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Rotax 912 Oil Filter Gasket Cost $20,000

Rotex 912
(Courtesy: U.S. Ultralight Association)

The oil filter gasket of a Rotax 912 series engine can cost $20,000 or more if it is one you don't need, according to a safety tip received by Light Plane World. An experienced Rotax 912 owner was distracted and failed to notice the old oil filter gasket was retained on the engine case when a new filter with gasket was installed.

It was a busy day at a small airport on Long Island, New York, when Igor Kolpakchi changed the oil and oil filter on his Rotax 912 engine as he had done many times before. After reassembly, the engine was started and checked for evidence of leaks and for proper oil pressure. Everything was fine, so after a normal engine warm-up, he made a takeoff from the airport where he has flown for many years.

The first indication of trouble came in a radio call immediately after liftoff advising that his engine was trailing smoke. The instruments didn't indicate a problem, and Igor assumed the smoke was from oil spilled on the exhaust. So he continued the takeoff. About 20 seconds into the flight the engine warning light came on, and the engine stopped completely a few seconds later.

Fortunately he was in his Aeroprakt A-20 Vista LSA that he has flown for many years including numerous deadstick landings, practicing and competing in microlight competitions. Igor has flown in two world championships and is the only U.S. Microlight Team member to compete in both trikes and fixed wings in the two-wing-place categories. He said the deadstick landing was routine and that he was able to execute a complete 360-degree turn and land back on the field into the wind. He credits the performance of the airplane and said he would not have made it back to the field in a typical Cessna.

Inspection revealed oil had blown out past the oil filter gasket but apparently only at full power setting. The gasket hadn't failed or ruptured, but the presence of an extra gasket allowed the blowout. The two front pistons had disintegrated and the cylinders were destroyed along with broken or bent connecting rods. The rear cylinders were intact because in the climbing attitude they still received some lubrication. Rotax engine mechanic Jim Leon at The Ultralight Place confirmed the estimate for repair is likely to be equal or more than the cost of a new 912 engine as extensive further damage is sure to be found. The type of oil filter involved in this incident wasn't identified, but Jim recommends using only the latest genuine Rotax oil filter.

Igor wants to remind Light Plane World readers to take care and realize that a very small oversight can cost a lot in dollars or worse if you don't make it back to the field. He was able to save the smoking airplane in front of a lot of witnesses, thereby enhancing his reputation for pilot skill, though at considerable cost.

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