If necessity is the mother of invention, then experience is the father.
Lee Budde, the owner of Airframes Inc. in Big Lake, Alaska, learned first-hand about the importance of engine baffles when the engine of his floatplane overheated during a takeoff.
“It was a hot day and the aircraft I was flying had a rebuilt engine,” he said. “I ended up overheating the rings because I didn’t understand the importance of baffling to keep the engine cool. If you look at the baffles on most engines, they are patched and worn and generally in ragged shape because they are often neglected. That neglect leads to damage.
“Cessna representatives have told me that a one-inch hole in the baffling can reduce the cooling capability of an aircraft by up to 10%,” Budde continued. “I’ve heard from representatives from Continental that very often an engine rebuilder will specify the baffles must be in ‘like-new condition’ or else the engine warranty is voided.”
“If the baffles are not in good shape, you will end up overheating your engine in one cylinder or another,” he continued. “They are important, but they’re not the most glamorous part of an aircraft and, as far as we know, no one made replacement baffles before we did.”
Budde has owned Airframes Inc., which specializes in aircraft parts, for three years. The company began making baffles about two years ago.
“We can do most of the 100 and 200 series Cessnas,” he said. “We have been getting continuous Parts Manufacturing Authority approvals. We make some minor improvements to the baffles to improve the fit on the engines. There are more than 1,500 parts and pieces that go into making the baffles.”
The best time to change baffles, says Budde, is when you are changing the engine.
“I would say we have done about 20 sets of baffles in two years,” says Levi Ward, Airframes Inc.’s general manager, who is known as the “baffle king” because of his experience. He noted the company is always trying to improve its techniques as well as its products. “When Lee decided to get into baffling, I learned different methods for reverse engineering and making subtle improvements to the design so we are not just copying the part.
“There are a few little tricks you want to do to get the best cooling,” he continued. “In addition to new baffles, seal the space between the engine and baffles with silicon. We also offer a powder coating for improved corrosion resistance and a lot of people really like that.”
For more information: