or four. Go easy on my technique–I haven’t done a Lazy Eight in a couple years! But I have to say that the camera doesn’t do justice to the deck angle at the 90-degree point; it was way higher than it seems in the video.

Some of you may have already seen the video, but for those who haven’t, here you go:

http://www.aopa.org/AOPA-Live.aspx?watch={5E55537C-4330-4325-8267-57425397FB87}#ooid=xnZTg0azqmmXM3sBr8lHrMYRuTDSUGSj

 

Pull that engine! And a crankshaft news flash

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Aero Engines of Winchester–based at the Winchester, Virginia Regional Airport–has removed the Debonair’s old IO-470-LCK engine and basically hand-delivered it to the overhaul shop. “All went well,” said Aero Engines’ Tom Schwietz, who flew the engine to Genesis Engines by D’Shannon’s overhaul shop in Mooresville, North Carolina. Schwietz’s shop has earned a reputation for quality overhauls and other engine work in its own right, but this kind of personalized service was an unexpected luxury. Schwietz’s colorful background includes buying and selling airplanes in the overseas market, as well as vast experience ferrying general aviation airplanes across the Atlantic. “Just when I tell myself that I’m fed up with ferrying, well, I somehow get the urge to do it again,” he said. “I guess it’s just gets into your blood.”

 John Clegg, Genesis Engines’ director of operations, reported today that the Debonair’s engine disassembly has begun in earnest. After Aero Engines brought it to Mooresville’s Lake Norman Airpark, it was taken to the Genesis shop to begin its six-week upgrade process.

Today, Clegg reported that the engine’s new crankshaft (“crank”) has been freshly recertified. The “yellow-tagged” crank (so called because of the yellow tag portion of the paperwork that accompanies it) was declared serviceable and airworthy by an FAA-certified repair station, and Genesis subjected it to magnetic-particle non-destructive testing to make absolutely sure that it had no cracks or other imperfections. Magnetic particle testing involves using a dye penetrant medium that will adhere to any defects, making them visible to Genesis’ technicians. The cranskshaft passed with flying colors.

The newly-recertified crankshaft is necessary because the -N engine uses a crank with four counterweights; the old engine’s crank had just two counterweights. Also, the -N engine’s connecting rods are beefier than the previous engines’. In spite of this, Clegg says that the original crankcase is compatible with the new crankshaft.

That’s it for now. Check back for more news as it happens. The next step should be the arrival of the new ECi cylinder assemblies.

Breaking News: Engine Upgrade!

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

The Debonair sweepstakes airplane is going from 225- to 260-hp. That’s a big step up in performance, and there’s a good reason why we’re taking this route.

Those of you who’ve read the Sweepstakes Briefing item in the January 2014 issue of AOPA Pilot , or who saw the AOPA Live This Week video (http://www.aopa.org/AOPA-Live.aspx?watch={A395BD62-A728-4F52-948E-7A1CCDE2C475} know that we borescoped the Debonair’s cylinders and found evidence of pitting and corrosion. Bonanza/Baron/Debonair expert Adrian Eichhorn pronounced the cylinders fit, but we had a nagging feeling. We simply couldn’t give this airplane away unless we corrected the cylinder issue and made sure the entire engine was fit enough to meet the standards of an AOPA sweepstakes airplane.

Pitting as seen through a medical-quality borescope. The cylinder barrel is on te left. The cylinder head is the lighter-colored metal to the right of the junction

Cylinder pitting as seen through a medical-quality borescope. The steel cylinder barrel is on the left. The cylinder head is the lighter-colored metal to the right of the junction

We’d been seeing high iron levels in our oil analyses (the subject of a previous blog post) and after seeing the inside of those cylinder bores we knew exactly where they were coming from: the engine had been sitting for so long that the engine’s steel barrels had been drained of a protective oil coating, and basically rusted. So when I came along and flew the airplane across the nation to have restoration work performed, the corrosion was abraded. Though running the engine for 60-some hours had polished the corrosion and pitting, the bad news was that the iron particles were now in the oil. In short, the engine was “making metal,” and creating a potential danger by contaminating other moving components–like accessory gears, the camshaft lobes, and various bearings.

Eichhorn came up with an amusing metaphor: “Hey, if I’d been laying on the couch for five years, then jumped up and ran to Santa Fe, I’d be having some wear problems of my own.”

To continue flying posed too many uncertainties. Were the camshaft lobes worn, spalled, or scored? Were the pistons’ oil rings about to wear to the point that the engine would begin burning oil? How much longer could the engine go on like this without sacrificing safety?

We had to do the right thing. That meant a top overhaul (new cylinder assemblies, complete with pistons, connecting rods, and associated hardware) at the very least, and a major overhaul at most–if there was any evidence of damage to the “bottom end” (crankcase, crankshaft, camshaft, and their associated bearings and journals).

We debated the options. Among them were doing a top overhaul on the existing engine, or stepping up to a 285-hp IO-520 or 300-hp IO-550 engine. In the end, D’Shannon Aviation proposed another alternative: converting the existing 225-hp IO-470-LCK engine (a -L engine changed–hence the “C”–to a -K variant) into a 260-hp Continental IO-470-N engine of 260-hp. D’Shannon holds the STC for this upgrade, which has proven popular over the years. In fact, there are very few IO-470-K engines out there; most have been replaced by now with more powerful engines–most under D’Shannon STCs.

After some debate, we opted for the -N. We could use the extra 35 horsepower, and we could keep the two-blade McCauley propeller that American Propeller Company had recently overhauled. Besides, we wanted to stay in character as much as we could with the Debonair idea, and going to the -520 and -550 engines would have meant too much power for a complex single that serves so well as a step-up from smaller fixed-gear singles. The 260-hp option seemed the best pathway–and the lightest.

The conversion will be performed by a newly-formed branch of D’Shannon that focuses on engine overhauls and upgrades: Genesis Engines by D’Shannon. With a shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, Genesis Engines is in the heart of NASCAR country. Maybe that’s why it’s called “Race City USA.” Genesis has six technicians with NASCAR engine backgrounds and prides itself on its high quality and extreme attention to detail. John Clegg, director of Genesis operations, puts it this way: “When it comes to balancing pistons, for example, most manufacturers’ overhaul manuals allow two to five grams of difference between pistons. Here, we balance them to within a tenth of a gram. This allows our engines to generate much less vibration, which results in longer engine life.”

After being overhauled By Genesis Engines by D'Shannon, this Continental IO-550 runs on a dynamometer to check power output

After being overhauled By Genesis Engines by D’Shannon, this Continental IO-550 runs on a dynamometer to check power output

Another key partner in the engine upgrade is Engine Components International, or ECi as it’s known. ECi will be providing six new TITAN cylinder assemblies for the upgrade. The cylinder bores will be coated with ECi’s nickel+carbide treatment, which makes them much more durable, longer-lived, corrosion-resistant and reliable than the rusty old cylinders in the original -LCK engine. So so long steel barrels, hello nickel-and-silicon carbide coated ones. ECi has built more than 140,000 TITAN cylinders since 1994 and provides them with a 60-month warranty against premature wear and corrosion.

The TITAN assemblies will come with new valves, valve guides, pistons, connecting rods, wrist pins, and other necessary top end components. ECi will also be reconditioning any bottom end components that may need it, or providing any new such components if those components are worn.

And by the way, ECi’s cylinders come from the factory already balanced to Genesis’ strict tolerances.

Of course, we are well aware of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the FAA is proposing, which would be an Airworthiness Directive affecting certain ECi cylinders made for the Continental IO-520 and -550 engines. The details of the NPRM (by the way, the comment period closed in December 2013) are complex, but it boils down to the FAA wanting some of those 6,000 cylinders taken out of service at 1,000 hours time in service, and some of them removed from service after 25 hours if their time in service is less than 500 hours. The cylinder assemblies not affected by those restrictions would need inspections every 50 hours for their entire lifetimes.

All this because of 30 instances where cylinder head and cylinder barrel junctions failed. Out of 30,000 installed cylinders. And ECi asserts that in none of the 30 cases did a failure cause an accident or injury; typically, there was a loss of 20 percent of engine power–enough to make safe landings.

AOPA feels, and has represented, that the proposed Airworthiness Directive is regulatory overkill, and an unwarranted waste of time and money (The FAA estimates that compliance with the AD would cost almost $83 million).

So by using ECi cylinder assemblies in the Debonair we’re backing up our belief, and have full confidence in the quality of ECi components. Besides, the cylinders being provided for our IO-470-N conversion are not mentioned in the NPRM.

There’s a lot more to this engine upgrade/overhaul than new cylinders, however. I’ll get to the full list of improvements and add-ons in the next post. I just wanted everyone to know that a new engine’s coming, and that it’ll be a huge asset to an already huge project. And if you go to Sun N’ Fun–or several of the regional fly-ins that AOPA is having this year–you can see it for yourself.