From "Construction Notes" Falco Builders Letter, June 1998

Fanie Hendriks is finishing up his Falco in South Africa and asked about the Sky Tec starters. Previously we had talked about an inline, low-profile starter that they had on the drawing board. I had seen some drawings of this, and we mentioned it in the FBL some time ago.

At Fanie's request, I chased this down and found that Mr. Williams has sold the company and that the starter did not make it past the design stage. However, Sky Tec says they now have a new design in the works, and they may possibly have it available at the Sun 'n' Fun show next spring. There are always new designs in the works somewhere, so it's best to make your present purchasing plans on the designs that are shipping today.

From "Construction Notes" Falco Builders Letter, March 1995

Speaking of lightweight starters, Sky-Tec's Tom Williams called the other day to say that they are going into production soon on a new starter that promises to have no interference problems on the Falco. Finally! The new starter is the P/N 149-12LS, where the 'LS' stands for 'left solenoid'. This is exactly like the new lightweight starter introduced last spring except that the solenoid is rotated to the left side of the airplane.

This eliminates the problem of hitting the landing light on the Falco, and from my analysis it will also miss the oil cooler as well-we still need to have that confirmed by a Falco builder, but it looks like it won't be a problem when I lay it out on our engine installation drawings. Tom says the new starter should be available around the first part of June.

From "Construction Notes" Falco Builders Letter, September 1993

Short of loran and GPS, one of the most interesting advances in aviation in recent years has been the lightweight starter. Bolt one of these babies on your engine, and you save eight pounds or so. It's hard to pass up, particularly if you are in the process of buying a starter.

There is, however, a minor problem with clearances. For all their light weight, these new starters tend to have solenoids and other parts which hit the oil cooler where it is installed in the Falco. George Barrett and I have worked on the design of the left front baffling to move the oil cooler to clear the Sky-Tec 'high-torque' starter that he has. I rebuilt the baffling and left it to George to finish up, but he changed his mind halfway through (ain't that just like a man?) and decided it should just be moved outboard, not outboard and aft.

At Oshkosh, I made a point to collect information about lightweight starters with the idea that we would come up with a new design for the oil cooler installation. There are three such starters on the market: B&C, Sky-Tec and Lycoming. They are all similar, though I've heard the Sky-Tec starters are the best of the bunch.

The old design Prestolite starter that has been used for years weighs 18 lbs, while Lycoming's new lightweight starter weighs 11.5 lbs. I have been told that it is difficult to install, requires shimming to get the installation correct and that there have been problems in the field with the starter.

The B&C starter weighs 10.25 lbs and is based on the starter used in the Nissan 280Z. The B&C starter is an excellent product and is made of all-new materials.

The Sky-Tec 'high-torque' starter also weighs 10.25 lbs and is based on the Nipondenso starter used in Toyota, Lexus and all other Japanese cars except Nissan, and this starter is also used in many Ford and Chrysler products. In making their 'high-torque' starters, Sky-Tec buys used starters and then remanufactures them to new-part standards, replacing contacts, plating some parts and then installs the components in a casting with addition components so that it will work on a Lycoming engine. This 'high-torque' starter has an excellent reputation and Sky-Tec's Tom Williams says that they have shipped 4000 of them, and the other day got their 19th one back on a warranty claim.

That's the good news. The bad news is that all of these lightweight starters hit the oil cooler in the Falco. Sky-Tec, however, is coming out with a new starter that is based on a new Ford permanent-magnet starter design which was first introduced in 1991 on the Lincoln Town Car and is now used on all Ford products. This starter weighs 8 lbs, and it does not hit the oil cooler in the Falco. Cecil Rives has just installed one of the four pre-production prototypes in his Falco. He says it fits perfectly and is easier to install than the original Prestolite.

Cecil called back in a few days to report that the solenoid of the new starter interferes with the housing for the landing light. The solenoid projects about one inch into the housing and Cecil cut a chunk out of it that's about three inches long. His initial plans are to get the airplane into the air without a landing light and worry about it all later.

Sky-Tec says the new starter will be in production in a few weeks however the interference problem is not happy news to them. Tom Williams says they can move the solenoid but it will require a new casting pattern which is a $6000 expense. At this time, he wants to get a number of these starters into the field and find out what other interference problems they might have. Williams says it will be at least six months before a new version will be out, but that he will probably have made a decision well before that time.

Except for this interference problem, it appears that the answer for Falco builders is to go with this new permanent magnet starter from Sky-Tec. If you can afford to wait six months, then I'd suggest waiting until you see how the solenoid position issue is resolved, and it's my guess that this problem will be a common one and will force the issue on Sky-Tec. The starter sells for $499.00 and is available from Sky-Tec Manufacturing, 3106 Cypresswood Blvd, Winter Haven, Florida 33884. Telephone: (800) 476-7896 or (813) 324-7979. Fax: (813) 324-8521. Tom Williams begs that you call or fax, and he mumbled something about not liking to write letters. There are two starter model numbers, the P/N 122-12PM or P/N 149-12PM. More than likely, you will need the '149' model. The '122' and '149' numbers refer to the number of teeth on the ring gear on your engine.

All of these lightweight starters have solenoids on them and many people assume that this means the starters do not require a starter relay. Not so, the solenoids on these starters pull nearly 30 amps and are used in place of the 'Bendix' device on a starter. The solenoids drive the starter's gear into the ring gear of the engine. You still must have a starter relay.

From "Mailbox" Falco Builders Letter, December 1993

On the lightweight starter, for those unable to wait for a fittable Sky-Tec, Sport Aviation of March 1991 has detailed building instructions for what appears to be a suitable starter replacement using Toyota/Nippon Denso parts.

Stephen Friend
Breadalbane, Australia

Cecil Rives said you were talking to someone about how to fit a Sky-Tec starter on the Falco, and you asked him what I had done to fit mine. Well the Sky-Tec and the B&C both have the solenoid in the wrong place forcing a modification to the oil cooler and left baffle. I purchased a Magnaflight starter from Electrosystems thru Aircraft Spruce. They are listed on page 232 of their catalog and there are several. They have both 28 and 12 volt units, and they all have Lycoming part numbers which leads me to believe that these are the ones that they are now using for new engines. They will fit in the place of the old starters, and will require no mods or STC or 337 to use -- they just bolt on and you wire them in and go. They have several 12 volt units and I presume that different engines have different bolting patterns, but whoever needs a lightweight starter (7.7 lbs.) without having to change anything, this is the one.

Bill Russell
Houston, Texas