All About Aircraft Alternators

The aircraft electrical system is crucial for flight operations, ensuring the functionality of electronic flight displays, radio systems, lights, and other powered hardware used by crew members and passengers alike. The power provided to the aircraft electrical system is made possible through a number of devices, those including alternators, generators, and APUs. Alternators in particular are very advantageous for aviation applications, due in part to their performance characteristics and power-to-weight ratios. As alternator aircraft engine assemblies are quite common, understanding their functionality and use is important for anyone who may utilize such equipment.

At their most basic, alternators are apparatuses capable of producing AC voltage through the transformation of mechanical energy. Depending on the application that the alternator is to serve, there are numerous variations and designs available. For the general design of alternators, the main components consist of the rotor and stator. The rotor is the rotational element of the assembly, while the stator is a stationary part. The rotor is capable of turning with the use of a mechanical input, and the rotation of the magnetic field causes an AC voltage to be induced in the stator windings.

The magnetic field of an alternator may either be formed through the implementation of permanent magnets or with a field coil electromagnetic, though the latter is more common for aviation applications. With the use of a voltage regulator, excitement power can be provided to the alternator to automatically vary the strength of the magnetic field. In order for the magnetic field to be produced in the first place, the alternator also requires power that is supplied by the battery. As such, an alternator cannot function properly when the aircraft battery has lost its charge.

As stated before, alternators are often compared to generators for their use in aircraft. While both can create the voltage needed to power aircraft electrical systems, each device presents its unique advantages and drawbacks that can make the choice between the two a matter of what aircraft one is flying, their personal preferences, and any requirements they may have. When comparing alternators and generators, two of the biggest differences that one should know is their dependencies for initiating power production and how quickly they can reach full rated output.

With generators and alternators, their role in flight operations consists of producing power and charging the aircraft battery. With a generator, the implementation of permanent magnets allows the device to establish a magnetic field for the generation of electricity without a charge from the battery. Alternators, on the other hand, require a battery charge in order to begin their operations and thus cannot function with a dead battery. Despite this, alternators are very advantageous once they have initiated their operations as they can reach full rated output at low engine RPM. Generators, however, cannot reach rated output until the engine speed surpasses a value of around 1,400 RPM. Alternators also have other advantages over generators, such as their low weight and less maintenance over long use.

While an alternator may require less maintenance as compared to an aircraft generator, such apparatuses should still be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure their proper functionality. From the windings to bearing alternator parts, a number of components may face wear and tear over time. If there is any major issue that arises in the alternator, the aircraft should not be operated until the affected components are repaired, replaced, etc. Furthermore, one should always procure their parts from a trusted source that can provide reliable components for the benefit of alternator performance.

Cogent Sourcing is a leading distributor of all types of aviation tools that are required for aircraft maintenance, and we are your sourcing solution for top quality alternator parts. Whether you are in need of an alternator accessory kit or other alternator aircraft engine components, we provide rapid lead-times and competitive piercing on everything we carry for the benefit of our customers. With our offered RFQ service, customers can quickly and easily request and receive personalized quotes on items they are interested in for their comparisons. To take advantage of our RFQ service, fill out and submit a Request for Quote form as provided on our website and a dedicated account manager will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less. Get started today and see why customers choose to rely on Cogent Sourcing for all their aviation requirements.


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July 15, 2021

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