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In the first documented incident of its kind in Canada, a Skyjet Aviation flight hit a drone while on approach to Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City on Thursday. The aircraft suffered minor damage and no one was injured. Skyjet flies King Airs and Beech 1900s for charter and medevac. Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau was quick to condemn the incident, which appears to have violated a host of regulations aimed at preventing mishaps like this. He noted that drone violations are a major concern for the government and that to date there have been 1,596 drone incidents reported to Transport Canada.

“It was our concern for incidents like this that prompted me to take action and issue [measures] restricting where recreational drones could be flown,” Garneau said in a statement issued Sunday. “I would like to remind drone operators that endangering the safety of an aircraft is extremely dangerous and a serious offense. Anyone who violates the regulations could be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and/or prison.” He noted that all airports, helipads and seaplane bases are off-limits to drones.

Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya was crowned Red Bull Air Race World Champion after a wild series of races over the brickyard at stormy Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Although it looked like he’d been knocked out of the race by penalties in heats over two days of preliminaries, his fellow pilots didn’t fare any better in the gusty conditions and at the end of the day he emerged at the top of the heap in the points system used to determine the championship. Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic was second overall and Canada’s Pete McLeod was third.

Muroya’s experience through the season mirrored that of many of his competitors as the leadership changed with each race. “It was the tightest championship ever with the four of us close right up until the end,” Muroya said.  “We were behind at the start of the season, so it was the long way and the hard way, but we made it.” American pilots Kirby Chambliss and Mike Goulian placed fourth and ninth respectively in the finals standings.

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A Minnesota man is facing attempted murder charges after a Cessna Skywagon that overflew his property took a gunshot in the fuselage. The Pioneer Press reported the criminal complaint against Chad Lynndell Olson, 51, of Fertile in northwest Minnesota, which alleges the shot that hit the Skywagon on Oct. 7 was the latest in a series of shooting incidents by the man who told a witness he believed the aircraft flying over his home to the nearby airport are “engaged in terrorism.” The witness said he had seen Olson shoot at four planes and the accused told him he’d fired his 30-06 rifle at three others earlier this year.

In the Oct. 7 incident, the unidentified pilot told police he heard an unusual “twang” as he approached the Fertile Airport and discovered a bullet hole while washing the plane the next day. He told authorities the bullet came close to cables and pulleys and the damage will cost about $20,000 to fix. Olson appeared in court on Friday charged with second-degree attempted murder, one count of second-degree assault and two counts of criminal damage to property, and could face more than 20 years in prison.

Air France plans to ferry a damaged A380 back to France from Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador on three engines but before it can do that it has to install a new engine that won't be running. The aircraft lost the front section of its No. 4 engine, including the 10-foot fan, over Greenland on Sept. 30 and made an emergency landing at the Cold War-era air force base at Goose Bay, stranding 521 passengers and crew for 12 hours until two aircraft could be dispatched to pick them up. Besides the engine, the aircraft suffered pylon and wing damage and the combination has greatly complicated the effort to repatriate the Super Jumbo.

The wrecked engine will be removed and sent to Wales for inspection by the manufacturer Engine Alliance. For balance and aerodynamic stability a new engine will be installed but because of the other damage it can’t be hooked up and made operable. While there is plenty of power from the remaining engines for takeoff (Goose Bay has 11,000 feet available) the flight planning and crew training requirements for the ferry flight are extensive. We can’t verify the information supplied by Capt. Dave Wallsworth, a British Airways A380 captain, who maintains a regular Twitter feed about his job, but by his account, the rescue mission is a monumental effort. Read his assessment here.

It’s been 70 years since Chuck Yeager squeezed into the sharply tapered cockpit of the Bell X-1 rocket plane and cracked a physical and psychological barrier that busted aircraft development wide open. After dropping from a B-29, Yeager reached Mach 1.06, causing what sounded like distant thunder to the crew on the ground. Then he did a victory roll and while supersonic flight is a daily experience for military pilots all over the world, it’s eluded widespread commercial success.

Building supersonic transports is not really a technical issue, but more a political one. After 70 years, researchers are still trying to figure out how to stop or lessen the thunder from the sonic boom so that governments will allow them to fly over land. Spike Aerospace flew a scale model of its proposed S-512 $60 million 22-seat Quiet Supersonic Jet in New England last week and says it will have a socially acceptable prototype flying by 2021. Aerion continues to promise an aircraft half that size at twice the price but hasn’t flown anything yet.

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Cal Fire, California’s forest management and fire protection authority, is battling the worst wildfire outbreak in California’s history with the biggest air tanker in the world. Cal Fire’s dedicated air tanker fleet includes 23 Grumman S-2Ts, stationed at 13 air attack bases around the state. According to Cal Fire’s Chief of Flight Operations, Dennis Brown, the Grummans are capable of getting off the ground in five minutes and on station within 20 minutes, but they have a maximum capacity 1,200 gallons, limiting their ability to fight the largest blazes. When only the biggest tanker will do, Cal Fire calls out Air Tanker 944, the Spirit of John Muir.

The converted Boeing 747-400, operated by Global SuperTanker Services, is capable of dropping 19,200 gallons of water, fire retardant or fire suppressant solution per flight. Cal Fire’s Deputy Director, Janet Upton, told the San Bernardino Sun the plane isn’t cheap: “Whether they fly or not, if we call them, it’s going to cost a minimum of $165,000 for three days. Once they fly it will cost $16,500 per flight hour.” Global SuperTanker maintains that their 747 is, for many operations, the cheapest air tanker per gallon dropped with an operational cost comparable to the much smaller C-130. Outfitted with 14 first-class seats and two bunks, Air Tanker 944 can fly from its home base in Colorado Springs, with pilots and staff, to anywhere in North America within 4.5 hours of callout, and drop its full 19,200-gallon load en route to the forward staging base.

The wildfires raging across the Northern California wine country have killed more than 30 people, destroyed thousands of homes and burned nearly 200,000 acres. The San Jose Mercury News reports that a series of electrical problems were called in by residents across Sonoma County in the hours before the fires started, suggesting trees knocked down into power lines by record-strength winds may have sparked the first outbreaks. 

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Some years ago I had an engine stoppage in a Piper Aztec. It was during climbout, shortly after I had shut off the aux pumps. Yes, I had shut them off one at a time. I turned the pumps back on and the affected engine restarted. A bit of troubleshooting revealed that the left engine would stop running a few seconds after I shut off its aux pump, so I terminated the flight, assuming that the engine-driven pump had chosen to take the day off.

I was flying from a controlled field so I called ATC and said I was returning because of an engine problem. They asked if I wanted the trucks. Figuring that I wasn’t a perfect diagnostician of equipment problems, I said yes—it’s better to have them and not need them than the converse. On landing rollout, the left engine quit and wouldn’t restart. Stupidly, I taxied to the FBO on the right engine, a fire truck following uselessly. As I shut down the right engine, the chief mechanic came hustling up and told me in a loud voice that there was fuel dripping from the left nacelle.

The problem wasn’t the engine-driven fuel pump; it was a cracked fuel line. It was then that I started learning that aircraft fuel pumps, whether engine driven or electrically powered, rarely fail.

As I researched this article, the reliability of aircraft fuel pumps, as compared to other components on our airplanes, was pointed out to me by every mechanic and overhaul technician I spoke with. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise—pumps for moving liquids have been around for centuries, so one would expect the design and manufacture of such relatively simple devices to have been sorted out.

While most engine-driven fuel pumps are rotary pumps, just like vacuum pumps, the vanes are metal, rather than graphite, so there’s no expectation that they will come to pieces every 800 hours or so. Diaphragm fuel pumps are equally reliable.

While doing my homework, I also found that it’s much more common for a pilot to have an engine stoppage because he or she does not know the aircraft’s fuel system or misuses the boost/aux pump than because a pump fails. Where turning on the electrically-driven fuel pump as a backup for the engine-driven pump is part of the pre-landing checklist on a Piper Arrow, doing so on a Bonanza will almost certainly probably flood the engine, causing a stoppage.

What Pump?

Whether you have to even be concerned about fuel pumps depends on the type of airplane you fly. The whole idea behind a fuel pump is to either get fuel to the engine or transfer fuel among tanks in the airplane. If you can’t transfer fuel among tanks in your airplane and it has a high wing and a carbureted engine, there’s no fuel pump—gravity gets the fuel to the engine. The fixed-gear Cessna Cardinal is an exception due to its wing/engine geometry and FAA certification requirements.

If you are flying a low-wing airplane or one with a fuel-injected engine, it will have an engine-driven fuel pump and a boost or aux pump. (I’ll use aux and boost interchangeably.) If the engine is carbureted, the aux pump is a backup should the engine-driven pump fail. If the engine is fuel injected, the aux pump is a backup and is also used to prime the engine for starting.

Per its name, an engine-driven fuel pump is attached to the engine and driven off the accessory case. A boost pump is electrically driven.

Depending on the airplane, it may not be possible to start the engine if the aux pump has failed. Some may start without priming, and most twin Cessnas can use the aux pump for the other engine with the fuel selector in crossfeed to prime the engine with the dead aux pump. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend against flying an airplane with an inoperative aux pump—plus, it’s in violation of the FARs. And—Murphy’s law as applied to aviation means that you’re bound to have the associated engine-driven fuel pump pick that flight to slip its mortal coil.

Longevity

We were told by users, maintenance shops and overhaul facilities that engine-driven and aux pumps routinely last to engine TBO. The manufacturers call for overhaul at engine TBO or at a calendar-year interval, most commonly 10 to 12 years.

The enemy of all fuel pumps is debris. According to Mark Mercer, chief inspector at Quality Aircraft Accessories, a major overhauler of fuel pumps, the failures he most often sees are due to debris that got into the fuel system when it was opened up to inspect or replace a component. He advised that any time the fuel system is opened up that it be flushed out before the aircraft is returned to service. That recommendation was echoed by Scott Utz, president of Arapahoe Aero at Denver’s Centennial Airport. He also said that the fuel screen should be inspected and cleaned at every annual. Debris that has been caught by the screen can eventually fragment and work its way through and into a pump.

In addition to the good news that fuel pumps have a good record for longevity, they also don’t require preventive maintenance. What they do require is looking at them on a regular basis to check for leaks.

If a seal or gasket wears out, it will probably lead to a leak—something not to be trifled with. Pull the pump and overhaul or replace it.

Many electric boost pumps are mounted somewhere between the fuel tanks and firewall. For instance, on a Beech Baron the boost pumps are in the wings; in a Cessna 210, the boost pump is just aft of the firewall, under the floorboards.

Boost pumps are made up of an electric motor, a pump and a space in between. If a seal or gasket wears out, the fuel is likely to leak into the space built to separate the fuel containing part from the electric motor. That space has a drain—and it may have a tube that carries through the aircraft’s skin so that it can drain the fuel safely overboard. Know where the boost pump(s) is on your airplane and where you would expect to see fuel if there is a leak.

Scott Utz told us that there are two symptoms of a boost pump starting to wear out that a pilot can detect. When priming the engine, a pilot usually looks at the fuel flow or pressure gauge and holds the prime switch until the pressure/fuel flow reaches a certain level. If the pump won’t generate that pressure, or it starts taking a longer time to do so, it’s a warning that the pump is getting tired. Similarly, if the sound of the pump changes, especially if there’s an unusual screech, a bearing may be going.

More and more owners are replacing or overhauling components on condition rather than at some set time in service. Mike Busch, maintenance technician and proprietor of Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management, is an outspoken proponent of on condition maintenance. In talking with him for this article, he was quick to caution that if an owner is going to go to on condition maintenance for fuel pumps, he or she has to pay close attention to their condition. “They cannot ignore an odor of fuel when priming the engine. That’s a condition and it means taking action.”

Scott Utz warned us that if you experience a problem with the fuel system beyond a leaking fuel pump, take some time to troubleshoot the problem. He cautioned that it’s especially important on the Lycoming fuel injection system, as the engine-driven fuel pump and fuel servo are dependent on one another and a problem with one can manifest itself in the other. The fuel servo is expensive to work on—don’t assume it’s the problem. The issue may be with the fuel pump.

Debris in the fuel system may cause a properly working fuel pump to become your enemy. I had an engine quit on a Cessna 310 going through 60 knots on takeoff. After I got the airplane stopped, taxied in and complained, it was found that debris in the vapor return line from the engine-driven fuel pump blocked the flow of excess fuel and vapor from the pump back to the fuel tank. The pump was doing its thing just fine, but the blockage caused too much fuel to go to the engine, flooding and stopping it.

When It’s Time

So the improbable has happened—your engine-driven fuel pump has a slow leak. You’ve had your A & P look at it and she’s told you in no uncertain terms not to fly the airplane. What are your options to get back into the air?

You can buy a new pump, buy an overhauled pump or send the broken one out for overhaul. For engine-driven fuel pumps, the price differential between new, overhaul-exchange and overhaul is often low, sometimes only a few hundred dollars. Your choices for a new pump will be limited to the manufacturer of the pump installed by the manufacturer of the airplane and approved as original equipment or another pump manufacturer that has received a PMA or STC for its pump on your type airplane. That means a little homework on your part and price shopping.

There are several specialized shops approved to overhaul fuel pumps and suppliers such as Aircraft Spruce that sell new and overhaul exchange pumps. Most manufacturers, suppliers and overhaulers will get a new or overhaul exchange pump to you overnight—plan on returning your pump for core credit.

For boost pumps, the choice between overhaul and new is easy—there’s a big price delta, so plan on buying an overhaul exchange unit if you’re in a hurry or having your pump overhauled if you’re not. Again, do a little price and manufacturer shopping as there may be more than one pump approved for your airplane and the price for overhauled units may vary significantly between types of pumps.

Trying to keep track of how many companies manufacture fuel pumps isn’t easy. The rule of thumb is that the company that made the fuel pumps in your airplane will either still be in existence in some form (it may have a new name through merger or acquisition) or there is an overhaul shop that has approval to overhaul it.

If you want the lowest price and it’s okay for your airplane to be parked for about a week or so, you can send your pump out for overhaul by one of the specialized shops. Mark Mercer said that his company, Quality Aircraft Accessories, turns pumps in three to five business days. A & Ps we spoke with said that turn-around time was consistent with their experience.

According to overhaulers and mechanics, an overhauled pump is essentially as good as new because all parts subject to wear are replaced. Following overhaul, each pump is flow tested and set to meet the manufacturer’s flow specs. Nevertheless, the flow will have to be fine tuned to match the particular fuel system quirks and condition once the pump is on the airplane.

Conclusion

Both engine-driven and electric fuel pumps have a good record for reliability and need no preventive maintenance other than to keep debris out of the fuel system. If you are going to ignore the manufacturer’s recommendation on replacement/overhaul interval, then pay attention to warning signs that a pump is wearing out. If it’s leaking, don’t fly the airplane.

Rick Durden holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation 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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If I were an airplane salesman, I would starve to death. Airplanes that I think have no prayer of selling fly out of the factory almost faster than they can be produced. One of these was Diamond’s DA42, which I thought was a long shot. The DA62, one of the best GA airplanes ever, in my view, is also selling briskly, despite a price point well north of $1 million.

On the other hand, considering the price of new airplanes, I thought that with retrofit avionics matching the capability of new stuff, refurbing or remanufacturing older airplanes to new standards would be a can’t-miss industry. Well, not exactly. Several remanufacture projects are established with varying degrees of success, but there’s nothing like the volume I figured would materialize.

The latest of these projects is from Premier Aircraft, a well-known brokerage and mod house in Fort Lauderdale. They’re doing a spinner-to-tail remanufacture of the Piper Dakota and I flew the first one on Friday. I’ll have a full video report on it in a few days. The Premier Edition Dakota is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s an older airframe stripped to bare metal, painted, fixed and tarted up with the latest in avionics, plus a new leather interior, so it smells new. It doesn’t have Garmin’s G1000 NXi, but the G500 Premier offers functionally similar capability. Prices of this vary with avionics and options selected, but range between $259,000 and $329,000. Premier’s Barry Rutheiser told me Friday that the company has gotten a lot of nibbles on this project.  

The Dakota is an interesting choice. When Piper launched it, it replaced the 180-HP four-cylinder Lycoming in the Cherokee with a six-cylinder O-540, boosting the power from 180 to 235 HP. The result is 1100 to 1200 pounds of useful and a cruise speed of up to 140 knots. For owners who want to haul a lot of stuff and want a low wing to do it, the Dakota is a perfect fit. It’s also a niche. Piper built some 32,000 Cherokees of various types, but fewer than 3000 are the PA-28-235/236 that constitute the six-cylinder line.

So far, other remanufacture products haven’t hit impressive strides. Premier did a Skyhawk with the Continental diesel conversion and found little traction. Redbird did better with its Redhawk conversion, the same basic idea, but they now won’t say how many they’ve sold. My guess is around 20. Africair, another Florida company, has converted about 60 Skyhawks to diesel, but they’ve been at it for more than 10 years, so that’s an airplane every couple of months. Yingling Aviation did a nice job on its remanufacture of the Skyhawk called the Ascend 172. Sales have been sluggish.

If I knew why, I wouldn’t be a candidate for becoming a starving airplane salesman. These airplanes are typically priced at about $250,000 or $150,000 less than a new version. Even though I’ve always felt this to be a good value against new, maybe the price delta isn’t enough. Maybe it needs to be half the price of new or maybe the people selling these need to have Kenny Ditchter’s view of where value resides in airplanes. Or maybe they’re worried about or don’t understand how paying two-thirds the price of new for an airplane that’s 30 years old will depreciate or how banks will loan on it. Maybe “nearly new” just isn’t quite good enough as actually new.

Or maybe no one has hit the sweet spot of asking price against some unique capability or performance. New, used or remanufactured, a Skyhawk is just a Skyhawk and Cessna is still building them. But Piper isn’t building Dakotas and if they did, they would probably cost every bit of $500,000, if not nearer to $600,000.

We’ll see how Premier makes out with its Dakota project. With a few minor exceptions, it presents as new. If I liked low wings and needed to fill the seats and the tanks, I’d certainly give it a serious look.    

Got a Blog in You?

As most of you know, this blog casts a vast and influential shadow over general aviation, if not the western world in its entirety. I’m often told that hardly an executive in general aviation starts the day without consulting the penetrating and insightful analysis found on these pages and fortunes have been won and lost by heeding or ignoring its advice. I’m pretty sure none of this has to do with the psychotropic medications I’m on.

Nonetheless, in the coming weeks, you’ll see more voices writing in this space as other staffers contribute their own analysis of events in aviation. I’ll continue to lend a hand from time to time. We’ll also be opening the pages up to guest blogs, so if you have your own commentary or analysis, fire off a message to the newsteam and let us know what you have in mind. We’ll get back to you.

Two years ago, GE's Business and General Aviation group announced a clean-sheet engine called the Advanced Turboprop or ATP. The engine will run later this year and GE is already building the manufacturing technology. In this AVweb video shot at NBAA-BACE 2017, GE's Paul Corkery explains how many of the engine's major components will be laser printed, potentially radically resetting manufacturing economics. 

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Thanks to Daniel Valovich for this great shot of a Pitts. We're getting great pictures but some of the descriptions leave a lot to be desired. Set the scene for our readers. Tell us the type of plane, name of the pilot, if you know, where the photo was taken and what was going on at the time. You'll have a much better chance of getting your photo published.

It was Saturday afternoon some years ago at our mid-sized, midwestern airport.  Things were hopping; Air Guard jets were shooting landings on the long runway, airliners were arriving and departing, two or three aircraft were in the pattern practicing, transients were coming and going, and then there was my friend and me in a 1945 65-HP J-3 Cub doing touch and goes. After four landings, blissfully unaware of the consternation our extremely slow speed was causing, we asked the tower on our handheld radio, 

Us: "Cub 843 would like a right turn out of the pattern."
Controller (exasperated): "Right turn, left turn or straight out approved. I don't care.  Just please, please get out of my way!"


James Hartley

 

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