What Are Aircraft Magnetos and How Do They Work?

Aircraft magnetos are devices used to generate an electrical current to be used in the ignition system. In short, they consist of a coil assembly and a magnet rotor which interact with each other to generate current. The coil assembly has a primary coil which is made up of about 200 turns of heavy copper wire wound around an iron core, and a secondary coil which is a thin copper wire that is wound around the primary coil. Next to the coils is a permanent magnet which rotates when activated. As the magnet rotates, its poles continually change position so that a flowing current is generated in the primary coil. This current creates a powerful magnetic field in the iron core which encapsulates the whole coil assembly.

In order to maintain the flow of current and maintain a magnetic field, the magneto is connected to a wire which transfers current into the ground. In order to create a spark, this wire is momentarily disconnected so that the electrical current is cut off, therefore collapsing the magnetic field and generating a huge voltage spike in the secondary coil. This high voltage current then leaves the secondary coil through a high voltage tab, and goes to the spark plug where it creates the spark required for ignition. In even the most basic aircraft, there is more than one spark plug with some having upwards of 36. As such, the high voltage spike must first enter a distributor which directs the electricity to various spark plugs in the right order.

Serving as a safeguard in the case of failure, most airplanes have two magnetos, usually with one on either side of the engine. Having two magnetos means that if one fails, the other can take over and keep the engine running. The dual magneto system also allows for a little bit of redundancy in the event that one magneto is not generating enough power. As another safety mechanism, each magneto is its own self-contained electrical generator which works completely separate from the plane’s electrical system. Therefore, in the event of electrical failure, the magneto system can still run, allowing the engine to stay in use.

As such an important component of the ignition system, one could wonder what happens if the magnetos fail mid-flight. With the dual-magneto system, an airplane can continue flying even if one magneto fails. However, it should be noted that the engine will run a bit rougher as it will only be receiving power from one source and firing in just half of its cylinders. Despite this reduced power, the aircraft will have adequate energy to maintain flight and safely land at its destination. If both magnetos fail, the engine will shut down and the airplane will lose all power. In order to avoid magneto failure, one should conduct regular inspections based on how often they fly. As with any other part on an aircraft, the magnetos will also need to be cleaned and lubricated on a regular basis, and the wiring should be evaluated to make sure it can effectively transfer current.

In conclusion, the dual magneto system is an essential tool of aircraft ignition which ensures that the plane has a dependable source to power its engine. For high quality, dependable aircraft parts such as those used in dual-magneto systems, Parts Needed Yesterday is here to assist you with all that you require. Our vast inventory of over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find components is available to customers through our easy-to-navigate website. More than that, when you source from Parts Needed Yesterday, you can trust in the durability and authenticity of our items; as an AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accredited enterprise, our parts and practices are subjected to strict quality standards that match the high expectations of our customers in the commercial, military, and private sectors. To begin the purchasing process today on any items of interest, we invite you to send us an Instant RFQ form on our website. In just 15 minutes or less of reviewing your request, a knowledgeable representative will reply with a competitive quote with time and cost savings.


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