Understanding Aircraft Generator Control

          To provide power for the various aircraft electrical components that serve both operators and passengers, generators are needed for the production of electricity. As aircraft systems are engineered to operate at a specific range of voltage and the demand of electricity may vary, it is crucial that generators are controlled and regulated. With a generator control system, the output produced by generators can be governed in order to optimally power and protect all systems.

            A simple method of governing the output of the aircraft generator is to simply manage the strength of the internal magnetic field, as it is what is responsible for the output voltage. In general, a higher magnetic field results in a higher voltage output, and vice-versa, thus a simple control system will adjust magnetic fields for regulation. Despite this being an easy solution, aircraft are much more elaborate, requiring robust and automatic systems. For aircraft applications, the two primary generator control unit types are electro-mechanical and solid-state controls.

            While their components may differ, both types share the common principles of providing regulating, protecting, and sensing functionalities for the DC generation system. One of the most simplistic functions of the generator control unit is to regulate the output of voltage, and a regulation unit allows for a comparison of operations, ensuring that adjustments to the magnetic field are made when output exceeds or falls under a specified limit range. On more advanced systems, protection circuits may open relays for field excitation current while comparing the reference voltages for overvoltage protection. When a generator is defective or runs into a voltage issue, the control system will ensure that it is disconnected from the bus for safety.

            For high output generators, such as those on turbine powered business aircraft, the starter generator and standard generator are a single unit called a starter-generator. Due to the combination of operations into a single unit, the generator control unit must be much more complex, allowing for the safe facilitation of engine starting and electrical production. To achieve this, the generator control disconnects the series field and energizes the parallel field so that the starter-generator can function as a generator after starting, and then it provides standard regulation and protection during continued operations. For such high output generators, the generator control unit may contain solid-state electronic circuits so that it may monitor the generator operations.

            On low output generator types, the generator control circuit is put in place in order to adjust generator output by affecting current flow. Such generator control units will also make various further adjustments during the flight in response to changing variables and loads. A majority of low output generator controls are electromechanical, though some modern aircraft that have alternators feature solid-state units. Depending on the need of the aircraft system, the two primary types of units are the carbon pile and three-unit regulator. With the carbon pile regulator, aircraft generator output is governed through having current passed through carbon discs in a series, and current and output increase as the resistance of the disks decrease. In three-unit regulators, three units assist in the correction of electrical system operation, and these functions are provided through relays that are placed in a single housing. With these relays, the output of the generator is monitored so that relays may be opened and closed as needed by the system.

            To maintain safe, efficient flight and to protect the various electronic components on your aircraft, having a reliable generator control system is crucial. ASAP Axis is a premier distributor of aircraft generator controls and other aviation hardware parts, offering customers competitive pricing on their aircraft generator, aircraft battery, and aviation part needs. Get started on the purchasing process today and see how we can help you!


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