I trust by this time everyone is enjoying the summer weather and getting the opportunity to do as much flying as possible. I thought this might be a good time to focus on a subject that everyone should keep in mind when it comes to seeking technical assistance on their aircraft engine.
However, what I’m about to address is not just limited to aircraft engines or aircraft, but almost anything we might seek technical help with, so please pay close attention.
First, those of us who provide technical assistance, to my knowledge, are not mind readers. This means those of you who come to us for help sorting out a technical issue need to provide us with as much information as possible.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what kind of information you should provide when you ask your questions.
It is very important for you to provide the specific engine model and serial number.
Just to help you understand why this is important, as an example, Lycoming has roughly 50 different models of the O-320- series engines, so providing the suffix to the engine model becomes very important.
The 320 series of Lycoming engines are produced at 140, 150 and 160 horsepower, using carburetors and fuel injection systems.
As you can see, because of the many configurations of Lycoming engines, the more detailed information you provide, the better someone can begin to apply troubleshooting techniques typically focused on that engine model.
I’ll deviate from this for just a bit and share a personnel experience I watched unfold at SUN ‘n FUN many years ago. The event had been underway for several days, so as you might imagine, with the weather being very hot and humid and the bugs driving us crazy, I must admit our usual cordial personalities might just have been a bit less tolerant of questions where any lack of intelligent information is shared when probing our wealth of technical knowledge.
What unfolded was something like this. A customer approached our booth and was greeted cordially, but things began to go downhill from there very quickly. He asked what the part number was for the oil filter used on his engine. He was asked what specific engine model he had and he responded by saying “you’re from Lycoming and are supposed to know this kind of information.”
The customer was then asked what aircraft model he had, which would have allowed us to possibly identify the specific engine model he had. With that simple information, it probably would have been possible to come up with an oil filter part number.
However, he responded by saying “you should know this information, after all, your company spends a lot of money to send you here, and you’ve come unprepared to answer the customers questions.”
The customer didn’t stop there though. His next statement was “I’m going to write a letter to the president of your company telling him he sent people here to SUN ‘n FUN unable to answer simple customer questions.”
All was not lost since there may have been some divine intervention shortly after the customer walked away from our booth because he returned later that morning and apologized for the way he acted earlier.
What to Provide
Now back to what you should provide when looking for technical assistance. Providing the total engine time since new, rebuild, or overhaul and when the problem began is important.
Did the problem begin following a routine maintenance event?
Be prepared with any information you have that we might be able to find a starting point for our troubleshooting.
Having the engine logbooks close by for review is also recommended in order to review the engine history.
Another important question that needs answered is when the problem occurs. Does it occur when in the air and at what power settings or flight condition? Can it be induced or duplicated in the air or on the ground and what can you do to cause it to happen?
Practically any information you can come up with relating to the problem would be helpful and may give us a hint as to which direction to go.
We’ve never heard that before
One thing I want to make perfectly clear is you shouldn’t be surprised to hear from a manufacturer “we’ve never heard of that before.”
Now, if you’ll stop laughing, I’ll explain why that may be true.
You must understand that as a manufacturer, they are most familiar dealing with new products, while you may be dealing with an engine that has been in the field for 20, 30 or 40 years or more.
Considering the average general aviation aircraft is now probably at least 20 to 30 years old, would it be any wonder why they may encounter technical problems that the manufacturer may not have heard of?
Believe me, it does and will happen.
I can tell you that everyone you speak to at the factory does not know everything there is to know about a Lycoming engine. I personally made that statement many times during my years with Lycoming.
The real benefit of working at the factory is the fact that people from around the world call and share what technical problems they’ve encountered. Using all of the resources available at the factory and finding a solution that can then be shared makes everyone involved better educated.
If you don’t take anything else away from this article, please remember to at least have the specific engine model and serial number when you contact anyone for technical assistance, as well as a little history of what and when the problem began.
If you expect those of us who provide technical advice to help you with your problem, then please help us as much as possible by providing good information for us to work with.