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Barrows Engines

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  • Barrows Engines

    Folks, I've deliberated long and hard before writing this post. It concerns the engine that I purchased for my Bearhawk.

    When I ordered my kitset, I decided to purchase a reconditioned engine from the airframe designer Bob Barrows.

    I don't have any issues with the aircraft itself - it’s fantastic and the first 18 hours showed it to be a joy to fly with delightful handling traits.

    Regarding the engine however, there were a number of issues including being delivered with a seized starter motor, an unserviceable carburettor, a leaking air manifold, and eventually the discovery that chrome rings had been installed with chrome cylinders, carburettor issues caused a number of ground running issues that delayed the first flight. Including eventually an engine stoppage while on short finals. The chrome rings in chrome bores are catastrophic according to my engine shop here. There is potential damage to my Trailblazer propellor and governor from the chrome as a result.

    We accept that mistakes can be made. Acknowledgment and remedy are everything. I haven't experienced this with the Barrows engine. Had the engine rebuilder had taken ownership of the quality assurance issues I would have taken a very different view, with a different outcome. Engines are an expensive product, and I lost total confidence in mine and after Barrows offered me a refund I decided to replace it with a different engine. Unfortunately the refund has not been forthcoming.

    I realize that many of you have a Barrows engine in your Bearhawk. This post is not aimed at you. You may have had a very different experience, and you will know within the first few hours if your engine is running well. The reason for this post is to advise others who may be considering purchasing one to ask around first and be aware that the engines may not have the same reputation and quality assurance oversight that they used to.

    I was going to post the ad below but there was concern expressed to me that it might be seen as making light of a serious situation so I decided not to, but have included it here to show I still have a sense of humour after all of this and it does sum the situation up.

    I’m an enthusiastic Bearhawk advocate, it’s a great design and Mark G has nothing but my respect for his development of the QB kits, his customer support, and what he is to the Bearhawk brand.

    I’m greatly saddened and disappointed by my experience with Barrows, my image of an honourable man with a strong moral compass has been shattered, but I won’t let that detract from the enjoyment of my aeroplane.

    Take care out there folks and I will consider an offer on the engine if you care to make one.


    For sale

    R &B Barrows Overhauled Lycoming 0360 A1Exp suitable for boat anchor.
    TTSO 17.8 hrs
    Comes as shipped with seized starter, unserviceable carb, (actually $1200 later it has been fixed) chrome rings in chrome bores. PN in logbooks don’t match PN in engine. Rings available by the teaspoon. Unapproved repair program at no extra cost.

    Bonus!!! for a short time at no charge.

    Touching after sales service emails from Bob Barrows referring you to parts suppliers where you can purchase new rings at your expense!

    Only one in flight failure in last 10 hours.
    Freight at your cost.

    Also included great networking opportunity with NZ CAA, FAA and NTSB.

    Happy to sell at my cost of $32800 USD.

  • #2
    Bob is a fine mechanic with hundreds of units in the field. I would recommend him. Wrong rings? This happens more than you know-but no one does it two times. I would re ring the engine-its a fresh unit that will go to TBO. Also, a new overhaul diserves new accessories.


    • #3

      So sorry that happened to you, that's pretty rough.... I hope you are able to get a refund and get back in the air soon. Good job taking precautions and not hurting you or your airplane on short final.


      This begs a fundamental question in regards to discussing situations and criticisms: what is allowed on this forum, and perhaps more importantly, what is reasonable and responsible on this forum?

      There are things on the Bearhawk that I'm critical of, but that doesn't mean I dislike the airplane, it means I'm trying to be reasonable and honest about its strengths and weaknesses. Is this forum the place for that? I totally understand if someone is being rude or ranting and in general being a tool, but is posting an honest and fair report of ones experience something that should be omitted if its unfavorable?

      As an example: I really wish the bearhawk had 4-point harness attach points. I feel that is a reasonable and honest criticism of the design. If I mention it, some might feel like I'm being negative towards the design, and in a way I am, but I'm not doing it to be a troll, I'm doing it because I really think it should have a 4-point harness or at least an option for one.



      • jaredyates
        jaredyates commented
        Editing a comment
        See my reply below about the rules. On the seat belt point, I'm adding a 5-point harness to 303AP and worked with Bob to design a bolt-on solution.

      • schu
        schu commented
        Editing a comment
        Can you start a thread about the seatbelt stuff? I'm curious what Bob came up with as I designed my own mounts and it wasn't super trivial to retrofit something that conformed to the recommendations given starting on page 90 of the AC43.13:

      • jaredyates
        jaredyates commented
        Editing a comment
        Yes, let me get a little further along to validate the whole process but the short version is it's a 3/4" wide loop of .063 wrapped around the tube, with the seatbelt tab sandwiched between those two pieces via a 1/4" bolt. I can't speak to whether it complies with all of the recommendations, but it's going to be better than what was there before, which for the back seaters wasn't anything.

    • #4
      "There are things on the Bearhawk that I'm critical of, but that doesn't mean I dislike the airplane, it means I'm trying to be reasonable and honest about its strengths and weaknesses. Is this forum the place for that? I totally understand if someone is being rude or ranting and in general being a tool, but is posting an honest and fair report of ones experience something that should be omitted if its unfavorable?"

      I certainly hope the forum will support and allow analysis and suggested improvements to the Bearhawk aircraft. As I start on my fuselage I would like to read about someone working on X and having to change it to Y followed by a discussion about the effect of the change before I get to that task. Otherwise I am destined to head scratching my own solution without the benefit of someone's expertise and experience.

      People will make changes, whether we think its a good idea or not. Why not discuss it here? Of course how do you manage the data so it doesn't get buried in the amount of online data. If Schu posts his reasons for a four place harness and potential solution, how is that saved so its easily found? So the next builder can find a well discussed, sound solution for installing the 4 place harness. I know this is not the Vans world, but they have a forum for each model titled "plan gotches". I think that is a poor choice of words, but in those forums are discussions about a particular issue within the build process and the plans and how to work around, get through, and /or fix the issue. Does that work here?

      Of course if someone is advocating structural changes we would all say get a hold of Bob. But I am not advocating those kind of changes and I don't think Schu is either.

      Scott Ahrens
      Bearhawk Patrol Plans Built


      • #5
        Here is a link to the rules:
        If anyone has any doubts about what is allowed, feel free to reach out amd we can talk about it.


        • #6
          Having taken delivery of an engine from Bob just last week these are hardly comforting words. Hopefully the fact that I used all new pistons and cylinders will eliminate the problems Bissetg had but I did get a rebuilt carb from Bob. I would rather hear about these problems than not however.


          • #7
            Originally posted by spinningwrench View Post
            Having taken delivery of an engine from Bob just last week these are hardly comforting words. Hopefully the fact that I used all new pistons and cylinders will eliminate the problems Bissetg had but I did get a rebuilt carb from Bob. I would rather hear about these problems than not however.
            I hate that Grant has had this experience, but I do appreciate that he's posted about it with a civil tone and factually. His situation sounds bad in a few ways but it doesn't at all match my experience with an engine from Bob. And it also doesn't match the experience that many other folks have had with his engines. I was reading back through the logbooks from 303AP and saw where its factory-new Lycoming engine had to go back to Lycoming about two years in to get a new crankshaft. As Grant acknowledges, problems can come from any supplier, and while I don't know the whole story with Grant's situation, and don't know Bob's side of the story, we have enough data to say it is not a typical case. Not to say that's a fault of either party, but certainly the trans-oceanic logistics are a factor. If the engine got the wrong rings, that doesn't mean what's left is without value or unfixable. Until I built an airplane, I didn't have much insight around what connected the dots between "a pile of well-crafted materials" and "an airplane that I hop in and operate with confidence." (Spoiler alert, it's nothing- nothing connects the dots). Similarly with engines, Bob spends enough time between "here's a bunch of parts" and "here's an engine that we love and trust" to know what happens between them, and how to get from one to the other. There is no doubt in my mind that he could convert what feels to Grant like a boat anchor into a safe and reliable engine. Maybe some parts would need to be sent off, maybe some would need to be replaced. There is a process for doing all of that, and that is the process he does. Unless it's a brand new engine built from brand new parts, engines are flying around with some very storied parts on board. Thinking about things like that less means I enjoy flying more, but still, it's reality.

            Without knowing enough particulars, it doesn't sound like Grant has gotten the support he expects but it also sounds like Bob hasn't gotten the engine back. Is it fair to expect a refund without returning the engine, even if Grant feels like it's no good for anything? Who should be responsible for the return? Is something owed beyond the engine itself? Those question are between them to work out and I hope they do. It sounds more like a disagreement about the terms of how all of that should go down rather than a case where Bob is just dusting his hands and failing to give any support. There are cases where morality is in question but this doesn't look like one to me.

            I had good service and support from the engine that Bob built for us, at a price that was probably $10k less than Lycoming. If I were in the market for a new one, Bob would be my first stop again.


            • #8
              Originally posted by spinningwrench View Post
              Having taken delivery of an engine from Bob just last week these are hardly comforting words. Hopefully the fact that I used all new pistons and cylinders will eliminate the problems Bissetg had but I did get a rebuilt carb from Bob. I would rather hear about these problems than not however.
              I also have a recently reconditioned engine from Bob, and naturally I also shared concern when I heard of Grants experience. My engine was delivered just a few months before his.

              One thing that I was completely unaware of is the cylinder terminology NEW vs NU. Bob asked if I wanted new cylinders and I said yes. I'm expecting them to be "brand new" in other words, zero time, first life etc (and hopefully they are). Apparently there's also NU CHROME, which isn't NEW. Go figure.

              My engineer did comment on some red RTV that I found while inspecting the rock-catcher filter. Apparently here in NZ using RTV in the engine is not an accepted practice.

              So far my engine seems to have run very well for its first 40 hours since overhaul.

              Last edited by Nev; 01-06-2022, 11:14 PM.
              Nev Bailey
              Christchurch, NZ


              • zkelley2
                zkelley2 commented
                Editing a comment
                RTV anywhere it can get inside the engine is not accepted practice in aviation anywhere.

                If you have RTV sealing the "filter", I'd very carefully remove the filter housing, very carefully remove the RTV so it doesn't fall in, and put an appropriate gasket and aviation gasket sealant on it.

                RTV clogs oil passages and it does break off.
                Last edited by zkelley2; 01-07-2022, 08:47 PM.

            • #9
              Gents, my view of this is there are two aspects to it. Safety and commercial. Safety should be the highest priority. While me might like to think we are all good pilots by definition half of us are below average.

              While the commercial aspect is an irritant as participants in aviation we have a moral obligation to alert others to risks if we are aware of them and they are not. Barrows should be correctly acknowledged for his outstanding design skills, but also be accountable for his products.

              Ones character is tested when things go badly, it’s easy to be a good guy when things go well. My point is that if you are fortunate enough to get a good engine from Barrows that is great, but you need to know that if you don’t in my experience he will run a mile. I was the loser of that lottery.

              To Jared’s point about me not sending the engine back, Barrows expects me to do that at my expense and get refunded the balance of what it cost him to repair the engine and what I’d paid for it. That is not a refund, that is me paying for his mistake.

              I’ve had numerous things in life that haven’t been as advertised but almost always folks acknowledge that things have gone wrong and you work together to get the best outcome for both parties and you are happy to do business again.

              I’m disappointed that’s not what happened here but I couldn’t live with myself if some inexperienced pilot lost their life because I’d said nothing simply because it might have upset someone.


              • #10

                Am I correct in my understanding that chrome rings would never be used in combination with chrome cylinders and that this was the cause of this failure?


                • rodsmith
                  rodsmith commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Never, does not end well.

              • #11
                I’m all eyeballs on this one, since I’m expecting delivery of a Barrows engine in March. I also selected rebuilt starter, carb, and magneto that R&B provides. I expect them to be in like-new working order. Who wouldn’t? I am however getting brand new cylinder assemblies.

                This information, as long as it’s fair and factual is absolutely safety-critical to our community. R&B also has every opportunity to present information too, do they not?

                I would be very deeply disappointed to experience anything like Bissetg. Its utterly chilling to consider that whereas he survived that engine failure, I might not have, due to bad luck or less skill on my part. (I think he’s a professional bush pilot, isn’t he?) I selected R&B as my provider largely on the basis of reviews here on this forum. Current and future builders will also depend on our reviews, perhaps for their very lives, so these must reflect the reality of both what is good and what is bad. Builders also need to know if suppliers are not fairly meeting their obligations in replacing defective items.
                Last edited by Pbruce; 01-07-2022, 01:16 AM.


                • Bissetg
                  Bissetg commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Ah, thanks to Covid overweight and unemployed is a better description of me. However I am fortunate enough to have 35 years of commercial flying in our Southern Alps in both fixed wing and helicopters. The rest of your post is bang on.

              • #12
                Don't let this get out of perspective guys, you don't know the other side of the story. A guy who posts his grievances on line is going to get lots of sympathy but he could just be a dick and you'll never know. Are we seriously going to question Bob's ethics here on a site that wouldn't exist without him?? Give me a break. If a mistake occurred work it out with him like men used to, don't take it to the internet.
                All you guys suddenly worried about your engines - come on!!


                • Bissetg
                  Bissetg commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Perfectly reasonable to question the authenticity of this. You can be assured I tried very hard to resolve this and was unable to. You are quite right that judgement must be made on evidence. If you send me your email address I’ll send you the relevant photos and copies of the correspondence of me raising the issue of rings, Barrows referring me to a place in Texas to buy replacements, and his confirmation that chrome top rings had mistakenly been fitted.

                  You should also feel free to call Barrows, I’m pretty sure he will argue that I swapped the rock catcher oil filter for a pressure filter and I shouldn’t have. That was done on the advice of my engineers here, they say that the rock catcher only gets the big bits and the pressure filter got the fine chrome grindings.

                  I’m no expert but my position is that if the correct rings were installed none of this would be relevant.

                  I think it’s reasonable to expect that when you buy a zero time since overhaul engine it will be airworthy and if not it will be made so at the suppliers expense.

                  I don’t want sympathy, I want no one else to have repeat my experience.

              • #13
                I see no value to this kind of discussion and, although it does not appear to be outside of the forum rules, I would suggest that we avoid airing the details of grievances with any supplier. There is always more to the story than is presented and the resulting back and forth never clarifies anything. Work it out off-line and if you feel compelled to say something, simply report your success or failure at doing so.


                • svyolo
                  svyolo commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Well said, which is all I will say on the subject.

                • zkelley2
                  zkelley2 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Strongly disagree.

                • Battson
                  Battson commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Greg - Grant is "reporting his failure to work it out with the supplier". In your own words, that's exactly what he should be posting on here?

              • #14
                This community should be a place to hash out anything to do with our Bearhawk projects. End of story. Positive or Negative
                Safety 1st


                • #15
                  Would there ever be a reason to install chrome rings on chrome cylinder bores during a rebuild?


                  • Bdflies
                    Bdflies commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Never. One material (cylinder or rings) must be harder than the other, to allow for conforming wear. If both are hard, as in chrome rings in chrome cylinders, fretting will occur and rings will never 'seat".