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Engine Building, and Overhaul Follies. On the Lycoming O-290-D & O290-D2 engines.

Dave Baxter

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Background for your interest and entertainment.

After working on cars, hot rods motorcycles and out board Mercury Hydro plane racing engines I got my first real taste on aircraft engines when I overhauled my O-360-A1A engine in 1988 converted to the fixed pitch -A2A it was a 1959 narrow deck engine with a three digit serial number and was one of the engines from a Beechcraft Travel Air. This engine went 1606 hrs on a backyard overhaul the first time around for me with the help of several knowledgeable friends. It started making metal from the center main due to no dowel pins in the case, something they did not do back in 1988 when I had the case checked and overhauled. This was around 2000 when it went away, the engine was then overhauled and the case dowel pinned, and has since gone over 1200 hrs, it also has chrome cylinders. I also did some work on my son Dan's IO-540-G1B5 290 hp new oil pump and accessories as well as checking the lifter clearance. The Skybolt I had was an O-540-B1B5 250 hp and I also installed the new oil pump, in it as well.

Skip forward to my single place O-290 engine adventure, I had been entertaining acquiring a single place SA-100 Starduster Biplane for some time due to my very first experience with Lou Stolps N2314C, and low and behold I had a chance to buy it, or thought I did? It BTW is currently for sale on BarnStormers. At about the same time a good friend here locally had some O-290 parts mostly the O-290-G I paid $ 900.00 bucks, thinking this would be the start to a serviceable engine for that airplane. But it was missing most all of the hardware and had no mags, carb or other accessories, and the case had not been converted, but along with it came a brand new O-290-D2 case. As for N2314C I made two attempts to meet the owner at the time and make an offer this was about 2010,and he stiffed me both times never showing up! So thought it would never happen and those parts parts just set in my hanger, as I worked to finish the Skybolt I had going at the time. Then another wrecked SA-100 Starduster came available for $ 800.00 bucks it was at Arizona Air Salvage an aircraft wrecking yard in Phoenix, that had been ground looped and ended up on its back with three of the wing tips crunched! The engine had been sold and whats left along with the flying wires were for sale, and easy rebuilder I though? So the engine parts and pieces I had collected looked like they might be the way to, and so gave a hard look at collecting more parts. I made Mike my friend who had helped me a lot on the Skybolt a partner in this airplane.

In the mean time march 2015 another half finished SA-100 came available in Northern Calif, it was started in the early 80s and had changed hands numerous times. There was a lot of work done some good and some not so much, I sold my half of the first SA-100 to Mike and started the process of fixing changing and reworking this SA-100. So we now had two SA-100 builds going. Then an old boy locally 94 yrs old at the time was hanging it up and had several engines for sale, and one was an O-290-D that had come off of a 7BCGC Champion N3464D with less that 200 hrs total time since major. It was overhaul by Nickon's Inc Santa Maria Calif, and I thought it would be a turn key engine for my SA-100, and for $2500.00 bucks a complete certified engine mags harness carb and starter with all the log books and current overhaul whats not to like or could go wrong?
I continued working on and reworking all of the things I did not like on this/my SA-100 and had hung the engine to check the mount and make the engine cowling nose bowl and other sheet metal around the airplane, and before hanging the engine for good, thought I should at least take a look, as it did not seem to turn over very free, like I thought it should? So pulled one cylinder, and things did not look good, and then another. Two major problems, one the cam lobe and lifter on the #4 exhaust valve was eaten up pretty bad, and the others although serviceable were not far behind, I believe this is the result of regrinding down to almost nothing and if not done correctly compromises whats left of the Harding process. Also at about the same time 2015 N2314C was for sale on Barn Stormers, in Kelso Washington just a few miles away for $5500.00, I went up and looked at it, but the owner at the time had removed the original engine and replaced it with a junk O-290-G converted for aircraft use, not a deal breaker, but one aileron was missing and there were no flying wires still not a deal breaker! This was bad enough, and I was still interested but the log books with Lou Stolps name in them was what made it appealing at least to me, and they were lost and gone along the way apparently by previous owner that had little regard for the airplanes history, and with out it made the airplane much less valuable to me. I offered him $2500.00 bucks, and thought he might take it, but some kid from Ohio flew out rented a U Haul paid him the money and took it back there, at first I thought he might actually do something with the airplane, and he did recover and paint the fuselage, but little else, and now some yrs later after doing nothing and apparently new interests in his life it is for sale again on Barnstormers

The second problem with my -D engine the crank would not turn free in the case? This turned out to be thrust flange galling, both positive pulling and negative power off pushing, the specs call for a min of .009 to .014, and a max serviceable of .024, and it had none zero, so all of a sudden my bolt on turn key engine now required some major engine work. Tried cleaning off all of the galled aluminum and polishing the thrust flanges on the crank, but even after this it still had no play apparently when Nickon's overhauled the engine the end play was never checked and it ran the first 200 hrs with no or little clearance! So the case went to Ly-Con crankshaft rods and such all went out for repair to serviceable limits along with ordering new oil pump gears, rod bolts, main and rod bearings a new cam and lifters, the engine had one new reconditioned cylinder chrome from Gibson that had never been run, Now I suspect it may have been changed after their trip to Oshkosh and was why it was removed from the Champ? The others were also chrome with less than 200 hrs and were all cleaned honed valves lapped and three more sets of rings, a $100 bucks each BTW! As well as overhaul gaskets, the crank came back from aircraft services as unserviceable, so this required finding another yellow tagged serviceable crank Don Adamson came through on this. But it took almost a year to find and buy all of the other parts and have the work done, but finally several months ago I now have all of the parts to assemble this O290-D as a certified engine.

As for the other engine, the O-290-D2 I had some work done on it by my engine guy some time ago as well as collecting parts gasket set, connecting rod bolts, oil pump gears, mags, the later correct accessory housing for a fuel pump and remote oil cooler, all of this prior to selling my half to Mike. One of the problems regarding this engine had to do with the later wide lobe cams, few were ever made, and some believe it or not were also used in the early Hughes 269 helicopters along with the Army version TH-55 Osage, or better known as Texas grasshoppers! So between finding a serviceable wide lobe cam and all the other parts both Mike and I were at a dead end, there were plenty of the narrow lobe cams, but the -D2 engine was the first generation that had hydraulic lifters, and have a lot in common with the early O-320s, the O290-D is a solid lifter engine, and the two cams cannot be interchanged and most of those cams were narrow lobe as well. It and the O-235s are now serviced with the LC-2 cams, and this along with the new black diamond hard face lifters is what I have for my -D engine.

Mike had some serious health issues, and had his back operated on that did not go well, this happened in the middle of his flight training that may have ended his ability to become a pilot. In the mean time he took an early disability retirement and not long after his brother gave him an old 50 Chevy pick up, to play with he can manage fiddling with it at home and has got quite a bit done under the circumstances, but has done little on his airplane. So I bought the engine back from Mike, who has since ended up with a complete O-235-C1 off of a Vareze,

My engine guy who use to run the engine shop for ECI when it was here in Portland / Troutdale also an A&P and DER that has several STCs on both Continental and Lycoming engines as well as quite a number of repair and upgrade solutions for these engines including this cam issue. "Said" you know I think we can do a little machine work on an O-320 wide lobe cam and I think it will go right in the -D2 with no problem, and all of a sudden I have that cam. He has since done several more cams for -D2 engine builders, and this is the engine I have, now assembled and am getting close to running on my SA-100 Starduster N96574.

As you can see from the pictures and this most detailed post, I have two engines it never started out that way, and have spent way more time and money on both than I ever thought I would, my point is especially for those looking for a low time turn key engine some times the good deal is not at all what we think and hope it will be? If anyone has any interest or questions about these engines as to what can and cannot be done with them please ask as I may be able to help? Also one of the big problems today if one wishes to overhaul one is finding serviceable cylinders pistons and rings, and for the -D2 serviceable wide lobe cams Dave
 

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