Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Upgrade Your Plane! Part III

Firewall forward—life after TBO

In previous issues, we took you through upgrading an aircraft exterior (P&P Dec. 2009) and an aircraft panel (P&P Jan./Feb. 2010). Now, we go firewall forward.

When purchasing an aircraft, the selection criteria usually relate to mission capabilities such as seating capacity, speed, range, weather capabilities, etc. Consequently, the first engine-related decision that most aircraft owners make comes at TBO (time between overhauls). Granted, there may be some decisions about engine replacement parts along the way, but by and large, what to do upon reaching TBO is a decision that always looms large just over the horizon.

For many owners, the TBO process isn’t fully understood. For me, researching my options made the decision at TBO clear. The nuances of the decision process are worth pondering. There are five basic options to consider upon reaching TBO. We’ll discuss each in detail so you can fully understand and appreciate the significant—and oft misunderstood—differences. To begin, we must first understand what the term “TBO” means.

Every engine is assigned a TBO value from the company that designed, certified and manufactured it. For piston engines, these values can range from 1,200 to 2,400 hours, with 2,000 being the most common. There also is a 12-calendar-year TBO for engines, which is largely ignored. Regardless of whether it’s based on calendar years or running time, the TBO value really is nothing more than a recommended service interval assigned by the manufacturer. The TBO is neither a manufacturer guarantee that the engine will last that long nor an FAA-required maintenance interval (unlike an FAA-mandated annual inspection). TBO simply is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommended service interval with a margin of safety built in.

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