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President Donald Trump will use a proposal to privatize air traffic control in the U.S. to kick off a weeklong blitz of announcements to push his infrastructure revitalization plan. At an announcement that includes an Oval Office ceremony and White House Rose Garden event on Monday morning, White House officials have confirmed Trump will affirm his plan to move air traffic control services to a not-for-profit corporation overseen by a board of directors drawn from industry, aviation groups and government. The proposal will be based on a bill introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., that got a rough ride in the House, Senate and administration in 2015, but the dusted-off legislation has Trump’s enthusiastic support.

The plan is sure to evoke vigorous opposition from GA groups, particularly if, as most of the 60 countries that have privatized ATC do, it includes a system of user fees to fund it. All GA groups are united against user fees, saying the current system of excise taxes on aviation fuel is the fairest way to determine and assess participation in the system. AOPA, while it says user fees are a non-starter, has been softer in its opposition to privatization, saying the current system needs a major shakeup.

Lining up in support of privatization are most U.S. airlines, and GA groups say there’s a good reason for that. The Shuster bill envisions a governing board of directors with overwhelming representation from the airlines, who argue that as the biggest users of the system, they should have the biggest say. GA groups say that airline domination of the nation’s airways, towers and centers will push GA to the fringes of the system with less access and higher costs.

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The FAA and Department of Transportation released the list of airport improvement programs (AIP) that they will fund out of the discretionary portion of the AIP budget for the 2017 fiscal year earlier this week. For small airports, AIP grants can cover 90-95% of the cost of airport improvements such as runway or taxiway construction, airport lighting or the installation of radio navigation equipment. AIP grants come with long-term conditions, including that the airport remain open for public use for the useful life of any AIP-funded program, which has played a role in keeping airports in noise-sensitive areas from being shut down by municipal authorities.

The largest recipient in 2017, Chicago O’Hare, will receive $60 million for new runway construction. The second largest grant will go to Memphis International, which will receive $22.5 million for a deicing pad and facilities. Although more than half of the $528 million in grants will go to the 20 largest projects, grants were made to projects in 45 states and Puerto Rico at 584 airports. The minimum amount allowable under an AIP grant, $25,000, will be made available to Portsmouth International for reconstruction of their Runway 16/34.

Full grant data available here from the FAA.



Air Force pilots have told their commanders that the needs of families have to take a higher priority if they want to attract and retain aircrew. The Air Force is bleeding pilots to the airlines as a worldwide pilot shortage takes hold and the Air Force Times reported this week that jet jockeys want help keeping the home fires burning. In April, the Air Force invited input from pilots on changes that would keep them in uniform and family issues dominated the 600 responses received. Pilots want the needs of spouses and children to be a consideration in their duty assignments and when they are deployed they want time before and after their tours to ensure life goes on smoothly at home. “We want the airmen’s input to be in the lead here. They’re the folks who are experiencing this day in and day out,” said Brig. Gen. Samuel Mahaney, deputy director for operations of the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. “We need to demonstrate to airmen they are valued, heard, and, wherever possible, enhance quality of service and quality of life for our airmen and their families. Their voice in this process is critical." 

Making peace with its current pilots is only part of the strategy to tackle the pilot shortfall, which exceeds 1,000 now and is expected to rise. On May 18, senior officers met with representatives from major and regional airlines to discuss ways to help each other keep the flow of new pilots healthy. And even though it offers opportunities to fly the hottest, most high-tech equipment on the planet, the Air Force says one of the things the industry as a whole needs to do is make aviation cool again. "We are working hard to find ways to start conversations and develop a curiosity and passion for aviation that will span future generations,” said Gen. Carlton Everhart of the Air Mobility Command. “There is a need to re-energize a nationwide interest in flying as an occupation. Partnering with Civil Air Patrol, ROTC and across industry is critically important. Getting people enthusiastic about aviation and into the air needs to be a collective nationwide campaign."

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Although there’s been a death watch over Learjet for a year or more, the Bombardier subsidiary had cause for celebration last week. The iconic bizjet brand sold its 3,000th aircraft on June 2 and it coincidentally happened to be the 100th Learjet 75 produced by the Wichita plant. The aircraft was handed over to Leggett and Platt, a Missouri furniture manufacturer. It’s the company’s second Learjet 75. The event was attended by 1,300 people, most of them employees, with a smattering of local celebrities and Learjet founder Bill Lear’s daughter-in-law Brenda Lear. “I think what’s touched me today the most is to see the outpouring of people that wanted to be here when they heard about this event coming,” said David Coleal, Bombardier Business Aircraft president. “It really shows … the passion and the pride that this iconic brand instills in all of us every day.”

The company most associated with the founding of the business jet sector began in Wichita in 1963 and was purchased by Bombardier in 1990. The Canadian company introduced four new models in the intervening 27 years but there are fears the 75 will be the last. Bombardier canceled the mostly composite Learjet 85 program last year because of tight finances and sales of the other models have dropped in recent years, leading analysts to believe the brand may be doomed. Coleal didn’t directly address that issue in his remarks. “The Wichita site has become a key pillar in Bombardier’s future,” Coleal said. “The site has diversified and expanded, and truly represents what makes Bombardier exceptional. With all that said, our roots will always remain with Learjet.”


Eclipse Aerospace announced a slate of upgrades for its next generation of light jet—“Project Canada.” The successor to the Eclipse 550 will be, predictably, bigger, faster and have fancy new avionics. The new jet will be powered by two of Williams' FJ33 turbofans, similar to those fitted to the Cirrus SF50, though the engines on the Canada will be rerated from 1,900 pounds thrust to 1,200 pounds thrust. With 14 inches added to the fuselage and two-foot wingtip extensions holding bigger fuel tanks, the Canada will have a maximum range of about 1,500 NM at maximum cruise and the power to climb direct to its maximum operating altitude of 43,000 feet. Also like the Cirrus SF50, the new jet will be equipped with a Garmin G3000 flight deck.

Eclipse Aviation is a division of One Aviation, the product of a merger between the former Eclipse Aerospace and Kestrel Aircraft. Alan Klapmeier, CEO of One Aviation, in a company press release said, “I look forward to working with Williams and to all the possibilities the FJ33 brings to the ‘Canada’ project. The additional power and efficiency of the Williams engines will once again change our customers' view of personal jet performance.”

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Eclipse Aerospace announced a slate of upgrades for its next generation of light jet—“Project Canada.” The successor to the Eclipse 550 will be, predictably, bigger, faster and have fancy new avionics. The new jet will be powered by two of Williams' FJ33 turbofans, similar to those fitted to the Cirrus SF50, though the engines on the Canada will be rerated from 1,900 pounds thrust to 1,200 pounds thrust. With 14 inches added to the fuselage and two-foot wingtip extensions holding bigger fuel tanks, the Canada will have a maximum range of about 1,500 NM at maximum cruise and the power to climb direct to its maximum operating altitude of 43,000 feet. Also like the Cirrus SF50, the new jet will be equipped with a Garmin G3000 flight deck.

Eclipse Aviation is a division of One Aviation, the product of a merger between the former Eclipse Aerospace and Kestrel Aircraft. Alan Klapmeier, CEO of One Aviation, in a company press release said, “I look forward to working with Williams and to all the possibilities the FJ33 brings to the ‘Canada’ project. The additional power and efficiency of the Williams engines will once again change our customers' view of personal jet performance.”

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To follow up on its popular Your Refurb series, AVweb is starting a new, equally occasional, series on caring, feeding and upgrading your airplane: What’s Under the Hood? The idea is to pass along information on the components see when you open up the cowling, why they’re there, how they work and how to take care of them—preventive and regular maintenance—so they lead a long and happy life, causing your wallet to thank you. 

We’re starting out with devices that are essential to virtually every round-dial instrument panel—the air pump that provides the suction or positive pressure to spin air-driven gyros. We tend to collectively call them vacuum pumps, although on most Beech aircraft they are pressure pumps. No matter the appellation, they are turned by the accessory drive of the engine.

We only seem to pay attention to the air pump in our airplane when it fails—and unless we have a low vacuum annunciator light on the panel, we may not notice for some time, which can have ugly implications as the air-driven gyros spool down. After a spate of loss of control accidents in the 1980s blamed, at least in part, on inflight, in-IMC failures of air pumps, a lot effort went into improving their reliability. From what we can see, the efforts were successful, at least in part.

Nevertheless, when an air pump fails, it’s almost invariably in flight. As aircraft owners, what can we do to extend the life of our vacuum pump and what are our options when it’s time for replacement?


Vacuum pumps were developed in the late 1930s—prior to that air-driven gyros were spun by suction from a venturi attached to the side of the fuselage. That meant the gyros didn’t even start spinning up until well into the takeoff roll, making low-altitude entry into the IMC more than a little challenging. A vacuum pump solved that problem, and gave more suction than a venturi could provide. The first pumps were “wet,” the interface between the carbon vanes and the interior of the metal housing or stator of the pump was lubricated by oil.

Wet pumps proved reliable, usually lasting through TBO of the engine. The downside to that was they were relatively expensive and because some small portion of the oil lubricating the vanes constantly exhausted overboard with the air being pulled through the pump, they left a fine mist on the belly of the airplane. While the amount was often small compared to leaks in the engine itself, there was a perception they were messy and some owners paid for an add-on air-oil separator to return the exhausted (and potentially contaminated) oil to the engine—something we recommend against.

Dry air pumps debuted in the 1960s and nearly put wet pumps out of business. Lighter, and about half the cost of wet pumps, dry pumps used vanes that were made of graphite, which provided lubrication by slowly erasing themselves and leaving a fine layer of dust between the vanes and stator.

The downside is that the thin rectangular vanes (usually six), which move freely in the slots of the central rotor and are held against the stator by inertia as the rotor spins, will eventually wear down to the point where they are too small to stay in position. One will then break into pieces and the pieces will rapidly destroy the rest of the vanes (and rotor), causing catastrophic failure of the pump.

Because of the nature of the design, there is no warning of impending failure. Contrary to what you may have heard, vacuum pressure does not drop as the vanes wear.

Most dry pumps have a carbon or graphite rotor and graphite vanes. Because those materials remain dimensionally stable with temperature changes—and air pumps get very hot in operation—they are excellent for operating efficiency. The tradeoff is that a small piece of foreign material or any liquid can have devastating effects. In our interviews of pump makers and maintenance shops, a common theme we heard about dry pump life was the need to do some preventive maintenance to allow them to last as long as possible.

Protecting the Pump

When washing the airplane and engine, make sure no liquid gets into the pump—it will turn the graphite dust to paste fairly quickly and destroy the pump. Teflon tape should not be used on pump fittings, pieces break off and get into the pump. The vacuum system filters should be replaced at the annual or at 500 hours (main filter) and 100 hours (other filters) of service, whichever comes first.

We learned that one of the most common causes of pump failure is FOD from the vacuum system hoses located under the instrument panel. Scott Utz, president of Arapahoe Aero at Denver’s Centennial Airport, said that his shop often sees 30- and 40-year-old airplanes that have never had the vacuum system hoses behind the panel replaced.

If the filters get plugged, the pump has to work harder and fails sooner. Utz told us that if you suddenly start having air pumps fail, the problem probably lies in the system, not with the pump. On de-iced airplanes, it’s not uncommon for the regulator valve to malfunction, causing a constant load on the air pump, which can dramatically shorten its life.

One of aviation’s old wives’ tales is that you’ll wreck your vacuum pump if you move the prop backward. Fortunately, that’s not true. While most vacuum pumps are unidirectional—they either turn clockwise or counterclockwise in service based on the direction of rotation of the accessory shaft on the engine (and have CC or CW as a suffice to their model number)—it takes more than a few turns in the wrong direction to cause damage.

Vacuum pumps come in two sizes, and are referred to as 200- or 400- series. A 200-series pump will run two gyros—that’s it. If your airplane has anything more than that, such as an inflatable door seal, copilot gyros and/or de-icing boots, a 400-series pump is necessary.

One of the smartest safety developments in the world of dry air pumps has been the viewing port invented and patented by Aero Accessories for its 200-series Tempest line of air pumps. Removing a small screw allows you to look into the pump and see how long the vanes are—and how far they’ve worn down. A published wear guide describes when it’s time to take the pump out of service and have it overhauled or replaced.

We strongly recommend that if you are buying a 200-series dry rotary vacuum pump, new or overhauled, it should be one with a wear indicator port. While it will not protect against pump failure due to FOD, it will let you know when it’s about to wear out and fail.

Wet and dry air pumps can be overhauled by specialty facilities or most manufacturers (not in the field). In general, overhauled units are less expensive than new ones, but come with a shorter warranty. We do not have recommendations one way or another except for de-iced twins. Because 400-series pumps do not last as long as 200-series, the de-icing system places a significant load on the pumps—further cutting into their life expectancy—and because overhauled pumps are less expensive than new, we think it makes sense to go with overhauled pumps in that application.

What’s Available 

Aero Accessories began overhauling dry pumps in 1987. Shortly after 2000, it came out with its own Tempest line of 200- and 400-series pumps. Company owner, Tim Henderson told us that the idea of not being able to inspect a pump and running it to failure made no sense to him; it was too much like running a tire until it burst. As a result, he came up with the wear indicator port now available on most 200-series dry pumps. In addition, the Tempest line of pumps incorporates cooling fins that double the surface area of the pump housing, allowing it to run cooler, lengthening its service life. The company also spent a great deal of time redesigning the complex series of curves on the inside of the stator so that the vanes travel outward slower than inward and they remain loaded in compression at all time, minimizing bending loads.

Tempest lists prices for its new 200-series air pumps at $651.83 and 400-series at $1628. Overhauled price for the 200-series is $431; 240-series, $746 and 400-series from $999 to $1070. The warranty offered on wear indicator port-equipped pumps is three years or 1300 hours; one year or 500 hours on all others. Based on our survey of websites of various vendors such as Aircraft Spruce, the street prices for new and overhauled Tempest air pumps is on the order of 20 percent less than retail prices listed by Tempest.

Rapco began overhauling dry air pumps in 1981 and now offers a full line of new and overhauled pumps, along with a number of other products for general aviation aircraft. Mike Gaulke, director of sales, told us that as the company shifted from simply overhauling existing pumps to making new ones, it continuously improved the pump design and life with such features as an oil seal on the main shaft to reduce the risk of oil contamination and an inspection port to observe the condition of the vanes. He also pointed out that by placing the vanes at an angle—which requires that the pump turn only in one direction—they can be made longer and thus last longer than if they are perpendicular to the stator/pump housing.

Rapco recommends replacing vacuum system hoses every six years. Gaulke said that with regular hose and filter replacement, flight schools that are using Rapco pumps report that the pumps are successfully running to engine TBO.

Rapco offers a three year or 1300-hour warranty on its new 215- and 216-series pumps and one year or 500-hour warranty on its other new pumps. The warranty on overhauled pumps is two years or 1000 hours on 211-, 212-, 215- and 216-series pumps and one year or 400 hours on all others.

Rapco does not publish prices on its website—our survey of vendors revealed that prices for new 200-series pumps started as low as $339, with overhauled starting at $237; for new 400-series pumps we saw prices starting at $839 and overhauled prices starting at $532

Sigma-Tek takes a slightly different approach to a dry air pump—while theirs can be used for suction or pressure, it is nonetheless bidirectional—it can be mounted on any engine, no matter which way the accessory shaft turns.

The pump uses an aluminum rotor and stator with carbon-carbon composite vanes that are designed to wear more slowly than graphite vanes. They are mounted perpendicularly to the stator, allowing rotation in either direction. According to Sigma-Tek, the aluminum rotor makes the pump more resistant to FOD or engine oil. It is not designed for supplying air to de-icing boots.

The warranty is for two years or 1000 hours of operation. We did not see any indication that anyone is overhauling and selling the pumps. We saw prices, new, as low as $699.

Wet Pumps

After the dry air pump put wet pump makers Pesco and Garwin out of the business, those who used them relied on overhauled pumps. Then, in the 1980s, dry pumps got vilified, and interest in wet pumps returned. Airwolf, known for its line of oil filters, obtained the Pesco data and some of its manufacturing equipment, updated the design, received the necessary certification and started selling wet pump replacements for all 200- and 400-series dry pumps.

We were told by Airwolf personnel that, with oil lubrication, wet pump tolerances are tighter, the vanes are four times as thick as on dry pumps and are bidirectional. While heavier than a dry pump, Airwolf claims that its pump is nearly impervious to FOD and requires no maintenance. “Just run it,” was Airwolf’s response to our questions about maintenance: “Pieces of rubber from hoses go right through it.”

Airwolf stands behind its pump—its warranty is 10 years or 2000 hours of operation. Its advertising claims that an Airwolf wet pump is cheaper than using a dry pump over the course of engine TBO, assuming that a dry pump will have to be replaced every 500 hours and one wet pump will go the distance—plus it asserts that there’s no need for a backup system to power the gyros.

Price for the 200-series replacement pump is $1589; for the 400-series, it’s  $2990. We saw overhauled prices starting at $479. The Airwolf pump is STC’d for virtually all aircraft.

We reiterate our recommendation made earlier against using an air-oil separator with a wet vacuum pump. The amount of oil mist coming from the pump is small—and we are uncomfortable with the idea of returning waste oil, and the contaminates in it, to the engine.


When you need to replace a vacuum pump, there’s a wide selection available, new and overhauled. Dry pump quality and life has improved, and we like the wear indicator port that, we think, will help determine when to replace the pump before it fails. If you have a dry air pump, proper maintenance of the vacuum system is essential, including regular hose and filter replacement. Installing a wet pump may prove cheaper in the long run because of their longevity, although there is a weight penalty. No matter what sort of pump you have spinning the gyros, we think it’s wise to have some a satisfactory backup that will allow you to keep the airplane upright when the pump goes out—because at some point, it will.

Rick Durden is a CFII, holds an ATP with Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation type ratings and is the author of The Thinking Pilot's Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2. 

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I suppose as analogies go, using fruit and baked goods is as good as any to describe the state of the general aviation market. A decade ago, it was sugar plums. Now it’s pies or, to be more accurate, pie in the singular.

About 2005 or so, but definitely by 2007, every GA manufacturer of any size—and many small ones—had or was considering a “China plan.” That’s because China was then seen as a potential bottomless pit of airplane demand, a teeming mass of humanity whose individual and collective hearts throbbed with an unquenchable desire to fly airplanes. Thus the sugar plum analogy.

Ten years later, we’ve come down off that sugar high and accepted that sales of airplanes are, at best, flat, if not in decline globally. The pie isn’t getting any bigger, so companies are angling for a bigger slice of it. Continental’s Rhett Ross put it in more or less those exact words when I interviewed him recently at the company’s Mobile headquarters.

And now, something new: How about a North American plan? The argument for that is seen in the graph here. I couldn’t find good data prior to 2009, but since then, the North American share of the pie has gotten markedly larger while ever other region’s is trending slightly smaller, according to GAMA’s data.

Why is this so? It’s both obvious and not obvious. North America is where the money is, gas is cheap here, regulation is minimal (it’s all relative) and the world comes to the U.S. to learn to fly.  There are currency issues; through the 2005 to 2008 period, the dollar exchange against the Euro was as high as 1.5 to the Euro. It’s now at 1.12. Jets and turboprops are almost exclusively business-use aircraft, but so are some pistons and that’s more likely to be the case in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. And given that the U.S. economy is outstripping at least some of the western industrial economies, there’s just more business activity here. When you’re selling only 1000 piston airplanes a year, it doesn’t take much of that to move the needle a little.

Cirrus, Cessna and Mooney probably have this baked into their thinking, so their default is to sell in North America. The Austria-based Diamond has noticed the trend and that’s the very reason the recently announced DA50-VII will have a Lycoming TEO-540 as a primary engine and diesel as an option. Diamond’s Christian Dries recently told me that’s what will sell in the U.S. and that’s where the larger slice of pie will be found. I knew the data supported his supposition, but until I graphed it out, I didn’t realize how dramatic the swing has been.

I also took a look at longer trend lines in GA sales. We tend to obsess about GAMA’s quarterly sales reports, but the second graph shows why we shouldn’t. Total GA output—that’s everything from pistons to jets—has been essentially flat since 2009. There was a little bump in 2014, but current sales have hovered around 2200 airframes a year or just over 50 percent of the last high-water mark in 2007, which was 4276 aircraft.

That was a full decade ago, which is why you don’t hear people talking about “recovery” anymore since the realization has set in that the cycle has probably extended beyond the normal business swing. No one can say for sure, but if we’re ever going to reach 4000-plus airframes again, the market forces that will do that seem to be well camouflaged. But turn the question on its head and ask if 2007 was just an aberration, a fluky peak never to be repeated.

Maybe. But there must have been a reason for it. In an otherwise stagnant market for anything, new products stimulate sales and that’s probably true of airplanes, too. Two things were new in 2005, when the sales peak was becoming visible: the widespread availability of glass cockpits and Diamond’s DA42 diesel twin, which found latent demand in the training industry. Since then, we’ve had iterative improvements, but no major product introductions. The Cirrus jet and Diamond’s DA60 may be innovative enough to bump the numbers some. We’ll see.

Just as a curiosity, I plotted world GDP growth against aircraft sales. As you can plainly see, there’s loose correlation, but definitely loose. It’s strongest in the flat part of the curve since 2009.  I also looked at the first-quarter sales extending back to 2004. GAMA’s first-quarter report for 2017 seemed to show a bright spot; sales were up 6 percent over the same period in 2016. While that’s good news, I don’t think it means much.

Since 2009, there have been first quarters better than that and worse than that. The average for that period is 383; the mean 371. I think in context, it’s just noise in the data. Absent any other changes or data, I think that curve sketches a sea change. The market is now trending more strongly toward replacement of training aircraft than it did from 2005 to 2007. There’s still enough wealth out there for private owners to write $500,000 checks for new airplanes, but are we more likely to find fewer rather than more of them? I think the former for the short term. Until, of course, all those Chinese wake up to the fact that they’re burning to fly airplanes.

You’re welcome to post your own theories in the comments section.


A few years ago, SAM Aircraft built an LSA with a retro look that gathered some interest but not many orders. Zenair took over the project and the result is a high-performance taildragger that looks and feels like what the original company might have been looking for.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life
Picture of the Week <="229103">
Picture of the Week

It's not often we pick a 40-year-old photo as a winner but Robert E. Hall has shared a rather remarkable experience in his life and this is undoubtedly only one of dozens of photographic treasures in his copyrighted album. A PR mission to fly the flag (in the form of custom-painted A-4s) over every major national park must have been a great way to spend springtime in America in the bicentennial year of 1976. Thanks for sharing Robert.


Holding at the holding point Nelson, New Zealand, we were waiting for the cabin to be cleared before calling ready.
Tower: "Link XXX, are you ready?"
Link XXX: "Just waiting on the cabin."
Tower: "It's right behind you."

Justin Zangerl


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