Can Your Aircraft Pumps Withstand the Pressure to Perform?
When it comes to the pumps that keep your plane airworthy, many pilots live by the motto, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Instead of routinely checking on their hydraulic, metering, vacuum, or fuel pumps, they run their aircraft until they’ve got a problem. And nine times out of 10, it’s an expensive one.
A well-maintained pump keeps a clean supply of air pressure, fuel, or fluid moving through your aircraft—ensuring peak equipment performance and preventing serious malfunctions. But these often-overlooked components can quickly become contaminated, worn down, or leaky without a bit of routine maintenance. And when your pumps crack under the pressure, you can have an expensive problem on your hands.
Why check your aircraft fuel pumps periodically?
While not all aircraft pumps have a specific service bulletin or airworthiness directive (AD) referring to inspection frequency, without attention and maintenance, these essential components can leak, stick, or go out with little notice.
When a small pump, like your vacuum pump, for example, begins to deteriorate, you may notice your instrument readings becoming less and less accurate. In this case, you have time to stop your flight and make a safe, relatively normal landing.
But say you have an electric fuel pump that hasn’t been inspected in a while. It has a small leak. You could have spotted the leak with a quick look under the hood, but you’re always eager to hop in and take off. And flight after flight, that small leak drips straight down into your motor.
When there’s no barrier to protect the motor from your pump leak, or if your barrier is compromised, that leak slowly washes out the lubricant on your front ball bearing. As the bearing tightens up, your motor seizes—and melts on the inside. Now you’ve got a serious problem under your hood.
Compared to a new motor that can run you $1,000+, pump repairs are cheap. So when you see a crack, contaminant, or leak, send it in!
3 Signs It’s Time For a Professional Pump Inspection
We get it—inspections and preventive maintenance aren’t exactly your favorite way to spend your time and money. But when it comes to your aircraft, an ounce of prevention can save you thousands in repairs—and weeks of waiting.
Here are three times when a little inspection can go a long way in preventing major aircraft issues:
- When you notice fluid weeping from the pump.Especially if it’s an aircraft fuel pump or hydraulic pump.If you see fuel or hydraulic fluid leaking from the drain holes, or notice your fluid levels dropping, it’s time to send your component in for an inspection and/or overhaul.Fuel or fluid in your aircraft can indicate you have a bad gasket, a loose seal, or a punctured or disconnected tube. In some cases, you may have a crack in the pipes that carry fluid around your aircraft, caused by the constant vibration around your system.
- If you’ve had fuel system work.Fuel pumps are incredibly reliable. But even the best pumps can fail when contaminants get into your fuel system.If you recently had your fuel system inspected or replaced an internal component, now is the time to have the system flushed and your pump checked. While your fuel screen should catch the contaminants before they reach your critical fuel pump, over time, the debris can disintegrate and make its way into your pump.To extend the long life of your fuel pump, inspect and clean your fuel screen annually and after any fuel system work—and have your pump checked anytime contaminants have been introduced into your system.
- You see dry rot, cracks, or other damage.If you can see signs of damage around any of your aircraft’s pump systems, including its fuel pump, aux pump, metering pump, scavenge pump, and vacuum pump, there’s a good chance that system isn’t operating properly.Even a small amount of damage can indicate a weakness in the pump’s seal or gasket—causing the system to lose pressure or fluid.In the best case, this damage can impact your aircraft’s efficiency, slowing your flight, increasing your fuel usage, and putting extra wear and tear on your other systems. But in the worst case, a little damage can compromise the safety of your entire aircraft.
Want to keep your aircraft operating at peak performance—and avoid costly repairs that could have been caught months ago?
Our advice: If it ain’t broke… inspect it!
Inspecting your aircraft fuel pumps may not be explicitly recommended in your aircraft’s manual, but if you’re not keeping an eye on these critical components, a small leak can quickly get out of hand. Especially when it comes to engine-driven and electric fuel pumps.
Remember, a few hundred dollars spent on an inspection and overhaul is always worth it when it prevents a $1,000+ motor repair or replacement—and weeks stuck on the ground!
At Aircraft Accessories of Oklahoma, we go above and beyond to get you back in the air, sooner.
When you call our friendly sales team, you get straight through to a real, live, helpful person. No automated menu, and no confusing recordings. Whether you’re ready to order a part, schedule an overhaul, or just need to troubleshoot an issue, we’re available Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm CST.
Our knowledgeable on-site sales team and experienced techs take every customer—and service request—seriously. It’s just another way we offer you the hands-on service of a mom-and-pop shop, with the vast inventory and expertise of a large-scale supplier.