Aircraft Hydraulics Overview

Attention: Welcome to our new aircraft hydraulics section! We hope you find this section we have put together informative and interesting. You may notice that some part numbers and so forth are blurred out. One reason we didn’t want to post full part numbers because it has taken us months of searches to get the information we have. It wouldn’t be fair to us to just give up our hard work and research. Not too many people know about this stuff and the ones that do don’t want to talk about it. We feel this is just the right amount of info so we don’t upset anyone on either side. The biggest reason for not giving out full part numbers is because we don’t need every lowrider to call up aircraft surplus places looking for things. Most warehouses don’t want to sell to lowriders and the ones that do are raising their prices beyond a reasonable amount because people are willing to pay to much for stuff the warehouse considers junk. Lets keep prices down and think about it before you offer a insane amount for a used pump that needs a rebuild. If you are going to track parts down don’t say that it is for a lowrider. Know what the full part number is, what aircraft it goes in, the proper name for the part and the function of that part. Take the time to research the surplus industry and know the lingo they use. Remember not to use lowrider lingo when talking with them because odds are they have a different term for the part you are looking for. With a little research and some luck you’ll be able to find what you need.

Aircraft Hydraulics have been in use since the first juiced cars in the 1950’s. These hydraulic systems come from various W.W.II era and later aircraft and were used to control everything from bomb doors, landing gear, and even braking systems. Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ today is one of the biggest airplane junkyards for the military. The location was chosen for its low humidity point that almost stops rusting and wear on components that are salvageable. Many old planes are at this location because of the strategic arms limitation treaty (SALT) with the Russians. The treated limited how many aircraft each nation could have. At DMAFB the planes are stripped of useful parts like hydraulics and the parts are sold to warehouses across the nation. Here’s some food for thought, a total of 744 B-52s were built currently as of 2006 a total of 85 are still in active force and 9 in reserve. If that is true then 650 of these planes have been scrapped. Think about how many check valves, filters, and useful solenoid valves you could have for your lowrider. Even if each plane had five useful solenoid valves that means 3,250 valves would have been put into surplus! Palley’s had already sold many of these parts that they could find and the government reused some too. A gold mine of parts is still waiting to be uncovered by a lucky person someday.

Over the years new surplus of these classic systems have just about ran out so the lift gate style pump has taken over the lowrider market. The pumps used in early lowriders came from older 30’s and 40’s aircraft. There still is plenty of used stuff out there for pumps. Aircraft pumps have a separate oil reservoir and the motor and external pump head make up the pump. Aircraft pumps and dumps operate mostly on 24 VDC. Two favorite pumps for lowriders using early aircraft hydraulic systems are from Pesco and Adel. Sometimes Stratopower pumps are used but they are a piston type pump. These piston type pumps may require special tools to work on them. Gear pumps have a 70%-80% efficiency and piston type pumps have a 90%-95% efficiency at pumping hydraulic fluid.

Palley Supply Co. was a leading supplier to early lowriders.

Palley Supply Co. was a leading supplier to early lowriders.

The Pesco pump by far is the most popular aircraft setup because of its reliability and simplicity. Pesco pumps have a simple two gear design. Pesco pumps are some times called “Roosters” or “Mini-Roosters” in lowrider circles because of the sound they make when in operation. The smaller Pesco 280 unit is a reliable unit and it has good pressure output and the Pesco 777 unit is lower pressure but it’s construction is a little less desirable than the 280. Both the Pesco 280 and the 777 are great pumps for lowriders.

It is recommended to run 1/2″ inch lines and fittings on Aircraft setups and large 2″ inch bore cylinders because the pumps are high volume low pressure.

You can see some W.W.II Pesco Pump ads and other parts here.


For dump valves the Adel square dump is a favorite amongst all lowriders. This valve is sometimes referred to as a hydraulic brake valve. The Adel valve was very strong and today it is even used on hoppers and car dancers with lift gate style setups. The Adex dump is a perfect copy of the original Adel dump. Another popular choice is the Hydro-Aire #6 and #8 valve. This should only be used on aircraft style pumps and not lift gate style pumps. They are only rated for low pressure systems and will crack, leak or explode on a lift gate style pump. When looking for a Hydro-Aire #8 get the valve with the pressure and return port the closest together. The ones with the ports further apart are more likely to crack and fail.

Pesco 777 pumps

Here is a pile of used Pesco 777 pumps. Pay the extra money for new surplus if you can get it.

When buying your parts remember NOS is most desired but expect to pay the most money. Be careful when buying used parts and make sure you look over the parts if possible. People in the lowriding community who collect aircraft parts tend to consider aircraft parts that were already used in cars less collectable. Polished parts like dumps also lose their valve to most collectors.

aircraft pumps

Here is one of our member’s collections of aircraft pumps.

Aircraft Pump Collection

This is a newer picture taken after some of the pumps had been cleaned up.

Aircraft Pump Collection

The collection again at a later date as it continued to grow.

Some dumps in the collection.

Some dumps in the collection.

Pesco Pumps Almost Finished

Some Pesco pumps set up and almost ready to go in a car.

Pesco Pumps Almost Finished-3

Some more of the aircraft collection.

Here are two Adel " Sidewinder " pumps with two Hydro-Aire #8 dumps.

Here are two Adel ” Sidewinder ” pumps with two Hydro-Aire #8 dumps.

Aircraft Pumps

Some aircraft pumps chrome plated.

Pesco Pump

A Pesco 280 ” Screaming Mimi” power pack.

Pump In Plane Diagram

Picking up repair manuals for aircraft with help you find parts your are looking for.

panel for aircraft hydraulics

Here is custom switch panel for aircraft hydraulics. The early lowriders used panels similar to this.

This Pesco is about ready to be installed in a lowrider.

This Pesco is about ready to be installed in a lowrider.

how to hook up a three port valve to your Pesco pump

Here is how to hook up a three port valve to your Pesco pump.

Here is a diagram showing a single aircraft pump hooked up for either front or rear lift of a car.

Here is a diagram showing a single aircraft pump hooked up for either front or rear lift of a car.

Presco Diagram

Here is a diagram showing a single aircraft pump hooked up with two Adel valves for front or rear lift of a car. One dump is used to select the fluid path to the front or rear cylinders and the other dump is used to dump the car.

More Information & Resources

Aircraft Part Sales:
Educational Info: