Aircraft Magnetos and Dual Magneto Systems


With the use of internal combustion engines and their ability to ignite fuel-and-air mixtures, aircraft can achieve the pressure and force necessary to drive systems and create propulsion for the means of flight. To efficiently burn fuel-and-air mixtures at a proper rate, the ignition systems of general aviation aircraft often utilize what is known as a magneto. As one of the oldest components of general aviation, the magneto is capable of independently producing high voltages that serve to provide engine ignition through the use of spark plugs. To ensure that there is redundancy in the ignition system for the means of safety, many aircraft will have a dual magneto system, meaning that all magnetos and spark plugs are duplicated.

In their most basic form, magnetos are a type of self-contained generator that can produce high voltage currents for the means of engine combustion. Magnetos feature a magnet that revolves closely to a coil of wire, producing a magnetic field during operations. When the contacts of the device are opened, the magnetic field causes a high voltage to be produced in the secondary coil, resulting in a pulse of energy that flows into the spark plugs. As the pulses reach the spark plugs of each cylinder, fuel-and-air mixtures may be ignited and burned.

As magnetos and spark plugs both provide many aircraft engines with the ability to burn fuel-and-air mixtures, it is paramount that they are capable of functioning without fail. In a single magneto setup, the failure of the device would result in a lack of voltage generation, thus causing fuel-and-air mixtures to remain uncombusted. As this may result in hazardous conditions during flight, many general aviation aircraft feature a dual magneto setup in which two magneto devices separately provide voltage to one of two spark plugs attached to each cylinder. With the use of a dual magneto assembly, the second magneto may continue to ignite and burn the mixtures of each cylinder even in the case of the other failing.

Despite dual magneto systems serving an important role in providing redundancy and safety to an aircraft, they are also beneficial for the general efficiency of engine operations. With two spark plugs per cylinder separately being provided current from two magnetos, fuel-and-air mixtures are ignited and burned much more rapidly and thoroughly. As a result, the power generated by the engine is also increased. While dual magneto setups are quite common to many general aviation aircraft, they are less common to other vehicle types due to size restrictions and engine designs.

Regardless of whether one utilizes a slick magneto or a Bendix magneto set-up, such equipment requires regular inspections to ensure airworthiness and efficiency. Even with the ability to rely on redundant systems, the failure of one magneto can decrease engine performance and increase hazards. An aging magneto may be facing an issue based on various indications such as rough engine operations, RPM drops during magneto testing, or an ignition failure. If an issue is detected and the magneto is suspected, such parts should always be inspected by a qualified technician and repaired, overhauled, or replaced as necessary.

If you find yourself in need of top quality magneto components for your maintenance needs, look no further than ASAP Aviation Unlimited. ASAP Aviation Unlimited is a premier online distributor of aircraft parts, providing customers with unmatched customer service, competitive prices, and rapid lead-times on all we carry. As you explore our expansive part and manufacturer catalogs, you may request quotes for your comparisons through the submission of an RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt of your request, a member of our staff will reach out to you in 15 minutes or less with a personalized solution for your unique requirements. See why customers choose to steadily rely on ASAP Aviation Unlimited for all their operational needs when you initiate the purchasing process today. 


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