Engine Accessories: The Unsung Heroes Under the Cowling

When it comes to the firewall forward section of the aircraft, most pilots only consider the engine. But engine accessories and other additional components can influence aircraft safety, efficiency, and cost. So for this blog we are going to focus on the unsung heroes under the cowling – the accessories.

When I think of engine accessories the first thing that comes to mind is starting systems . There are a number of different parts that are involved with starting the aircraft, but one of the most important is the starter. When it comes to starters, look no further than Sky-Tec’s lightweight starters. Designed as a replacement for the OEM parts, Sky-Tec excels at producing a starter that is lighter and more reliable than the original OEM equipment. In fact, Sky-Tec’s NL Series starters are now used by Lycoming as factory OEM on most aircraft manufacturers’ engines.

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Next on the List

Aircraft alternators are high-failure items. Sure they don’t fail as much as vacuum pumps, but they do fail. Part of the reason is because they were originally made for cars. When someone refers to an aircraft alternator as a Chrysler part it is because it is a Chrysler car part.

The most well-known source for aftermarket alternators and voltage regulators is Plane-Power. Plane-Power offers an alternative to high-priced, marginally-performing, rebuilt used replacement aircraft alternators. Plane-Power alternators are FAA/PMA-certified to replace the vast majority of popular general aviation alternators and offers significant improvements over legacy aircraft alternators.

In 2014, Hartzell Engine Technologies acquired Plane-Power so now customers have the flexibility to select either a direct-fit Hartzell unit or a Plane-Power conversion kit. Plane-Power lightweight aircraft alternators and voltage regulators are aimed at three segments of the market: experimental/kit-built aircraft, generator-to-alternator STC conversions, and PMA replacement units covering a broad range of the market.

 

Moving On

The oil that circulates throughout an engine lubricating all of the moving parts absorbs a significant amount of combustion heat, which is why most aircraft engines have an oil cooler. It’s a simple heat exchanger. The large surface area and small mass of the metal wafers quickly sap heat from the oil coursing through the line. It’s a simple, effective method of keeping an aircraft engine cool.  Aero-Classics offer FAA/PMA-approved oil coolers for almost every engine type. It doesn’t matter if your aircraft is Lycoming powered and uses a remote mounted oil cooler or is Continental propelled and uses an engine mounted oil cooler, A.E.R.O. has what you need.

The ignition system is what causes the fuel to burn, which results in the wonderfully loud engine noise most pilots love to hear. Most ignition systems have the same basic components. There is a source of electricity, a distributor, wires to carry the electricity, magnetos to produce electrical power for the spark plugs, and the spark plugs which ignite the fuel.

The engine is designed with dual ignition systems and two spark plugs per cylinder, so if one system fails, the engine will continue to run on the second system. The airplane’s double ignition system provides better performance because of more efficient combustion and a higher level of safety through redundancy. Air Boss offers standard and dual mag ignition systems and components which offer optimum combustion, engine efficiency, and better fuel consumption.

 

To Round out the Accessories

An aircraft fuel system enables fuel to be loaded, stored, managed, and delivered to the engine of an aircraft. Fuel systems differ greatly from aircraft to aircraft due to the relative size and complexity of the aircraft in which they are installed. Small, piston-engine powered aircraft often have a single tank fuel system. On newer aircraft two fuel tanks, with one in each wing, are more common. A two tank system requires additional components to allow controlled provision of fuel to the single engine. Fuel tank boost pumps may or may not be incorporated depending upon the location of the tanks.

The fuel pump is mechanically driven by the engine providing pressurized fuel to the injection system or carburetors. The pump delivers fuel at a constant pressure enabled through a pressure relief valve, and any excess recirculates inside the pump. A boost pump is installed to assist the fuel pump to purge fuel lines from vapor, prime the cylinders of fuel injection systems, and provide pressure when starting the engine.

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Other “Accessories”

Although not technically defined as accessories, there are components that play just as vital of a role. For example, baffle seals aide in cooling while also adding an aesthetic value.

Let’s not forget engine hoses. Hose are an inexpensive, easy way to add longevity and safety to your aircraft. The A.E.R.O. Hose Shop offers hundreds of complete hose kits, a hose duplication program, helicopter hoses, and customized applications.

The exhaust system is as important as any other component in the process because flow through the engine is only as good as its weakest point. Most GA aircraft exhaust systems leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately, there are companies that have stepped up to the plate to offer better options. Nicrocraft® exhaust parts are built to the latest original equipment specifications. Heat-resistant, 321 stainless steel is used in the construction of all new parts and the bellows are made of Inconel alloy for superior heat resistance.

All of these engine accessories are interrelated, and no single one works miracles alone. Together, they can really make a difference, but the entire system needs to be engineered as a whole to improve aircraft performance.

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Image Credits

Image credit: Sky-Tec Partners, Ltd

Image credit: cfinotebook.net

Image credit: Aeronautics Guide

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