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LOM Engines (esp M332) Finished in North America ?

 
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kalos53(at)gmail.com
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 4:11 am    Post subject: LOM Engines (esp M332) Finished in North America ? Reply with quote

So what's the current status of LOM engines in the USA (and elsewhere)?
I looked into the M332 about twelve years ago and concluded there were just too many problems reported with the engine (persistent oil leaks, etc) to risk buying – especially in the USA, which had limited support and a long supply line to the factory in the Czech Republic. The M332 appeared to be a  120hp engine with shaky pretensions of being a competitor to 160hp Lycomings, and was perhaps only competitive for tandem aircraft benefiting from the M332's small frontal cross-section.


So, move the clock ahead twelve years, and it appears nothing has improved. The M332 is even more obsolete, and the factory has studiously avoided updating the design. The main distributor in North America, Moravia, is out of business, and LOM-Praha has not invested the effort (and money) to restore the brand in North America.


So, is this a correct assessment?  Is LOM-Praha M332/M337 finished in North America (and, I understand, Australia/New Zealand)?  Are these engines still selling in substantial numbers in Europe?

What would it take to make the M332 competitive ?


(I take no joy in this. The M332 is a intriguing design, and should have a market at the right price, but the entire marketing and support for this engine has been badly botched, in my view).



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PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 5:36 am    Post subject: LOM Engines (esp M332) Finished in North America ? Reply with quote

This is a sad story, and one that warrants more than a brief reply, but this will be brief. I live in Australia, so this will reflect Australian experience. The only M332s here are in Meta Sokols (four still fly here, out of an initial import of nine) and in Aero 145s (one still flying, one in restoration out of an initial fleet of three).

LOM (Letadlovi Oprava Maleice - Aircraft Workshop at Malesice, a suburb of Prague) is a weird place. It is largely military focused, employs several hundred people, and served for decades as the main jet engine service centre for the eastern part of the soviet bloc. It is still very big, still services jet engines, and now has added servicing helicopters to its activities. Its piston engine operation is a weird anomaly. Its production cannot be more than a hundred or so engines per year, most of which are re-builds. Nevertheless, it still supports its engines with parts and service. It has no OEM user of its engines, and even Czech aircraft manufacturers (of whom there are many) dont use them.
Its frustrating approach to life (poor service, no real attempt to promote or sell the engine, etc) is due to the fact that it still operates under the planned-economy model, and not a market-driven model. It used to receive orders from Central Planning to make xxx engines each month and deliver them to their dispatch bay. What happened to them after that was someone elses problem. It still works that way, and can only stay in business through cross-subsidation from its other, profitable operations.
Ive been using LOM 332s for about 12 years. I still think they are great engines, and everyone who flies with me comments on their smooth operation. Ive also found that the company now is much easier to deal with. Ive spent a couple of months trying to get approval to put my engine back in service after a minor propeller strike. They have bent over backwards to help me, and offer advice to my service engineers, with the result that it appears that I will be in the air again soon, with their support.
Addressing your particular issues:
Its actually a 115/140HP engine - 115 unsupercharged, 140 supercharged. All the aircraft using it here also use variable-pitch propellers. Turning the supercharger off is like reducing to 80% power after take-off. The supercharger really comes into its own at altitudes over about 3,000, where you can maintain power as the external pressure falls. Its hard to compare it with a 160HP Lycoming as the combination of fuel injection and supercharging gives it a different performance envelope. It is also appreciably lighter. I suspect it may also be more economical, although I dont have the required facts to hand. I use around 25.5 litres/hour (6US gal/hr).
I dont think its narrow width would make a lot of difference. The Meta Sokol, as well as some other Czech aircraft using it, use side-by-side seating. In the end, the airflow through, rather than around, the cowlings provides most of the engine drag. The flat four layout would probably be better here, given the baffling you need to cool all the cylinders in an in-line engine.
The design has not remained unchanged, although change has been small. It is now fitted with an alternator, rather than a generator. It uses smaller and lighter magnetos. It uses a new design of spark plugs (but people in the USA use automotive plugs at 1/10th of the price). The TBO life has also been doubled to 2,000 hours.
Oil leaks - well yes! It is possible to get this down to a few drops, but its pretty hard to eliminate. Not trying to excuse it, but it really is a characteristic of the engine layout, and other similar engines of that era, like the Gypsy Major, are at least as bad.
Is it finished? Who can tell? There are still plenty flying in the Czech Republic and around the rest of Europe. Theyre still in production and parts are all available (although sometimes after a long wait). I did a 1-week training course in the factory a few years ago, but Im not sure if that is still available. On the other hand, the Czech aircraft industry (at least a dozen producers in a country of 10 million people) has abandoned them. They show no signs of coming up with a new, modern engine.
I hope this helps.
David
On 20 Aug 2014, at 9:40 pm, VB <kalos53(at)gmail.com (kalos53(at)gmail.com)> wrote:
[quote]So what's the current status of LOM engines in the USA (and elsewhere)?
I looked into the M332 about twelve years ago and concluded there were just too many problems reported with the engine (persistent oil leaks, etc) to risk buying especially in the USA, which had limited support and a long supply line to the factory in the Czech Republic. The M332 appeared to be a 120hp engine with shaky pretensions of being a competitor to 160hp Lycomings, and was perhaps only competitive for tandem aircraft benefiting from the M332's small frontal cross-section.


So, move the clock ahead twelve years, and it appears nothing has improved. The M332 is even more obsolete, and the factory has studiously avoided updating the design. The main distributor in North America, Moravia, is out of business, and LOM-Praha has not invested the effort (and money) to restore the brand in North America.


So, is this a correct assessment? Is LOM-Praha M332/M337 finished in North America (and, I understand, Australia/New Zealand)? Are these engines still selling in substantial numbers in Europe?

What would it take to make the M332 competitive ?


(I take no joy in this. The M332 is a intriguing design, and should have a market at the right price, but the entire marketing and support for this engine has been badly botched, in my view).




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