A love story and an engine retirement by Alexander Wolf

One of the things that the previous owner did not tell me when I was buying an aircraft at the ripe age of 25 was how profoundly it would affect me. For him, he was very attached to the ship emotionally and I made him a promise to stay in touch - and we have throughout the years. On October 21st, it was one of those days where I was now in his shoes - and I finally understood what he felt: I was saying goodbye to an old friend that had kept me safe for 3,150 hours. And I have to tell you, I was shaken.

This is a love story - the integration of man and machine in a working partnership:

When you come home from a long and difficult trip, you don't typically pat your car with a thank you - but with airplanes, you really appreciate it when they pull you through. My engine had seen a lot of action over the years, a top at 1000 hours, a prop strike right before i purchased it, a goose through the propeller which caused a tear down back in 2010;http://www.cirruspilots.org/forums/p/116601/483565.aspx?viewall=true , lifter replacements and various other thing. Gradually it settled into not delivering full power - so the die was cast and the date set to retire the old girl: 357215.  


October 21st came, it was a beautiful crisp fall monday morning. 

The fall colors are in full swing in New England - if you have not experienced it at least once, it is a real treat:  


With the walk around complete, we set out for a short trip to Danbury Connecticut where the work would take place.


Arriving at the shop, we wheeled her into the hangar and set out to work for the next 6 days:


First things first, we documented where everything was situated on the engine so when we had to put things back together we'd remember where things were supposed to go. I cannot emphasize how important photographic records were for the reinstallation.


It took the better part of a day to disconnect all of the wiring, hoses and baffles to the point where we could bring the engine hoist up to the front of the aircraft:

As with every job, along the way you come across some occasionally nasty surprises. This one, was of particular interest to me: because on my previous trip, the aircraft had started requiring an inordinate amount aileron correction for wings level flight. A trip to Jim's up in northern WI didn't discover this particular issue, but the timing of it was particularly fortunate because it would've required removal of the engine. The crack on the engine mount was in a location between the 2 load bearing supports on a cross brace up in the front of the engine. It is a very thin tube, and the crack was in a location called the heat effected zone. This tube is common to all engine mounts on all SR-20 variants G-1 through G-5, and is a known failure point. All SR-20 operators should be inspecting those welds at each oil change. We engineered a solution with gussets and passed it along to Cirrus Engineering in case anyone else encountered this issue - effectively doing the gorilla method of welding: where there is NO way that failure will occur again.


After the weld repair was completed and the mount painted, we set to hoist the new engine in place: 


From here on out, it was a simple matter of reassembling the jigsaw puzzle in reverse - those pictures would come in handy. Slowly things would begin to take a shape resembling a usable powerplant.


After 6 days, finally we are ready for first runs on the ground:


The preservative oil present in the engine and exhaust created a belchy choking white smoke which persisted for the first 3 or 4 minutes of low RPM operation. 3 more ground runs done and the idle mixture check ok - we were ready for the first test flight.



The first flight went as expected - some things needed to be tweaked, mostly relating the fuel flow. Others involve sealing up air leaks in the baffles, Vernatherms that never work correctly on any of the 360s - mostly minor stuff which will be addressed. 

As a post script, I knew there was a possible engine replacement coming up this year, and the timing just worked out right. The factory tour at Continental Motors the impetus to get the ball rolling for me.

As for the costs:

$34,000 for the engine,

$1000 shipping which included the lift gate (yea I know, I can ship coast to coast for $500 but this is CM trying to make a buck - don't think I can argue that one)

$4000 core deposit (maybe i'll see it - but its an interest free loan to CM either way)

Figure another $4000 for the R&R and tweaking before its all said and done.


The IO-360ES on the 20 lives in a very different environment then the 550 on the 22. The 360 lives its entire life under duress, where you have to extract everything it can give you - whereas the 550 can be handicapped and you would barely notice the performance difference. As MB has stated previously, the 550s bottom ends will basically last forever. The 360, Scott Williams and myself are the only guys I know of who were north of 3000 hours on them. It is a very difficult engine to obtain longevity out of - mated to an airframe that is unforgiving of not having the correct amount of power when you command it; It can be done, but you really have to be a full time flight engineer.


Special thanks go out to US Flight in Danbury CT for allowing me to work with them and learn for the week, and our own Dan Rose for the escort while doing the test flights.