From inflight entertainment systems, to cockpit instruments and wing lights, the aircraft electrical system is involved in some facet. Aircraft electrical systems are large, self-contained networks of components that power an aircraft. Let’s take a look at how these systems operate.
Electricity is produced by either generators or alternators. Typically, an Auxiliary Power Unit or Ram Air Turbine supply power to the generator. On average, generators output around 115-120V/400HZ AC 28V DC or 137 DC.
Depending on the aircraft requirements, power can be modified using transformers, rectifiers, or inverters. A Transformer is a device that allows AC voltage to be increased or decreased. Rectifiers convert AC to DC power; Inverters convert DC to AC. The more complex the aircraft, the more likely it will use a combination of AC and DC power and may require transformer rectifier units.
Distribution Buses are integral to the functionality of an electrical system, as they direct electricity to various components of the aircraft. Each unit has a circuit breaker so that the entire bus does not fuse. A benefit of busses is that a mechanic can pinpoint and isolate an electrical problem, rather than having if affect the entire electrical system.
A portion of the electricity produced by the generator is sent to the aircraft battery. The battery is used in aircraft start up or as a back-up power supply if the main system fails. A static inverter is included in the assembly In the event of a system failure, so the AC bus can be powered by the backup battery.
There are various gauges and systems in place to ensure that the electrical system is closely monitored for any irregularities. Circuit breakers are installed to cut off any malfunctioning areas from the rest of the system; reducing the risk of an all-out power failure. Inside the cockpit, the pilot has numerous warning systems that will flash or light up if there is a system problem detected. For example, there is an indicator for generator failure, which the pilot can instantly react to by referencing the aircraft manual. In accordance with FAA regulations, each electrical component must go through rigorous testing during maintenance checks. Once more, an aircraft must have additional components such as standby flight instruments illuminated aisles in the case of an emergency.
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