What Is an Aircraft Magneto?
Stan Lee, may he rest in peace, helped create the icon that is X-Men’s Magneto. The fictional character, created in 1963, shares the name of a magneto component, which has been in operation since 1903— suggesting that he may have based the character on this powerful electrical generator. Both Magnetos utilize the basic functioning principles of a magnetic field— let’s take a look at how a magneto component is put to work in aviation. Generally speaking, ignition systems need to generate high voltage in a small window of time, we’re talking around 20,000 volts in an instant.
How Aircraft Magneto Works?
A magneto is a simple and reliable way to generate power for a spark plug; it works very similarly to an electromagnet, but it achieves its magnetic field in a slightly different way. Electromagnets are used in various battery configurations. A coil of wire around an iron bar acts as the armature; and when current is applied to this coil, the coil creates a magnetic field within the armature. In the case of an electrical generator, a magnet is rotated past the armature to create electric current in the coil. Finally, a distributor carries the current to a spark plug.
Now, in the terms of aircraft magneto configuration, they provide power to fire aircraft spark plugs. Most aircraft will have a dual arrangement system. An ignition system separate from the electrical system of an aircraft is necessary in the event of alternator or battery failure. Aircraft magneto systems can consist of up to fifteen parts and fasteners, but there are five essential components: the armature, primary coil, secondary coil, electronic coil unit, and a pair of permanent magnets. The magneto assembly within piston engines and turbocharged engines differ to some degree.
In a piston engine, two magnetos operate on separate ignition systems. A piston aircraft has two aircraft spark plugs equipped per cylinder, and therefore will have a left and right aircraft magneto. The dual arrangement allows for more efficient combustion and ensures that the ignition will continue to spark despite a failure of one ignition system.
Turbocharged engines on the other hand, may require a specialized magneto in the event that a pressurized system is needed. In this case, the configuration must prevent incoming air from being ionized. To accomplish this, air flow from the turbocharged system can be diverted to the aircraft magnetos. A discrete opening is located at the bottom of the component, allowing a small amount of air leakage, and providing a constant flow of air to the generators.
The magnetic flux of a magneto electrical generator is extremely useful to aircraft ignition systems. They are a self-contained and independent system that are used time and time again due to their reliability, compact structure, and simple design.
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