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Most modern aircraft rely on the combustion of fuel-and-air mixtures to produce the necessary power for heavier-than-air flight, and this is done by igniting mixtures within pistons or a combustion chamber. Spark plugs are often utilized to deliver the energy needed for igniting fuel-and-air mixtures, and they owe their firing capability to magnetos. While magnetos are a technology that has served aviation for over a century, they remain reliable for aircraft operations but require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure proper functionality.
In general, magnetos are a type of self-contained high-voltage generator that is able to generate the necessary electrical power for a spark plug to fire. Magnetos offer sufficient power at the right time, allowing for proper ignition to be upheld. For their operations, magnetos rely on a rotating magnet that is capable of producing an electrical current within a wire coil. By wrapping another wire coil around the primary coil, turns are increased to bolster voltage. With around 20,000 to 30,000 volts produced, the spark plug can then be provided with sufficient energy for igniting mixtures.
The permanent magnet of the magneto is often referred to as a rotor, and the rotor revolves with the use of a drive that is implemented within the aircraft engine accessory case. For a 4-cylinder engine, the rotor will be rotated at the same RPM as the engine. For 6-cylinder engines, on the other hand, the rotor will reach a speed that is 1.5 times the speed of the engine motor. While the magnet is capable of retaining its magnetic properties for years at a time, they can be re-magnetized as needed when the magneto is opened up for repair and overhaul procedures.
As the magneto rotor begins to exhibit diminished magnetic properties, the amount of electric current that is generated during its rotation will also decrease. As a result, the magneto will provide a less effective spark and have low engine power loss. To avoid losing performance during flight operations, it is highly recommended that a magneto is inspected on a 500 service hour interval. When this time comes, the magneto should be replaced as required.
While a magneto will typically be inspected during the pre-takeoff engine run-up process, this check will only determine whether or not there are gross issues present within the ignition system. Generally, one can see if there is an RPM drop or maximum RPM drop that is outside of manufacturer specifications, and such issues will denote whether or not the aircraft is safe for flight. For more subtle issues, the magneto should be inspected during flight to see if the magneto meets necessary performance standards under stress. With a digital engine monitor, many problems can be caught well before they become a hazard.
If maintenance is required for any reason, the magnetos should be maintained and repaired as per manufacturer recommendations. This is crucial to ensure proper functionality and aircraft engine safety when conducting such procedures. When you are ready to begin procuring various parts for maintenance and repair, look no further than ASAP Aero Supplies.
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