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ATPL

Electronics
© Atlantic Flight Training

All rights reserved. No part of this manual may be reproduced or transmitted in any
forms by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or
by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from Atlantic
Flight Training in writing.

ATPL Electronics ii 24 October 2003


CHAPTER 1.

Basic DC Terminology
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 1-1
The Electrical Circuit........................................................................................................................ 1-1
Current (I) ........................................................................................................................................ 1-2
Electromotive Force (EMF).............................................................................................................. 1-2
Potential Difference (PD) ................................................................................................................. 1-2
Voltage (V)....................................................................................................................................... 1-2
Resistance (R) ................................................................................................................................. 1-3
Connecting Resistances in Series or Parallel in a DC Circuit .......................................................... 1-3
Ohms Law ....................................................................................................................................... 1-5
Loads............................................................................................................................................... 1-5
Kirchhoff’s Laws .............................................................................................................................. 1-5
Electrical Power (P) ......................................................................................................................... 1-6
Electrical Work................................................................................................................................. 1-6
Electrical Unit Prefixes..................................................................................................................... 1-6
Typical Circuit Symbols ................................................................................................................... 1-7

CHAPTER 2.

Electrical Components
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 2-1
Electrical Systems ........................................................................................................................... 2-1
Electrical Circuit Faults .................................................................................................................... 2-2
Busbars ........................................................................................................................................... 2-3
Protection Devices........................................................................................................................... 2-3
Reverse Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB) ........................................................................................ 2-5
Switches .......................................................................................................................................... 2-5
Electrical Generator ......................................................................................................................... 2-9
Electrical Alternator ......................................................................................................................... 2-9
Electrical Motor................................................................................................................................ 2-9

CHAPTER 3.

Aircraft Batteries
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 3-1
Lead Acid Battery ............................................................................................................................ 3-2
Alkaline Battery (Nickel-Cadmium) .................................................................................................. 3-3
Battery Venting ................................................................................................................................ 3-4
Electrolyte Spillage .......................................................................................................................... 3-5
Battery Capacity .............................................................................................................................. 3-5
Battery Charging.............................................................................................................................. 3-6
Thermal Runaway ........................................................................................................................... 3-6
Battery State of Charge ................................................................................................................... 3-6
Battery Condition Check .................................................................................................................. 3-6
Emergency Use ............................................................................................................................... 3-7
Connection of Batteries ................................................................................................................... 3-7
Spare Batteries................................................................................................................................ 3-8
Battery Compartment Inspection ..................................................................................................... 3-8

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CHAPTER 4.

Magnetism
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 4-1
Fundamental Laws of Magnetism.................................................................................................... 4-2
Classification of Magnetic Materials ................................................................................................ 4-5
Magnetic Flux .................................................................................................................................. 4-6
Flux Density..................................................................................................................................... 4-6
Reluctance....................................................................................................................................... 4-6
Permeability..................................................................................................................................... 4-6
Hysteresis........................................................................................................................................ 4-6
Saturation ........................................................................................................................................ 4-7
Magnetism Produced by Current Flow............................................................................................. 4-7
The Electromagnet ........................................................................................................................ 4-10
The Relay ...................................................................................................................................... 4-12
Electromagnetic Induction ............................................................................................................. 4-13

CHAPTER 5.

DC Generator Systems
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 5-1
Basic Generator Theory................................................................................................................... 5-1
Simple AC Generator....................................................................................................................... 5-1
Conversion of AC to DC .................................................................................................................. 5-2
DC Generator System Architecture ................................................................................................. 5-4
DC Generator Construction ............................................................................................................. 5-4
Principle of Operation of a DC Generator ........................................................................................ 5-5
Types of DC Generator.................................................................................................................... 5-5
Voltage Regulator ............................................................................................................................ 5-7
Cut-out............................................................................................................................................. 5-8
Reverse Current Circuit Breaker...................................................................................................... 5-9
Busbars ........................................................................................................................................... 5-9
Power Failure Warning .................................................................................................................. 5-10
Ground Power ............................................................................................................................... 5-10
DC Generator System Fault Protection ......................................................................................... 5-11
Twin Engine DC Electrical System ................................................................................................ 5-11
Operation of DC Generators in Parallel ......................................................................................... 5-12
DC Load Sharing ........................................................................................................................... 5-13
Operation of an Equalising Circuit ................................................................................................. 5-13
Single Engine Aeroplane DC Electrical System............................................................................. 5-14
Operation of the Alternator ............................................................................................................ 5-15

CHAPTER 6.

DC Motors
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 6-1
The Motor Principle.......................................................................................................................... 6-1
DC Motors ....................................................................................................................................... 6-2
Back EMF ........................................................................................................................................ 6-3
Direction of Rotation ........................................................................................................................ 6-4
Motor Speed Control........................................................................................................................ 6-4
Types of DC Motor........................................................................................................................... 6-5
Actuators ......................................................................................................................................... 6-7
Split-Field Series Motor ................................................................................................................... 6-8
Electromagnetic Brakes................................................................................................................... 6-9
Clutches......................................................................................................................................... 6-10
Instrument Motors.......................................................................................................................... 6-10
Architecture of a Starter/Generator System................................................................................... 6-10
Operation of a Starter/Generator System ...................................................................................... 6-11

ATPL Electronics iv 24 October 2003


Inverters......................................................................................................................................... 6-13
Multiple Inverter Installations ......................................................................................................... 6-14

CHAPTER 7.

Inductance and Capacitance


Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 7-1
Inductance ....................................................................................................................................... 7-1
Self Induction................................................................................................................................... 7-2
Inductors.......................................................................................................................................... 7-2
Time Constant of an Inductor .......................................................................................................... 7-3
Inductors in Series and Parallel ....................................................................................................... 7-4
Capacitance..................................................................................................................................... 7-5
Factors Affecting Capacitance......................................................................................................... 7-5
Types of Capacitor........................................................................................................................... 7-5
The Charging of a Capacitor............................................................................................................ 7-6
Discharging of a Capacitor .............................................................................................................. 7-8
The Time Constant of a Capacitor ................................................................................................... 7-8
Capacitors in Series and Parallel in a DC Circuit............................................................................. 7-8

CHAPTER 8.

Basic AC Theory
Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 8-1
Advantages of AC over DC.............................................................................................................. 8-1
Generating AC................................................................................................................................. 8-1
Simple AC Generator....................................................................................................................... 8-2
AC Terminology ............................................................................................................................... 8-3
Relationship Between Radians and Degrees .................................................................................. 8-5
Phase and Phase Angle .................................................................................................................. 8-5
Phasor Representation .................................................................................................................... 8-6

CHAPTER 9.

Single Phase AC Circuits


Introduction...................................................................................................................................... 9-1
The Effect of AC on a Purely Resistive Circuit................................................................................. 9-1
Power in an Ac Resistive Circuit ...................................................................................................... 9-1
The Effect of Ac on a Purely Inductive Circuit.................................................................................. 9-2
Power in an AC Inductive Circuit ..................................................................................................... 9-2
Inductive Reactance (Xl).................................................................................................................. 9-3
The Effect of Ac on a Purely Capacitive Circuit ............................................................................... 9-3
Power in an AC Capacitive Circuit ................................................................................................... 9-4
Capacitive Reactance (Capacitors Ac Resistance) ......................................................................... 9-5
Relationship Between Voltage and Current in Capacitive and Inductive AC Circuits ...................... 9-5
Resistive and Inductive (RL) Series AC Circuit................................................................................ 9-5
Resistive and Capacitive (RC) Series AC Circuit............................................................................. 9-6
Phase Shift ...................................................................................................................................... 9-6
Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Series AC Circuits......................................................... 9-6
Impedance (Z) in a Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Series AC Circuit ........................... 9-7
Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Parallel AC Circuit......................................................... 9-7
Impedance (Z) in a Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Parallel AC Circuit.......................... 9-7
Power in a Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) AC Circuit.................................................... 9-8
Power Factor ................................................................................................................................... 9-8
AC Series Circuit Example ............................................................................................................ 9-10
AC Parallel Circuit Example........................................................................................................... 9-11

ATPL Electronics v ©Atlantic Flight Training


CHAPTER 10.

Resonant AC Circuits
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 10-1
Series Resonant Circuit ................................................................................................................. 10-1
Q Factor in a Series Resonant Circuit ........................................................................................... 10-3
Parallel Resonant Circuit (Tank Circuit)......................................................................................... 10-3
Q Factor in a Parallel Resonant Circuit.......................................................................................... 10-5
Self Resonance of Coils ................................................................................................................ 10-5
Use of Resonant Circuits ............................................................................................................... 10-5
Tuning Circuits............................................................................................................................... 10-6

CHAPTER 11.

Transformers
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 11-1
Construction and Operation........................................................................................................... 11-1
Types of Transformers................................................................................................................... 11-2
Transformer Rectifier Units............................................................................................................ 11-5

CHAPTER 12.

AC Power Generation
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 12-1
Simple Three Phase Generator ..................................................................................................... 12-1
Star Connection............................................................................................................................. 12-2
Delta Connection ........................................................................................................................... 12-3
Advantages of Three Phase over Single Phase AC Generators ................................................... 12-3
Voltage and Frequency of AC Generators..................................................................................... 12-3
Phase Rotation .............................................................................................................................. 12-4
Faults on Three-Phase AC Generators ......................................................................................... 12-4
Generator Real and Reactive Load Sharing .................................................................................. 12-5
Types of AC Generator.................................................................................................................. 12-5
Brushless Three Phase AC Generator .......................................................................................... 12-7
Constant Speed Drive Unit ............................................................................................................ 12-8
Operation of the Hydro-Mechanical CSDU .................................................................................. 12-10
Protection of the Hydro-Mechanical CSDU.................................................................................. 12-11
Integrated Drive Generator .......................................................................................................... 12-12
Variable Speed Constant Frequency Power Systems ................................................................. 12-13
Auxiliary Power Unit..................................................................................................................... 12-13
Emergency Ram Air Turbine ....................................................................................................... 12-14

CHAPTER 13.

AC Power Generation Systems


Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 13-1
Piston-Engine Frequency Wild AC System Architecture................................................................ 13-1
Operation of a Piston-Engine Frequency Wild AC System ............................................................ 13-1
Fault Protection in a Piston-Engine Frequency Wild AC System................................................... 13-2
Twin-Engine Turbo-Propeller Frequency Wild AC System Architecture ........................................ 13-2
Operation of a Twin-Engine Turbo-Propeller Frequency Wild AC System..................................... 13-3
Fault Protection in a Twin-Engine Turbo-Propeller Frequency Wild AC System ........................... 13-4
The Constant Frequency Split Busbar AC System ........................................................................ 13-5
Operation of a Constant Frequency Split Busbar AC System........................................................ 13-5
Regulation and Protection of Constant Frequency Units ............................................................... 13-6
Faults on a Constant Frequency Split Busbar AC Generator System ........................................... 13-6
Emergency Supplies...................................................................................................................... 13-7
Battery Charger ............................................................................................................................. 13-8

ATPL Electronics vi 24 October 2003


Battery Power ................................................................................................................................ 13-8
Ground Handling Bus .................................................................................................................... 13-8
Constant Frequency Parallel AC System....................................................................................... 13-8
Operation of a Constant Frequency Parallel AC System ............................................................... 13-9
Reactive Load Sharing ................................................................................................................ 13-11
Real Load Sharing ....................................................................................................................... 13-11
Paralleling.................................................................................................................................... 13-11
Fault Protections in a Constant Frequency AC Parallel System .................................................. 13-12
DC Power Supplies...................................................................................................................... 13-13

CHAPTER 14.

AC Motors
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 14-1
Stator-Produced Rotating Magnetic Field ...................................................................................... 14-1
Induction (Squirrel Cage) Motor..................................................................................................... 14-2
Two-Phase Induction Motor........................................................................................................... 14-5
Split-Phase Motor .......................................................................................................................... 14-5
The Synchronous Motor ................................................................................................................14-5

CHAPTER 15.

Semiconductor Devices
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 15-1
Advantages and Disadvantages of Semiconductor Devices.......................................................... 15-1
Construction of a Semiconductor................................................................................................... 15-1
Doping ........................................................................................................................................... 15-2
P-Type Material ............................................................................................................................. 15-2
N-Type Material ............................................................................................................................. 15-3
P- N Junction Diode....................................................................................................................... 15-3
Use of Diodes ................................................................................................................................ 15-5
Bi-Polar Transistors ....................................................................................................................... 15-7
Operation of a PNP Bi-Polar Transistor ......................................................................................... 15-8
Operation of a NPN Bi-Polar Transistor......................................................................................... 15-8
Disadvantages of Diodes and Transistors ..................................................................................... 15-9
Transistor Applications .................................................................................................................. 15-9
Integrated Circuits ....................................................................................................................... 15-10
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Integrated Circuits ......................................................... 15-11
Types of Integrated Circuits......................................................................................................... 15-11

CHAPTER 16.

Logic Circuits
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 16-1
Number Systems ........................................................................................................................... 16-1
Binary Representation ................................................................................................................... 16-2
Basic Logic Gates.......................................................................................................................... 16-2
Adder and Subtracter Circuits........................................................................................................ 16-4
Digital Latch and Flip-Flop Circuits ................................................................................................ 16-6

CHAPTER 17.

Computer Technology
Introduction.................................................................................................................................... 17-1
Analogue Computers ..................................................................................................................... 17-1
Digital Computers .......................................................................................................................... 17-1
Computer Architecture................................................................................................................... 17-2

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Input Devices................................................................................................................................. 17-3
Central Processing Unit ................................................................................................................. 17-3
Output Devices .............................................................................................................................. 17-4
Storage Devices ............................................................................................................................ 17-5
Operating Systems ........................................................................................................................ 17-5
Programming ................................................................................................................................. 17-5

CHAPTER 18.

HF and Satellite Airborne Communications


Long Range Communications (Up to 4000 Km) ............................................................................ 18-1
Short Range Communications (Up to 450 Km).............................................................................. 18-3
Selective Calling (SELCAL) System .............................................................................................. 18-4
Satellite Communications (SATCOM)............................................................................................ 18-4
Satellite Aircom (SITA) .................................................................................................................. 18-6

ATPL Electronics viii 24 October 2003


Chapter 1.

Basic DC Terminology

Introduction

This chapter covers the basic Direct Current (DC) terminology, the connection of resistances
in electrical circuits, and any associated laws.

The Electrical Circuit

An electrical circuit usually consists of a power source, a load, a switch and a conductor,
which connects the components together.

The power source provides the force necessary to influence the flow of electrons around the
circuit when the switch is closed, whilst the load is an electrical device that performs a useful
function, eg. a lamp, a motor or a heating element. The switch makes and breaks the flow of
current to the load, which only performs a useful function when current flows through it, whilst
the conductor provides a low resistance path for the current to flow. In aeroplanes these
conductors are usually formed from aluminium or copper or aluminium, or even the metal
structure of the aeroplane.

When the switch is closed, the force from the supply causes electrons to flow outside the
source from the negative to the positive terminals, and is known as ‘Electron Flow’. Current
flowing from the positive to the negative terminals outside the source is alternatively known
as ‘Conventional Current Flow’.

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Current (I)

Current is an indication of the flow of electricity and is measured in amperes (amps). This is
the rate at which electrons flow in a conductor, such that when one Coulomb (C) or 6.25 x
1018 electrons pass a point in a conductor in one second, a current of one ampere is said to
flow.

Amperes = Coulombs
Seconds

Current in a circuit is measured by connecting an ‘Ammeter’ in line, or in series with the


load, as shown below.

Electromotive Force (EMF)

EMF is the force or pressure that sets electrons in motion, and is a natural result of
‘Coulomb's Law’, which states that like charges repel and unlike charges attract.

Potential Difference (PD)

Even though a circuit is open, and no current is flowing, a power source still has the potential
for current flow. Thus whether a battery is connected in a circuit or not, a potential difference
will still exist between its terminals.

Voltage (V)

Voltage is the basic unit of electrical pressure and is measured in ‘Volts’, where one volt is
the amount of pressure (EMF) that will cause one Coulomb of charge to move from one point
to the other. A ‘Voltmeter’ is used for measuring voltage, and is connected across the load,
or in parallel with the EMF or PD to be measured.

ATPL Electronics 1-2 24 October 2003


Resistance (R)

Resistance is measured in Ohms, where one Ohm is the amount of resistance that will allow
one ampere of current to flow in a circuit to which one volt EMF is applied.

Resistance opposes current flow and causes a reduction in the voltage. In doing so it
produces heat, and power is consumed. Rubber and glass are examples of ‘Insulators’, and
offer a great deal of opposition to the flow of electricity, ie. high resistance. These materials
prevent conductors coming into contact with other objects, which could be harmed or
damaged. Other materials such as silver and copper have very little opposition to current
flow, ie. low resistance, and are known as ‘Conductors’. Alternatively materials, which offer
some resistance to the flow of electricity, are known as ‘Semi-Conductors’.

The resistance of a material at a constant temperature is affected by its:-

¾ Specific Resistance (ρ), the resistance offered by a cube of material at 0° C.


¾ Length (l).
¾ Cross Sectional area (A).

ρxL
R=
A
Resistors can have either fixed or variable values. An example of a variable resistor is a
rotary switch, which is used to control* the intensity of a lighting circuit.

Temperature also affects the resistance of a material. The resistance of most materials
increases with increasing temperature, and exhibit a ‘Positive Temperature Coefficient
(PTC)’. The resistance of a few materials, however, decreases with increasing temperature
and exhibit a ‘Negative Temperature Coefficient (NTC)’. Generally most conductors have
a ‘PTC’, whilst insulators and semi-conductors have a ‘NTC’. Another form of resistor is a
‘Thermister’, which is a NTC device, and is used for measuring temperatures in aeroplanes,
ie. the higher the temperature the lower the resistance.

Connecting Resistances in Series or Parallel in a DC Circuit

Resistances can either be connected in series, in parallel, or in series-parallel combinations.


When resistors are connected in series the same current flows through each of them, and
the total opposition to current flow is thus equal to the sum of the individual resistances.

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Total Resistance (RT) = R1 + R2 + R3 + ……

= 15 + 22 + 31 = 68Ω

If the resistances are alternatively connected in parallel with each other, the current will flow
along two or more paths, as shown on the next page-.

The greater the number of resistors connected in parallel the lower the overall resistance,
and the greater the current flow from the supply. In a parallel circuit the supply voltage is
common to all resistors, and the total resistance is calculated using the following method:-

1 = 1 + 1 + 1
R R R R
T 1 2 3

1 = 1 + 1 + 1 = 6
R 4 6 12 12
T

12
RT = 6 = 2 ohms

In many circuits a parallel circuit is connected in series with one or more resistors.

ATPL Electronics 1-4 24 October 2003


By firstly calculating the equivalent resistance in the parallel part of the circuit, and then
adding this value to the series resistance enables the total resistance to be found. In the
circuit shown above the total resistance is calculated as follows:-

Parallel Part of Circuit

R
1 = R1 + R1 = 1 + 1 = 5
9 6 18
TP 1 2

Total Parallel Resistance (RTP) = 18 = 3.6Ω


5

(i) Total Circuit Resistance

RT = RTP + R3 = 3.6 + 2.4 = 6 ohms

Ohms Law

Ohms law states that the current flowing in a circuit is directly proportional to the applied
voltage, and inversely proportional to the resistance through which the current flows. Thus
the higher the voltage the higher the current, and the higher the resistance the lower the
current. Ohms Law may thus be stated by the following formulae:-

R = V ohms, V = IR volts or I = V amps


I R

Loads

Loads are items of electrical equipment that have varying amounts of resistance, and are
normally connected in parallel with the supply. Thus the amount of current being drawn from
the supply will increase as more items of equipment are switched on.

Kirchhoff’s Laws

The first law states that the sum of the currents entering a junction must equal the sum of the
currents leaving the junction.

The second law states that in a closed circuit the sum of the voltage drops always equals the
supply voltage.

ATPL Electronics 1-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


In the circuit shown above a 10 volt battery is connected across a lamp, and as current flows
through the circuit, a voltage drop will be developed across the lamp. The lamp will thus
consume the same amount of energy as the battery provides, and the voltage drop across
the lamp will equal the supply voltage.

If two identical lamps are connected in series, then the voltage drop across each will be the
same, and the sum of the voltage drops will similarly equal the supply voltage.

Electrical Power (P)

Electrical power is the amount of work done in a specific time, and is the ability of an
electrical device to produce work. Power is measured in ‘Watts’ (746 watts equals 1
horsepower). One Watt is also equal to one Joule per Second (J/s), which is the work done
in one second by one volt of EMF, in moving one Coulomb of charge, ie. when one volt
causes one ampere to flow, a power of 1 watt will be consumed. Power is represented by
the following formulae:-
2
P=VI or I2R or VR .

Electrical Work

Electrical work is defined by the product of force x the distance an object moves under the
influence of electrical power.

Electrical Unit Prefixes

For ease of usage and display, electrical units are normally divided into multiples and sub-
multiples. Some of the most commonly used prefixes are as follows:-

Multiples Sub-multiples

Kilo - 1 x 103 Milli - 1 x 10-3


Mega - 1 x 106 Micro - 1 x 10-6
Giga - 1 x 109 Nano - 1 x 10-9
Tera - 1 x 1012 Pico - 1 x 10-12

ATPL Electronics 1-6 24 October 2003


Typical Circuit Symbols

Components in electrical circuits are normally represented by the following symbols:-

ATPL Electronics 1-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Intentionally Left Blank

ATPL Electronics 1-8 24 October 2003


Chapter 2.

Electrical Components

Introduction

Electrical circuits form an integral part of an aeroplane, and must be adequately protected.
The flight crew must also be able to select and operate any equipment’s safely.

Electrical Systems

The possible electrical system layouts are:-

Single Pole or Earth Return System. This system is used on aeroplanes constructed from
metal, where the airframe acts as a return path between the load and the power source.

This gives an overall reduction in the amount of wiring required and also gives a
reduction in aeroplane weight.

Dipole or Two-wire System. This system is used on aeroplanes, which are constructed
from non-conductive or non-metallic materials.

In this system one wire connects the electrical supply to the load, whilst a second wire
provides the return path from the load to the power source. This thus increases the
aeroplanes overall mass.

Ground (Earth). This is simply a zero or reference point within an electrical circuit and is the
metal frame or chassis on which the various electrical circuits are constructed. On an
aeroplane the metal airframe is called ground or earth.

ATPL Electronics 2-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


All voltages are measured with respect to the metal structure. In electrics, ground is
important because it allows us to have both negative and positive voltages, with respect to
the metal structure. For example if a 12 volt battery has a PD between its terminals of 12
volts, then it is not referred to as +12, or -12 volts, but simply as 12 volts. The ground
reference allows us to express voltages as positive and negative with respect to ground.
Remember ground is a reference point that is considered to be zero or neutral. For example
if the positive terminal of a 12 volt battery is ground, the negative terminal is 12 volts more
negative. It follows that the voltage at this terminal with respect to ground is -12 volts.
Conversely if the negative terminal of the battery is connected to ground, then the other
terminal of the battery will be +12 volts.

Electrical Circuit Faults

The following faults can occur in an electrical circuit:-

Short Circuit. This fault will occur in:-

an earth return system, if the live conductor touches the metal airframe, or in a di-pole
circuit, if both conductors touch each other.

If a short circuit occurs due to a fault a low resistance path will be created across the
supply. This will cause an extremely high current to flow, causing possible damage to
the circuit and any associated wiring. It may even burn the cables, and cause a fire.

Open Circuit. This type of fault will occur in:-

an earth return circuit if the conductor breaks, or becomes disconnected, or in a dipole


circuit if either of the conductors becomes broken or disconnected.

If an open-circuit or break occurs in the conductor the load will become inoperative, just
like opening a switch.

ATPL Electronics 2-2 24 October 2003


Busbars

A busbar is a current distribution point from which individual circuits take their power, and is
simply a strip of metal, which is supplied with a voltage from the main power generating
system or one particular element thereof. The busbars are also sub divided into vital,
essential and non-essential, which indicates their power source or their importance in the
overall system. The vital busbar or battery bus is supplied direct from the aeroplane battery,
and supplies power to the vital systems that may be required in a crash situation, eg. fire
extinguishers and fuel shut off valves. The essential busbars supply the systems required for
the safe flight of the aeroplane, ig. Navigation lights and instrumentation, whilst the non-
essential busbars supply the systems, which can be safely switched off in an emergency, eg.
galley ovens.

Protection Devices

The following protection devices exist in an aeroplane electrical circuit:-

Electrical fuse. This protection device will open or break the electrical circuit when
excessive current flows. This is because the magnitude of the current may ultimately
damage either the circuit itself, or the system to which it is connected. A fuse is designed to
form a weak link in an electrical circuit to protect the majority of the cable between the supply
and the load against overheating and burn out. In its simplest form it consists of a strip or
filament of low melting point metal, which is encased in a glass or ceramic envelope.

Fuses are rated in amperes, which is the maximum current they can carry without
overheating and rupturing. They are located as near the supply (busbar) as possible, so that
if an excessive current flows, due to a short circuit, the fuse will rupture protecting all of the
cable to the load. In practice aircraft are required by law to carry spare fuses; minimum
stocks of each type of fuse being 3 or 10%, whichever is the greater.

Actions to be taken if a fuse ruptures in flight:-

¾ Switch off the circuit.


¾ Replace the fuse with one of the same value.
¾ Switch on the circuit

If the fuse blows again, switch off the circuit and do not attempt a further replacement.
National and company regulations must be followed in this respect, but in either case the
fault must be reported on landing.

Current Limiters. These devices are used mainly to protect heavy-duty power distribution
circuits and consist of a high melting point filament of tinned copper encased in a ceramic
housing.

ATPL Electronics 2-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The central portion of the filament in some types is wasted to form the fusible area. The
time/current characteristics of the device allow a considerable overload current to flow in
the circuit before rupturing occurs.

Circuit breaker. This device has the same function as a fuse, but can be used to restore a
circuit when it is reset. Like fuses, circuit breakers are also rated in amperes, and are fitted
as close to the supply as possible. A circuit breaker is basically a switch, which can be
opened (tripped) via a bi-metallic strip, as shown on the next page. If an overload current
exists the bi-metallic strip will heat up and distort, causing the latch mechanism to be
released. This will cause the main contacts of the circuit breaker to open, and a push-pull
button to pop out. A white band will also be revealed, and indicates that the circuit breaker
has tripped. To reset the circuit breaker the button that protrudes when it trips needs to be
pushed in again. On modern aeroplanes circuit breakers are fitted in preference to fuses,
and are referred to as ‘trip-free’, ie. they can not be reset whilst the fault still exists,
regardless of whether the button is held in or not.

If a Circuit Breaker trips the following action should be taken:-

ATPL Electronics 2-4 24 October 2003


¾ Switch the circuit off.
¾ Allow a period of approximately 20 - 30 seconds to allow the bi-metallic
element to cool.
¾ Reset the circuit breaker.
¾ Switch the circuit on

If the circuit breaker trips again, switch off the circuit and do not attempt a further reset.
In either case report the fault on landing.

Circuit Breakers have the following advantages over fuses:-

¾ No spares have to be carried.


¾ They can be used as a switch, eg. when carrying out aeroplane
maintenance.

A circuit breaker that can be physically held in against the fault is known as a Non-Trip Free
Circuit Breaker. If this is allowed to happen it may cause severe damage to the aircraft
wiring, and in extreme circumstances may even lead to a fire.

Reverse Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB)

Reverse current circuit breakers are used in DC power supplies to protect against short
circuits and prevent extremely high currents flowing towards the power source. They operate
at high speed, and are manually reset. Some of the more sophisticated types of RCCB have
a separate thermal overload as an additional precaution against a forward current in excess
of the power sources safe working capacity.

Switches

In aeroplane electrical installations, switches and relays principally perform the function of
installing and controlling the operating sequences of circuits. Circuit breakers, though they
control the flow of current to and within systems, are regarded as only circuit protection
devices.

In its simplest form, a switch consists of two contacting surfaces, which can be isolated from
each other or brought together by a moveable-connecting link, called a ‘Pole’, and the
number of circuits it controls is known as its ‘Throw’. Some examples of these are shown
below.

If a switch has only one operating toggle it is known as a ‘Single Pole Switch’, but a switch
where two or three toggles have been grouped together is known as a ‘Double’ or ‘Triple
Pole Switch’. Switches which use 2 or 3 position switches, may be fitted with guards or
latches to hold them in their normal operating positions with cover plates, spring loaded
sliding guards or physical restraints, all of which have to be moved to operate the switch.

ATPL Electronics 2-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The following types of switches are used on aeroplanes:-

Toggle switches (tumbler switches). These are general-purpose switches and are
extensively used.

They have simple ON/OFF functions and may be ganged, guarded or be 2 or 3 position
devices, as shown on the next page.

Push switches. These switches are used for short duration operations. ie. when a circuit is
to be completed or interrupted for a short duration. Other types are designed to close one or
more circuits (through separate contacts) whilst opening another circuit. They may be
designed for either push to make or push to break operation. Some contain small lamps
which, illuminate legends. These are typically used in turbo-prop engine start and stop
circuits, and operate either manually or electro-magnetically.

ATPL Electronics 2-6 24 October 2003


In a typical start circuit the button is normally held latched in place until the start sequence is
complete, whilst in a stop circuit the button usually operates the circuits which stop the fuel
supply, remove electrical power from other engine systems and shut the engine down.

Rocker button switches. These switches combine the action of both toggle and push
button switches, eg. in a generator system a single switch may allow ‘ON, ‘OFF’ (selectable)
and reset (spring loaded) selections to be made using the same switch.

Rotary switches. These switches are manually operated and are often used in place of
toggle switches. A typical use is the selection of a single voltmeter between several busbars,
generators or batteries.

Micro-switches. These are a special type of switch, and are the type most extensively used
in aeroplanes. It is a switch in which the travel between make and break is in the order of a
few thousandths of an inch.

ATPL Electronics 2-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Activation of micro switches varies with the designs of the system, but are usually by a lever,
roller or cam. They are used in various applications such as:-

¾ Landing gear systems to indicate the position to the indicator lights,


¾ Door warning systems,
¾ Power lever sequencing of system operation (arming of power augmentation
systems)
¾ Nose wheel or main wheel weight on switches to ensure that systems do not
operate on the ground.

Rheostats. These switches are used to alter the amount of current in a circuit by varying the
overall resistance, eg. to vary the intensity of panel or flight deck lighting. They normally also
have an ‘OFF’ position, to completely remove the current.

Time switches. These switches are required to operate pre-determined controlled time
sequences. They are usually linked to, and are controlled by an electric motor. For example
the switching of power between the heater mats on propellers, or between pairs of propeller
blades to achieve de-icing. In some sequences the time switch operations can be varied,
which is done by a rocker or toggle switch, via a continuous operating time switch that
selects power for different time sequences.

Mercury switches. These switches are glass tubes in which stationary contacts and a pool
of loose mercury are hermetically sealed, as shown on the next page. Tilting the tube
causes the mercury to flow and close or open a gap, thus make or breaking a circuit. A
typical application is in the torque motor circuits of Artificial Horizons where the gyro must be
forced to, and be maintained in the vertical position.

Pressure switches. These switches are used to indicate high and low pressure in systems
where pressure measurement is involved, eg. Hydraulic systems. They are usually linked to
warning captions to indicate high or low pressure outside normal limits. Pressure switches

ATPL Electronics 2-8 24 October 2003


are also installed in cabin pressurisation systems to indicate high differential pressure and
cabin altitude above set limits.

Thermal switches. These switches are used in systems where warning of excessive heat is
required, eg. in engine fire and over-heat warning systems.

Proximity switches. These switches are used in some aeroplanes to give warning of
whether or not passenger doors, freight doors, etc. are fully closed and locked. They have
certain advantages over micro switches in that they have no moving parts, which might break
or malfunction.

Bi-metallic switches. These switches are used in temperature sensitive areas where
smaller devices than thermal switches may be required. Two different metals with different
co-efficient rates of expansion are fastened together. The different metals cause the
combined plates to bend and make or break contacts. They may be used in instruments,
especially electronic instruments, to operate cooling fans that maintain internal temperatures
within limits.

Electrical Generator

An electrical generator is a mechanical device that changes mechanical energy into electrical
energy by using permanent magnets or electromagnets with moving conductors. Generally
engine driven generators produce a voltage or EMF, which causes current to flow when the
electrical circuit is completed.

Electrical Alternator

An electrical alternator is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a DC generator, because the


alternating current output it produces is changed directly into DC within the alternator itself.

Electrical Motor

An electrical motor is an electrical or mechanical device that changes electrical energy back
into mechanical energy. These are extensively used in many aeroplane electrical systems.

ATPL Electronics 2-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


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ATPL Electronics 2-10 24 October 2003


Chapter 3.

Aircraft Batteries
Introduction

All aircraft electrical systems include a battery, which is used to:-


¾ supply power to essential services in the event of generator failure.
¾ stabilise the power supplies during switching of transitory loads.
¾ supply power for engine starting.
Batteries are made up of a number of units called cells. Each cell consists of a series of
negative and positive plates, which are immersed in a liquid known as electrolyte.

All cells and batteries store energy in a chemical form, which can then be released as
electrical energy. The following basic types of cells exist:-

¾ Primary Cell. This type of cell is not rechargeable and only has a limited use in
aircraft’s, where it is mainly used for emergency lighting.

¾ Secondary Cell. Batteries made up of secondary cells are rechargeable and


are the type mainly used in aircraft’s. They are either of the lead-acid or Nickel-
Cadmium (Ni-Cd) / alkaline variety.

ATPL Electronics 3-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Lead Acid Battery

Each cell of a lead acid battery consists of positive plates of lead peroxide and negative
plates of spongy lead, as shown below.

The plates are interleaved, and insulated from each other by plastic separators. An odd
number of negative plates is used with one positioned either side of the positive plates to
prevent buckling by evening out the thermal distribution. The complete structure is
supported in an acid resistant casing containing an electrolyte of distilled water and
concentrated Sulphuric acid, to a level just above the plates. Each cell is 2.2 volts fully
charged and 1.8 volts fully discharged. In aircraft’s batteries of this type consist of either six
cells (12 volts), or twelve cells (24 volts).

When a battery is connected to an external circuit electrons in each cell are transferred
through the electrolyte from the spongy lead to the lead peroxide and the net result of the
chemical reaction is that lead sulphate forms on both plates. At the same time the electrolyte
is diluted by the formation of water, which takes place during the chemical reaction. For
practical purposes each cell is fully discharged when the ‘Specific Gravity (SG)’ or ‘Relative
Density’ of the electrolyte falls from ‘1.27 SG (fully charged)’ to ‘1.1 SG (fully discharged)’,
which equates to ‘2.2 and 1.8 volts’ respectively. Any change in the temperature of the
electrolyte will also vary its specific gravity, so a correction must be made if the temperature

ATPL Electronics 3-2 24 October 2003


is non-standard. The Specific Gravity of the electrolyte also determines its freezing point,
and a discharged battery will freeze at a lower temperature than a fully charged battery.

Batteries constructed from this type of cell must not be left in a discharged condition for
extended periods of time since the Lead Sulphate will harden on the plates and cut down
their active area. This process is known as ‘Sulphation’, which can drastically shorten the life
expectancy of a battery.

Lead acid batteries may be recharged by connecting the positive and negative terminals
respectively, to the positive and negative terminals of a DC source of a slightly higher voltage
than the battery. All of the fore-going reactions are reversed; the lead sulphate is removed
from both plates, the positive plate is restored to lead peroxide, the negative plate is restored
to spongy lead, and the electrolyte is restored to its original Specific Gravity (SG).

Alkaline Battery (Nickel-Cadmium)

Each cell of a nickel-cadmium battery in a fully charged condition consists of positive plates
of Nickel Oxide and negative plates of pure Cadmium, as shown below.

The plates are interleaved and fully immersed in an electrolyte of dilute Potassium
Hydroxide. The plates and electrolyte are placed in a stainless steel or plastic container.

ATPL Electronics 3-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Each cell is ‘1.2 volts (fully charged)’ and ‘1.1 volts (fully discharged)’. Batteries of this type
for use on an aircraft consist of either twenty cells (24 volts), or twenty-two cells ( 26 volts).

During discharge the negative plates turn into ‘Cadmium Hydroxide’, and the positive plates
turn into ‘Nickel Hydroxide’. The electrolyte in an alkaline cell has a Specific Gravity of 1.26,
which remains constant, whether it is in a charged or discharged condition.

Like lead-acid batteries alkaline batteries can be recharged by connecting the positive and
negative terminals respectively to the positive and negative terminals of a DC source of
slightly higher voltage than the battery. The chemical reaction is reversed, and the plates
return to their former states; the negative plates to Cadmium, and the positive plates to
Nickel Oxide.

Battery Venting

When charging batteries their temperature increases and volatile hydrogen gas is given off,
which is safely vented to atmosphere by way of various systems. In each case however, a
certain amount of distilled water is lost by evaporation, and it is therefore necessary to top
the battery up to a specific level from time to time with distilled water.

¾ Lead-Acid Battery Venting. Lead-acid batteries are vented using one of the
following methods:-

¾ Non-Spill Vent. This type of vent is most commonly used on small


aircraft’s and allows the hydrogen gas to escape, whilst retaining the
electrolyte.

¾ Cross-Flow Cell System. This system is used on larger aircraft’s,


where cabin pressurisation air flows over the tops of the cells, and vents
the battery to atmosphere.

ATPL Electronics 3-4 24 October 2003


¾ Alkaline Battery Venting. Alkaline batteries give off a mixture of hydrogen and
oxygen gases towards the end of charging. Similar to lead-acid batteries
different types of alkaline battery also exist:-

¾ Semi-Open Batteries. In this type of battery the cells are allowed to


gas freely in order to avoid overheating, which can result from
overcharging, and the gases given off during the chemical reaction are
vented safely to atmosphere using a ‘cross-flow’ venting system. These
batteries must also be topped up at regular servicing intervals with
distilled water.

¾ Sealed Batteries. In these batteries, the cells are completely sealed and
require no maintenance.

Electrolyte Spillage

Any electrolyte spilled from a battery, normally due to heavy landings and severe turbulence,
must be neutralised before it damages the aircraft structure. The neutralising agents for this
purpose are as follows:-

¾ Lead-Acid Battery - A solution of Bicarbonate of Soda.

¾ Alkaline Battery - A solution of Boric Acid.

It is important that once the area is neutralised that copious quantities of fresh water are
used to cleanse the area, and prevent corrosion setting in.

Battery Capacity

The capacity of a battery is a measured in ‘Ampere-Hours (Ahr)’, and is a measure of the


total amount of energy that it contains. It is based on the maximum rated current in amperes,
which will be delivered by a battery for a known time period until it has discharged to a
permissible minimum voltage level, which varies according to the size and number of plates
in each cell. The following definitions apply:-

¾ Rated Capacity. This is the manufacturers stated capacity that is usually


stamped on the side of the battery, eg. 40 Ahr, which signifies that the battery is
designed to last 10 hours when discharged at a 4 Ampere rate, or 1 hour when
discharged at a 40 Ampere rate.

¾ Actual Capacity. This is the capacity of the battery, which is determined by a


Capacity Test.

Batteries used in aircraft are normally removed, and capacity checked every 3 months in a
specific battery charging bay, where the following process takes place:-

¾ Fully discharge the battery.

¾ Fully charge the battery.

¾ Discharge the battery at known amperage to a permissible minimum voltage


level, and time how long it takes.

¾ Multiply the amperage by the time taken to obtain the ‘Actual Battery Capacity’.

ATPL Electronics 3-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


¾ Compare this value against the batteries ‘Rated Capacity’.

Actual Capacity
Eg. x 100 = 38 x 100 = 95%
Rated Capacity 40

Note: For continued use in aircraft this value must be 80%, or more.
Battery Charging

The following methods are used to charge the batteries whilst installed in the aircraft:-

¾ Constant Voltage. This method is used mainly on aircraft fitted with lead-acid
batteries. The battery-charging rate is proportional to the difference between the
battery and the generator voltage, which in aircraft using 12 Volt batteries is 2
volts, ie. the generator voltage is normally regulated at 14 volts.

¾ Pulse Charging. This method is used mainly on alkaline batteries, and aircraft
using this method are fitted with a battery charger, which is supplied by
Alternating Current (AC). This source is then rectified to provide a constant
Direct Current (DC) of approximately 50 amps that continues flowing until the
battery is nearly fully charged. The charger then goes into a pulse DC current
mode to keep the battery topped up. A temperature sensor within the battery is
normally designed to reduce or even stop the charging, if the battery starts to
overheat.

Thermal Runaway

Batteries are capable of performing to their rated capacity when the temperature conditions
and charging rates are maintained within the values specified by the manufacturer. In the
event of these values being exceeded ‘Thermal Runaway’ can occur, which causes violent
gassing and boiling of the electrolyte. If this condition is allowed to continue the temperature
of the battery will rise to such a level that it may melt, or even explode, and may cause
damage to the aircraft structure. The reason for this effect is that when a battery exceeds a
certain temperature its internal resistance drops, thus allowing a higher charging current to
flow, and the battery temperature to rise. This effect is self-perpetuating, and in some
aircraft’s, particularly those employing alkaline batteries, temperature-sensing devices are
located within the batteries to provide a battery overheat warning on the flight deck, which
indicates that the battery should be electrically isolated by the flight deck crew.

Battery State of Charge

The state of charge of lead-acid batteries can be found by :


¾ Measuring the terminal voltage.
¾ Measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte.

The state of charge of alkaline batteries is however, not easily ascertained by these
methods, and must therefore be assumed to be serviceable.

Battery Condition Check

An aircraft battery is a vital piece of equipment, and must therefore be checked for
serviceability prior to flight. The check involves the following:-
¾ Check the battery ‘OFF’ load and note its voltage reading.
¾ Select a stipulated load and note the new voltage reading.

ATPL Electronics 3-6 24 October 2003


¾ Compare both ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’ load readings, and ensure that the difference
between the readings is within a set tolerance.
Emergency Use

In an emergency, the aircraft batteries must be capable of maintaining a supply for a


minimum period of time, according to JAR’s:-
¾ Main batteries. These batteries must last at least 30 minutes after total failure
of the electrical generating system. (Refer JAR 25.1303).
¾ Emergency Lighting Batteries. These batteries must last for at least 10
minutes.
Connection of Batteries

Batteries, which are connected together, must be of the same type, ie. Acid and alkaline
batteries must never be mixed. Batteries may be joined together as follows:-

Series Connection. If three identical batteries are connected in series their


voltages are added together, but their capacity remains the same as that of an
individual battery, as shown below.

Parallel Connection. If identical batteries are connected in parallel their capacities


are added together, but the voltage remains the same as that of an individual
battery.

ATPL Electronics 3-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Spare Batteries

Some aircraft carry spare batteries, but no attempt should be made to change the batteries in
flight.

Battery Compartment Inspection

Prior to flight the battery compartment should be checked as follows:-


¾ Check the batteries for security.
¾ Check the electrical connections.
¾ Check for any electrolyte spillage.
¾ Check the vent pipe for security and routing.

ATPL Electronics 3-8 24 October 2003


Chapter 4.

Magnetism

Introduction

Magnetism is so closely allied with electricity that without it the means of creating electrical
power would be greatly reduced. A magnet attracts small pieces of iron or steel, and is
surrounded by a magnetic field, which is made up of invisible lines of magnetic force, or
magnetic flux. This is best demonstrated by sprinkling iron filings on a piece of paper placed
over a magnet.

This illustrates that magnetism is concentrated at a magnet's extremities, called poles, and if
it is freely suspended it will always align itself in a north-south orientation.

The north-seeking or red pole will always point north, and the south-seeking or blue pole will
always point south.

The earliest known form of magnetism was the Lodestone, which was a natural mineral
found in Asia. It was found that if a piece of this ore was suspended horizontally by a thread,
or floated on a piece of wood in water, it would likewise align itself in a north-south direction.

ATPL Electronics 4-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


This characteristic led to its use as a compass and the name Lodestone, meaning leading
stone. This occurs because the earth itself is a huge magnet with it's own magnetic field

The fields interact with each other and the Lodestone aligns itself according to the
fundamental laws of magnetism. Other than the earth itself, Lodestone is the only natural
magnet; and all other magnets are produced artificially. For example an iron bar will become
magnetised if it is repeatedly rubbed against a piece of Lodestone. Another type of magnet
is the Electromagnet, which is produced when an electric current is passed through a
conductor. Magnets are additionally classified by their shape, and can exist as horseshoe,
bar or even ring magnets.

Conversely a magnet can be demagnetised by:-

¾ heating it to a temperature known as its ‘Curie Point’.

¾ hitting it with a hammer.

¾ ‘Degaussing’ it with an alternating magnetic field.

Fundamental Laws of Magnetism

The fundamental laws of magnetism are as follows:-

ATPL Electronics 4-2 24 October 2003


¾ The line joining the poles is called the magnetic axis.
¾ Red or blue poles cannot exist separately.
¾ Like poles repel each other, and unlike poles attract, as shown on the next page.

Characteristics of Lines of Magnetic Flux

Lines of magnetic flux have the following characteristics:-


¾ They have direction or polarity, and the lines of magnetic flux travel externally
from the North Pole to the South Pole, as indicated in the following diagram.

¾ They always form complete loops, where each line of magnetic flux travels back
through the body of the magnet to form a complete loop.

¾ They never cross each other; which is the reason why like poles repel, since
lines of magnetic flux having the same polarity can neither connect nor cross.

ATPL Electronics 4-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Thus when one field intrudes into another, as shown on the next page, the lines
will repel, and the magnets will tend to move apart.

¾ They tend to form the smallest possible loops, which is the reason why unlike
poles attract. Lines of magnetic flux having the same polarity will link up, as
shown below, and the resulting loops will attempt to shorten by pulling the two
magnets together.

¾ They can be distorted by interacting with other flux lines, as shown below. This
is because the lines of magnetic flux pass through soft iron more readily than air,
and at the same time the lines tend to contract to make the smallest possible
loops. The iron bar is thus attracted towards the magnet, and strengthens its
overall magnetic field.

ATPL Electronics 4-4 24 October 2003


Classification of Magnetic Materials

Theoretically all materials are affected to some extent by a magnetic field, and can be placed
in one of the following categories:-

¾ Ferromagnetism. This is the property of a material that enables it to become a


permanent magnet, ie. Ferromagnetic materials when placed in a magnetic field
will develop a very strong internal field and will retain some of it when the
external field is removed. The most common ferromagnetic substances are iron,
cobalt, nickel, and alloys of these metals. Above the Curie temperature, thermal
agitation destroys the domain structure and the substance becomes
paramagnetic. In practice it is convenient to sub-divide ferromagnetic materials
into two classes:-
¾ Hard Iron. This is a material which is difficult to magnetise, but once
magnetised will retain it magnetism unless it is subjected to a strong
demagnetising force. This is known as a ‘Permanent’ magnet.

¾ Soft Iron. This is a material, which is easily magnetised, but also easily
loses it magnetism when it is not subjected to a strong magnetising
force. This is known as a ‘Temporary’ magnet.

¾ Paramagnetic. This is the property of a material, which when placed in a


magnetic field, will have an internal field stronger than that outside, and will thus
slightly attract lines of magnetic force. However once the magnetic field is
removed the magnetism will be destroyed by random thermal motion. Typical
materials are platinum, manganese, and aluminium.

¾ Diamagnetic. This is the property of a material, which when placed in a


magnetic field will have an internal field proportional to, but less than that
outside, and will thus slightly repel lines of magnetic force. Typical materials are
copper and bismuth.

ATPL Electronics 4-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Magnetic Flux

Magnetic Flux (φ) is produced by a force known as the ‘Magneto-Motive Force (MMF)’,
whose magnitude is determined by the product of the current and the number of turns of wire
that link together the magnetic circuit. Thus the greater the current, and the greater the
number of turns, the greater the resulting flux. The unit of magnetic flux is the ‘Weber (Wb)’.

Flux Density

Flux density is the number of ‘Webers per square metre (Wb/m2)’, and is alternatively
known as the ‘Tesla (B)’.

Reluctance

Reluctance is the opposition to magnetic flux, and is similar, in nature to resistance in an


electrical circuit. It is the ratio of the Magneto-Motive Force (MMF) acting on a magnetic
circuit, to the magnetic flux (Φ) being produced, ie.

Reluctance = MMF
φ

Permeability

Permeability (µ) is the ease by which a material will accept lines of magnetic flux and may be
compared to conductance in an electrical circuit, which is the ease with which a material or
circuit will allow current to flow. It is the ratio of B/H, where B is the induced magnetic flux,
and H is the magnetising force. The table on the next page shows how the permeability of a
material determines its characteristic.

Material Permeability Characteristic Action

Bismuth 0.999833 Diamagnetic Slightly Repelled


Water 0.999991 Diamagnetic Slightly Repelled
Copper 0.999995 Diamagnetic Slightly Repelled
Air 1.000000 Paramagnetic Non-Magnetic
Aluminium 1.000021 Paramagnetic Slightly Attracted
Cobalt 170 Ferromagnetic Strongly Attracted
Nickel 1000 Ferromagnetic Strongly Attracted
Iron 7000 Ferromagnetic Strongly Attracted

Hysteresis

It is possible to take a iron ring, completely de-magnetized, and measure the value of flux
density (B) with respect to increasing values of magnetizing force (H). This relationship is
expressed by the curve OC.

ATPL Electronics 4-6 24 October 2003


If the magnetizing force is reduced from this maximum value the flux density will follow the
curve CD, and the flux remaining in the iron is called the ‘Remnant Flux’. To totally remove
the remnant flux the magnetizing force needs to be reversed, which in this case is to a value
of OE, whose value is called the ‘Coercive Force’. Further negative increases in H will
cause B to grow in the reverse direction until saturation occurs, following the line EF.
Decreasing the value of H, and subsequently increasing H in a positive direction completes a
symmetrical figure, CDEFGC, which is termed the ‘Hysteresis loop’. The word
‘Hysteresis’ means to lag behind, and this is what happens to the flux density as it lags
behind the changing values of the magnetising force.

Saturation

Saturation plays an important role in ferro-magnetic circuits, where the magnitude of


magnetism being induced in a piece of iron is proportional to the current creating it. If the
current is however increased beyond a certain point, no further appreciable increase in
magnetism will occur, as the iron becomes fully saturated. This is a very important property,
and is the principle on which a magnetic amplifier operates.

Magnetism Produced by Current Flow

When current flows through a conductor a magnetic field is produced around the conductor,
and its magnitude is proportional to the current flow.

ATPL Electronics 4-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The direction of the field depends on the direction of current flow, and the ‘Right Hand
Grasp Rule’ is used to determine the direction of the field when a conventional current is
flowing.

The thumb points in the direction of the current flow, whilst the fingers point in the direction of
the magnetic field. In explaining some aspects of electromagnetism, it is also useful to show
current flow in a third dimension, which can be done using two further symbols. If a wire is
viewed from the end, the tail of the arrow will indicate current flowing into the wire, and a dot
on the point of the arrow will indicate current flowing out of the wire, as shown on the next
page.

ATPL Electronics 4-8 24 October 2003


If two pieces of wire are placed side by side the resulting magnetic fields will act together,
and will either attract or repel each other, which depends on the direction of the currents, as
shown below.
REPULSION

ATTRACTION

Currents flowing in opposite directions will produce opposing fields and will repel each other,
whilst currents flowing in the same direction will produce fields, which add together, and
attract each other.

The magnetic field produced in a straight piece of wire is of little practical use, and has
direction, but no north or South Pole. Unless the current is extremely high, the magnetic field

ATPL Electronics 4-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


will have little useful strength, but by shaping the wire into a loop its magnetic characteristics
can be greatly improved.

The coil of wire, as shown above, will now possess the following characteristics:-
¾ The lines of flux will be closer together.
¾ The majority of lines of flux will be concentrated in the centre of the loop.
¾ North and south poles will be created at the ends of it, and it will assume the
same magnetic characteristics as that of a permanent magnet, ie. lines of
magnetic flux will emerge from the north pole, and return via the south pole, as
seen below.

The Electromagnet

The principle of an electromagnet is that when current passes through a loop of wire, a
magnetic field is established, as shown above, and by increasing the number of turns in the
wire, ie. by forming a coil, the individual fluxes will add together to produce a stronger
magnetic field.

ATPL Electronics 4-10 24 October 2003


This is known as a ‘Solenoid’, and the more current that flows through the coil, the greater
the number of lines of flux. The strength of the magnetic field around a coil (electromagnet)
thus increases with either an increase in current, or an increase in the number of turns.
Another method of increasing the strength of the magnetic flux around a coil is to insert a bar
of ferromagnetic material into it, ie. soft iron, as shown below.

This has the effect of concentrating the magnetic lines of flux because an iron core is much
more permeable than air, and the polarity of a coil can be determined if the direction of
current through the coil is known, using the ‘Right Hand Grasp Rule’.

ATPL Electronics 4-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


If the fingers of the right hand are wrapped around the coil in the direction of current flow, the
thumb will point in the direction of the north pole.

The Relay

A relay uses the principle of the electromagnet (solenoid), and is typically used to remotely
control a high current/voltage circuit using a low current/voltage circuit, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 4-12 24 October 2003


Electromagnetic Induction

If relative motion exists between a conductor and a magnetic field an electromotive force
(EMF) will be induced in the conductor, whose magnitude is determined by the following
factors:-
¾ The strength of the magnetic field.
¾ The speed of the conductor with respect to the field.
¾ The angle at which the conductor cuts the field.
¾ The length of the conductor in the field.
These factors are all a natural consequence of ‘Faraday's law’, which states that the voltage
(EMF) induced in a conductor is directly proportional to the rate at which the conductor cuts
the magnetic lines of force. This principle is used in generators, and ‘Fleming’s Right Hand
Rule’ can be used to establish the polarity of the induced EMF. This rule involves the thumb
and the first two fingers of the right hand being placed at 90° to each other, as shown on the
next page. The thumb points in the direction of motion of the conductor, the index finger
points in the direction of the lines of magnetic flux, and the middle finger points to the positive
end of the conductor. The middle finger also shows the direction of current flow, when an
external circuit is connected across the two ends of the conductor.

ATPL Electronics 4-13 ©Atlantic Flight Training


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ATPL Electronics 4-14 24 October 2003


Chapter 5.

DC Generator Systems

Introduction

Modern aircraft electrical power systems are extremely complex and varied. DC generator
systems have now been mostly superseded by AC generator systems, although it is still
necessary to understand the operation of a DC system.

Basic Generator Theory

All generators work on the principle of magnetic induction, and it is purely the method by
which the resulting voltage (EMF) is converted which determines its type. An AC generator
is a device, which converts mechanical energy into AC electrical energy using this principle,
where a voltage (EMF) is induced in a conductor as it moves through a magnetic field.

The magnitude of the voltage produced is dependent on the following factors:-

¾ The strength of the magnetic field.


¾ The speed at which the conductor cuts the magnetic field.
¾ The length of the conductor within the magnetic field.
¾ The angle at which the conductor cuts the magnetic field.

The polarity of the induced voltage can be found using ‘Fleming’s Right Hand Rule’ for
generators, which involves the thumb and the first two fingers of the right hand being placed
at 90° to each other. The thumb points in the direction in which the conductor is moving, the
first finger points in the direction of the magnetic field (N to S), and the second finger
indicates the polarity of the induced voltage (+ Ve). The second finger also points in the
direction in which conventional current is flowing in the conductor when it is connected
across a load.

Simple AC Generator

In its simplest form an AC generator consists of a single loop of wire, which is mounted, so
that it can rotate within a magnetic field. When the loop (Armature) is rotated an AC voltage
is induced in it, which can be transferred easily to an external circuit by means of carbon

ATPL Electronics 5-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


brushes, which bear on 2 copper or brass slip rings that are connected directly to the loop.
When the armature moves through 360°, or one revolution at a constant speed the output
voltage and current rises to a maximum in one direction and back to zero, before reversing in
polarity. It then rises to a maximum in the opposite direction, before again returning to zero.
The paths plotted out by the voltage and current are in the shape of a sine wave.

The magnitude and polarity of the induced EMF is related to the actual position of the
armature, as shown below.

Conversion of AC to DC

The AC is converted to DC by replacing the slip rings with a commutator, which consists of 2
segments insulated from each other and connected to the ends of the loop, as shown on the
next page.

The commutator is a device, which is connected across the output in such a way that the
connections to the load are reversed every time the polarity of the voltage in the loop
changes thus maintaining the current to the load in the same direction. The load is
connected to the loop by brushes, which bear on opposite sides of the commutator.

ATPL Electronics 5-2 24 October 2003


When the loop is at 90° to the magnetic field no EMF is induced, and thus no current flows.
With the loop in this position the brushes will be in contact with both segments of the
commutator the loop will thus be short-circuited.

As the loop rotates the short circuit is removed; the left brush becomes connected to the
down- going segment, whilst the right hand brush becomes connected to the up-going
segment. The right hand brush is thus in contact with the segment, which is positive, since
the current flows away from this side of the loop, and the left-hand brush is alternatively
connected to the negative segment. As the brushes are always connected to the conductors
moving in the same direction in relation to the magnetic field the output is always DC. The
change over from one segment to the other takes place at the instants when the voltage
induced in the loop is zero, ie. at positions A, C and E. The commutator is therefore a
switching device, which reverses the direction of the current during alternate half-cycles in
the output. To produce a smoother and more constant output voltage, as shown on the next
page, by fitting additional wire loops and commutator segments.

ATPL Electronics 5-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


DC Generator System Architecture

All aeroplane generator systems must be capable of supplying a constant voltage for varying
engine speed and load conditions, which is achieved by varying the field strength (excitation)
of the generator. The components of a basic single engined generator system are shown
below:-

DC Generator Construction

The construction of a typical DC generator is shown on the next page, and consists of the
following components:-

¾ The Yoke. This is a cylinder of cast iron, which supports the pole pieces of the
electromagnetic field.
¾ The Armature. This is driven by the aircraft engine and holds the windings in
which the output voltage of the machine is induced.

ATPL Electronics 5-4 24 October 2003


¾ The Commutator. The voltage induced in the armature is AC. The
commutator changes the AC voltage into DC voltage.

¾ The Quill Drive. This is a weak point, which is designed to shear and protect
the engine, if the generator seizes.

¾ The Suppressor. This reduces radio interference, which may be caused by


sparking between the brushes and commutator.

Principle of Operation of a DC Generator

When the armature is rotated in the magnetic field a DC voltage is collected at the brushes,
and if this voltage is applied to a load, a current will flow in the armature. This will produce a
motoring torque in the generator, and this will act in opposition to the driving torque. This
effect is noticeable on a car engine tachometer, when the headlights are switched on and off.
When the lights are switched on more current is drawn from the generator, thus increasing
the motoring effect, and slowing the engine down. Alternatively switching the lights off will
reduce the load on the generator, thus reducing the motoring effect, and reducing the overall
load on the engine.

Types of DC Generator

Three basic types of DC generator exist, with each differing in how the armature and field
windings are electrically connected:-

Shunt Wound. In this arrangement the field windings are connected in parallel with the
armature windings, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 5-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


It is used in all aeroplane DC generators, and at a constant speed has a slightly falling
voltage output with increasing load.

Series Wound. In this arrangement the field windings are connected in series with the
armature windings, as shown below.

This type of generator is however not used on aeroplanes, because at a constant speed it
has a rising voltage output characteristic with increasing load. It is thus difficult to regulate
the voltage output from this type of generator.

Compound Wound. In this arrangement some of the field windings are connected in shunt,
and some are connected in series with the armature windings, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 5-6 24 October 2003


This arrangement is used on larger more expensive types of aeroplanes, where it's output
characteristics depend on the actual generator design, ie. the ratio of shunt to series
windings.

Voltage Regulator

The voltage regulator is designed to maintain a constant generator output voltage for varying
loads, and engine speeds. Many different types of voltage regulators are fitted in aeroplane
generator systems, although the following are the most common types.

Carbon Pile Voltage Regulator. A diagram of a typical carbon pile voltage regulator is
shown on the next page. In this device two forces act on a pile of carbon discs fitted in
series with the generator field coil. The first of these forces is due to a moveable iron
armature, which is attached to a leaf spring, and holds the pile in compression, whilst the
second force is due to an electromagnet, which tends to pull the pile apart. Any variation in
the magnitude of pile compression will vary the resistance, and thus the excitation current
being supplied to the generator field.

For example the regulator is set to control a generator to give an output of 28 volts DC, if the
output voltage falls below 28 volts DC, the current through the electromagnet will reduce,
thus causing the leaf spring to compress the pile. This in turn will cause a reduction in the

ATPL Electronics 5-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


piles resistance, and the amount of current to the field coil will increase, thus bringing the
generator output back to 28 volts.

The opposite will occur if the generator voltage output exceeds 28 volts.

Transistorised Voltage Regulator. This type of regulator is a solid state device, and has
the following advantages over the carbon pile voltage regulator:-

¾ Less maintenance
¾ Less Weight
¾ More reliable
¾ Little or no radio interference

Cut-out

The DC generator in an aeroplane electrical supply system has to be protected from the
battery voltage whenever the engine is shut down, or when its output alternatively fails. This
is normally achieved by a ‘Cut-out’, which is fitted between the generator and the busbar.
Many different types of Cut-out exist, of which the most common is the ‘Differential Current
Cut-Out’, as shown on the next page. The main components in this device are a ‘Series
(Current) Coil (DCO)’ that is wound physically on top of a ‘Differential (Voltage) Coil’, and
which in turn controls the ‘Generator Line Contactor (GLC)’.

The contacts in the cut-out are initially closed via the ‘Differential Coil’ when the generator
output voltage is approximately 0.5 volts greater than that being already supplied by the
battery. This in turn causes the GLC to close, and allows the generator to feed the busbar via
the ‘Series Coil’. The resulting magnetic field produced by this coil then adds to that already
being produced by the Differential coil, and helps to hold the GLC in its closed position.

ATPL Electronics 5-8 24 October 2003


Conversely if the generator voltage output drops, for whatever reason, a reverse current will
flow in the current coil, and a corresponding magnetic field will be produced. This field will act
in opposition to the magnetic field being produced by the Differential coil, and will weaken the
overall combined magnetic field. This will cause the GLC to open, and will stop the
generator feeding the busbar. If the generator voltage subsequently returns to its normal
output value, the generator will automatically feed the busbar again, as the DCO contacts
close, via the Differential coil.

Alternatively if the engine is shut down or fails the Differential Cut-out will cause the GLC to
open when the reverse current reaches a value of 20-30 amps.

Reverse Current Circuit Breaker

The Differential Cut-out does not provide complete protection to the generator system, since
any short circuit on the outgoing side of the Differential Cut-out will not ‘open’ or ‘Trip’ the
GLC. A ‘Reverse Current Circuit Breaker (RCCB)’ is thus fitted between the main
contactor and the aeroplane busbars to provide complete protection. The RCCB is designed
to operate at a very high speed if the reverse currents reach a value of approximately 500
amps, and will mechanically ‘lock’ itself out until reset. Some RCCB's are additionally fitted
with auxiliary contacts, which are used to open the generator field and provide further
protection against overload or fault conditions.

Busbars

Busbars are current distribution points and are usually standard rectangular sections of high
conductivity copper or aluminium, which are categorised as follows.-

¾ Vital Busbar. This busbar is powered directly from the aeroplane battery, and is
used for emergency undercarriage selection, and also to provide power for fire
extinguishers and emergency lighting.

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¾ Essential Busbar. This busbar supplies equipment, which is essential to
ensure the safe flight of an aeroplane.

¾ Non-Essential Busbar. This busbar can be isolated (LOAD SHED) in


emergency flight conditions, since the equipment they feed is of very low priority,
eg. galley supplies.

Power Failure Warning

All generator systems are fitted with a red warning lamp, which illuminates whenever the
Generator Line Contactor is open, and the generator is no longer feeding the busbar. All
warning lamps should be tested prior to flight, which in older types of aeroplanes is done by
pressing the individual light, but on modern aeroplanes is automatically initiated whenever
the electrical power is first switched on.

Ground Power

The battery on a modern aeroplane has a limited capacity, and is used only in emergencies,
and for engine starting. On the ground the battery is only able to supply a minimum of
services, and it is therefore necessary to provide ground supplies during servicing, or long
holdover times. A typical Ground Power system is shown below.

In this system it is important that the aeroplane supplies (battery and generator) are
disconnected whilst the ground supplies are connected to the aeroplane, and this is achieved
by a short auxiliary pin in the ground power socket, which operates a ‘Hold-off Relay’ in the
aeroplane electrical system. This is necessary because the ‘Ground Power Unit’s (GPU)’

ATPL Electronics 5-10 24 October 2003


regulated voltage may not be identical to that of the aeroplane generators. For example if
the ground power is too high, there is a risk of overcharging the aeroplane battery, and
damaging electrical equipment, but if the ground power voltage output is alternatively too
low, the first generator to come on line would feed into the GPU, and cause instability.

DC Generator System Fault Protection

A typical DC generator system is protected against the following faults:-

¾ Overheat. An overheat thermostat is fitted in most aeroplane generators, which


will cause an overheat warning light to illuminate on the flight deck if the
generators cooling air exhaust exceeds approximately 160°C. If this occurs the
generator should be manually switched off.

¾ Seizure. If the generator seizes due to a mechanical fault, the aeroplane's


engine may be damaged. A ‘Quill Drive’ is thus fitted between the engine and
the generator, which is designed to shear if the generator seizes, and will
automatically disconnect the generator from the engine.

¾ Over-Voltage. This condition is usually caused by a malfunction of the voltage


regulator and may cause damage to the loads and battery if allowed to continue.
An over-voltage sensor is thus fitted in the system, which will trip the generator
off the busbar, and de-excite its field. One reset attempt is normally allowed, by
‘Recycling’ the system, ie. by switching the generator ‘OFF’, and then ‘ON’
again.

¾ Under-voltage. This is explained in the operation of the series coil in the


Differential Cut-out.

¾ High Reverse Currents. This is explained in the operation of the Reverse


Current Cut-out.
Twin Engine DC Electrical System

On a multi-engined aeroplane, a generator is normally fitted to each engine gearbox, and a


typical twin engined turbo-propeller DC electrical system layout is shown below:-

ATPL Electronics 5-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The generators are usually arranged in parallel with the loads so that:-

¾ There will be no break in the supplies if a generator fails.

¾ The system can handle the switching of high transient loads.

¾ The generators can share the loads equally to improve their life expectancy.

The main disadvantage of paralleling generators is that additional circuitry is required to


ensure that both machines equally share the loads. Each generator is thus fitted with an
ammeter so that the flight crew can regularly check that the load sharing is correct.

Operation of DC Generators in Parallel

Reference the diagram on the opposite page, two generators (G1 and G2), are fitted to the
No.1 and No.2 engines respectively. When the No.1 engine is started the generator will
rotate and will produce an output voltage, which will cause current to flow to the generator
field coil via its own voltage regulator. After a short time its output will reach its regulated
value, which the flight crew can check using the aeroplane's voltmeter, and sufficient current
will flow in the Differential coil to close the differential relay. If the generator control switch is
in the ‘ON’ position, the Generator Line Contactor (GLC) will subsequently close, thus
allowing the generator to charge the battery, and feed the loads. The flight crew can confirm
that the generator is feeding the busbar by the following methods:-

ATPL Electronics 5-12 24 October 2003


¾ The dedicated generator warning light extinguishes.

¾ The generator ammeter reads the current being taken by the battery and loads.

After starting the No.2 engine the second generator can be brought onto the busbar in the
same way as the No.1 generator.

DC Load Sharing

Whenever the generators are operating in parallel they must share the aircraft electrical load
equally, and this is achieved by ensuring that their individual output currents are equal under
all operating conditions. This is achieved by incorporating an ‘Equalising Circuit (Load
Sharing Loop)’, as shown below, where the equalising coils are wound on the same core as
the voltage coil in the voltage regulator. This circuit monitors the generator outputs and
automatically adjusts the voltage regulators to ensure equal load sharing.

The flight crew can also check that any load sharing is equal, by referring to the individual
generator ammeters.

Operation of an Equalising Circuit

If both generators are equally sharing the load, points X and Y as shown the previous
diagram, will be at the same potential, because the volts drop across R1 and R2 will be the
same. If the No.1 generator for example takes more than its share of load, the voltage drop
across R1 will increase, and the voltage drop across R2 will decrease. This will cause point X
to become more negative with respect to point Y, and current will flow from Y to X through
the Equalising Circuit. The resultant magnetic fields associated with the current flowing in the
equalising coils will thus reduce the overall magnetic pull on the No.2 Voltage Regulator, and
increase the magnetic pull on the No.1 Voltage Regulator. The resistances of the Carbon
Piles will therefore decrease and increase respectively This will in turn cause the output from

ATPL Electronics 5-13 ©Atlantic Flight Training


the No.2 generator to increase and the output from the No.1 generator to decrease, which
will continue until both generators are sharing the load equally. At this point X and Y will be
at the same potential and no current will flow in the Equalising Circuit. The acceptable
paralleled generator load difference varies between aeroplanes, but ideally with a 100 Amp
load in a twin generator system each should carry 50 Amps, although a maximum differential
of 60-40 may be acceptable.

Note: the Equalising Circuit only operates when the generators are operating in parallel.

Single Engine Aeroplane DC Electrical System

Most modern single piston engined aeroplanes have a 14 volt DC electrical system, which
consists of an ‘Alternator’ and battery combination, as shown below.

The Alternator is the primary electrical source when the engine is running and charges the
battery. The battery provides the secondary power supply, which is used for initial engine
start, and as an emergency power source.

The engine mechanically drives the Alternator via a drive belt, and the resulting AC output is
converted directly into DC by passing it through a ‘Bridge Rectifier Pack’, as shown on the
next page.

The Alternator is made up of field windings, which are wrapped around a number of pole
pieces on a rotating shaft (rotor), and rotate within fixed windings (stator) that are arranged
in a star configuration.

ATPL Electronics 5-14 24 October 2003


Operation of the Alternator

Two rocker type switches: a battery master switch, and an Alternator switch, control the
Alternator, which are normally positioned next to each other, but are independently operated.

The battery master switch connects the battery to the busbar, whilst the Alternator switch
controls the generators field excitation. With both switches in the ‘ON’ position current is
initially passed to the rotor field winding, via brushes and slip rings, ie. ‘Separately Excited’.
The resulting electromagnet induces a three phase alternating voltage in the stator windings
as it rotates, at a frequency dependent on the rotor speed. The AC output is then converted
electronically into DC before being supplied to the main busbar. The Alternator field winding
is the supplied from the busbar, ie. ‘Self Excited’, via a voltage regulator, which maintains a
constant voltage output, irrespective of the engines RPM, and load on the system.

The output from the Alternator is monitored using one of the following Ammeter
arrangements:-

¾ Zero Left Ammeter or Loadmeter. This type of ammeter is placed in the circuit
as shown on the next page, and is used to measure the amount of current, or
load being supplied by the Alternator.

If the reading drops to zero in flight, it normally indicates that the Alternator has
failed, and that the battery is alternatively supplying the loads.

ATPL Electronics 5-15 ©Atlantic Flight Training


¾ Centre Reading Ammeter. This type of ammeter is placed in the circuit as
shown below, and is used to measure the amount of current flowing to or from
the battery, ie. the battery charge or discharge rate.

Following an engine start the pointer will normally be deflected to the right of
centre, and this indicates that the battery is being charged. If the pointer is
alternatively left of centre it shows that the battery is discharging, and helping to
supply the necessary electrical power. If this occurs the flight crew should
immediately reduce the electrical load on the system and conserve the battery
power.

ATPL Electronics 5-16 24 October 2003


Chapter 6.

DC Motors

Introduction

A wide variety of components and systems depend upon mechanical energy, which is
supplied by motors, and the exact number installed in any aeroplane depends on its
complexity. Aeroplane electrical motors vary in size and complexity. Some of the typical
applications of DC motors are given in the following table:-

Equipment Function

Actuators Fuel ‘trimming’, cargo door operation, heat exchanger control


flap operation and landing flap operation.

Control valves Hot and cold air mixing for air conditioning and thermal de-
icing.

Pumps Fuel delivery, propeller feathering and de-icing fluid delivery.

Flight Instruments and Control Gyroscope operation and Servo control.


Systems

In most of the above applications the motors and mechanical sections of the equipment are
coupled together to form an integral unit. The power supply required for their operation is
typically 28 volts DC and/or 26 volts AC, or constant frequency 115-volts AC. Many motors
are also only operated for short periods of time during a flight, eg. between 15 and 90
seconds, and after operation at their rated load must be allowed to cool, in some cases for as
long as 10 to 20 minutes, eg. a propeller-feathering pump motor.

The construction of a DC motor is similar to that of a DC generator and many machines may
be operated in either role, eg. a starter-generator. Continuously rated motors may be either
fan cooled or blast cooled and, in the case of fuel booster pumps, which are immersed in the
fuel, the heat generated during its operation is transferred from the sealed motor directly to
the fuel. These motors tend to rotate at high speed, so a reduction gearbox is used as the
intermediate transmission system, if they are being used to produce mechanical movements.

The Motor Principle

DC motors work in the opposite sense to that of DC generators, where instead of


mechanically rotating the armature in a magnetic field to produce an electrical output, the
armature is alternatively supplied with an electrical supply, thus converting electrical energy
into mechanical energy. If a current carrying conductor is placed in a magnetic field, the field
around the conductor will interact with the magnetic field and cause the conductor to move.

ATPL Electronics 6-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


On one side of the conductor the field will be strengthened, whilst on the other side it will be
weakened, and the conductor will tend to move in the direction of the weaker magnetic field.
The direction of the current in the conductor will thus determine the direction of motion, as
shown on the next page.

The direction of this motion can be found using ‘Fleming’s Left Hand Rule’, by placing the
thumb, the first finger, and the second finger at 90° to each other, as shown below.

The first finger points in the direction of the magnetic field (N to S), the second finger points
in the direction in which the conventional current is flowing in the conductor, and the thumb
points in the direction in which the conductor will move.

DC Motors

There is little difference between DC generators and motors, since they both consist of the
same essential parts, ie. an armature, field windings, a commutator and brush gear. The
armature and field windings are supplied from a common power source in most motors, and
are also self-excited.

In its simplest form a motor consists of a single loop of wire ‘PQ’, which is arranged so it can
rotate between the pole pieces of a permanent magnet.

ATPL Electronics 6-2 24 October 2003


The ends of the wire are connected to commutator segments, which are contacted by
brushes to a DC power source. When current flows in the loop in the direction shown, a
magnetic field is produced around the wire, which interacts with the main field, and produces
a force. These forces act in opposition, and the resultant couple sets up a torque, which
causes the loop to rotate in an anti-clockwise direction. When the loop reaches a position at
90° to the magnetic field the two halves of the commutator are shorted out, and no current
flows in the loop. The loss of the field in the loop thus essentially stops the rotation, but the
inertia of the loop continues to carry it through its vertical position. The action of the brushes
on the commutator then reverses the polarity of the supply, and also reverses the direction of
current in the loop. Due to the relative position of the field around the wire, and the main
field at that instant, the resultant force causes the loop to continue moving in an anti-
clockwise direction. The process then repeats itself, and the loop will continue to rotate, as
long as power is being supplied.

Back EMF

As the conductor (armature) of a motor moves through the magnetic field a voltage is
induced in the conductor, similar to that involved in a generator, which according to Lenz’s
Law oppose the motion producing it. The induced voltage or ‘Back EMF (EB)’ will thus
oppose the supply voltage, and its direction can be established using Fleming’s Right Hand
Rule. The magnitude of the back EMF is directly proportional to the speed of rotation of the
conductor and the strength of the magnetic field, as shown below.

(EB α N x Φ), where Φ = field strength and N = armature speed

The back EMF never exceeds the supply input voltage and the difference between them is
always such that current flows in the conductor. This is known as ‘Armature Current’, and
the resultant torque produces motion. The relationship between the supply voltage and the
back EMF is as follows:-

VSUPPLY = EB + IARA, where IA = armature current & RA = armature resistance

ATPL Electronics 6-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


For example if a DC motor with an armature resistance of 0.1Ω is supplied with a supply
voltage of 200Volts and the back EMF is 199Volts, the armature current will be:-

VSUPPLY = EB + IARA

200 = 199 + 0.1 x IA

IA = 200 – 199 = 10Amps


0.1

Alternatively if the load on the motor increases it will slow down and the back EMF will
reduce. The armature current will thus increase, as will the motor torque, in accordance with
the following relationship, and the motor will return to its original speed.

Torque α Φ x IA, where Φ = field strength and IA = armature current

The force on each conductor (armature) and thus armature torque is proportional to the field
strength and the armature current. As the speed of rotation increases the back EMF will
similarly increase, and the armature current will reduce.

Direction of Rotation

The directions of the armature current and the main field in a motor, in accordance with
Fleming’s Left Hand Rule, determine the way in which it will rotate. Reversing the direction
of either will alter its direction of rotation, but if both are changed at the same time the
direction of rotation will remain unchanged.

Motor Speed Control

Most DC motors run at a constant speed, but by varying the strength of the main field or
armature current it is possible to vary the speed. Consider the ‘Normal’ operating speed of
a motor to be the speed at which the motor will rotate when it is connected directly across the
power supply, and any change in speed can be accomplished using one of the following
methods:-

Armature Control. This is achieved by varying the magnitude of the main field using the
following arrangement.

IF

2)

SUPPLY M 1)

If the resistance of the variable resistor is reduced it will cause the field current (IF) to reduce,
thus weakening the main field, and increasing the speed of the motor. This is because the
weaker field will produce a smaller back EMF, and the armature current will thus increase.

ATPL Electronics 6-4 24 October 2003


This will increase the speed of the motor, which will increase the back EMF, thus restoring
the balance between the applied EMF and the back EMF. Conversely if the resistance is
increased it will cause IF to increase, thus strengthening the main field, and reducing the
speed of the motor.

Field Control. This is achieved by varying the magnitude of the armature current (IA) using
the following arrangement.

VARIABLE RESISTOR
IA

SUPPLY M

If the resistance of the variable resistor is reduced, it will cause the armature current (IA) to
reduce and the motor to slow down. Conversely if the resistance is increased, it will cause IA
to increase, and the motor will thus speed up.

Types of DC Motor

Like DC generators, DC motors used on aeroplanes, are classified according to the way in
which the field excitation circuit is arranged.

Series Motors. In series-wound motors, the field windings and the armature windings are
connected in series with each other, as shown on the next page, so that the same current
flows through both sets of windings. The windings consist of a few turns of heavy wire that
have low resistance, which enables a series motor to be able to draw a large current on
starting. This prevents the field strength increasing quickly, and gives the motor its principal
advantages of high starting torque and good acceleration. A rapid build-up of back EMF
induced in the armature also limits the current flow through the motor.

The speed load characteristic of a series wound motor is such that variations in mechanical
load are accompanied by substantial speed variations; a light load will cause it to run at a
dangerously high speed, and a high load will cause it to run at low speed.

ATPL Electronics 6-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


For a given motor:-

Torque α Φ x IA, where Φ = field strength and IA = armature current

In a series motor the magnitude of the main field (Φ) is approximately proportional to the
armature current (IA) up to full load, so that:-

Torque of a series motor is approximately proportional to (IA)2

The amount of driving torque will thus rapidly increase with increasing load, since any
reduction in the back EMF will directly increase the armature current. It is thus important that
this type of motor must be started on full load, and is the type used on aeroplanes as starter
motors or actuators.

Shunt Motors. In shunt-wound motors the field windings are made up of many turns of
relatively thin wire, and are connected in parallel with the armature.

The resistance of the winding is high, but since it is connected directly across the power
supply, the current through it will remain constant. These motors have a slightly falling speed
load characteristic, and are thus used where a fairly constant speed is required, eg. in
windscreen wipers, fuel pumps and rotary inverters. This is because a small voltage drop
occurs across the armature (IA x RA) with increasing load.

In a shunt wound motor the main field is virtually independent of the armature current, and
the amount of torque being produced is directly proportional to the armature current up to full
load. In this type of motor the majority of the current will flow through the low resistance
armature, so the starting torque is small, compared to the series wound motor, since the
main field is slow to build up. Shunt-wound motors must therefore be started on light or no
load.

Compound Motors. These motors utilise the principal characteristics of both series and
shunt wound motors, but without the effects of some of their normally undesirable features.

ATPL Electronics 6-6 24 October 2003


For example, a motor may be required to develop the high starting torque of a series wound
motor, but without the tendency to over-speed when the load is removed. Another
application may require a motor, which is capable of reducing its speed with increasing load,
whilst still retaining the smooth speed control and reliability of a shunt wound motor when
operating, ‘Off Load’. These and other requirements can be met by what is termed
‘Compounding’, or in other words, by combining both series and shunt field windings in the
one machine, using one of the following arrangements:-

¾ Normal Compounding. In this arrangement a motor is biased towards the


shunt-wound type, where the shunt winding produces approximately 60 to 70 per
cent of the total flux, whilst the series winding produces the remainder. The
desired characteristics of both series and shunt-wound motors are thus retained.

¾ Stabilised Shunt. In this arrangement the motor is also biased towards the
shunt-wound type, and only has a relatively minor series winding. The purpose
of this winding is to overcome the tendency of a shunt motor to become unstable
when running at or near its maximum operating speed, when subjected to an
increased load.

¾ Shunt Limited. In this arrangement the motor is biased towards the series-
wound motor, and only has a minor shunt field winding incorporated in the field
system. The purpose of this winding is to limit the maximum speed when running
under ‘Off Load’ conditions whilst leaving the torque and general speed
characteristics unaltered. Shunt limiting is applied only to the larger type of
compound motors, eg. engine starter motors.

Actuators

These are high-speed reversible series wound motors whose output is normally converted
into a driving torque via a step-down gearbox. Motor actuators are self-contained units,
which combine electrical and mechanical devices, that are capable of exerting reversible
linear thrust over a short distance, or alternatively a reversible low-speed turning effort. The
following types of actuators exist:-

Rotary Actuator. This type of actuator has a rotary movement, and is used mainly to rotate
valves in the air conditioning and fuel systems.

ATPL Electronics 6-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Linear Actuator. This type is driven directly from a reduction gearbox via a lead screw,
which when rotated, extends or retracts a ram or plunger.

5) B 4) EPICYCLIC REDUCTION LIMIT SWITCHES


R GEARING
A

This type of actuator is capable of working against heavy loads, and is used to operate
trailing edge flaps, trim tabs, and to move variable incidence tailplanes.

Split-Field Series Motor

In this type of motor the field winding is split into two separate electrical sections, thus
establishing two independently controlled magnetic fields. One of the windings is used to
control each direction of rotation, and is controlled by a single-pole double-throw switch.

Both linear and rotary type actuators are equipped with limit switches to stop their respective
motors when the operating ram or output shaft, as appropriate, has reached the permissible
limit of travel. The switches are of the micro switch type, and are usually operated by a cam
driven by a shaft from the actuator gearbox. In some cases, limit switch contacts are also
utilised to complete circuits to indicator lights or magnetic indicators.

For example consider the operation of an air conditioning duct valve, as shown in the
diagram on the next page. If the switch is placed in the ‘Open’ position, current will flow in
the ‘Open Field Winding’, and then through the armature winding. The two fields will
interact, and the armature will rotate, which will cause the cams to rotate at the same time.
These cams determine the position of two limit switches, which control the current through
the field windings, and the position of magnetic indicators or lights that show the position of
the valve.

ATPL Electronics 6-8 24 October 2003


As soon as the motor starts to rotate ‘Limit Switch A’ breaks the circuit to the ‘Closed’
indicator and causes the light to go out. When the valve is in its fully open position the limit
switches are arranged, so that ‘Limit Switch A’ completes the circuit to the ‘Close Field
Winding’, whilst ‘Limit Switch B’ breaks the circuit to the ‘Open Field Winding’, and operates
the ‘Open’ indicator. If the switch is then placed in the ‘Close’ position, current will flow
through the ‘Close Field Winding’, and then through the armature. The two fields will
interact, and the motor will rotate in the opposite direction, thus closing the valve.

This occurs because the polarity of the field windings reverse, but the direction of the current
through the armature remains the same, thus the resultant interaction of the fields will cause
the armature to run in the reverse direction. When the valve is fully closed, the position of
the limit switches will reverse, thus completing the circuit to the ‘Open Field Winding’, and
operating the ‘Closed’ indicator.

Electromagnetic Brakes

Most actuators are fitted with electromagnetic brakes, as shown below, which are designed
to prevent over-travel when the motor is switched off. The design of the brake system varies
with the type and size of the actuator, but in all cases the brakes are spring-loaded to the
‘ON’ condition whenever the motor is de-energised, thus preventing the actuator over-
running.

ATPL Electronics 6-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Conversely the brakes are immediately withdrawn whenever power is applied to the
appropriate field winding, since the brake solenoid is connected in series with the armature.

Clutches

Friction clutches, that are usually of the single-plate type or multi-plate type, which depends
on the size of the actuator, are also incorporated in the transmission systems to protect them
against the effects of mechanical over-loading.

Instrument Motors

DC motors are not widely used in aeroplane instruments, but form the gyroscopic element in
one or two types of turn-and-bank indicator. The motor armature together with a
concentrically mounted outer rim forms the gyroscope rotor. The purpose of the rim is to
increase the rotor mass and radius of gyration, thus increasing its rigidity. The armature
rotates inside a cylindrical two-pole permanent magnet stator, which is secured to the gimbal
ring. Current is fed to the brushes and commutator via flexible springs to permit gimbal ring
movement.

The rotor speed is kept constant by a centrifugal cut-out type governor, which consists of a
fixed contact and a movable contact, that are normally held in the closed position by an
adjusting spring. The contacts are fitted in series with the armature winding, and a resistor is
connected in parallel with the contacts. When the maximum speed is attained, the centrifugal
force acting on the movable contact overcomes the spring restraint, and causes the contacts
to open. Current to the armature then passes through the resistor and reduces the rotor
speed, until it resumes its nominal value.

Architecture of a Starter/Generator System

Some types of turbo-propeller aeroplanes utilise a single unit for starting the engine and
supplying the aeroplane's DC power. This unit is called a ‘Starter/Generator’, and a typical
system is shown below.

ATPL Electronics 6-10 24 October 2003


It is basically a compound machine, which is coupled to the engine by way of a drive shaft
and gear train.

Operation of a Starter/Generator System

When the engine start switch is operated, the following sequence of events takes place:-

ATPL Electronics 6-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


¾ The starter relay energises and the two batteries are connected in parallel
supplying 24 volts to the starter motor. This reduces the initial starting
current and torque, thus extending the life of the starter motor.

¾ When the engine reaches 10% RPM a speed sensor energises the paralleling
relay (A), which causes the batteries to be momentarily connected in series, as
shown below, thus supplying the starter motor with 48 volts.

¾ At 60% engine RPM the starter and paralleling relay are de-energised, which
removes the power from the starter motor, and reconnects the batteries in
parallel.

¾ When the engine is running correctly the generator control switch is operated,
and the DC generator feeds the busbar.

ATPL Electronics 6-12 24 October 2003


Inverters

Certain electrical systems on aeroplanes require AC at a constant frequency, thus it is


necessary to provide a means of producing a constant frequency supply on DC, and AC
frequency wild powered aeroplanes. This is achieved via an inverter, of which the following
basic types exist:-

Rotary Inverter. This type is basically a DC motor, which drives an AC generator on a


common shaft, as shown below.

The motor drives the AC generator at a constant speed to give a constant frequency output,
which is achieved by adjusting the field excitation of the DC motor, and the output voltage of
from the AC generator is maintained by similarly adjusting its field excitation. This type of
inverter has a DC input of 28 volts and produces a 3 Phase AC output of 115V at 400HZ.
Most rotary inverters are only 50% efficient, and typically a 100 Watts DC input will produce a
50 VA AC Output.

ATPL Electronics 6-13 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Static Inverter. This type differs from the rotary type in that it is constructed using solid-
state transistorised circuitry. It is also more robust, more reliable, and requires less
servicing. Static inverters cannot match the power output of rotary inverters, although most
have an efficiency of approximately 70%.

Multiple Inverter Installations

A typical multiple inverter system is shown below, and is the type, which is commonly fitted
on twin-engine turbo-propeller aeroplanes.

This system consists of three inverters, of which the No.1 and No.2 inverters, are of the
same type, and supply normal constant frequency AC power, whilst the No.3 inverter is a
smaller type, and is used to supply the essential AC loads in an emergency.

Inverters cannot be operated in parallel, so it is thus necessary to devise a method by which


each of the main inverters, No.1 and No.2, receive approximately the same running time.
This is achieved in some airlines by using the No.1 inverter as the main one, and the No.2
inverter as the standby one on the outgoing journey, and vice versa on the return journey.
Many inverters also have their outputs monitored for correct voltage and phase rotation. If
either of these factors is incorrect the inverter will be automatically removed from the loads.

ATPL Electronics 6-14 24 October 2003


Chapter 7.

Inductance and Capacitance

Introduction

Inductors and capacitors commonly play a role in AC circuits, but they also possess
important DC characteristics.

Inductance

Inductance is the property of a device or circuit, which opposes a change in current flow, or
its ability to induce a voltage when there is a change in current flow. Every conductor
displays the property of inductance, but in conductors of short length, the inductance value is
so small that it can only be measured with very sensitive instruments. The unit of Inductance
is the ‘Henry (H)’, where one Henry is the amount of inductance, which will induce an EMF
of 1 volt into a conductor when the current changes at the rate of 1 ampere per second.

Due to its magnitude the units; ‘milli-Henry (mH)’ and ‘micro-Henry (µH)’ are more
commonly used in electronic applications. The symbol for inductance is ‘L’, thus if an
inductance has a value of 15 milli-Henrys it can be written as:-

L = 15mH

The following rules are instrumental to inductance:-

¾ When current flows through a conductor a magnetic field builds up around it.

¾ When a conductor is moved through a magnetic field an EMF is induced in it.

ATPL Electronics 7-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Self Induction

When power is first applied to a DC circuit the current rises from zero to its normal steady
state value or the value computed by Ohm’s Law over a short period of time (transient
time), during which a transient condition exists. In circuits containing only resistors, the
transient condition exists only briefly, and can only be detected with sensitive instruments. If
inductors or capacitors are also included in the circuit, the transient condition may be
extended, so that it is more readily detected. This occurs due to ‘Self Induction’ because
when current flows through a conductor, a magnetic field builds up around the conductor,
and expands outwards from its centre. As the field moves outwards it cuts the conductor,
thus inducing an EMF in it, which opposes the applied EMF (counter EMF), and the resulting
induced current flows in the opposite direction to the original current.

If the current is then switched off the field will collapse inwardly and will induce an EMF in the
conductor, which will cause an induced current to flow in the same direction as the original
current. The direction of the induced current can be established using Fleming’s Right Hand
Grip Rule. In some cases the induced EMF can be so high that if a circuit containing an
inductor is open-circuited via a switch, violent arcing may take place across the switch.

Inductors

Every conductor has a certain value of inductance, but to be of any use they need to be
wound in the form of a coil. In electronic circuits inductors that are used have a specific
value of inductance. The inductance characteristics of an inductor can be increased by
either increasing the number of turns on the coil, and/or by inserting a piece of permeable
material into the coil, eg. soft iron.

ATPL Electronics 7-2 24 October 2003


Time Constant of an Inductor

The time taken for the current in an inductor to reach a steady value depends on the value of
the inductance, and the value of any series resistance.

For a given value of resistance, the time required for the current to build to its maximum
value, takes the form of an exponential curve, as shown on the next page, and is directly
proportional to the value of the inductance. The higher the inductance, the more time it will
take for the current to reach its maximum value. For practical purposes the growth or decay
of the current is complete in 5 L , where R = resistance in Ohms, and L = inductance in
R
Henrys. L is known as the ‘Time Constant (T)’ of the circuit, which is measured in
R
seconds, and is the time taken for the current in an inductive-resistive circuit to rise to 63.2%
of its maximum value when connected across a supply, or to fall 36.8% of its maximum value
when disconnected from the same supply. Thus for a given value of inductance, the time
taken will be inversely proportional to the resistance.

ATPL Electronics 7-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


These graphs show that the resistive voltage (VR) increases and decreases in line with the
current (I), whereas the voltage drop across the inductor (VL) falls as the current rises, and
vice versa.

Inductors in Series and Parallel

Inductors can be connected in a DC electrical circuit in either series or parallel.

When connected in series, the inductance's are directly added together:-

Total Inductance (LT) = L1 + L2 + L3

When connected in parallel the reciprocals of the individual inductances are added together,
and the reciprocal of the total gives the total inductance:-

ATPL Electronics 7-4 24 October 2003


1 1 1 1
LT = L1 + L 2 + L3

Inductance calculations are thus similar to resistance calculations in a DC circuit.

Capacitance

Capacitance is the property of an electrical component, which enables it to store energy like
a storage tank in an electrostatic field. The unit of capacitance is the Farad (F), where one
Farad is the amount of capacitance that will store a charge of one Coulomb when an EMF of
one volt is applied. The units of microfarad and pico-Farad are more commonly used. A
device, which stores energy in this way, is called a ‘Capacitor (Condenser)’, which has the
ability to store a quantity of electrons and release them at a later point. The number of
electrons that a capacitor can store for a given applied voltage is a measure of its
capacitance, ie. it acts as a reservoir and the total charge from empty to full depends solely
on its capacitance and the voltage being applied. The formula, which expresses capacitance
in terms of charge and voltage is thus:-

Q
Capacitance(C) = V

where: C = Capacitance in Farads


Q = Charge in Coulombs
V = Voltage in Volts

Factors Affecting Capacitance

Capacitors in their simplest form consist of two metal plates separated by a non-conducting
material called a dielectric.

Metal foil is often used for the plates, whilst the dielectric may be paper, glass, mica or
another good insulator. Capacitors can exist in many forms, eg. the conductor of a cable
could act as one plate of a capacitor, whilst the airframe of an aeroplane could act as the
other plate, and the dielectric is the cable insulation that separates them. A capacitor has a
certain amount of capacitance, so if the applied voltage is increased the charge will similarly
increase, so that the ratio of the charge to the voltage will remain the same. The actual
amount of capacitance is dependent on the physical shape and size of the capacitor, and
varies according to the following formula:-
C= kA
d
where: k = type of dielectric
A = area of the plates
d = distance between the plates

The capacitance of a capacitor is thus directly proportional to the dielectric constant or the
area of the plates, and inversely proportional to the distance between the plates.

Types of Capacitor

Capacitors can be either fixed or variable, and the most common types are:-

ATPL Electronics 7-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


¾ Paper Capacitors. These are constructed of alternate layers of metal foil
separated with similar strips of waxed paper, which act as the dielectric.

¾ Electrolytic Capacitors. These are formed by an electro-chemical process,


and are mainly used where large values of capacitance are required. This is
because their electrical capacity is high compared with their physical size, which
is due to a very thin dielectric being used. Normal capacitors can be used in AC
and DC circuits, but most electrolytic capacitors are only used in DC circuits.
The polarity must be observed, since connecting them with the wrong polarity
may cause damage and injury.

¾ Variable Capacitors. These consist of multiple plates, which are moved via a
rotating shaft.

Note: All capacitors are rated not only by their capacitance value, but also by their maximum
working voltage. This voltage rating must not be exceeded or the dielectric may break down
and arcing may occur. To withstand higher voltages the thickness of the dielectric has to be
increased, but the increased distance between the plates results in a lower capacitance, so
the area of the plates has to be increased in order to maintain the same capacitance value.
Capacitors that have a high voltage rating are thus physically larger than capacitors, which
have the same capacitance, but operate at a lower voltage.

The Charging of a Capacitor

If a capacitor is uncharged the same number of free electrons will exist on both plates, and if
a voltmeter is connected across the plates, it would read zero volts, as shown in the diagram
below.

ATPL Electronics 7-6 24 October 2003


If a DC voltage is subsequently applied to the plates of the capacitor, it will charge up until
the potential across the plates is equal and opposite to the supply voltage.

When the switch is closed, the positive terminal of the battery will be connected to the upper
plate of the capacitor, and the battery will attract the free electrons from the upper plate. This
will leave the upper positive plate with a deficiency of electrons, and the negative lower plate
with an excess of electrons. The positive plate will thus try to attract the electrons from the
negative plate, but due to the insulator (dielectric) between the plates, no electrons will flow
between them. The attraction of the positive charge on the upper plate will instead tend to
pull electrons from the negative terminal of the battery to the lower negative plate, and the
difference in potential between the plates will cause an electric field to build up in the
dielectric between them. The capacitor will continue to charge until the potential difference
between the plates equals the supply voltage.

When this occurs, no further current will flow, ie. current will only flow in the circuit whilst the
capacitor is charging, and in a DC circuit will not pass through the capacitor.

A good capacitor will retain a charge for a long period of time, and most capacitors can also
be charged in either direction, by simply reversing the supply. If the supply is removed from
the capacitor, the electrical charges on the plates will remain for a long time, which can pose
a hazard to the unsuspecting, eg. high energy ignition units. However no dielectric has
infinite resistance, so some of the charge will naturally leak away.

ATPL Electronics 7-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Discharging of a Capacitor

Theoretically all of the energy stored in a capacitor can be recovered. It follows that a perfect
capacitor dissipates no power. It simply stores the energy, and later releases the energy. A
capacitor is therefore only a temporary storage device.

Removing it from the supply and connecting it across a resistor can discharge a capacitor.
This causes the current to flow until the capacitor is fully discharged, and its charge has been
reduced to zero.

The Time Constant of a Capacitor

The length of time required for a capacitor to charge or discharge can be computed if certain
circuit values are known, and exponential curves show how the voltage across the plates
varies with time, as shown on the next page. The two factors, which effect the charge and
discharge time, are the resistance (R) and the capacitance (C). R multiplied by C gives the
time required for the capacitor to reach 63.2% of its full charge or 36.8% of its full charge
value during discharge. This is known as its time constant (T), and is expressed as:

T=RxC

where: T = time in seconds.


R = resistance in Ohms.
C = capacitance in Farads.

In practice the time taken for the capacitor to become fully charged or discharged is equal to
5CR

Capacitors in Series and Parallel in a DC Circuit

Like resistors and inductors, capacitors can also be connected in various combinations, as
shown below.

ATPL Electronics 7-8 24 October 2003


¾ Capacitors in Parallel. This increases the effective area of the plates, and thus
increases the overall total capacitance. The formula for calculating the total
value of capacitors connected in parallel is:-

CT = C1 + C2+ C3.....

¾ Capacitors in Series. This increases the overall thickness of the dielectric and
the total capacitance therefore decreases. The formula for calculating the total
value of capacitors connected in series is-:

1 1 1 1
CT = C1 + C2 + C3

Notably if two capacitors of different values are in connected in series in a circuit the smaller
capacitor will have a higher value across it rather than the larger one. To understand why
this occurs, consider capacitance in terms of voltage:

Q
V=
C

Voltage is inversely proportional to the capacitance, so the smaller the capacitor, the higher
its' voltage.

ATPL Electronics 7-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Intentionally Left Blank

ATPL Electronics 7-10 24 October 2003


Chapter 8.

Basic AC Theory

Introduction

Alternating Current (AC) continually changes its polarity, and can vary in magnitude and
direction. This differs from Direct Current (DC), which is usually a constant value, and flows
in only one direction. The current in an AC circuit increases from zero to maximum, and
back to zero again, before varying in the same manner in the opposite direction. The effect of
an AC supply on resistors, inductors and capacitors also differs from that of a DC supply.

Advantages of AC over DC

AC is extremely versatile, and has the following advantages over DC:-

¾ AC can be simply and efficiently changed from one voltage to another using a
‘Transformer’.

¾ AC generators are simple in construction and lighter for the equivalent power output
of a DC generator.

¾ AC can be easily and efficiently changed into DC using a ‘Rectifier’.

¾ The magnitude of alternating currents or voltages can be easily modified to carry or


transmit information as ‘AC Signals’.

¾ AC can be easily converted into ‘Electromagnetic (Radio) Waves’, which can travel
through space. This is possible because a conductor (aerial) that carries alternating
current produces an electromagnetic field, which expands and collapses as the
direction of the current changes. Thus if the current changes at a sufficiently high
enough speed the magnetic field will radiate outwards in sympathy with the
alternating current, and information will be transmitted from one place to another
without the use of wires.

Generating AC

An AC generator converts mechanical energy into AC electrical energy using


electromagnetic induction, where a voltage (EMF) is induced in a conductor as it moves
through a magnetic field.

The magnitude of the voltage produced is dependent on the following factors:-

¾ The strength of the magnetic field.

¾ The speed at which the conductor cuts the magnetic field.

¾ The length of the conductor within the magnetic field.

¾ The angle at which the conductor cuts the magnetic field.

Similar to a DC Generator the polarity of the induced voltage can be found using Fleming’s
Right Hand Rule, which involves the thumb and the first two fingers of the right hand being

ATPL Electronics 8-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


placed at 90° to each other, as shown on the next page. The thumb points in the direction in
which the conductor is moving, the first finger points in the direction of the magnetic field
(N to S), and the second finger indicates the polarity of the induced voltage (positive).

The second finger also points in the direction in which conventional current will flow in the
conductor when it is connected across a load.

Simple AC Generator

In its simplest form an AC generator consists of a single loop of wire or ‘Armature’, which is
mounted on a shaft, such that it can be rotated within a magnetic field. When it is rotated an
AC voltage is induced in it, which can be easily transferred to an external circuit by means of
carbon brushes that bear down on slip rings connected to the loop.

When the armature moves through 360°, or through one revolution at a constant speed the
output voltage and current will rise to a maximum value in one direction and back to zero,
before reversing in polarity. The voltage and current will then rise to a maximum value in the
opposite direction, before again returning to zero. The paths plotted by the voltage and
current are in the shape of a sine wave, whose magnitude and polarity are determined by the
actual position of the armature as shown on the next page.

ATPL Electronics 8-2 24 October 2003


AC Terminology

The diagram below shows how the voltage output varies when the armature is rotated
through 360°.

By convention the following terminology applies to the resulting sine wave:-

Cycle. This occurs when the armature of a basic AC generator rotates through one
complete revolution (360°).

Instantaneous Value. This is the value, which occurs at a specific instant in time.

Peak Value. Two of these values occur during each cycle; one occurs during the
positive alteration when the waveform reaches its maximum height (Positive Peak
Value), and the second occurs during the negative alteration when the waveform
reaches its maximum height below the zero line (Negative Peak Value).

Peak to Peak Value. This is the overall magnitude of the sine wave between the
two peaks.

Peak to Peak = 2 x Peak Value

ATPL Electronics 8-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Average Value. This is the value of the voltage or current that can be calculated by
taking a large number of instantaneous values, either positive or negative, and taking
their average value, or alternatively by using integral calculus. Either method shows
that the average value of an alteration is 0.637 of its maximum peak value.

Root Mean Squared Value RMS (Effective Value). This is the amount of power or
heat, which will be dissipated by an AC of peak value 1 ampere compared to the
amount of power or heat that would be produced by a DC of 1 ampere when flowing
through an identical resistor.

The DC will make the resistor hotter than that compared to the AC because with DC
the current is steady at I ampere whereas with AC 1 ampere is only reached at the
peak of each half cycle. In practice the AC of peak value 1 ampere is only 0.707
times as effective in heating the resistor as a DC of 1 ampere. The effective value is
thus equivalent to 0.707 of its peak value, or 0.707 amperes.

RMS Value = 1 x Peak Value = 0.707 x Peak Value


2

Unless otherwise stated all values of voltage and current are given as RMS values.
For example if the mains voltage is 240 volts RMS, its peak value will be
approximately 339 volts. Most measuring instruments thus measure voltage
and current as RMS values.

Frequency. This is the number of cycles in one second and is measured in hertz.
The frequency of an AC waveform is proportional to the speed at which the
generator is driven, and the frequencies used in aviation range from just a few hertz
to millions of hertz. The main electrical supply in a modern jet aeroplane is 200 volts
400 hertz, although in avionics the frequencies can be much higher, because high
frequencies are required to carry information or intelligence. Also the higher the
frequency, the easier it is to convert AC into electromagnetic waves, which can be
transmitted over long distances. These higher frequencies must however be
produced electronically rather than by a generator.

Periodic Time. This is the time taken to complete one complete cycle, and is the
reciprocal of frequency, ie.
Periodic Time = 1
Frequency

ATPL Electronics 8-4 24 October 2003


Relationship Between Radians and Degrees

The phase relationship between AC voltages and currents are given in terms of either
radians or degrees, as follows:-

π/2 = 90°
π = 180°
3π/2 = 270°
2π = 360°

Phase and Phase Angle

Consider two AC voltages having the same frequency, but having different magnitudes, as
shown below.

Both waveforms cross the zero axis at the same time and are ‘in phase’ with each other.
They also reach their maximum and minimum peak values at the same time. If the
waveforms are alternatively displaced from each other, and cross the zero axis at different
points they are ‘out of phase’, as shown below.

The maximum and minimum peak values also occur at different phase angles. By
convention the angular difference between the two waveforms where they cross the zero
axis and go positive is the ‘phase displacement’, or ‘phase angle’. In the above example
V2 thus lags V1 by π/2 radians (90°) or V1 leads V2 by the same amount. The angular
difference is also maintained throughout the waveform.

If the waveforms are alternatively π radians (180°) out of phase, they are ‘anti-phase’ with
each other, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 8-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Phasor Representation

Any AC quantity that produces a sine wave output can be alternatively represented as a
phasor, which is simply a vector representation that rotates at a constant velocity, as shown
below.

The length of each phasor represents the amplitude of the waveform and its angle with
respect to a given reference axis. In this example the phasors, V1 and V2, are both rotating
at ω radians per second, and V1 is leading V2 by π/6 radians (30°).

This can be more simply represented by using a phasor diagram, where V1 is taken as the
reference phasor, as shown below.

By convention the reference phasor is placed in the 3 o’clock position and all other phasors
rotate in an anti-clockwise direction with respect to it. In this case V1 is taken as the
reference vector since it has a phase angle of zero and V2 is positioned π/6 radians (30°)
behind it, ie. lags behind V1. Any number of voltages and/or currents can be drawn on
the same phasor diagram provided that they are all of the same frequency, although in
practice the anti-clockwise arrow is normally omitted from the diagram.

ATPL Electronics 8-6 24 October 2003


Chapter 9.

Single Phase AC Circuits

Introduction
The sine wave output produced by an AC circuit is dependent on whether a resistor, inductor
or capacitor is connected in the circuit.

The Effect of AC on a Purely Resistive Circuit

When an AC supply is applied to a purely resistive component the current being produced
will flow through the resistor in one direction and then the other, as shown below.

The current will vary in both amplitude and direction in accordance with the AC voltage,
ie. they will both be in phase with each other. In other words the current is zero if the voltage
is zero, and is maximum when the voltage is maximum. When the voltage changes its
polarity, the current also changes its polarity. The voltage and current in a purely resistive
AC circuit are thus in phase with each other, and can be represented on a phasor diagram
as follows.

The value of the current flowing through the resistor at any given instant will depend on the
voltage at that said instant, and the circuit resistance. This can be calculated by using Ohms
Law, as in the case of a DC circuit, but when working with AC circuits, instantaneous values
of voltage and current are seldom used in calculations. The effective (RMS) value is
alternatively used. When calculating AC series and parallel resistive circuits, the same
method should be used as in DC circuits.

Power in an Ac Resistive Circuit

In an AC resistive circuit, power is consumed by the resistive component in the form of heat,
just as it is in a DC circuit. The power used in either a DC or AC circuit is measured in watts,
where 746 watts = 1 horsepower. In DC circuit’s power equals voltage times current. The
same relationship exists in an AC resistive circuit, where the power consumed by the resistor
is the product of the current passing through the resistor, and the voltage across the resistor.

ATPL Electronics 9-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The power consumed in a purely AC resistive circuit thus does useful work (True Power or
Effective Power), which is measured in ‘Watts’.

The Effect of Ac on a Purely Inductive Circuit

When an inductor is supplied with an AC voltage a counter EMF is induced in the coil by the
continually varying magnetic field.

This will result in a phase shift between the supply voltage and the current. The current will
lag the voltage by π/2 radians (90°), or the voltage will lead the current by the same phase
angle.

This can be represented on a phasor diagram as follows.

Power in an AC Inductive Circuit

The instantaneous power is given by multiplying the instantaneous values of voltage and
current together.

ATPL Electronics 9-2 24 October 2003


In the first quarter cycle the values of voltage and current are both positive quantities, thus
producing positive power. In the second quarter cycle the value of the current is still positive,
but the value of voltage is now negative, thus negative power is produced. This pattern will
continue and will be repeated every half cycle of the waveform. The average power is thus
zero, and a perfect inductor will thus dissipate zero real or effective power. The power
produced is alternatively known as ‘Reactive Power’, and is measured in ‘Volts Amperes
Reactive (VAR)’.

Inductive Reactance (Xl)

An inductive component (inductor) tends to oppose the change in current flow, and like a
capacitor will also offer opposition to the flow of alternating current. The counter EMF
induced in an inductor by the varying current will thus oppose the supply voltage. This
opposition to current flow is called ‘Inductive Reactance (XL)’, which is directly proportional
to the inductance of the inductor, and the frequency of the supply voltage, as shown below.

Inductive Reactance (XL ) = 2ΠfL ohms

where:- f = frequency in hertz


L = inductance in henrys
XL = inductive reactance in ohms

In an AC circuit, a inductor will have the same effect on current flow as a resistor. In a purely
inductive circuit, the current in the circuit will be directly proportional to the applied voltage
and inversely proportional to the inductive reactance.

IL = V = V
XL 2 ∏ fL

If the supply frequency is increased the inductive current will decrease and vice versa. An
inductive component may thus be damaged if the frequency is reduced.

The Effect of Ac on a Purely Capacitive Circuit

When an AC voltage is applied to a purely capacitive circuit, the capacitor will charge up in
one direction, and then in the other.

ATPL Electronics 9-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


If the voltage and current is monitored, the current will not rise in phase with the applied
voltage, as it does in a resistive circuit. In a purely capacitive circuit the current will reach its
maximum value π/2 radians (90°) before the voltage across the capacitor reaches its
maximum value. The voltage and current are therefore out of phase, and the voltage lags
the current by π/2 radians (90°), or the current leads the voltage by the same angle.

This can also be represented on a phasor diagram as follows.

Power in an AC Capacitive Circuit

The instantaneous power is given by multiplying the instantaneous values of voltage and
current together.

In the first quarter cycle the values of voltage and current are both positive quantities, thus
producing positive power. In the second quarter cycle the value of the voltage is still positive,
but the value of current is now negative, thus negative power is produced. This pattern will
continue and will be repeated every half cycle of the waveform. The average power is thus
zero, and a perfect inductor will thus dissipate zero real or effective power. The power
produced, like in the case of an AC Capacitive circuit, is alternatively known as ‘Reactive
Power’, and is measured in ‘Volts Amperes Reactive (VAR)’.

ATPL Electronics 9-4 24 October 2003


Capacitive Reactance (Capacitors Ac Resistance)

In an AC circuit the capacitor will constantly charge and discharge. This is due to the time
lag, which exists and the voltage across the capacitor being in constant opposition to the
supply voltage. This creates an opposition to current flow, ie. electrical resistance, which is
known as ‘Capacitive Reactance (XC)’. Capacitive reactance is inversely proportional to the
capacitance of the component, and the frequency of the applied voltage, as shown below.

Capacitive Reactance (XC ) = 1 ohms


2Π fC

where:- f = frequency in hertz


C = capacitance in farads
XC = capacitive reactance in ohms

In an AC circuit, a capacitor will have the same effect on current flow as a resistor. In a
purely capacitive circuit, the current in the circuit will be directly proportional to the applied
voltage and the capacitive reactance.

IC = V = V x 2ΠfC
XC
If the supply frequency is increased the capacitive current will increase and vice versa. A
capacitive component may thus be damaged if the frequency is increased.

Relationship Between Voltage and Current in Capacitive and Inductive AC Circuits

Depending on whether the circuit is inductive or capacitive, the acronym, ‘CIVIL’, acts as an
aide memoir as to whether the current leads or lags the voltage.

C I V I L
In a Capacitive (C) Circuit I before V In an Inductive (L) Circuit V before I
(I leads V) (V leads I)

This is particularly useful when dealing with series or parallel AC circuits. In series AC
circuit’s, current is used as the reference phasor, and in parallel AC circuit’s, voltage is used.

Resistive and Inductive (RL) Series AC Circuit

When an AC voltage is applied across an RL circuit, and a voltage drop will take place
across each component, and the same current will pass through both. Current is thus taken
as the reference phasor in the phasor diagram.

The voltage drop across the resistor (VR) will be in phase with the current, and the voltage
drop across the inductor (VL) will lead the current by π/2 radians (90°). The supply voltage
(VS) can then be calculated using the vector sum of these voltages.

ATPL Electronics 9-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Resistive and Capacitive (RC) Series AC Circuit

When an AC voltage is applied across an RC circuit, and a voltage drop will take place
across each component, and the same current will pass through both. Current is thus taken
as the reference phasor in the phasor diagram.

The voltage drop across the resistor (VR) will be in phase with the current, and the voltage
drop across the capacitor (VC) will lag the current by π/2 radians (90°). The supply voltage
(VS) can then be calculated using the vector sum of these voltages, as in the case of the RL
series circuit.

Phase Shift

The phase shift of a circuit is the angle between the voltage and current vectors. It is a
function of the reactive and resistive components. In the case of a series RC circuit it can be
X X
expressed mathematically as tan φ = C , and for a series RL circuit as tan φ = L .
R R

Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Series AC Circuits

In a RLC series circuit current is a common vector and the voltage drops across the resistor,
the inductor and the capacitor are as shown below.

The voltage drop across the resistor (VR) will be in phase with the current, the voltage drop
across the capacitor (VC) will lag the current by π/2 radians (90°) and the voltage drop across
the inductor (VL) will lead the current by π/2 radians (90°). The vertical components, VL and
VC, are in direct opposition to each other, so the resulting vertical component is thus (VL –
VC). The supply voltage (VS) is found using Pythagoras, as follows.

2
VS = VR 2 + (VL − VC )

ATPL Electronics 9-6 24 October 2003


Impedance (Z) in a Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Series AC Circuit

Impedance is the total opposition to current flow in an AC circuit containing resistance and
reactance. In a series AC circuit it is the vector sum of the inductive reactance (XL),
capacitive reactance (XC), and resistance (R) as shown below.

Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Parallel AC Circuit

In a parallel RLC circuit, voltage is the common vector, and the currents through the
resistor (IR), the inductor (IL) and the capacitor (IC) are as shown below.

The current through the resistor (IR) will be in phase with the voltage, the current through the
capacitor (IC) will lead the voltage by π/2 radians (90°) and the current through the inductor
(IL) will lag the voltage by π/2 radians (90°). The vertical components, IL and IC, are in direct
opposition to each other, so the resulting vertical component is thus (IL – IC). The supply
current (IS) is found using Pythagoras, as follows.

2
IS = IR 2 + (IL − I C )

Impedance (Z) in a Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) Parallel AC Circuit

In a parallel AC circuit the reciprocal of impedance is the vector sum of the reciprocals of the
inductive reactance (XL), the capacitive reactance (XC), and the resistance (R) as shown
below.

2 2
1 =  1  +  1 − 1 
Z  XR   XL X C 

ATPL Electronics 9-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Power in a Resistive, Inductive and Capacitive (RLC) AC Circuit

The types of power which exist in an RLC circuit are shown below:-

True or Effective Power (Watts). This is the amount of power being consumed by
the resistive component in an AC circuit. The unit of true power is the Watt.

Reactive Power (VAR) (Wattless power). This is the power consumed by the
reactive components. The unit of reactive power is volts-amperes reactive (VAR)

Apparent Power (VA). This is found by measuring the voltage and current being
applied to a circuit, and multiplying them together. The unit of apparent power is
volt-amperes (VA), and most AC equipment is rated in VA. Apparent power (VA) is
made up of the vector sum of true power (Watts) and reactive power (VAR).

Power in an AC circuit can alternatively be represented as a triangle, as shown below.


Apparent
Power
(VA) Reactive
Power
(VAR)

Real or True
Power
(Watts)

Power Factor

This is a means of indicating the amount of true power being consumed in an AC circuit
when the apparent power (VA) is given. The formula is:-

True Power
Power Factor (Cos φ) =
Apparent Power

For example, if the apparent power of a circuit is 1000 Volt-amperes and the generator has a
power factor of 0.6, then the True Power will be 600 Watts, ie. the generator is only 60%
effective. If the power factor is alternatively ‘1.0 or unity’, then the True Power would be

ATPL Electronics 9-8 24 October 2003


1000 Watts. It is therefore important that the power factor is as close to unity as possible,
although this is normally a fixed quantity, and cannot be altered.

ATPL Electronics 9-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


AC Series Circuit Example

An AC series circuit with a supply voltage of 100 volts has a resistance (R) of 30Ω, a
capacitive reactance (XC) of 60 Ω and an inductance reactance (XL) of 100 Ω, as shown
below.

Calculate the:-

a) Total impedance (Z).


b) Supply current (I).
c) P.D across each component (VR, VC and VL).
d) True, reactive and apparent power.
e) Power factor

Solution:-

S S

α) Z = R
2
+ (X L − X C ) 2 = 30 2 + (100 − 60 ) 2 = 50 ohms (Ω)

VS
b) IS = = 100 = 2 amps
Z 50

c) VR = I x R = 2 x 30 = 60 volts

VC = I x XC = 2 x 60 = 120 volts

VL = I x XL = 2 x 100 = 200 volts

d) True Power = VR x I = 60 x 2 = 120 watts

Reactive Power = (VL – VC) x I = 80 x 2 = 160 volt-amperes reactive (VAR)

Apparent Power = VS x I = 100 x 2 = 200 volt-amperes (VA)

ATPL Electronics 9-10 24 October 2003


e) Power Factor = True Power
= 120 = 0.6 lagging
Apparent Power 200

This is because the supply voltage is ahead of the supply current in the phasor
diagram.

AC Parallel Circuit Example

An AC parallel circuit with a supply voltage of 100 volts has a resistance (R) of 30.3 Ω, a
capacitive reactance (XC) of 10 Ω and an inductance reactance (XL) of 16.7 Ω, as shown
below.

Calculate the:-

a) Current through each component (IR, IL and IC).


b) Total current (IT).
c) True, reactive and apparent power.
d) Power factor

Solution:-

VS 100
a) IR = = = 3 amps
R 33.3
VS 100
IC = = = 10 amps
XC 10

ATPL Electronics 9-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


VS 100
IL = = = 6 amps
XL 16.7

b) IT = IR 2 + (IC − IL ) 2 = 3 2 + (10 − 6 ) 2 = 5 amps

c) True Power = VS x IR = 100 x 3 = 300 watts

Reactive Power = VS x (IC – IL) = 100 x 4 = 400 volt-amperes reactive (VAR)

Apparent Power = VS x IT = 100 x 5 = 500 volt-amperes (VA)

d) Power Factor = True Power


= 300 = 0.6 leading
Apparent Power 500
This is because the supply voltage is behind the supply current in the phasor
diagram.

ATPL Electronics 9-12 24 October 2003


Chapter 10.

Resonant AC Circuits

Introduction

When a D.C. voltage is applied to a parallel circuit containing both inductance and
capacitance, the capacitor will act like an open circuit, and the inductor like a short circuit.
This means that XC will be infinite while XL will be zero. If a very low frequency AC is
alternatively applied instead of DC and the frequency gradually increased XL will increase
and XC will decrease. A point will eventually be reached where the value of XL is the same as
XC. It follows that for any combination of L and C, there will be a frequency at which XL will
equal XC. This is true whether the two components are connected in series or parallel. The
condition where XL equals XC is known as ‘Resonance’, and the frequency at which this
occurs is known as the ‘Resonant Frequency (fo)’.

The resonant frequency can be calculated from the following formula:-

XL = XC
2πfL = 1
2Π fC
fo = 1
2Π LC

where: f = frequency in hertz, L = inductance in Henries


and C = Capacitance in Farads

Series Resonant Circuit

When current flows in a series circuit containing, a resistor, a capacitor and an inductor, a
voltage will be developed across each component.

VS = VR 2 + (VC − VL ) 2

At resonance the voltage drop across the capacitor will be equal and opposite to the voltage
drop across the inductor, thus cancelling each other out.

ATPL Electronics 10-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


At resonance the voltage across the resistance (VR), will thus equal the supply voltage (VS).
The capacitor and inductor therefore do not affect the supply, since they provide no
opposition to current flow at resonance. The voltage across the individual reactive
components can also be many times higher than the supply voltage. Similarly in terms of
impedance (Z):-

Z= R 2 + (X C − X L ) 2

Both the capacitive and inductive reactance is dependent on the frequency and both alters
with changes in frequency, as shown below.

With increasing frequency XC reduces whilst XL increases, and vice versa. The value of Z
similarly alters, and at resonance XC = XL, thus Z = R. Minimum impedance will thus allow
maximum current to flow in the circuit when the resonant frequency is achieved.

A series resonant circuit is alternatively known as an ‘Acceptor’ circuit, and is particularly


useful in communication equipment because it increases the sensitivity of the receiver (RX).
This is done by enabling signals of a given frequency to be magnified and separated from
other signals. The range of frequencies over which it is selective is called the ‘Bandwidth’
of the resonant circuit, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 10-2 24 October 2003


Bandwidth

By convention the bandwidth of a series circuit is the separation between two frequencies
either side of the resonant frequency, at which the output power falls to half its maximum
value.

Q Factor in a Series Resonant Circuit

The Q or magnification factor is very important in a series resonant circuit, and is defined as
the ratio of the reactance to resistance.
XL XC
Q= or
R R

This is the reason why the voltage across the reactive components can be very much larger
than the supply voltage, because it magnifies the voltage by the factor of Q.

Parallel Resonant Circuit (Tank Circuit)

In an ideal parallel resonant circuit containing only pure capacitance and pure inductance,
XL will be equal to XC.

SUPPLY IL =

Under these conditions an equal amount of energy would be firstly be stored in the capacitor
in an electrostatic field, and then passed to the inductor, to be stored as an electro-magnetic
field. This is known as the ‘Flywheel Effect’, and because there is no resistance in the
circuit, the oscillation of energy between the capacitor and inductor would continue
indefinitely. It follows that since no energy needs be replaced in the circuit, then none is
drawn from the AC supply other than the initial amount of energy required to start the
oscillation. The circuit therefore appears to the supply to be an open circuit. Practical parallel
inductive-capacitive circuits however have resistance, and unlike the hypothetical circuit
shown, which only stores energy, resistance dissipates it in the form of heat. In a practical
tank circuit, the oscillation will therefore quickly die away unless the lost energy is replaced

ATPL Electronics 10-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


by the supply. If the resistance in the circuit is high, the oscillations will quickly damp out
because the energy is rapidly dissipated.

In a normal parallel RLC circuit the supply current (IS) can be established using a phasor
diagram and Pythagoras’s Theorem, as shown below.

IS = IR 2 + (IL − I C ) 2

At resonance the current through the capacitor will be equal and opposite to the current
through the inductor, thus cancelling each other out.

At resonance the current through the resistance (IR), will thus equal the supply current (IS).
The capacitor and inductor therefore affect the supply, since they provide maximum
opposition to current flow at resonance. The circulating current in the inductor and capacitor
can also be many times greater than the supply current at resonance. The impedance (Z) is
thus maximum and the resultant current a minimum at resonance.

Bandwidth

C
U
R
R
E
N
T

fO
FREQUENCY

ATPL Electronics 10-4 24 October 2003


A parallel resonant circuit is alternatively known as a ‘Rejector’ circuit, and is particularly
useful in communication equipment because it increases the selectivity of the receiver (RX).
This is done by enabling signals of a given frequency to be easily separated from other
signals, by magnifying the supply current. The range of frequencies over which it is selective
is called the ‘Bandwidth’ of the resonant circuit, as shown above.

Often a parallel resonant circuit is too selective, and responds only to a very narrow band of
frequencies. In these cases, connecting a relatively small value resistor across the tank
circuit can increase the bandwidth.

Q Factor in a Parallel Resonant Circuit

In a parallel resonant circuit the supply is applied directly across both C and L, so unlike a
series resonant circuit, the current rather than the voltage is magnified by a factor of Q. This
is determined by dividing the tank current by the source current, as shown below.

I Tank
Q=
I Source

This is the reason why the current circulating around the reactive components can be very
much larger than the supply current.

Self Resonance of Coils

Every coil has a certain value of capacitance and therefore at some value of frequency the
inductor (coil) will begin to self resonate.

Use of Resonant Circuits

The characteristics of resonant circuits make them useful for filtering specific frequencies in
electronic circuits, and in this capacity are known as ‘Filters’. The basic filters which exist
are:-

Low-pass Filter. In this circuit an inductance coil is placed in series, and a capacitor is
placed in parallel with the supply.

Low frequencies will pass easily through the inductance coil, but will be blocked by the
capacitor, whereas at higher frequencies the reverse will occur. This is because the
reactance of the components varies with frequency, and thus determines which component
passes current more readily. At low frequencies the inductive reactance (XL = 2ΠfL) is low,
whereas at higher frequencies the capacitive reactance (XC = 1 ) is low. A low-pass filter
2Π fC
with thus pass frequencies in the lower ranges, but will attenuate or reduce the current at
frequencies in the higher ranges.

High-pass Filter. In this circuit a capacitor is placed in series, and an inductance coil is
placed in parallel with the supply.

ATPL Electronics 10-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Low frequencies will pass easily through the inductance coil, but will be blocked by the
capacitor, whereas at higher frequencies the reverse will occur. A high-pass filter with thus
pass frequencies in the higher ranges, but will attenuate or reduce the current at frequencies
in the lower ranges.

Band-pass Filter. This filter consists of a series LC, and a parallel LC circuit, arranged as
shown below.

In this arrangement the impedance of the series LC circuit remains high, except at or near
the resonant frequency, whereas the impedance of the parallel LC circuit remains low until
this frequency band is reached. The number of circuit components and their resistance also
determines the bandwidth of this filter, ie. the greater the resistance the greater the
bandwidth.

Band-reject Filter. This filter consists of a series LC, and a parallel LC circuit, arranged as
shown below.

In this arrangement the impedance of the parallel LC circuit remains low, except at or near
the resonant frequency, whereas the impedance of the series LC circuit remains high until
this frequency band is reached. The resonant frequencies will thus be bypassed and
blocked from reaching the output. The number of circuit components and their resistance
also determines the bandwidth of this filter, ie. the greater the resistance the greater the
bandwidth.

Tuning Circuits

A filter may be used as a ‘Tuning Circuit’ if either a variable capacitor or inductor is used. A
typical circuit is shown below.

ATPL Electronics 10-6 24 October 2003


In this circuit a variable capacitor is used with a fixed resistor, but in other circuits a fixed
capacitor is used with a variable inductor, which is altered using a moveable core. Tuning
circuits usually have a high selectivity and only allow a narrow band of frequencies to pass,
whilst rejecting all others.

During its operation radio signals cut across the antenna and induce signals (currents) of
various frequencies to pass through the primary (P) winding of the antenna coil to earth. The
resulting electromagnetic waves induce an EMF in the secondary (S) winding of the antenna
coil, and the variable capacitor (C). When the resonant frequency of the coil is reached a
maximum voltage is developed across the capacitor, and a maximum voltage is applied to
the emitter-base of the transistor. This voltage is the input signal to the transistor, which in
turn amplifies the relatively weak signal being passed to the tuner.

In other cases a series resonant circuit is used in the primary circuit, which only allows
maximum current to flow in this section at the resonant frequency. This thus prevents
unwanted frequencies from being induced in the secondary winding, and increases the
systems selectivity.

ATPL Electronics 10-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Intentionally Left Blank

ATPL Electronics 10-8 24 October 2003


Chapter 11.

Transformers

Introduction

Transformers are extremely versatile devices, and can be used to either, step up and step
down AC voltages, or step up and step down AC current. They can also allow AC to pass
and block DC.

Construction and Operation

The most common type of transformer is the voltage transformer, which consists of two
windings (primary winding and secondary winding). The windings are not electrically
connected together, which is a safety feature in AC electrical circuits, but are wound on the
same laminated soft iron core.

If an AC voltage is applied to the primary winding the resultant changing flux will link with the
secondary winding. The changing flux will be concentrated by the iron core, and will cause
an EMF to be induced in the secondary winding. The magnitude of the EMF is proportional
to the ratio of the number of turns between the primary and secondary windings.

NP V
Turns ratio = = P
NS VS

Where:- Vp = Primary voltage


Vs = Secondary voltage
Np = Primary turns
Ns = Secondary turns

Voltage transformers are categorised depending on the ratio of the turns, and are
represented by the following symbols.

If there are more turns on the secondary than the primary it is a ‘Step-up’ transformer, and if
there are more turns on the primary than the secondary it is a ‘Step-down’ transformer.

ATPL Electronics 11-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Transformers are also extremely efficient, ie. the amount of power in, is approximately equal
to the amount of power out, and they are rated in volt-amperes (VA). The following
relationship thus exists between the turns ratio, voltage and current.

VP N I
= P = S
VS NS IP

where IS = Secondary Current


IP = Primary Current

If the voltage is stepped up, then the current will be stepped down. For example if a
transformer has a turns ratio of 1:2, and inputs of 240volts and 5 amps, the outputs will be
respectively:-

VS NS
V = N
P P

VS = 2 x 240 = 480 volts


1

IS N
= P
IP NS

IS = 1 x 5 = 2.5 amps
2

Transformers also consist of inductive components so it is important that they are operated
at their correct frequency and voltage. Any under frequency condition will result in the
primary current increasing, and the transformer overheating.

Types of Transformers

In addition to voltage transformers the following types of transformer also exist:-

Three-Phase Transformer (Isolation Transfomer). This type is widely used on aeroplanes


and consists of three individual isolation transformers, where the primary windings are
connected together across a three-phase AC supply, as shown below.

STAR DELTA

The secondary windings are also connected together and produce a three-phase output
voltage of a value dependent on the supply, and the turn’s ratio between the three
corresponding winding pairs, which are normally the same. The primary and secondary
windings can be alternatively connected in a delta-star configuration, as shown on the next
page, or connected in star-star or delta-delta, although this is dependent on the transformer's
particular application.

ATPL Electronics 11-2 24 October 2003


DELTA STAR

Auto Transformer. This is a special type, since it has no electrical isolation between the
primary and secondary windings. A single continuous winding is wound on a laminated iron
core, where part of the winding is used as the primary, whilst the other part is used as the
secondary, as shown below.

These transformers can be used to either step-up or step-down the applied voltage,
depending on the winding configuration. In a step-down device the whole of the winding
serves as the primary winding, whilst the lower half of the winding serves as the secondary
winding. In this case there are fewer turns in the secondary than in the primary; so the
voltage will be stepped-down, but the current will be stepped-up. This configuration is
typically used to power aeroplane instruments where the voltage is stepped-down from
115volts 400Hertz to 26volts AC. The disadvantage of this format is that the full voltage will
be placed across the load if the coil goes open circuit, since there is no voltage isolation
between the two windings.

Conversely in a step-up Auto Transformer the lower half of the coil is used as the primary,
and the entire coil is used as the secondary. In this case the secondary has more turns than
the primary, so the transformer will step-up the voltage and step-down the current. On
aeroplanes this arrangement is typically used in windshield anti-icing systems.

If the output from the Auto Transformer can be varied via a moveable tapping, as shown
below, it is alternatively known as a ‘Variac’, and is typically used on the flight deck, to
control the intensity of ultra-violet lighting.

ATPL Electronics 11-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Current Transformer. This type differs from the voltage transformer because the primary
circuit consists of a supply feeder cable, rather than a winding connected across a supply, as
shown below.

In this arrangement the alternating magnetic field associated with the load current is linked to
the current transformer secondary winding via a laminated soft iron core, through which the
feeder (primary) passes. The secondary current is used to feed a meter, and typically
registers the current flowing from an AC generator to the busbar or load. The secondary
current can additionally be used to supply power meters and also to monitor the load sharing
in an electrical circuit. In AC power generation systems this type of transformer can also be
used as a sensor in a ‘Differential Protection Circuit’, as shown below.

7)

This system protects against line to line and line to earth short circuits on the feeder lines
between the generator and the ‘Generator Circuit Breaker (GCB)’. Doughnut current
transformers are placed around the feeder lines and secondary windings of each pair in
series opposition, to ensure that the full output from the generator passes to the load. Under
no fault conditions the currents at each end of the feeder lines will be equal, so the induced
EMF’s will be in balance, and thus no current will flow to the ‘Differential Protection Relay’.

ATPL Electronics 11-4 24 October 2003


If a difference in current of 30-40 amps exists a signal will flow to the protection relay, which
will instantaneously trip the ‘Generator Control Relay (GCR)’ and the GCB, thus
automatically disconnecting the generator from the system.

Transformer Rectifier Units

A Transformer Rectifier Unit (TRU) is used to convert AC into relatively smooth DC, and an
example of a simple TRU circuit is that which is used in a car battery charger, as shown
below.

This device takes the mains 240 volts AC, and converts it to approximately 14 Volts DC to
charge the battery. This is achieved by a transformer, which firstly steps down the AC
voltage to a reasonable level, and then converts it via a bridge rectifier assembly into DC.

Most large aeroplane AC generator systems have dedicated TRU’s, which operate on the
same principle, although they are slightly more sophisticated, and a typical unit is shown
below.

ATPL Electronics 11-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


ATPL Electronics 11-6 24 October 2003
The TRU that is fitted to an aeroplane is typically supplied with 200volts 400 Hz
three-phase AC, which is stepped-down through a three-phase star-star, wound transformer
and changed to 28 volts DC by way of a six-rectifier bridge assembly. The output from the
TRU is then fed to the aeroplane’s DC busbars.

Each TRU has the following basic protections:-

¾ Overheat. Most TRU's when they are operating are cooled by air from a
thermostatically controlled cooling fan, but if the TRU overheats (150°-200°), due
to fan or other failure, an warning light will be annunciated on the flight deck.
The TRU should then be switched off, either manually or automatically.

¾ Reverse Current. When the TRU's are operating in parallel with some other
power source, the failure of a rectifier in a TRU can cause a reverse current to
flow into it, and may even cause a fire. Reverse current protection in the failed
TRU is thus designed to sense the fault current when it reaches approximately 1
amp, and disconnect the TRU automatically from the DC bus bars.

ATPL Electronics 11-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


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ATPL Electronics 11-8 24 October 2003


Chapter 12.

AC Power Generation

Introduction

The majority of large modern aeroplanes now employ three-phase AC generators because
they are more efficient than their DC equivalents, and the most powerful of these are called
three-phase machines. The following explanation of three-phase circuits is based on a
simple three-phase generator.

Simple Three Phase Generator

A three-phase generator consists of two main parts, as shown below:-

(RED)

(YELLOW)
(BLUE)

The rotor carries the electromagnetic field that is driven by the aeroplane engine, whilst the
stator, carries three sets (pairs) of coils (phase windings). These windings are fixed to one
another at angles of 120°, and the phases are AA1, BB1 and CC1 or coloured Red(RR1),
Yellow(YY1) and Blue(BB1) respectively, where the A or Red phase is classified as the
‘Reference Phase’. As the rotor rotates it induces an EMF in each set of windings in turn,
and produces a sine wave output from each, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 12-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


At any instant the sum of the EMF’s or the currents in a balanced system will add up to zero.

These windings supply the output of the generator, and are connected in either a ‘Star’ or
‘Delta’ configuration, as shown below.
STAR

OUTPUT

Most aeroplanes similarly use three-phase AC motors with delta or star wound stators.

Star Connection

In the star configuration one end of each phase winding is connected to a common point
called the ‘Neutral (N)’ or ‘Star Point’, whilst the other end of each phase winding is
connected to output terminals distributing AC power of different phases.

In this configuration the output voltages and currents are respectively:-

Phase Voltage(VP) = 3 x Line Voltage(VL)

Line Current(IL) = Phase Current(IP)

On most aeroplane generators the output voltages are:-

¾ Phase Voltage = 115 VOLTS


¾ Line Voltage = 200 VOLTS

The vast majority of aeroplane AC generators are connected in the star configuration with the
neutral point (N) connected directly to earth, which allows:-

¾ The generator to feed unbalanced loads.


¾ Easy access to the phase voltages.

ATPL Electronics 12-2 24 October 2003


When a three-phase star connected generator is feeding a balanced load (ABC phases
feeding the same current) the net current of all three phases is zero. In this case no current
flows in the neutral line. When unbalanced currents feed the load the resultant of these
currents will flow in the neutral line. If the currents being used are always balanced there is
no need for a neutral point to be fitted. On aeroplanes, although desirable, it is not practical
for the generator to feed balanced loads all of the time, so it is thus necessary on most
generators to connect the neutral point to earth.

Delta Connection

In the delta configuration the phases are connected in a triangular (delta) format, with no
common or neutral point.

Unlike the star connection the phase and line voltages in the delta connection are the same:-

Line Voltage(VL) = Phase Voltage(VP)

The line and phase currents however differ:-

Line Current(IL) = 3 x Phase Current(IP)

Advantages of Three Phase over Single Phase AC Generators

Three phase AC generators are preferable to single-phase machines for the following
reasons:-

¾ Less conductor weight is required for the transmission of a given power.

¾ They can produce a rotating magnetic field, which can be used to operate
efficient three phase AC motors.

¾ Three-phase AC gives smoother rectification than single phase AC

Voltage and Frequency of AC Generators

Adjusting the field excitation of an AC generator using a voltage regulator controls its voltage
output.

The output frequency of an AC generator is alternatively dependent on the rotational speed


of the rotor, and the number of magnetic field poles, as shown in the following formula.

ATPL Electronics 12-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Frequency(f) = NP / 60

where:- N = Rotational Speed (RPM)


P = Number of pole pairs on the rotor

Phase Rotation

Three phase power supplies in an aeroplanes power system must have a positive phase
sequence, ie. A.B.C, B.C.A or C.A.B. If any of the phases are crossed over, ie. A.C.B, C.B.A
or B.A.C a negative phase sequence would exist and will result in three-phase motor running
in the wrong direction.

Faults on Three-Phase AC Generators

The two main faults, which can occur in the output phases and lines of an AC generator are
earth, and open circuits. The diagram below shows how these faults would affect a
star-connected generator.

The diagram below shows how these faults would affect a delta-connected generator.

ATPL Electronics 12-4 24 October 2003


Generator Real and Reactive Load Sharing

AC loads consume apparent power, which is measured in Volt-Amperes (VA), and so most
AC machines are also rated in VA. On many large aeroplanes with 3 or 4 engines the
generators are normally run in parallel, and must share the apparent power in terms of
true power (Watts) and reactive power (Volt-Amperes Reactive, VAR). WATT/VAR meters,
as shown below, are fitted to each generator system, and allow the flight crew to check that
the load sharing between the generators is equal.

Types of AC Generator

The basic types of aeroplane AC generators, which exist are:-

Salient Pole Three-Phase AC Generators. These are ‘Frequency Wild’ or ‘Brushed’


generators, which are mainly used on aeroplanes with turbo-propeller engines, eg. F-27, and
generate frequency wild AC power. They consist of a rotor with electromagnets fitted to each
salient pole, which alternate in polarity around the circumference of the rotor, and rotate
inside a fixed three-phase stator, as shown below.

The outer shell of the machine holds the stator that consists of three fixed star-connected
windings, and the generator is cooled by ram air.

ATPL Electronics 12-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


QUILL DRIVE

A typical three phase brushed AC generator, as shown above, would be rated at 22KVA with
an output of 208 volts, and would supply a full load at this voltage through a frequency range
of 280-400 Hertz. The generator frequency and output voltage vary with rotational speed, so
cannot be used to operate circuits containing inductive and capacitive components.

This type of generator can thus only be used to operate purely resistive circuits, such as the
propeller de-icing system on turbo propeller aeroplanes, eg. the F27.

During its operation some of the AC output is fed back to the voltage regulator via a three
phase full rectifier pack, which provides a medium to low DC voltage, and self excitation of
the generator, as shown below, although the majority is passed directly to the main AC
busbars.

ATPL Electronics 12-6 24 October 2003


The voltage regulator senses the output from the generator and automatically adjusts the
excitation field for varying engine speed and load conditions. The battery is thus no
longer required and is manually disconnected from the circuit via the control switch.

A temperature sensor and a quill drive protect this type of machine. If the generator
overheats it should be off-loaded or even switched off, and allowed to cool. The quill
drive connects the generator to the engine, and is designed to shear if the generator
seizes, thus protecting the engine. It is also designed to absorb any mechanical
vibrations and produce a smoother output.

Brushless Three Phase AC Generator

This is a highly sophisticated machine, and is used on large jet aeroplanes for generating
constant frequency supplies. The brushless generator has the advantage over the brushed
type, since it requires less maintenance and is also more reliable. It is driven by the
aeroplane engine via a ‘Constant Speed Drive Unit (CSDU)’, which maintains a constant
generator speed for varying engine speeds, and produces a constant frequency output of
400 Hz.

This type of generator comprises of three individual parts as shown on the next page. A
permanent magnet generator (PMG) initially induces a single-phase AC voltage into the pilot
exciter when the rotor is driven via the CSDU. The AC voltage is then full-wave rectified and
fed to the main exciter by way of the voltage regulator. As the three phase windings, which
are mounted on a common drive shaft, are rotated within the field, a three-phase AC voltage
is induced in the windings. The output is then rectified via a three-phase bridge rectifier
circuit, which consists of six diodes that are mounted inside the drive shaft, and produces the
main DC field. The temperature of the diodes is carefully controlled by ram air-cooling, which
is directed down the centre of the shaft. The field coil is also fixed to the common drive shaft,
and as it rotates it induces a voltage in the AC output windings. Some of the output is fed
back to the voltage regulator and increases the output from the pilot exciter, which in turn
increases the output from the main exciter. This sequence of events continues until the

ATPL Electronics 12-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


generator reaches its regulated AC output line voltage of 200volts and phase voltage of 115
Volts at 400 Hz.

Constant Speed Drive Unit

The ‘Constant Speed Drive Unit (CSDU)’ is a mainly mechanical device, which is
positioned between the aeroplane engine and the brushless AC generator. On older
aeroplanes the CSDU and generator are normally separate items, as shown below, and the
generator is air-cooled.

The CSDU is designed to keep the generator running at a constant speed, which is usually
8,000 RPM for varying engine speeds, and gives a constant output frequency of 400 Hz.
One particular type of device is mechanically/hydraulically driven and consists of a self-

ATPL Electronics 12-8 24 October 2003


contained oil system, as shown on the next page. A pump assembly provides high-pressure
oil, which controls the pumping action of a pump/motor assembly via a centrifugal governor.

The governor is a mechanical device, and is not sensitive enough to give the fine speed
trimming required to control the frequency within close limits, 395-425 Hz. To achieve the
required trim, an electromagnetic coil receives signals from the electrical system load
controller, and modifies the position of the flyweights in the governor.

SERVO PISTON

The CSDU cylinder block is mechanically linked to the engine drive and as it rotates, the end
of the pump pistons stroke against a stationary inclined ‘Pump Wobbler (Swash) Plate’, as
shown below, thus producing a pumping action.

ATPL Electronics 12-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The angle or inclination of this plate is controlled by a mechanical governor, which varies the
hydraulic pressure to the two sides of a piston inside a control cylinder (servo mechanism).
As the block rotates the end of the motor pistons also stroke against an inclined fixed angle
‘Motor Wobbler (Swash) Plate’ assembly, where an eccentric centre plate is sandwiched
between two stationary plates. The centre plate is coupled to an output shaft, which drives
the generator, and is free to rotate against ball bearings. The pressure being exerted on the
motor pistons by the pump determines the rotational speed of the centre plate, and the
higher the pressure the faster it will rotate. A typical analogy of this is a piece of soap on the
side of the bath; where the harder you push, the faster it will tend to move away from you.

Operation of the Hydro-Mechanical CSDU

If the throttle setting is decreased the engine speed will similarly decrease, thus rotating the
casing of the CSDU slower, and decreasing the pumping action of the hydraulic pump. The
engine output speed will now be slower than the required generator speed, and an ‘Over-
drive’ condition will exist. The governor will sense this, and the angle of the swash plate will
be increased, by oil being directed to the left hand side of the piston via the over-drive inlet
port, thus increasing the stroke of the pistons. This increases the output pressure from the
pump and forces the motor pistons to exert more force on the downhill side of the motor
wobbler assembly. This causes the centre plate to rotate faster than the cylinder block, thus
maintaining a constant generator speed.

Conversely if the throttle setting is increased the engine speed will similarly increase, thus
rotating the casing of the CSDU faster, and increasing the pumping action of the hydraulic
pump. The engine output will now be faster than the required generator speed, and an
‘Under-drive’ condition will exist. The governor will sense this, and the angle of the swash
plate will be decreased, by oil being directed to the right hand side of the piston via the
under-drive inlet port, thus decreasing the stroke of the pistons. This decreases the output
pressure from the pump and forces the motor pistons to exert less force on the downhill side

ATPL Electronics 12-10 24 October 2003


of the motor wobbler assembly. This causes the centre plate to rotate slower than the
cylinder block, thus maintaining a constant generator speed.

When the engine output speed equals the required generator speed the oil pressure and oil
flow within the hydraulic system will be such that the motor is hydraulically locked, ie. the
cylinder block will be locked to the motor, and both will rotate together as a fixed coupling.

Protection of the Hydro-Mechanical CSDU

To guard against mechanical failure, the oil pressure and temperature of the CSDU is
monitored on the flight deck, as shown below.

If the CSDU fails mechanically it may cause an over-speed or under-speed (over


frequency/under frequency) condition, and the reactive components in the aeroplane could
be severely damaged. Sensors are thus fitted to detect any speed change, and will
automatically disconnect the generator from the busbar via the Generator Circuit Breaker
(GCB).

Conversely if there is an indication of imminent failure, the 'CSDU Disconnect Switch’ can
be manually selected by the flight crew. This operates a solenoid switch, as shown below,
and allows the threaded pawl to engage with the course thread on the input shaft, thus
separating the ‘Dog Tooth Clutch Mechanism’.

ATPL Electronics 12-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


This separates the drive between the engine and CSDU, and allows the generator to run
down. Once the CSDU has been disconnected, it cannot be reset until the aeroplane is on
the ground with its engine shut down, although the disconnect mechanism can be activated
at any time. In order to prevent inadvertent CSDU disconnect the switches are normally
guarded and locked with thin copper wire.

Integrated Drive Generator

On modern aeroplanes the CSDU and generator are normally combined as one unit, which is
known as an ‘Integrated Drive Generator (IDG)’, as shown below, and the generator is
alternatively oil-cooled.

This is a much lighter and more compact unit.

ATPL Electronics 12-12 24 October 2003


Variable Speed Constant Frequency Power Systems

Variable Frequency Constant Frequency (VSCF) systems are fitted to some commercial jet
aeroplanes, eg. Boeing 737-300, -400, and –500 variants. In this system no mechanical
CSDU is fitted and the generators variable frequency output is converted into a constant
frequency AC output of 400 Hertz, via solid state circuitry, as shown below.

VSCF systems are more reliable and offer greater flexibility than a typical CSDU and
generator configuration. The generator is still driven directly from the aeroplane engine, but
the control units of the VSCF system can be mounted virtually anywhere in the aeroplane,
thus allowing for a more compact engine nacelle.

Auxiliary Power Unit

The ‘Auxiliary Power Unit (APU)’ is a compact unit, as shown below, which is usually fitted
in the tail section of an aeroplane, and provides electrical power (200 Volts 3 Phase 400 Hz)
on the ground.

The APU can also be used to supply compressed air on the ground for engine starting, and
electrical power in flight during an emergency.

ATPL Electronics 12-13 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Most APU's have their own dedicated 24 volt battery for starting, or can alternatively be
started from ground power, although the main aeroplane battery switch must be on to
operate the APU control circuits. The APU can drive one or two generators, depending on
the type of aeroplane, and these are the same type as those fitted to the main engines. The
APU does not require a CSDU to maintain a constant frequency output, since the drive from
the APU runs at a constant speed via a governor, and can be used up to 25,000 feet.

Emergency Ram Air Turbine

In the case of total main electrical AC failure, a ‘Ram Air Turbine (RAT)’, as shown below,
can be extended automatically or manually into the airstream.

A variable pitch propeller drives a hydraulic pump, which in turn drives an AC generator at a
constant speed, and supplies 200 Volts 3 Phase 400Hertz for emergency loads. During the
approach to landing the RAT may become inefficient, so the aeroplane batteries will take
over, and will supply the necessary loads during the final approach.

The RAT can additionally only be restored on the ground, and is also inhibited from
deployment on the ground.

ATPL Electronics 12-14 24 October 2003


Chapter 13.

AC Power Generation Systems

Introduction

AC power supply systems can be split into the following categories:

¾ Frequency Wild AC Systems. These are used in small to medium sized


aeroplanes ranging from small piston engined aeroplanes to large twin engined
turbo propeller aeroplanes.
¾ Constant Frequency AC Systems. These are used on jet aeroplanes, and are
either split busbar or parallel systems.

Piston-Engine Frequency Wild AC System Architecture

A typical single-engined aeroplane uses a frequency wild electrical generation system.

In this system the AC generator (alternator) is driven directly from the engine via a fan belt,
so the frequency output from the generator will be dependent, and proportional to the engine
speed. Before being fed to the aeroplane loads the AC is changed directly into DC, via
rectifiers inside the generator.

Operation of a Piston-Engine Frequency Wild AC System

On initially switching the battery on, the busbar will be supplied with approximately 12 volts,
and depending on the loads selected, the ammeter will read a discharge as a negative value.
The under voltage lamp will also be illuminated indicating that the busbar is below 13.5 volts,
and the output from the AC generator will be zero until the generator switch is placed in the
'ON' position. The generator field excitation will be supplied initially from the battery, but
once the generator produces an output, it will become self-excited. When the generator
output is approximately 14 volts DC the under-voltage warning lamp will go out and a

ATPL Electronics 13-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


charging current, indicated by the ammeter reading a positive value, will flow towards the
battery.

The advantages of this system over the older commutator generator method of producing DC
are that:-

¾ There is no necessity for a cut out because no reverse current can flow into the
AC generator.

¾ The output is taken from stationary stator windings and only a small current need
to be transferred to the motor field by way of brush gear and slip rings.

¾ There is no need for a cast iron yolk to concentrate the field, so the AC
generator is a lot lighter.

Fault Protection in a Piston-Engine Frequency Wild AC System

The following faults protections exist in a piston-engined frequency wild AC system:-

¾ Over-Voltage. If an over-voltage occurs (15.5 volts approximately) the voltage


regulator will break the field and lock it out, causing the under-voltage lamp to
illuminate. One attempt to reset the system by switching the generator switch
'OFF' for a few seconds to break the lock, then switching it to 'ON' again may be
made, which is often referred to as ‘Cycling’ the generator switch.

¾ Under-Voltage. If the generator under-volts or is switched off, the under-


voltage warning lamp will illuminate, and will be automatically extinguished when
the voltage returns to normal.

¾ Overheat. Some of these systems are fitted with an overheat thermostatic


sensor. If an overheat condition occurs it is annunciated to the flight crew, who
should manually switch the generator switch off, and allow it to cool. When the
generator has cooled, the overheat warning annunciator will automatically reset
itself.

Note that the indications on this system for an over-volt or under-volt condition are somewhat
similar, so if this fault occurs, ‘cycling’ the generator switch can reset the system.

Twin-Engine Turbo-Propeller Frequency Wild AC System Architecture

In this system the AC generators are fitted directly to each engine, and unless the engines
run at a constant speed, the output frequency will vary (Frequency Wild).

ATPL Electronics 13-2 24 October 2003


The output from each generator is normally 200 volt three-phase, and varies in frequency
between 280 - 540 Hertz, which corresponds respectively to low and high engine RPM's.
The generators in this system should not be run in parallel under any circumstance, so their
AC output is normally used to feed heating elements only. This is because the elements are
purely resistive, and are thus unaffected by changes in frequency. In some systems part of
the frequency wild output is rectified in a Transformer Rectifier Unit (TRU), and provides an
alternative DC supply. The DC supplies may also be paralleled provided that the voltages
are matched.

Operation of a Twin-Engine Turbo-Propeller Frequency Wild AC System

With the engine started and running the generator is initially excited by a separate power
source, ie. the battery or ground power, as shown below.

Firstly switching the generator control switch to ‘RESET’, and thus closing the field relay
achieves this. When the generator is producing an output part of it is fed back through the
voltage regulator, and ‘Bridge Rectifier Pack’ to provide the generator field, thus providing

ATPL Electronics 13-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


self-excitation. Once the generator is operating at its regulated output voltage of 200 volts,
the line-contactor will close, and the generator warning light will go out. Moving the control
switch to the 'ON' position will subsequently de-excite the field relay, and will remove the
source of the initial excitation current. The generator will now be fully self-excited, and the
voltage regulator will continue to adjust the field excitation for varying speed load conditions.

Fault Protection in a Twin-Engine Turbo-Propeller Frequency Wild AC System

The following faults protections exist in a twin-engined turbo-propeller frequency wild


AC system:-:-

¾ Overheat. If the generator overheats due to inadequate cooling or overload, a


warning light will illuminate on the flight deck, and the generator should be
manually switched off.

¾ Earth-Leakage. If there is low insulation in the alternator system or loads a


warning light will illuminate, and if this occurs the generator should be switched
off.

¾ Under-Voltage. This fault normally uses the same warning light as that used to
indicate an earth leakage fault. The system voltmeter is thus used to
discriminate between an earth leakage fault, and an under-voltage fault.

¾ Over-Voltage. If an over voltage occurs a sensing circuit will automatically de-


excite the generator and remove it from the busbar. One attempt is usually
allowed to reset the system by cycling the control switch between ‘RESET’ and
‘RUN’.

¾ Differential Protection. This system is used to:-

¾ monitor line to line faults.

¾ monitor line to earth faults.

¾ ensure that the output current flowing from the generator is the same as
that flowing to the loads and returning to the generator.

If one of the above faults exists the generator will be automatically de-excited, and will also
be removed from the busbar. One reset may be attempted, but even if the system resets
satisfactorily for the rest of the flight, the fault must still be reported on landing.

ATPL Electronics 13-4 24 October 2003


The Constant Frequency Split Busbar AC System

The electrical system shown below is typically used on a twin jet engine aeroplane whose AC
power supply is 200 Volt 400 Hz three phase.

The power supply can be derived from four sources; two engine driven Integrated Drive
Generators (IDG’s), an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU), and an external power receptacle.
These sources should never be paralleled at any time. Under normal operation the
generators will independently feed the left and right section loads of the electrical system.
The loads being fed by these generators are normally indicated on ammeters fitted to each
generator output. The APU is used to drive a third generator which can supply the electrical
power necessary for ground operations, or act as a substitute for a failed engine-driven
generator. External power can also be used instead of APU power on the ground, but not
simultaneously.

Operation of a Constant Frequency Split Busbar AC System

The circuit on the opposite page is shown in the power off condition. On most aeroplanes
the APU is started by an electrical starter, which is supplied from its own dedicated battery,
or from the aeroplane battery. When the APU is up and running, the generator is selected by
the APU generator circuit breaker (GCB) to feed No.1 and No.2 main AC bus bars. The APU
generator will then supply all of the aeroplane AC requirements, and the Transformer
Rectifier Units (TRU's) will supply any DC requirements.

If the No.1 engine is initially started and run up, its dedicated IDG will produce the correct
output (200v 400 Hz three-phase) and it will feed the No. 1 main AC busbar. However
before it can supply this busbar the APU power must be removed from the No.1 main AC
busbar by opening the appropriate GCB, followed by the closing of the No.1 IDG GCB. The
No.1 IDG will now feed the No.1 main AC busbar and the A.P.U. generator will continue to
feed the No.2 main AC busbar. When the No.2 engine is up and running its IDG will
alternatively feed the No.2 main AC busbar. The APU generator supply must however be
firstly removed from the No.2 busbar before the IDG is allowed to feed it. At this point the
APU is no longer needed to feed the electrical system, and is therefore shut down. Both
engine driven IDG AC supplies will now operate independently of each other, and will be
kept separated by the ‘Bus-Tie Breaker (BTB)’.

ATPL Electronics 13-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


If one of the IDG's fails the BTB between the two systems will automatically close, and the
serviceable generator will feed both of the main AC busbars. If the APU is started again it
will substitute for the failed generator and the BTB will open. The main aeroplane DC supply
will be maintained by two TRU's (one for each IDG), as follows.

¾ The No.1 TRU will feed the DC essential busbar.

¾ The No.2 TRU will feed the DC non- essential busbar.

The TRU's are kept independent from each other by an ‘Isolation Relay’, but if either TRU
fails, the Isolation Relay between the two sides will automatically close, and the serviceable
TRU will feed both busbars.

Regulation and Protection of Constant Frequency Units

Most of these systems have separate or combined solid-state regulation and protection units
dedicated to each generator.

The regulator is divided into the following parts:-

¾ A speed regulator, which senses the output speed or frequency of the IDG and
adjusts the IDG to give a frequency output of between 380 - 420 Hz.

¾ A voltage regulator, which regulates the output voltage to 200 volts ± 5 volt by
adjusting the IDG's field excitation.

A dedicated protection unit houses the circuitry, which detects any faults occurring up to, and
including the busbars. Faults within this zone usually have time delays so that any faults
occurring after the busbars will have time to trip the circuit breakers, or blow the fuses.

Faults on a Constant Frequency Split Busbar AC Generator System

Some faults in a split busbar generator system will cause the IDG to de-excite and its related
GCB to open, thus removing the IDG from its own busbar. These faults are as follows:-

¾ Over-Voltage. If this type of fault is allowed to persist it could cause serious


damage to cable insulation and components.

¾ Differential Protection. This type of protection monitors the following faults:-

¾ A line to line or line to earth fault, which normally occurs inside the IDG.
¾ If the current flowing to the busbar is different from the current flowing from
the IDG.

ATPL Electronics 13-6 24 October 2003


Differential faults are detected by current transformers, which sense an
imbalance in current between the generator and the busbar. If one of the
above faults exists the generator field will be automatically de-excited and
the generator removed from the busbar

¾ Over-Frequency. If this fault is allowed to continue it may damage any


capacitive circuits due to high currents.

¾ Under-Frequency. This fault will cause high currents and the overheating of
any inductive circuits.

¾ Resetting. Many of the faults mentioned have a facility by which the system
can be reset. One reset only is usually allowed, ie. the system is ‘Cycled’.

Other faults which might occur are:-

¾ Generator Overheat. If the generator overheats due to frictional heating or


inefficient cooling, an overheat warning will be annunciated to the flight crew. If
this occurs the system should be manually switched off.

¾ IDG Disconnect (CSDU Disconnect). The oil pressure and oil temperature of
the IDG is monitored. If during a fault the oil pressure drops, accompanied with
an oil temperature rise, the flight crew may elect to operate the IDG disconnect,
but once this has been initiated, the system can only be manually reset on the
ground with the engine stopped.

¾ Generator Bearing Failure. If an excessive clearance exists in the bearings of


the engine, or APU generators, a bearing failure warning light will illuminate on
the flight deck.

Emergency Supplies

In the unlikely event that both IDG's and the APU generator fail AC can still be obtained
from:-

¾ The aeroplane battery, which will automatically feed the AC essential busbar via
a static inverter.

¾ A ‘Ram Air Turbine (RAT)’ can be automatically or manually dropped into the
airstream to drive an AC generator, which will produce a constant frequency
output for the AC essential busbar.

ATPL Electronics 13-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


If the emergency power supplies are selected it is normal to shed any non-essential loads,
eg. galleys, in order to prevent overloading the remaining generators, which is known as
‘Load Shedding’.

Battery Charger

Modern aeroplanes are fitted with battery chargers that are supplied from AC power supplies.
These provide a DC supply to charge a battery in the shortest possible time, within certain
voltage constraints, and without causing excessive gassing.

The charger provides a DC current of between 45-50 Amps until the charge reaches
completion. It will then revert to the pulse mode to prevent the battery voltage becoming
excessive. Comprehensive protection circuitry is provided in the battery charger to give
protection against:-

¾ Over voltage
¾ Overheating
¾ Battery disconnection

If the battery over-volts the battery charger will be automatically switched off, and can only be
reset by a push-switch situated on the front of the battery charger. If the charger overheats it
will be automatically shut down, but will reset itself when cooled. If the battery is
disconnected the charger will not be able to be switched on.

Battery Power

The batteries will supply secondary DC power. On most aeroplanes they will also feed
essential DC, and through a static inverter essential AC for a period of 30 minutes or more.
Some batteries are additionally fitted in non-pressurized areas in the fuselage, and are
provided with electrically heated blankets to prevent freezing.

Ground Handling Bus

The ground handling busbar is powered from either an APU generator or an external power
unit. The busbar is powered automatically whenever external or APU power is available.
This busbar is used mainly on the ground to power lights, and the refuelling system.

Constant Frequency Parallel AC System

The constant frequency system is almost exclusive to three and four engine jet aeroplanes,
and a typical system is shown on the next page. In older systems the AC generator and the
CSDU are separate items, but on modern aeroplanes the two components are combined to
form an IDG. In addition to the engine-driven generators an APU drives a generator, which
is capable of supplying the aeroplane with power on the ground, and at altitudes up to
approximately 35,000 ft. The APU may however experience difficulties in starting at altitudes
above 25,000 ft. Some aeroplanes also have emergency ram air turbines, which can be
deployed in an emergency. The generators fitted on each engine and are normally run in
parallel. The system does however have the following advantages and disadvantages over
Split Busbar AC System:-

¾ Advantages. When operating in parallel this system:-

¾ provides a continuity of electrical supply.

ATPL Electronics 13-8 24 October 2003


¾ prolongs the generator life expectancy, since each generator is normally
run on part load.

¾ readily absorbs large transient loads.

¾ Disadvantages. The disadvantages of the system are that:-

¾ expensive protection circuitry is required since any single fault may


propagate through the complete system.

¾ Parallel operation does not meet the requirements for totally


independent supplies.

On the most aeroplanes only the engine-driven generators can normally be paralleled, but
the APU or the ground power unit cannot be paralleled with the engine driven generators, or
each other. Circuit interlocks will prevent this occurring in the case of incorrect system
management.

Operation of a Constant Frequency Parallel AC System

Once all of the above conditions have been satisfied, a ground power available light will
come on. When 'ground power' is selected, the ground power breaker (GPB) will close and
allow the ground power to feed the generator busbars.

With the No.1 engine running its generator will be excited when the generator control relay
(GCR) is closed, which will enable the generator to give an output (200v three phase 400
Hz.). On closing the generator switch, the external services breaker (ESB) will open, thus
removing ground power, and the No.1 generator circuit breaker will close. This will allow the
No.1 generator to supply the necessary aeroplane power.

With the No.2 engine running, and its generator is producing the necessary output, it can be
paralleled with the No.1 generator via the synchronizing busbars by closing the No.2
generator's GCB. The following conditions however must exist before paralleling can take
place between two generators the:-

¾ voltages must be within tolerance.

¾ frequencies must be within tolerance.

¾ phase displacement must be within tolerance.

¾ phase rotation must be correct.

Once all of the above conditions have been satisfied the selecting the No.2 generator switch
to 'ON', will cause the GCB. to close and the No.1 and No.2 generators to run in parallel.
Both generators must share the real (Watts) and reactive (VAR) loads equally, and these are
monitored on individual generator Watts/VAR meters on the flight deck.

ATPL Electronics 13-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


The No.3 and No.4 generators are paralleled using the same method as the No.1 and No.2.
generators. When all of the generators are running the No.1 and No.3 generators will be

ATPL Electronics 13-10 24 October 2003


kept separate from the No.2 and No.4 generators by a split system breaker (SSB). If any
engine driven generator fails the SSB will automatically close.

Reactive Load Sharing

Reactive load sharing is achieved by a load-sharing loop, which will automatically adjust the
excitation of the paralleled generator fields simultaneously, via their individual voltage
regulators.

Real Load Sharing

Real load sharing is achieved by a load-sharing loop, which adjusting the magnetic trim in
the mechanical governor of the CSDU's simultaneously, via their load controllers.

Paralleling

The following methods are used to parallel AC generators:-

Manual Paralleling is an old method of paralleling generators. To facilitate this


method a lamp is fitted across the main contacts of the GCB. When both generators
outputs are the same the lamp will darken and go out. When this occurs the
engineer closes the on coming generators control switch. This is also known as the
‘Lamps Dark’ method of paralleling.

ATPL Electronics 13-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Automatic Paralleling. When using the automatic paralleling method, the
generator switch is selected to on at any time, and once the auto-paralleling circuits
sense that both generators are ready for paralleling, the GCB will automatically
close.

Fault Protections in a Constant Frequency AC Parallel System

The following fault protections exist in a parallel generator system:-

Over-Excitation (Parallel Fault). The over-excitation protection device operates


whenever the excitation to the field of one of the generator increases. This is sensed
when the over-excited generator takes more than its share of reactive load. The
fault signal has an inverse time function which trips the BTB of the over-excited
generator. The voltage regulator or reactive load-sharing circuit could cause this
fault.

Over-Voltage. The over-voltage protection device will operate whenever the


system voltage exceeds 225 volts. It protects the components in the system from
damage due to excessive voltages. This protection device operates on an inverse
time function, which means that the magnitude of voltage determines the time in
which the offending generator will be de-energized by tripping the GCR, and GCB.
The GCR will de-energize the field, and the GCB will trip the generator off the
busbar.

Under-Excitation (Parallel Fault). The under-excitation protection device will


operate whenever the excitation of one of the generator fields is reduced. This is
sensed when the under-excited generator takes less that its share of reactive load,
and a fault signal will cause the BTB to trip in a fixed time (3-5 sec). This type of
fault could be caused by a fault in the:-

¾ Reactive load sharing circuit.


¾ Generator.
¾ Voltage regulator.

Under-Voltage. The under-voltage protection device will operate to prevent


damage to equipment from high currents and losses in motor loads, which may
cause over-heating and burn out. When this device operates it will trip the GCR and
GCB in a fixed time (3 - 5 sec), resulting in the shut-down of that generator.

Differential Protection. The differential protection device will operate in the same
way as stated in the split busbar generator system. It will operate if any of the
following faults exist:-

¾ A line to line, or line to earth fault.


¾ If the current flowing to the busbar is different from the current flowing
from the generator.

Instability Protection (Parallel Fault). The instability protection device is


incorporated in the system to guard against oscillating outputs from the generators,
which may cause sensitive equipment to malfunction or trip off. This especially
applies to autopilot and radio installations. If the system is operating in parallel, and
the No.1 generator becomes unstable, the instability protection circuits in all
generators will sense this and trip all of the BTB's. This will isolate the unstable
generator from the other generators and the instability protection device will continue

ATPL Electronics 13-12 24 October 2003


to operate, tripping its GCR and GCB. The generator, voltage regulator or CSDU
may cause instability.

Negative Sequence Voltage Protection. The negative sequence voltage


protection device will detect any line to line or line to earth faults after the
differentially protected zone, and will cause all the BTB's to trip.

Overheat. If A temperature sensor fitted in the generator senses an overheat,


condition an overheat warning light will illuminate. This fault may be caused by
overloading the generator on the ground (no ram air cooling), or by a blockage in the
ram air cooling duct in flight. If this warning occurs the pilot should operate the GCR
switch, which will cause the GCR and GCB to trip.

Over-speed (Over Frequency). The over-speed device will operate if a fault


occurs in the CSDU, which may cause the generator to exceed its specified
frequency limits. If left unchecked this fault will damage the aeroplane capacitive
loads. In older systems a pressure switch in the CSDU will detect this type of fault,
but in modern systems frequency sensitive circuits detect it. If an over-speed
condition occurs it will cause the GCB to trip, and will also put the CSDU into under-
drive.

Under-speed (Under-Frequency). An oil pressure switch in the CSDU senses


underspeed of the CSDU. This will cause the GCB to trip, thus removing the
generator from the busbar, and protecting the loads from an under-frequency.

Time delays are fitted in the generator protection system to give the normal circuit protection
devices, ie. circuit breakers and fuses, time to operate, rather than removing a generator
from the system.

DC Power Supplies

Primary aeroplane DC power supplies are derived from transformer rectifier units TRU's,
which are supplied from the 200v AC busbars. The TRU's are normally run in parallel,
although some systems have isolation relays installed, which are designed to separate the
DC busbars during fault conditions.

ATPL Electronics 13-13 ©Atlantic Flight Training


ATPL Electronics 13-14 24 October 2003
Chapter 14.

AC Motors

Introduction

AC motors are mainly used on larger aeroplanes since they rely on a constant frequency
supply. Motors are generally classified as follows:-

Large. Motors with an output of 3 KW or more, which are normally three-phase


machines.

Medium to Small. Motors in the range of 3 KW down to 50 W, which are mostly


single-phase machines. Motors rated at less than 750 W are also referred to as
‘Fractional Horsepower (FHP)’ machines.

Miniature. Motors rated at less than 50 W, which are used in instruments and
servomechanisms.

On aeroplanes these motors are either ‘Induction’ or ‘Synchronous’ machines

Stator-Produced Rotating Magnetic Field

When a magnet is rotated within a three-phase stator a three-phase voltage is produced. If


this process is reversed, ie. by connecting the three-phase supply to a three-phase stator, a
rotating field will be produced, as shown below.

If the stator windings are symmetrically arranged as shown above the magnetic field
produced will be of constant strength and will rotate at a uniform speed, which is dependent

ATPL Electronics 14-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


on the supply frequency. The magnetic field will thus rotate through one complete revolution
during each complete cycle of the AC supply.

For example if the supply has a frequency of 50 Hertz it will produce a rotating field of 50
revolutions per second or 3000 (50 x 60) revolutions per minute. Every 60° one set of poles
will not generate a magnetic field, due to the distribution of the input currents, as shown
above, whilst the other two will produce magnetic fields of equal strength, and the resultant
field will act in the direction of the arrow.
If a rotor is then placed in the centre of the rotating magnetic field, a magnetic field will be
induced in it, which will lock onto the rotating outer field, and will turn with it.

Induction (Squirrel Cage) Motor

The induction motor is one of the most widely used types of AC motor, which on aeroplanes
is used to drive fuel pumps, actuators, and air conditioning. A typical machine is shown
below.

The stator is almost identical to that of a three-phase AC generator, and when a three-phase
AC supply is connected to the stator it will produce a rotating magnetic field, whose speed
(synchronous speed) will be proportional to the frequency of the supply. The rotor consists
of a cylindrical laminated-iron core having a number of copper or aluminium longitudinal bars,
which are evenly spaced around its circumference. These bars are joined by end plates, and
together form a ‘Squirrel Cage Rotor’.

ATPL Electronics 14-2 24 October 2003


The rotating outer magnetic field cuts the stationary rotor and induces an EMF or voltage
proportional to the rate of change of flux in the squirrel cage. The shorted bars offer little
resistance and a large current flows in the bars, as shown on the next page. The passage of
current through the bars results in a magnetic field being produced, which in turn interacts
with the outer rotating magnetic field.

A torque now exists between the rotor and the stator magnetic fields. This causes the rotor
to turn and accelerate in the direction of the stator field, as shown below.

When the applied torque equals the load torque, the motor will run at a speed slightly less
than the stator field. The induction motor is thus an ‘Asynchronous’ machine, and
possesses similar characteristics to that of a DC shunt wound motor, as listed below:-

¾ Slip Speed. This is the difference between the ‘Rotor Speed’ and the
‘Synchronous (stator) Speed’.

Slip Speed = Synchronous Speed - Rotor Speed

Synchronous Speed = 60 f
P
where f = frequency of supply(Hz), and P = number of pole pairs in
stator.

¾ Reversal of Rotation. This will occur if any two of the motor phases are
crossed over.

¾ Loss of a Phase. If this occurs when the machine is:-

¾ Running. The motor will continue to run at a reduced torque.

ATPL Electronics 14-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


¾ Not running. The machine will not start, and fuses or circuit
breakers will blow in the other two phases causing possible
damage to the motor.

ATPL Electronics 14-4 24 October 2003


Two-Phase Induction Motor

A rotating magnetic field is produced in a two-phase induction motor stator by placing the
windings 90° apart, as shown below.

One phase is the reference phase, and the other is the control phase. Thus by varying the
phasing and the amplitude of the control phase currents, the direction of, and speed of
rotation can be controlled. This type of motor is however not as smooth, nor as powerful as a
three-phase machine, and is used mainly for autopilot servomotors, or fuel trim motors.

Split-Phase Motor

This a Split-phase induction motor two windings; one capacitive and the other resistive, are
both connected in parallel across a single-phase AC supply, as shown below.

The current in the capacitive winding will lead the current in the resistive winding by
approximately 90°, and this is known as ‘Phase Splitting’. This type of motor operates like
a two-phase AC motor, and is used to drive actuators.

The Synchronous Motor

The stator in this type of motor is identical to that used in an induction motor, except the rotor
in this machine alternatively carries its own magnetic field windings, which are supplied from
a DC source. When the rotor is energised with DC it acts like a bar magnet, as shown on the
next page, and tries to line itself up with the magnetic field being produced by the stator. The
stator is fed with three-phase AC, and produces a rotating magnetic field, which the rotor
follows. This type of motor is a single speed machine, where the actual speed is determined
by the speed of the rotating field, ie. the frequency of the three-phase input. Due to the high
inertia between the rotor and stator field, this type of motor does not normally start on its own
accord. It therefore has to be started and run up to speed by a ‘Pony Motor’, which is
usually an induction motor. When the speed of the driven motor nearly reaches that of the
rotating field, it locks on to it, and continues to rotate in synchronism with the rotating field.

ATPL Electronics 14-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Synchronous motors are used in situations where a constant speed is essential, eg.
Gyroscopes.

ATPL Electronics 14-6 24 October 2003


Chapter 15.

Semiconductor Devices

Introduction

Semiconductors are used extensively in most items of aeroplane electronic equipment, with
the three most common devices being diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Semiconductor Devices

The advantages and disadvantages of semiconductor devices are:-

Advantages. Components, which are made from semiconductor materials, are


often referred to as solid-state components because they are made from solid
materials. These components are more rugged than vacuum tubes that are made of
glass, and also require heaters to operate them, which consume large amounts of
power. Semiconductors are additionally much smaller, lighter, and are much
cheaper than vacuum tubes.

Disadvantages. Semiconductors are highly susceptible to changes in temperature,


and can easily be damaged at high temperatures. Components manufactured from
these materials must and thus highly sophisticated temperature control must be
applied to. Solid-state devices are also sensitive to supply voltage polarity, and can
be easily damaged if this is not correct.

Construction of a Semiconductor

A semiconductor is a material, which under certain conditions can act as either a conductor
or an insulator. Silicon (Si) and Germanium (Ge) are both semiconductive elements, of which
Silicon is the most popular. Each atom of Silicon has four electrons in the outer (valence)
shell, as shown below, and does not readily gain or lose electrons.

ELECTRONS NUCLEUS & OUTER


ELECTRONS
NUCLEUS

+4

SIMPLIFIED
ARRANGEMENT

Single atoms of Silicon are of little use, so they are grown into large crystals, which are then
cut into wafers for the manufacture of electronic components. The Silicon atoms link up with
neighbouring atoms to share electrons and a cluster of silicon atoms sharing outer electrons
forms a matrix called a ‘Crystal’, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 15-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


COVALENT
BONDS

The four electrons in the outer shell of each atom are shared with the electrons from the
adjoining atoms via ‘Covalent Bonding’, and will result in the valence shell of each atom in
the crystal effectively holding eight electrons. These bonds are so strong that at absolute
zero temperature (-273°C) there are no free electrons and the Silicon crystal assumes the
properties of an electrical insulator. If the crystal of Silicon is subsequently heated or a
voltage applied across it the covalent bonds will break down and its characteristics will be
altered. The electrons will thus break away from the atom and will leave behind a hole in the
atoms outer shell. The free electrons will then travel through the Silicon as negative
electrical charges and as the electrons move from one atom to another, the holes appear as
if they are moving from one atom to another in the opposite direction. The movement of
holes and electrons thus forms the basis of a semiconductor.

Doping

Silicon in its pure state is not particularly useful in electronics, so ‘Doping’ is carried out,
where the silicon atoms are contaminated with other materials such as Phosphorous (P), or
Boron (B), to give them useful electronic properties. This contamination leaves the Silicon
atoms with incomplete outer valence shells and a ‘Hole’ is formed in the shell. The holes,
which replace the missing electrons thus act as positive charges and attract any free
electrons within the crystal.

P-Type Material

If Silicon is doped with Indium it will produce a P-type material. Indium atoms only have 3
electrons in their outer shell (Trivalent), and is an ‘Acceptor Atom’. This results in vacant
electron openings or ‘Holes’, which are positively charged, being left in the Silicon crystal, as
shown below.

If a voltage is applied across P-type material, as shown below, the electrons within the
crystal will tend to move towards the positive terminal of the battery and will jump into the
available holes of the Indium atom near the terminal.

ATPL Electronics 15-2 24 October 2003


An electron from an adjacent Silicon atom will then fall into the hole, and the hole will appear
to move to another location. The electrons will thus move through the material from left to
right, whilst the holes move in the opposite direction.

N-Type Material

If Silicon is doped with Phosphorous it will produce a N-type material. Phosphorous atoms
have 5 electrons in their outer shell (Pentavalent) and are known as ‘Donor Atoms’. Extra
electrons, which are negatively charged, will thus be left floating around in the crystal, as
shown below.

A N-type semiconductor contains many donor atoms that contribute free electrons, and these
are free to drift through the material. The loss of an electron will thus leave the donor atoms
with an overall positive charge and will form positive ions. Electrical current will therefore flow
in the normal manner, due to the movement of the free electrons, but like P-type Silicon can
also flow due to the migration of holes.

P- N Junction Diode

Both P and N-type Silicon conduct electricity at different rates, depending on the amount of
doping. Both types thus function as resistors, and will conduct in both directions. The N-type

ATPL Electronics 15-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


material contains mobile electrons and an equal number of positive ions, which provide an
overall neutral charge. The P-type material similarly contains mobile holes and an equal
number of negative ions. Each part is thus initially neutral. If a junction is made by joining a
piece of P and N-type material together, electrons will only flow in one direction through the
junction, from N to P.

Hole

When the two materials are placed together some of the free electrons in the N-type material
will cross the junction and fill the holes in the P-type material close to the junction. As the
free electrons cross the junction the N-type material becomes depleted of electrons in the
vicinity of the junction and the holes in the P-type material become filled, thus depleting the
holes near the junction. The region where the holes and electrons become depleted is
known as the ‘Depletion Layer’.

This will leave the N-type material with an excess of positive ions and the P-type material
with an excess of negative ions near the junction, thus the material close to the junction will
be in a charged state. The N-side will thus be positively charged and the P-side negatively
charged, which is known as a ‘Diode’. This is an electronic one-way valve and is
represented by the symbol shown below.

The ‘Anode’ is the negative side of the diode, which is associated with the P-type material,
and the ‘Cathode’ is the positive side, which is associated with the N-type material. If
voltages, known as ‘Bias Voltages’ or currents are applied across a diode it will behave in a
different manner, and will depend on the polarity of the power source. When the positive
terminal is connected to the N-type material the diode will be ‘Reverse Biased’ and no
current will flow, ie. it will be in a non-conducting state, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 15-4 24 October 2003


ELECTRO
N

Cathode Anode

Conversely if the negative terminal is connected to the N-type material the diode will be
‘Forward Biased’ and current will flow, ie. it will be in a conducting state, as shown above. If
the diode is Reverse Biased the positive terminal will attract electrons in the N-type material
away from the junction and the negative terminal will similarly attract the holes in the P-type
material, thus increasing the thickness of the Depletion Layer, as shown below.

Conversely if the diode is Forward Biased electrons will be attracted from the N-type material
across the depletion layer to the positive terminal and the holes will be attracted to the
negative terminal, as shown below.

A Forward Biased diode therefore acts as a closed switch and a Reverse Biased diode as an
open switch.

Use of Diodes

Diodes in there basic forms are used for rectification (or conversion) of AC into DC, for
example in a battery charger circuit, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 15-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


4 1

3 2

The diodes offer an easy path for currents to flow in one direction and offer a high resistance
path in the opposite direction. During the positive cycle (1) current flows through diodes 1
and 3, whilst diodes 2 and 4 are switched off and during the negative cycle the reverse
occurs, producing a DC output. The following special types of diode exist:-

Zener Diode. This is a special type of diode, which consists of a reverse-biased Silicon
P-N junction, and is represented by the following symbol.

Anode Cathode

Unlike a conventional diode this type of diode is designed to operate normally when it is
forward-biased, but is designed to also operate when high reverse currents are applied.
When the reverse-bias voltage reaches a set value, typically 4 to 75 volts, depending on the
design, when the Zener diode will breakdown, and ‘Thermal Avalanche’ will occur. When
this occurs one electron will gain sufficient energy to knock others out of the valence band,
and will cause a rapid increase in current flow through the diode, as shown on the next page.

Zener diodes are used to provide a fixed ‘Reference’ voltage over a range of input voltages
and also for precisely regulating or stabilising the output from a power supply, as shown
below.

ATPL Electronics 15-6 24 October 2003


Variable Capacitance (Varicap) Diode. In this type of diode the depletion layer situated
between the P-N junction acts like the dielectric in a capacitor, whilst the P and N materials
act as its plates. When the diode is reversed biased the depletion layer widens and gives
the affect that the plates of the capacitor have move further apart, thus reducing the
capacitance value. Conversely if the reverse bias voltage reduces the capacitance value will
increase. It is thus possible to vary the capacitance of this diode simply by altering the
magnitude of the reverse bias voltage, which is the method that is commonly used in radio
tuners using DC, rather than using a mechanical variable capacitor. A variable capacitance
diode is represented by the following symbol.

Bi-Polar Transistors

Transistors are made up of a sandwich of P and N-type materials. They can be used as
relays, as switches or as variable resistors. The two configurations of bi-polar transistors are
PNP and NPN as shown on the next page.

The three layers of a bi-polar transistor are the emitter, base and collector, where the
arrowhead depicts the flow of conventional current. The base is extremely thin, and has

ATPL Electronics 15-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


fewer doping atoms than the emitter and collector. A very small voltage or current applied to
the material in the centre of the sandwich (base) can thus control a much larger current
flowing through the complete device, thus acting as an amplifier.

Operation of a PNP Bi-Polar Transistor

If the transistor is reverse biased by connecting across two power sources the positive
terminals of each will attract electrons in the N-type material away from the P-N junction, and
the negative terminals will similarly attract the holes in the P-type material, as shown below.

This will thus increase the thickness of the ‘Depletion Layer’ between the different layers
and the transistor will not conduct. For the transistor to operate the emitter-base junction has
to be forward biased, whilst the collector-base is reverse biased, as shown below.

The positive junction of the emitter battery (Ve) will repel the holes in the P-type emitter
towards the P-N or emitter-base junction and will cross through into the lightly doped N-type
base. The majority of the holes (approximately 95%) do not combine with electrons in this
region and pass directly to the P-type collector. The holes are then rapidly neutralised with
electrons from the negative terminal of the collector battery and are swept away from the
collector. For each hole, which is neutralised by an electron a covalent bond near to the
emitter electrode will break down, and an electron will be released to the positive terminal of
the emitter battery. This will in turn produce a hole, which will quickly move through the
material from left to right. A small number of holes (approximately 5%) will also combine with
electrons in the N-type base material and will be lost. The major charge carriers in a PNP bi-
polar transistor are therefore the holes, and a very small emitter-base current (Ib), will cause
a large emitter (Ie) to collector (Ic) current to flow, but in all cases of operation:-
Ie = Ib + Ic
Operation of a NPN Bi-Polar Transistor

A NPN transistor will conduct if like the PNP transistor with the emitter-base junction forward
biased and the base-collector junction reverse biased, which is achieved by reversing the
battery polarity, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 15-8 24 October 2003


Electrons are repelled from the negative terminal of the emitter battery (Ve) and flow towards
the positive terminal of the collector battery (VC). The electrons will thus be forced into the
emitter junction, and since the P-region base is only lightly doped the majority of the
electrons (approximately 95%) will diffuse through the base and reach the collector junction.
A small amount of the electrons (approximately 5%) will however combine with the holes in
the P layer and will be lost as charge carriers. For every electron, which leaves the
collector one electron enters the emitter junction thus maintaining a continuous flow of
electrons from left to right through the transistor. The major charge carriers in a NPN
junction transistor are therefore the electrons.

Disadvantages of Diodes and Transistors

Diode and transistors share several key features, eg. too much current will cause a transistor
like a diode to become hot and burn out. This is because semiconductors have a negative
temperature coefficient and can go into ‘Thermal Avalanche’ ie. one electron will gain
enough energy to knock others out of the valence band, thus causing an increase in current
flow through the transistor. If a transistor overheats it will also not operate properly, and
engineers sometimes use a freezing spray to locate a failing component in a circuit. If the
PNP transistor is to conduct, the emitter has to be connected to a positive voltage and the
collector to a negative voltage. If the base is connected to a voltage, which is more positive
than the emitter, a small current will flow into the base. The flow of current will then cause a
large current to flow between the other two connections (emitter and collector).

Transistor Applications

If the base of an NPN transistor is earthed (0 volts) no current will flow from the emitter to the
collector, and the transistor will be switched off. The transistor will thus operate as an open
switch, as shown below

ATPL Electronics 15-9 ©Atlantic Flight Training


If the base emitters forward bias voltage is gradually increased, the emitter collector current,
which is much higher, will follow the same variation as the smaller base current, and the
transistor will act as an amplifier. This explanation applies to a transistor in which the
emitter is the common connection for both input and output, which is known as a common
emitter. Transistors can also be used in either the common base mode or the common
collector mode.

Integrated Circuits

Integrated Circuits (IC’s) are manufactured by combining transistors, diodes and resistors on
a small piece of ‘Silicon’. The complete device is known as a ‘Chip’ and can contain a few,
or many thousands of transistors.

ATPL Electronics 15-10 24 October 2003


The Advantages and Disadvantages of Integrated Circuits

The advantages of IC’s are that they:-

¾ are extremely small and light.

¾ consume little power.

¾ can operate at high speed.

¾ are extremely reliable.

The disadvantages of IC’s are that they:-

¾ are easily damages by high voltages or currents.

¾ can not be repaired.

The advantages however outweigh the disadvantages, and are thus extensively used in the
aviation industry.

Types of Integrated Circuits

IC’s are grouped into the following categories:-

Analogue (or Linear) IC. This type of IC is typically used in the manufacture of
amplifiers, timers, oscillators and voltage regulators. They amplify or respond to
variable voltages and produce outputs.

Digital (or Logic) IC. This type of IC is typically used in the manufacture of
microprocessors and computer memories. They normally respond to two discrete
voltage levels (or Gates) representing 1’s or 0’s, and act as electronic switches to
produce outputs.

ATPL Electronics 15-11 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Intentionally Left Blank

ATPL Electronics 15-12 24 October 2003


Chapter 16.

Logic Circuits

Introduction

Logic gates are represented diagrammatically and their logic inputs are shown on a ‘Truth
Table’. Logic gates also often have more than two inputs, which increases the decision
making capability of a ‘Gate’ and also increases the number of ways of connecting one to
another to form advanced ‘Digital Logic Circuits’.

Number Systems

Decimal Number System. The decimal number system requires ten different
numbers (0-9) and also requires ten discrete voltage levels. It then repeats itself by
going into 10’s, 100’s and 1000’s etc. This system can be typically used to represent
the position or ground speed of an aeroplane.

Binary Number System. This system uses numbers that are to the base of 2, as
shown below.
6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Binary
2 2 2 2 2 2 2
Number

64 32 16 8 4 2 1 Decimal
Equivalent

In digital electronic applications, binary numbers are used as codes, which represent
decimal numbers, letters of the alphabet, voltages and many other forms of
information. For example a simple switch can be assigned a binary value 0 to the
‘OFF’ position and a Binary 1 to the ‘ON’ position. Alternatively the polarity of a DC
switching circuit can be altered so that a (+) indicates a binary 1 and a (–) indicates a
binary 0. An alternative method is to vary the mean voltage in a circuit, which can
cause it to increase by a pre-set increment for a binary 1 and to decrease by a
similar increment to achieve a binary 0. The latter method is the most common, and
the voltages used for this purpose vary between manufacturers, but are normally in
the range from + 5 volts to + 12 volts. They are also designed to use either positive
or negative logic. ‘Positive Logic’ is where a Logic 1 voltage is more positive than a
Logic 0 voltage, and ‘Negative Logic’ is where a Logic 1 is more negative than
Logic 0

Other possible numbering systems are the:-

¾ ‘Octal’ system in which the numbers are to the base 8.

¾ ‘Hexadecimal’ system in which the numbers are to the base 16.

¾ Duodecimal system, which is based on the figure 12, eg. the clock, and is
used on a daily basis.

ATPL Electronics 16-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Binary Representation

Digital computers are electronic units, and in electronics it is a relatively easy procedure to
operate circuits in such way as to encode them in a binary format.

Basic Logic Gates

The following basic gates exist:-

AND Gate. This type of gate is represented by two switches connected in series and
requires two Logic 1’s (A & B) to produce an output (Q), as shown below.

OR Gate. This type of gate is represented by two switches connected in parallel and
requires only one Logic 1 (A or B) to produce an output (Q), as shown below.

NOT Gate. A single switch represents this type of gate where the input signal (A) is inverted
to provide an output (Q), as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 16-2 24 October 2003


NAND (Not or Negated AND) Gate. This type of gate is represented by two switches
connected in parallel and requires only one Logic 0 (A or B) to produce an output (Q), as
shown below.

NOR (Not or Negated OR) Gate. This type of gate is represented by two switches
connected in series and requires two Logic 0’s (A or B) to produce an output (Q), as shown
below.

ATPL Electronics 16-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


EXCLUSIVE OR Gate. This type of gate is a combination of NOT and NAND gates and
requires only one Logic 1 (A or B) to produce an output (Q), as shown below.

Adder and Subtracter Circuits

‘Adder’ circuits are used to add binary digits (1’s and 0’s) together and ‘Subtracter’ circuits
are alternatively used to subtract binary digits. These circuits are thus used in computer
systems to carry out basic arithmetic functions. When carrying out addition functions it is
always necessary to carry a digit to the next adjacent higher order, eg. 011 + 100 = 111 or in
decimal terms 3 + 4 = 7. Conversely in a Subtracter circuit it is necessary to borrow a
digit from the next adjacent lower order column (if applicable), eg. 111 – 011 = 100 or in
decimal terms 7 – 3 = 4.

A ‘Half Adder’ circuit is capable of adding 2 digits but is unable to carry a digit to the next
order, so it is necessary to join two Half Adder circuits together to form a ‘Full Adder’ circuit
in order to satisfy this requirement. A Half Adder electronic circuit consists of a combination
of ‘AND, OR and EXCLUSIVE OR’ Gates as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 16-4 24 October 2003


Two Stage Adder Circuit
A ‘Two Stage Adder’ electronic circuit similarly consists of a combination of ‘AND, OR and
EXCLUSIVE OR’ Gates as shown below.

AB
+ CD

Example. The following table can be established using the above circuit, by inputting a
series of 0’s and 1’s.

A B + C D = C12 S1 S0
(21) (20) (21) (20) (2 ) (21) (20)

0 1 0 0 0 0 1
0 1 0 1 0 1 0
1 0 0 1 0 1 1
1 0 1 0 1 0 0
1 1 1 0 1 0 1
1 1 1 1 1 1 0

ATPL Electronics 16-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Digital Latch and Flip-Flop Circuits

These circuits both use a combination of logic gates, which are used to perform basic
memory functions for computers and their peripherals. A typical latch circuit is the ‘RS
Latch’ circuit as shown below, which retains the output signal even after the input signal has
been removed.

The two inputs to the RS Latch circuit are S and R, whilst the outputs are Q and Q. If a
binary 1 is inputted at S the latch memory will be ‘Set’ and will produce an output Q of 1,
whilst Q will be outputted with a 0. Conversely if a binary 1 is inputted at R the latch memory
will be ‘Reset’ and will alternatively produce the opposite outputs.

A ‘Flip-flop’ circuit is similar to a Latch circuit, although the output will be changed if a
‘Trigger Pulse’ is applied to the circuit, as shown below.

Clock Pulse CP

This circuit has three inputs and two outputs, with the S and R inputs being identical to the
Latch Circuit. The circuit switch time is however controlled by inputting a ‘Clock Pulse
(CP)’, which will simultaneously change over the output signals, Q and Q at a specified time
interval. This arrangement is particularly useful in computers when several memory circuits
are being used simultaneously, since if the outputs changed out of sequence it may result in
the entire memory may become invalid.

ATPL Electronics 16-6 24 October 2003


Chapter 17.

Computer Technology

Introduction

The modern aeroplane is highly dependent on the digital computer, and this piece of
equipment governs almost every facet of its operation.

Analogue Computers

Analogue computers are non programmable and deal with infinite continuous values rather
than discrete ones. It uses digits from 0 to 9 and operates as a mechanical computer using a
rotating gear or wheel to represent different values, eg. if the wheel is between 0° and 10° it
represents 0 or between 11° and 20° it represents 1. The analogue computer thus suffers
from friction between the moving parts and mechanical wear. The speedometer in a car is an
everyday example of an analogue computer, since it is attached to a sensor that counts the
revolutions of the road wheels and, using an assumed wheel radius, calculates the distance
covered since the last reset. It adds this to the distance at the start of the run and indicates
the total distance the car has covered since new. It also uses the distance per unit time to
provide an indication of speed. The speedometer is thus a calculating machine, which uses a
data input and by carrying out a calculation it converts the input into another form of
information; speed via a moving needle and distance as a digital read out.

Analogue computers are still widely and effectively used although they suffer from the
following limitations and shortcomings:-

¾ They are specific to a particular role and a separate computer is required for
different applications.

¾ They use moving parts.

¾ They tend to be bulky and heavy.

Digital Computers

A Digital computer is also a calculating machine, but instead of using synchro and gears
different voltages are used to represent the digits from 0 to 9. For example 0 – 0.9 volts
would represent the digit 0 and a voltage from 1.0 – 1.9 volts would represent the digit 1 etc.
This machine uses actual high-speed arithmetic to do the necessary calculations typically
using a decimal number system. It is also possible to convert decimal values into digital
values, or to convert analogue values into binary code. Everything that a digital computer
does is based on one operation, which is represented by the ability to determine if a ‘switch’,
or ‘gate’ is open or closed. That is, the computer can recognise only two states in any of its
microscopic circuits, ie. an on/off, high voltage or low voltage, or in the case of numbers, 0
or 1. It is equally valid to reverse the process and produce an analogue value from a digital
process using binary arithmetic.

The speed at which the computer performs this simple act, however, is what makes it such
an essential element of the modem technology aeroplane. Computer speeds are measured
in megahertz, or millions of cycles per second. A computer with a "clock speed" of 133 MHz
is capable of executing 133 million discrete operations every second.

ATPL Electronics 17-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Digital computers are also normally integrated with other systems on an aeroplane, via
signal-interfacing devices such as ‘Analogue-to-Digital (A/D) Converters’ and ‘Digital-to-
Analogue (D/A) Converters’. The ‘Input Interface’ converts analogue data into a digital
format and the ‘Output Interface’ converts the digital data into an analogue format.

The processing speed of a Digital computer and its calculating power are further enhanced
by the amount of data, which is handled during each cycle. If a computer checks only one
switch at a time, that switch will only represent two commands or numbers. For example
‘ON’ would symbolise one operation, and ‘OFF’ would symbolise another. By checking
groups of switches linked within a single unit simultaneously, the computer is able to
increase the number of operations it can recognise during each cycle. For example, a
computer that checks two switches at one time can represent four numbers (0 to 3) or can
execute one of four instructions at each cycle, one for each of the following switch patterns:
OFF-OFF (0); OFF-ON (1); ON-OFF (2); or ON-ON (3).

When digital computers were first introduced they were capable of checking eight switches
(binary digits) or ‘Bits’ of data during every cycle, or a ‘Byte’, which contains 256 possible
patterns of ‘ONs’ and ‘OFFs’ (or 1's and 0's). A computer uses a standard information
format that consists of a group of bits, or a ‘Word’, which equates to:-

¾ an instruction.
¾ part of an instruction.
¾ a particular type of datum, eg. a number, a character or a graphics symbol.

The pattern 11010010, for example, might be binary data (in this case, the decimal number
210) or it might tell the computer to compare data stored in its switches to data stored in a
certain memory chip location.

The total list of recognisable operations or patterns, which a computer is capable of, is called
its ‘Instruction Set’.

Computer Architecture

The physical components of a computer are known as ‘Hardware’ and a digital computer is
not a single component machine, but is made up of the five distinct elements, as shown in
the following diagram.

ATPL Electronics 17-2 24 October 2003


The programmes used in a computer are alternatively known as ‘Software’.

Input Devices

Input devices are the means by which a computer is fed with the information required for
problem solving, and consist of the following typical hardware:-

¾ Keyboard
¾ Scanner
¾ Touch sensitive screen
¾ Speech recognition
¾ Mouse
¾ Joy stick
¾ Data from sensors
¾ As long as the data is identifiable the computer’s processor will be able to recognise
it, and will accordingly route it along the appropriate internal ‘Buses or Data Lines’.
These form a network of communication lines that connect the internal elements of
the processor, and also leads to external connectors linking the processor to the
other elements of the computer system. The following types of CPU buses exist:-

¾ A ‘Control Bus’ consists of a line that senses input signals and another line
that generates control signals from within the CPU.

¾ The ‘Address Bus’, is a one-way line from the processor that handles the
location of data in memory addresses.

¾ The ‘Data Bus’, a two-way transfer line that both reads data from memory
and writes new data into memory.

Central Processing Unit

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) may consist of a single chip, or a series of chips that are
able to perform arithmetic and logical calculations, and can also control the operations of the
other system elements. A ‘Microprocessor’ is a miniature CPU chip, which incorporates
additional circuitry and memory. CPU chips and microprocessors consist of the functional
sections, shown below.

The CPU receives input data and uses that data to carry out specific instructions, from which
an output is derived. Typical ‘Input’ data might be wind velocity and direction, or even the
distance to run to a destination. The CPU then carries out calculations on this data using the
following parts to give ‘Output’ data, such as TAS, or time to run to the next waypoint.

ATPL Electronics 17-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Central Control Unit. This unit coordinates the functions being carried out in each section
of the computer via a ‘Communication Link’ or ‘Data Transfer Bus’. The Control Unit
decodes or reads the patterns of data being held in a designated ‘Register’, or temporary
storage area, and keeps track of any instructions. The register also holds the location and
results of these operations, and the control unit translates the pattern into an activity, such as
adding or comparing. It also indicates the order in which individual operations use the CPU,
and regulates the amount of CPU time that each operation may consume.

Memory. This is normally divided into either ‘Volatile Memory’, which is lost whenever the
computer loses power, and ‘Non-Volatile Memory’, which remains in the system until it is
over-written with new data. The main types of internal memory are:-

RAM (Random Access Memory). This is Volatile memory and the data deposited
in it is thus lost whenever the power is turned off, or alternative states are written in.

ROM (Read only Memory). This is Non-Volatile memory and normally contains
data that has been inserted on the chip during its manufacture. The ROM typically
contains start-up details and mathematical formulae, which will be maintained even
after the power has been switched off. Replacing the entire chip is the only way to
change the instructions on a ROM.

PROM (Programmable Read Only Memory). This form of memory is non-volatile,


but unlike the ROM can be reprogrammed once only, with the chip still fitted in the
aeroplane’s computer.

EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory). This type of memory is


also non-volatile and can be reused indefinitely. It can be totally erased and then
reprogrammed with the chip still fitted in the computer.

Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU). This chip gives the computer its calculating capability,
allowing both arithmetical and logical calculations using a combination of digital logic circuits.
These circuits are used to make specific true-false decisions based on the presence of
multiple true-false signals at the inputs, and the signals may be generated by either
mechanical switches, or by solid-state transducers, which are combined together to form an
‘Integrated Circuit (IC)’

Output Devices

The output devices enable the user to see the results of the computer's calculations or data
manipulations. The most common output device is the video display screen, which is a
monitor that displays characters and graphics on a ‘Cathode-Ray Tube (CRT)’, or
television-like screen. A screen is usually small, and portable computers commonly use
liquid crystal displays (LCD) or other forms of screen.

Examples of such screens are the EFIS and ECAM displays on modern aeroplanes.

The standard output devices include printers and modems. A modem links two or more
computers by translating digital signals into analogue signals so that data can be transmitted
via telecommunications.

Outputs may also be in the form of signals that are sent to the operating devices, and are
typically used to control the engines or Automatic Flight Control System on the aeroplane.

ATPL Electronics 17-4 24 October 2003


Storage Devices

Computer systems can store data internally (in memory) and externally (on storage devices).
External storage devices, may physically reside within the computer's main processing unit,
or external to the main circuit board. These devices store data as electrical charges on a
magnetically sensitive medium such as an audiotape, or a disk coated with a fine layer of
metallic particles, or alternatively as an imprint on a ‘Laser Readable Disk’. The most
common external storage devices are called ‘Floppy’ and ‘Hard Disks’. Floppy disks can
contain from several hundred thousand bytes to well over a million bytes of data, depending
on the system. ‘Hard, or Fixed’,' disks cannot be removed from their disk-drive cabinets,
which contain the electronics to read and write data onto the magnetic disk surfaces. Hard
disks can store from several million bytes to a few hundred million bytes. ‘CD-ROM’
technologies, which use the same laser techniques that are used to create audio compact
disks (CDs), also provide storage capacities in the range of several gigabytes (billion bytes)
of data.

Operating Systems

An operating system is a master control program, which is permanently stored in the


memory. They interpret user commands and request various kinds of services, such as
display, print, or copy a data file; list all files in a directory; or execute a particular program.
Different types of peripheral devices, such as disk drives, printers, communications networks
and so on, handle and store data differently from the way the computer handles and stores it.
Internal operating systems are usually stored in ROM memory, and are developed primarily
to co-ordinate and translate data flows from dissimilar sources, such as disk drives or co-
processors (processing chips that perform simultaneous but different operations from the
central unit

Programming

A program is a sequence of instructions that tells the hardware of a computer which


operations to perform on the data. Programs can be built into the ‘Hardware’ itself, or they
may exist independently as ‘Software’. In some specialised computers, the operating
instructions are embedded in their circuitry; as in the Flight Management System (FMS).

Once a computer has been programmed, it can only do as much, or as little as the software
controlling. Software in widespread use includes a wide range of applications programmes
and instructions to the computer on how to perform various tasks.

ATPL Electronics 17-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


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ATPL Electronics 17-6 24 October 2003


Chapter 18.

HF and Satellite Airborne Communications

Introduction Air carrier operations ideally require uninterrupted communications


between:-

¾ Air Traffic Control to ensure a safe flow and separation from other traffic, and to
be kept up to date with conditions along the route and at the destination. They
are also essential in the event of any incident that might endanger the aeroplane
or those on board.

¾ Communicating with the Company in respect of the business of transporting


people or freight or with respect to maintenance related items.

¾ Providing assistance to other aviators in need of assistance.

In 1994 for example, 99% plus of such communications were achieved by voice, using either
short range VHF, or HF for long distance communications. This situation has now
dramatically changed, and information is now being digitized and routed over data links
including satellites, with printouts available as required. The antenna map below shows the
typical equipment installation in a modern jet transport aeroplane for communication
purposes.

Aerial Locations – Communications Only


HF Couplers

ATC 1 & 2 VHF 1 SATCOM HF 1 & 2

ATC 1 & 2

VHF 2 VHF 3

Many equipment manufacturers produce communications and navigation equipment, so the


following descriptions are typical of the many and various models that are available.

Long Range Communications (Up to 4000 Km)

At present, when flying over 370 Km (200 miles) from land, aeroplanes use HF transceivers,
which are linked with unreliable propagation characteristics. Such HF installations are
usually duplicated, with one set used for ATC purposes, and the other for company
messages. HF communications are also used in areas where VHF communications are not

ATPL Electronics 18-1 ©Atlantic Flight Training


possible, eg. Sectors over the oceans, or over sparsely populated continents such as Africa.
Because HF communications rely on skywave propagation it is essential that the correct
frequency is used, ie. At night the frequency needs to be reduced to maintain the skip
distance. A typical HF radio control panel is shown on the next page.

FREQUENCY DISPLAY

HF - 1 HF - 2

8.891 4.675 FREQUENCY


SELECTOR
TUNE TUNE
USB LSB USB
AM AM LSB
SQUELCH SQUELCH
OFF OFF

FUNCTION SWITCH

TYPICAL HF RADIO CONTROL PANEL

The frequency range will cover the part of the spectrum between 2.8 MHz and 24 MHz (and
very often between 2 and 30 MHz) in 1 KHz steps. There is also a facility for AM and LSB
operations, however USB is the standard operating mode. In common with other receivers a
squelch control cuts off background noise in the absence of ground transmissions. The
power output is approximately 400 watts on voice peaks and gives ranges greater than 3700
Km (2000 nautical miles) in good conditions.

VHF 1 VHF 2 VHF 3 HF 1 HF 2 INT PA

MARKER
INT DME
NAV
1 2 VOICE
ADF ONLY
RADIO

TYPICAL AUDIO SELECTOR PANEL

An audio selector panel is situated at each crew station and enables switching between the
various radio devices.

ATPL Electronics 18-2 24 October 2003


RADIO RADIO RADIO
NO.1 NO. 2 NO. 3 ETC.

AUDIO SELECTOR PANEL


AND INTERCOM AMPLIFIER

SAMPLE OF SPEECH IS
FED BACK TO HEADSET
MICROPHONE MICROPHONE
NO. 1 'SIDETONE' NO. 2

HEADSET HEADSET
NO. 1 NO. 2

BLOCK SCHEMATIC - AUDIO SELECTOR PANEL

Short Range Communications (Up to 450 Km)

Most communications when overland are effected on VHF frequencies, except possibly for
remote sparsely populated desert or jungle areas, when HF will be used. Like the HF,
operations are in a simplex mode, ie. Transmission and reception are not possible
simultaneously.

Commonly a VHF control unit displays two frequency readouts, and each is controlled by its
own selector knob. A transfer switch is used to select one VHF frequency as active whilst
the other is at standby, and a light over the frequency window will show which frequency is
active.

LIGHT INDICATES SELECTED TRANSCEIVER


FREQUENCY DISPLAY

VHF COMM

1 1 8 3 0 1 1 8 2 7

TRANSFER

SQUELCH

CONCENTRIC TUNING CONTROLS

VHF COMMS CONTROLLER

The radio also has a fine tuning (filter) facility and are also fitted with items such as:

Automatic Volume Control (AVC). This maintains the receiver output signal at a
given strength, and automatically reduces the receiver gain if the signal becomes
stronger.

Automatic Frequency Control (AFC). This keeps the receiver tuned to the
selected signal irrespective of any slight wandering of the transmitted frequency.

ATPL Electronics 18-3 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Connection to microphone(s) and the headset/speaker is through individual crew member's
audio selector facilities. The transceivers are remotely located and are connected to vertically
polarized blade antennas. An aeroplane may be equipped with as many as three identical
VHF transceivers, which operate in the frequency range 118 MHz to 137 MHz. The
International Aeronautical Emergency frequency of 121.5 MHz also lies within this band. The
frequencies are channelised at 8.33 KHz intervals. The type of transmission is AM and uses
an output power in the order of 25 watts. The range is quasi-optical and is typically 407 to
460 Km (220 to 250 nautical miles) at jet cruising levels.

Selective Calling (SELCAL) System

The Selcal System is designed to relieve the flight crew from continually monitoring the
communication channels, and is operative on HF and VHF radios. A four-tone audio signal
is transmitted by the ground station, and provided that the aeroplane radio is tuned to the
same radio frequency, the four-tone signal will be routed to the decoder circuits of the Selcal
unit, which will then over-ride the setting of the squelch control. When the transmitted tones
match the pre-selected aeroplane tone combination (Selcal Code) the flight deck crew will be
visually and audibly alerted by an intermittent light on the Selcal indication panel, and a two-
tone chime.

HF 1 & VHF 1 HF2 & VHF 2

LIGHTS ILLUMINATE WHEN CALLED

SEL SEL
CAL CAL

SELCAL NO. 1 SELCAL NO. 2

SELCAL INDICATOR PANEL

A SELCAL Code consists of a 4-letter group, eg, HMJE. A registrar of SELCAL codes
makes an assignment from 10,920 combinations for use by the air carrier, who in turn
assigns a 4-letter group, to each aeroplane in the fleet, for setting on the decoder unit. The
system is not used on VHF air traffic channels, because immediate response to control
instructions is essential. The system operates on two separate channels that may be
switched to any one of the available transceivers.

Operational Check. System operation should be checked by calling the ground station,
and requesting a SELCAL check using the code set in the decoder. Operation of both
SELCAL units will be checked simultaneously if receivers are on and selected to the same
frequency. An intermittent light and two-tone chime will indicate proper operation. Operation
will continue until the SELCAL light cap is pushed or until a microphone is keyed to transmit
on the appropriate HF or VHF system. Either action will reset the system for the next call.

Satellite Communications (SATCOM)

The deficiencies of VHF and HF over oceans and unpopulated areas may be overcome by
the use of satellites for air/ground communications. An internationally owned co-operative
called Inmarsat (International Maritime Satellite Organisation) maintains a number of
geostationary satellites in orbit, which amongst other functions provide operational services,
and passenger telephone facilities to aeronautical users. In support of the space segment
there is a requirement for a number of ground stations linked to terrestrial communication
networks. The British Telecom station at Goonhilly, in Cornwall, England, is one example.

ATPL Electronics 18-4 24 October 2003


Groups of such stations band together to furnish near global coverage and they contract their
services to the various airline users. This enables passengers to make directly dialed out-
going calls in flight from pay phones in the cabin. There is also a choice of voice or data,
and the wide use of printers favours this data format. Other groups of ground earth stations
support either Sita or Arinc, either of which can accept or distribute air traffic network (ATN)
messages as well as company messages. Those airlines favouring the use of the Sita
network (generally non-US carriers) will use ground earth stations located in California,
Western Australia, France and Quebec, as shown below.

ATPL Electronics 18-5 ©Atlantic Flight Training


Satellite Aircom (SITA)

Messages to and from the satellites will be relayed to airline offices over the existing Sita
network. US carriers favouring the Arinc network, will use another similar group of ground
earth stations for the same function. It is the intention that both networks shall be mutually
supportive. The flight crew may well be unaware of the service provider, since they merely
log-on to the visible satellite at the start of a sector; and any subsequent receipt and dispatch
of information is normally done automatically. The aeroplane to satellite link is accomplished
on L-Band channels between 1530 MHz to 1660.5 MHz. The satellite/earth link is also able
to use C-Band frequencies of 4000 MHz upwards via large steerable terrestrial dishes.

ATPL Electronics 18-6 24 October 2003


To operate high speed data and digitized voice, a high gain directional antenna must be
installed on the aeroplane. This antenna is steered electronically from a knowledge of
satellite position and aircraft position derived from the aeroplanes' flight management
computer. An option also exists to use low gain antennas, which are significantly cheaper
than the high gain variety, but this precludes voice link-up and operation is restricted to low-
speed data transfer. Each aeroplane may be individually addressed by its 24 bit unique
transponder mode S code, and is able to download FMC information, also
engine/performance related information, on request.

LIMIT
OF C
O VERA
GE
GEOSTATIONARY
SATELLITE

AREA OF
EQUATOR
NOT TO SCALE
COVERAGE

E
ERAG
O F COV
LIMIT

LATITUDE LIMITATION OF GEOSTATIONARY SATELLITE

One shortcoming of the geostationary satellite is the inability to cover polar areas. The limit
of cover is 81½ degrees north and south at sea level, which is increased by 2 or 3 degrees
for high flying aeroplanes. A figure of 80° is most commonly quoted for the purposes of JAA
examinations.

ATPL Electronics 18-7 ©Atlantic Flight Training


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ATPL Electronics 18-8 24 October 2003