Reflections on the 2nd anniversary of my ownership of a T-51

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pantdino

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REFLECTIONS ON THE OCCASION OF MY SECOND ANNIVERSARY WITH T-51 LADY ELAINE

At the end of this month it will be 2 years since I purchased my Titan T-51 Lady Elaine, at which time it had been at the Titan hangar for 18 months undergoing the upgrade to the GM LS3 430 motor and “small” Autoflight gear-drive box, and I thought the occasion warranted some comments. While my financial investment is only modest by aircraft standards, being $143K purchase price and a subsequent $25K or so in insurance, hangar fees, and upgrades, I thought people might be interested in my experiences.

One interesting thing is the use of the passive voice in communications. I received a phone call saying “we have had a setback,” not “Sorry, a Titan employee started your plane at full throttle in a packed hangar and it damaged a lot of stuff.” Similarly, I was told “I heard you had trouble with your gearbox,” when the real story was “A Titan employee made an error in replacing a bearing and caused your gearbox to fail after 34 hours, for which there is no warranty coverage.” Passive voice is appropriate when something happens as “an act of God,” like a hurricane or earthquake, but that’s not what happened here.

Another interesting thing is Titan’s attitude toward time. After the hangar episode, which shredded the prop and damaged the right wing, I was told repairs would take a month. Actually it took 6 months. My gearbox has now been in Ohio for 3 ½ months with their ex-master machinist for what was described as a 10 hour job. The original time estimate given for the engine upgrade was 4-6 months. Actually it took 20 months before it's first flight.

A third interesting thing is the lack of communication that occurs between company and customer. At the end of the 12 months or so they spent trying to diagnose an engine misfire, the engine threw a rod. The cause of the misfire and eventual thrown rod, not surprisingly, was found to be an error by a Titan employee. In installing the gearbox on the engine an error was made which caused the crank to be pressed against the thrust washer, eventually causing the catastrophic failure. What was I, the customer, told about this? Just that they had decided to replace the engine, like they were doing me a favor. I only learned the truth because I happened to speak with an ex-employee who took the engine apart after the event. There is nothing written in the log book about any of these events, by the way- not about what was done for the upgrade exactly, no serial numbers of any of the parts installed, no documentation of the actual hours flown.

According to one person on the Titan forum I am just a whiner who “needs to grow a pair,” and it might be that aircraft ownership in general is like this, so others will feel the same. If so, so be it. But I think that after waiting a year and a half and investing $170K, some people would feel the airplane suffering a major mechanical failure 30 minutes after arriving at their home airport would be a “last straw” event and they would “sell the **** thing.” I’m hanging in there because the plane is way cool and there are no good alternatives, so maybe I deserve a little credit.
 

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Tiger Tim

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Yikes, sorry to hear of your troubles with the manufacturer. Sounds like they have issues with taking responsibility - at all levels.

Your T-51 looks great though, hopefully you can get it sorted even if you have to go a little off script to do it.
 

Vigilant1

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Pantdino, I'm not sure your story will be featured on the Titan web page. Hopefully you can get things sorted out and finally enjoy your plane.
 

pantdino

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Just putting the word out so potential customers know what to expect.

If someone has another airplane or two and is not paying hangar rent and insurance for this one, I suppose it's not an issue. But if you don't fly for a couple of years because of their errors and poor customer service its hard to remain a happy camper.
 
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TXFlyGuy

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This is an interesting story, for sure. And all of us feel bad for the owner. Much of the above was witnessed first hand by myself, as I spend a lot of time at or near the Titan factory.

The one thing that I always tell a customer of Titan is this...take whatever schedule Titan promises, and then add in 9 to 12 months. Then you will not be so surprised when the deadlines come and go.

I will not go into it here for many reasons, but I could write a book on my experience dating back to 2012.

But through patience and perseverance, we are going to fly soon. I'm hoping the OP will get everything back to normal in short order. Here is a nice photo of Lady Elaine when I saw her fly a couple years ago. She is fast!
Lady Elaine.jpg
 

pantdino

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I never considered an airplane an investment. Unless one expects to sell it at a profit.
It's more like an adopted child.
I only mention the money spent as a fact. If a potential customer has $170K to spend and doesn't care if the plane ever actually flies, then he won't be upset.
 

TXFlyGuy

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I only mention the money spent as a fact. If a potential customer has $170K to spend and doesn't care if the plane ever actually flies, then he won't be upset.
I personally know of at least 3 T-51 kit builders who have well north of $200K, and at least one or two well past $250K.

Resale value? Maybe 60 to 75 cents on the dollar. Depending on engine and avionics.

Kit airplanes make bad investments most of the time.
 

Yellowhammer

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REFLECTIONS ON THE OCCASION OF MY SECOND ANNIVERSARY WITH T-51 LADY ELAINE

At the end of this month it will be 2 years since I purchased my Titan T-51 Lady Elaine, at which time it had been at the Titan hangar for 18 months undergoing the upgrade to the GM LS3 430 motor and “small” Autoflight gear-drive box, and I thought the occasion warranted some comments. While my financial investment is only modest by aircraft standards, being $143K purchase price and a subsequent $25K or so in insurance, hangar fees, and upgrades, I thought people might be interested in my experiences.

One interesting thing is the use of the passive voice in communications. I received a phone call saying “we have had a setback,” not “Sorry, a Titan employee started your plane at full throttle in a packed hangar and it damaged a lot of stuff.” Similarly, I was told “I heard you had trouble with your gearbox,” when the real story was “A Titan employee made an error in replacing a bearing and caused your gearbox to fail after 34 hours, for which there is no warranty coverage.” Passive voice is appropriate when something happens as “an act of God,” like a hurricane or earthquake, but that’s not what happened here.

Another interesting thing is Titan’s attitude toward time. After the hangar episode, which shredded the prop and damaged the right wing, I was told repairs would take a month. Actually it took 6 months. My gearbox has now been in Ohio for 3 ½ months with their ex-master machinist for what was described as a 10 hour job. The original time estimate given for the engine upgrade was 4-6 months. Actually it took 20 months before it's first flight.

A third interesting thing is the lack of communication that occurs between company and customer. At the end of the 12 months or so they spent trying to diagnose an engine misfire, the engine threw a rod. The cause of the misfire and eventual thrown rod, not surprisingly, was found to be an error by a Titan employee. In installing the gearbox on the engine an error was made which caused the crank to be pressed against the thrust washer, eventually causing the catastrophic failure. What was I, the customer, told about this? Just that they had decided to replace the engine, like they were doing me a favor. I only learned the truth because I happened to speak with an ex-employee who took the engine apart after the event. There is nothing written in the log book about any of these events, by the way- not about what was done for the upgrade exactly, no serial numbers of any of the parts installed, no documentation of the actual hours flown.

According to one person on the Titan forum I am just a whiner who “needs to grow a pair,” and it might be that aircraft ownership in general is like this, so others will feel the same. If so, so be it. But I think that after waiting a year and a half and investing $170K, some people would feel the airplane suffering a major mechanical failure 30 minutes after arriving at their home airport would be a “last straw” event and they would “sell the **** thing.” I’m hanging in there because the plane is way cool and there are no good alternatives, so maybe I deserve a little credit.

After the money, time, and trust you have invested with these yahoo's, Id ride up there an open myself a can of whoop ass on those boys quick, fast, and in a hurry!

I hope you get your plane back soon brother!

Yellowhammer
 

Deuelly

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I’m hanging in there because the plane is way cool and there are no good alternatives, so maybe I deserve a little credit.
At that price a T-6 is a good alternative. Yeah the fuel burn goes up, but so does the reliability. And it's a real warbird.

Brandon
 

pantdino

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Unfortunately T-6s just don't do it for me. I understand why others like them, but round motors don't appeal to me and $500 per hour operating expenses are a bit much for me.
 

Deuelly

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Unfortunately T-6s just don't do it for me. I understand why others like them, but round motors don't appeal to me and $500 per hour operating expenses are a bit much for me.
I get what your saying. Although right now that T-51 must have an operating cost of about $1250 plus per hour. Hopefully you find an answer to that soon. It's never fun dealing with a company with poor customer support.

Brandon
 
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