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ABC 'Primetime' to air story critical of GA vacuum pumpsABC 'Primetime' to air story critical of GA vacuum pumps

ABC's Primetime news magazine is scheduled to air a story Thursday night about "why unsuspecting pilots and passengers can be in danger in single-engine airplanes." Many AOPA members have seen the "promos" for the story that may seem like an attack on general aviation. The story will focus on vacuum pump failures. AOPA has been talking with ABC since July to make sure the reporter had accurate information about general aviation.

ABC had scheduled an on-camera interview with AOPA President Phil Boyer but canceled it because of the interview with Congressman Gary Condit.

"I was even willing to rearrange my vacation to do the interview," said Boyer. "AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation are the top authorities on general aviation safety. I'm disappointed that ABC didn't grant us the opportunity to explain the issue on camera to the American public."

AOPA did explain to the Primetime story producer that instrument-rated pilots are trained to handle a vacuum pump failure. All aircraft certificated for IFR flight have redundant instrumentation, so that even if a vacuum pump fails, the pilot still has enough information to maintain safe flight. AOPA explained "partial panel" flying and pointed out that instrument pilots must prove their proficiency flying partial panel as part of an instrument proficiency check (IPC).

AOPA also told ABC that:

  • Ninety percent of general aviation flights are flown in visual meteorological conditions, where a pump failure is not an issue at all.
  • Vacuum pump failures do not cause many accidents, only two or three a year.
  • AOPA and ASF do encourage the use of backup vacuum systems (or an independently powered secondary attitude indicator) in aircraft routinely flown in instrument conditions, but do not support any regulations that would require such systems for the vast majority of GA pilots who aren't flying in difficult weather conditions.

"We can only hope that ABC will use the facts and figures we gave them to produce a fair and balanced story," said Boyer.


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