How Are Insects Affecting Parked Aircraft Pitot Tubes?

aircraft at MRO
Annette Feasel/Ascent Aviation Services

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For parked aircraft, there is a potential and real issue related to static and pitot source contamination from insects. What inspection and maintenance is required to ensure air data sources are functioning properly as the COVID-19 pandemic eases and more aircraft are returned to service?

Lee Ann Shay, Aviation Week’s executive editor for MRO and business aviation, answers: 

For aircraft in long-term parking or storage, covering openings such as engines, pitot tubes and static ports is strongly recommended. Critters and bugs are not good for aircraft systems. Boeing has had reports of contamination in pitot tubes, so it requires installation of “covers on air data system components within the first 48 hr. of landing” when aircraft are entering storage. 

AerSale, which provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) and storage services in Goodyear, Arizona, and Roswell, New Mexico, says: “Proper protection of pitot probes and static ports are fundamental to an aircraft storage program.” The company installs covers when inducting aircraft into storage and says it regularly checks them throughout the period. 

Ascent Aviation Services, based in Marana, Arizona, says pitot and static system contamination is a concern—not just because of insects but also because of its desert environment. Ascent also covers all engines, pitot and static systems upon arrival. 

Before aircraft can return to service, aftermarket providers inspect all probes and ports to ensure they are not contaminated. “The systems that rely on air data are functionally and operationally tested before flight,” says AerSale. 

Boeing’s advice? “Most aircraft require a flushing at return to service, and others may have a conditional flushing” if foreign object damage or contamination is found, the company says.



Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.


Should this even be an issue? How are the tubes and ports put into storage?
The B-58 was capable of sustaining M2 for long distances, unlike other 1950s supersonics. A long range record setting formation flight, with mid-air refueling, was set up. One crew found a cigarette in a pitot. Then an auxiliary radar was out, a no-go they overrode, but halfway through the mission there was some other problem and they had to divert and land. Many years later the pilot mentioned this to the squadron commander at a reunion and was told that there was a lot of (betting) money riding on which crews came in ahead.