An Overview of Aircraft Generators

Generators are devices that are paramount to the operation of many aircraft, ensuring that the electrical system is provided with sufficient power for every electronic device onboard. Generators are also used for the charging of the aircraft battery, thus guaranteeing power during the startup phase of the aircraft as well as in emergency situations such as a generator failure. With the important role that generators serve for the proper functionality of the aircraft electrical system, it is crucial that aircraft owners understand how they operate.

For a standard generator to produce power, it utilizes a rotating coil and a stationary permanent magnet in order to produce a magnetic field. As the coil rotates within the field, two slip rings serve for capturing AC voltage. With the use of a commutator, the AC voltage is corrected to be the same polarity and is rectified into DC power for the use of the aircraft DC system. Due to the method of operations that generator aviation parts undertake for power generation, they require a high engine RPM in order to properly function.

Aircraft generators are often compared to alternator equipment as they are the alternative of generators for aircraft applications. With alternators, a rotating magnetic field and a stationary coil are used for energy production. With high performance during low engine RPM and their lightweight design, an alternator is a very useful alternative for engine power. Despite this, alternators rely on the aircraft battery for their functionality, and thus cannot be used when the battery is dead. As such, electrical generators and generator sets can be more beneficial or safe in the eyes of certain users.

A starter generator is a special generator type that is often used within gas turbine aircraft, and they are a type that initially serves as a starter and then becomes a generator after. A starter is a component that may be found in equipment ranging from lawn mowers to aircraft engines, and they are used to generate the initial ignition of a vehicle. With starter engines, the device is permanently engaged with the engine shaft through the use of drive gears, and they produce a strong enough field and torque value to start the aircraft engine. Once the engine has started, the starter generator will utilize some means for disengaging the starter from the shaft. At that point, the generator will then act as a standard generator throughout the remainder of the flight for electricity production.

Just as is with many other equipment pieces and systems, generators can face problems that may need to be troubleshooted during a flight in rare cases. Whenever the engine is unable to rotate during the start attempt, starts but cannot accelerate to idle, or fails to start when the throttle is placed in idle, there may be various starter generator issues that need to be resolved. In such instances, there are various isolation procedures and remedies that can be undertaken depending on the issue and probable cause. Whenever a generator has an issue that raises concerns, one should not operate the aircraft until the generator can be inspected, maintained, repaired, or replaced as necessary.


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