The Reason

The Failure....... Failure of the Oil Filter Adapter Plate Seal!

What is this?  Yes, another aircraft, which crashed due to a "Oil Filter Adapter Plate Seal Failure".  Everybody on board got out before it blew up.  A miracle!

Is this a "First Time Event"?         No!

On June 18th, 2002, the FAA Issues Airworthiness Directive Number 2002-12-07  Airworthiness Directive 2002-12-07

(which addresses the Oil Filter Adapter Seal Issue)

Is this a Coincidence?  I do no know.

On June 21, I attempted to call an "Accident Investigator" which works for Textron Lycoming, which appeared on the day of the accident and the day of the engine teardown.  I believe his name was Mark Platt (not 100% sure).  He did give me his business card, and stated that if I had any questions, I was welcome to call him.  He seemed very sincere and cooperative.  I lost his business card.  I called Lycoming in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in an attempt to get his telephone number. 

I spoke to a lady named Jean, at Lycoming, who stated that all the accident investigators at Lycoming, reported to her.  When I politely requested Mark's telephone number, she stated that it is not Lycoming's policy to have accident investigators have discussions with aircraft owners.  This was an about face, compared to the impressions of concern the investigator had on the day of the accident and the teardown. 

I then made a comment to her that, "if she wanted to see what happens when a "Oil Filter Adapter Plate Seal" fails, take a look at".  Much to my surprise, she stated that many people at Lycoming had seen the web site of the accident.  I asked her when she saw the web page, and she stated right after the accident.  I stated they she may want to revisit the site, as I had added additional pictures on June 12th.  She stated that she and others at Lycoming had revisited the site during the prior week.

The question I have is, "why is Lycoming interested in the web site, but won't allow the pilot of a crashed aircraft to have discussions with the accident investigator!"    DUH! 

Has it happen before?  Yes. it has!

First of all, I am not making any judgment regarding the reports referenced below, or as to the reason for the crashes.  In addition, I do not believe the list, referenced below, is all inclusive.    It does appear that there is a common failure point in many accidents.  Why?  I do not know.  Is there confusion regarding the various AD's?  Based on my many conversations and emails with various FBO's, pilots, mechanics, the FAA and the NTSB, I believe the answer is an emphatic YES, but that is my opinion.  Is this new AD an attempt to clarify the confusion?  I do not know (I can't get anybody in high places to discuss the issues!), but I will keep trying.

Incident occurred Thursday, June 01, 2000 at TANANA, AK
Aircraft:Piper PA-31-350, registration: N3536B
Injuries: 5 Uninjured.

A passenger aboard a twin-engine, scheduled commuter airplane reported to the pilot that there was black smoke, fire, and oil coming from the left engine. The pilot shut down the left engine, made a 180-degree turn to return the departure airport, and alerted emergency fire crews to standby for his return. On arrival, fire department personnel extinguished the fire. The airplane was equipped with two TEXTRON Lycoming TIO-540-J2BD engines. A post incident inspection revealed the oil filter adapter plate gasket material displayed obvious signs of degradation and deformation. A subsequent investigation revealed that the manufacturer that supplied TEXTRON Lycoming with the oil filter adapter plate gaskets, recently changed material suppliers. The new gasket material did not meet the existing specifications, and deteriorated when in contact with hot engine oil. A subsequent oil leak sprayed engine oil within the engine cowling, near the rear of the engine, adjacent to the engine turbocharger.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident/incident as follows.

An in-flight oil leak due to the deterioration of oil filter adapter plate gasket material, and the supplier's distribution of inadequate material. A factor associated with the accident was the engine manufacturer's inadequate quality control.

Complete Report for 2000-06-01

Accident occurred Friday, September 01, 2000 at MASON CITY, IA
Aircraft:Piper PA-32R-300, registration: N8304C
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

During cruise flight the engine oil pressure dropped to zero and the engine began to vibrate. The pilot elected to shut-down the engine and perform a forced landing to a near by soy bean field. During the landing the left main and nose gear collapsed when they came into contact with the soft terrain. Post-accident investigation revealed that the oil filter base-gasket had become extruded from its seat, allowing engine oil to leak out of the engine. Textron Lycoming Engines, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, issued a Mandatory Service Bulletin, number 543A, the day prior to the accident. The service bulletin stated, "Textron Lycoming has received reports indicating that operation at high oil temperatures can cause the converter plate gasket on the oil filter base to become extruded from its seat, allowing oil to leak out between the plate and the accessory housing." The service bulletin called for the removal and replacement of the converter plate gasket at every 50-hour oil change.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident/incident as follows.

The unsuitable terrain for landing encountered by the pilot and the failure of the oil filter converter plate gasket. Factors to the accident were the total loss of oil and the soft terrain condition.

Complete report for 2000-09-01

Accident occurred Saturday, February 17, 2001 at Haslet, TX
Aircraft:Piper PA32-R-301T, registration: N8355L
Injuries: 1 Serious, 3 Minor.

The airplane was approximately 40 minutes into the flight and 4 miles south of the destination airport in a normal descent when the propeller increased to maximum RPM. Shortly thereafter, the oil pressure light illuminated, and the pilot noticed the oil pressure gauge was indicating zero. Subsequently, the engine lost power, and the pilot elected to land in a field approximately 2 miles south of the runway threshold. The airplane touched down on soft ground, separating its landing gear. A post-accident examination of the engine revealed that there was no oil remaining in the engine, the oil filter internal element was collapsed inward, the oil filter converter plate gasket was found separated from the plate and broken in half, and the oil filter bypass valve was found installed improperly. The collapsed oil filter element and blown converter plate gasket are indicative of a cold weather and/or a high RPM start. With cold oil, the oil pressure became excessive due to the faulty bypass valve resulting in collapse of the filter and failure of the oil filter converter plate gasket.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident/incident as follows.

The improper installation of the oil filter bypass valve by an unknown person, which resulted in the loss of engine oil and subsequent loss of total power during a normal descent. A contributing factor to the accident was the lack of suitable terrain for the forced landing.

Complete Report for 2001-02-17

Accident occurred Wednesday, May 16, 2001 at PAULDEN, AZ
Aircraft:Piper PA-32RT-300T, registration: N22467
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

On May 16, 2001, about 1830 hours mountain standard time, a Piper PA-32RT-300T, N22467, made an off-airport forced landing following engine vibrations and shutdown near Paulden, Arizona. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured. The aircraft was substantially damaged. The business flight was operated by the pilot under 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed. The flight had originated at Henderson, Nevada, about 1715, and was destined for Sedona, Arizona.

Complete Report for 2001-05-16

Accident occurred Friday, September 21, 2001 at Waco, TX
Aircraft:Piper PA-32R-301, registration: N192SP
Injuries: 2 Uninjured.

The airplane had departed the runway and was climbing at 90 knots when the engine/propeller rpm began to over speed. The pilot attempted to adjust the propeller control; however, there was no change in rpm. The airplane lost altitude and impacted trees near the departure end of the runway. Examination of the wreckage revealed that the #6 connecting rod had failed, there was no oil present in the engine, and the oil filter converter plate was missing remnants of its gasket. An Airworthiness Directive (AD) was issued that addressed the oil filter converter plate gasket on engines that had been factory remanufactured after April 1, 1999. The AD required the replacement of the oil filter converter plate gasket before further flight on engines with more than 50 hours time since new, times since overhaul, or time since the last replacement of the gasket or converter plate, and thereafter every 50 hours time in service since the last replacement of the gasket. Non compliance with the AD could result in the protruding or swelling of the converter plate gasket and subsequent loss of engine oil. The engine had been factory remanufactured on May 5, 2000, and had accumulated approximately 376.2 hours since this remanufacture when the accident occurred. Examination of the engine maintenance records revealed that the AD had not been complied with since the engine's remanufacture.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident/incident as follows.

The mechanic's failure to perform an airworthiness directive, which resulted in the loss of engine oil through a partially failed oil filter converter plate gasket, and subsequent engine failure during takeoff climb. A contributing factor was the lack of suitable terrain for the forced landing.

Complete Report for 2001-09-21

This is the preliminary NTSB report for my accident

Accident occurred Friday, April 26, 2002 at Fullerton, CA
Aircraft:Cessna 177B, registration: N177DP
Injuries: 2 Minor, 1 Uninjured.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

On April 26, 2002, about 0553 hours Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 177B, N177DP, experienced a total loss of engine power during cruise flight. The pilot made a forced landing in a high school baseball field in Fullerton, California. During the landing flare, the airplane collided with a fence. The airplane came to rest inverted and was destroyed. The private pilot and one passenger sustained minor injuries. The second passenger was not injured. The pilot owned and operated the airplane. The accident occurred while the pilot was commuting to work from Corona to Hawthorne, California. The personal flight was performed under 14 CFR Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed during the dawn flight. The pilot had departed from Corona approximately 0540.

The pilot indicated to the National Transportation Safety Board investigator that he has flown his airplane to work hundreds of times, and he was familiar with the route of flight. On the morning of April 26, nothing unusual was noted during the preflight inspection, taxi out, initial climb, or during the first few minutes of the cruise flight. However, about 8 minutes after departure, while cruising about 1,800 feet mean sea level, the pilot noted a "surge" in engine speed. The engine's crankshaft rotation speed (in revolutions per minute, rpm) increased from its previously set speed of 2,450 rpm to between 2,700 and 2,800. The pilot reported that he immediately reduced engine power and prepared for an emergency landing. Approximately 1 minute later, the oil pressure was observed at zero pounds per square inch. Seconds later, a "tapping sound" was detected coming from the engine. The noise increased in intensity, and a vibration was noted. About 45 seconds later, the vibration had become severe, the engine made a "terrible" noise, and the propeller abruptly stopped rotating.

The Safety Board investigator's on-scene examination of the airframe structure revealed the presence of oil dripping from numerous locations out of the engine compartment. Oil was also noted to have streamed aft of the engine and was covering the bottom of the airplane. An examination of the engine was performed for the source of the oil leak. The gasket located between the oil filter converter plate and the accessory housing was found partially extruding from around the seat of the oil filter converter plate, and in one location it was completely dislodged from the back of the plate.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Emergency Airworthiness Directive number 2000-18-53 (issued September 2000), the FAA has "received reports of certain oil filter converter plate gaskets, part number (P/N) LW-13388, extruding from the seat of the oil filter converter plate, P/N LW-13904. The protruding or swelling of the gasket allows oil to leak from between the plate and the accessory housing. This condition, if not corrected, could result in complete loss of engine oil and subsequent seizing of the engine . . . ."

Complete Report is Not Yet Available 

What's next?  

I work for a company which makes satellites.  Satellites have seals and gaskets which must last at least 15 years.  I have had discussions regarding the design of the oil filter adapter plate, the associated seal,  pressures, seal retention methods and reversion.  Their opinion is that an improvement to this design would be simple!  An oil filter adapter plate design with an adequate seal retention lip! 

Oh Well!  Maybe I just don't understand.  How much would a new plate cost?  Most likely, less than $50.00 (I manage a Procurement Fabrication group for the Satellite manufacture).  Would I have paid that?  You bet!  Would you? If your answer is no, you may want to look at the pictures again.  If you review the Airworthiness Directives, you will see a reference that the labor to replace the seal is from $40.00 to $60.00 every time you replace the seal.  The FAA stated that the original AD was issued to allow consumption of the old seals, therefore the 50 hour replacement criteria!  He stated that one of their concerns is the "Cost to the Aircraft Owner".  My blood pressure, as I type these last few sentences, is starting to climb.

Seals and the associated hardware could  be designed which may reduce the failure rates related to this Lycoming design. 

After 26 years of commuting to work by aircraft, my "flying to work" days are over! 

Not my choice.    The wife's! 

Can you blame her? 

Do I feel cheated?

You bet.........

Would I still like to discuss the particulars of my accident with the Lycoming Accident Investigator? 

Yes, I would.  He seemed like a gentlemen, but corporate protection and policy's seem to drive the process.

My perception is that we, the pilots, must do the investigating, research and analysis. 

In summary, is the new AD a coincidence?  Probably.

Oh.... did I tell you that Jean, at Lycoming, stated the local FAA office is riding them pretty hard regarding this issue. (paraphrased) 

Maybe things will work out!

My concern with Lycoming is only lack of communications and attempting to get clarification regarding said confusion with the AD's.

Mechanics, FBO's, pilots and aircraft owners have expressed confusion to me regarding past and present AD's.  I am not attempting to interpret the AD's myself.  I am attempting to get clarification from Lycoming.

I am not making any statement of conspiracy.  Do not read that into what I am stating.

By the way, I still believe the Lycoming 0-360 engine is one of the most reliable, bullet proof aircraft engines built. 

If I fly again, it would be behind a Lycoming 0-360. 

PS:  If you identify any errors in this web page, please click on the Bluebird Bus (top of page), and send me an email and I will correct it immediately.

Also: If you have any insight regarding this issue, please email me.  Thanks in advance.

Click below to go to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association page which discusses this issue.

AOPA Online - Regulatory Brief -- FAA Amends Lycoming oil filter converter plate gasket AD

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