How Do Electrical Systems Work in Aircraft?

Any aircraft needs a well-functioning electrical system for its in-operation functions. Such electrical systems are responsible for streamlining power to the auxiliary fuel pump, avionics, lights, and the engine starter motor, among other components.

Two basic factors impact an aircraft’s overall electrical system: the reliability and the weight of the equipment to be used. At first, most equipment is chosen to be lightweight so that the plane can gain high altitudes without unnecessary fuel expenditures. With that said, we will briefly go in depth about the different components that make up an aircraft electrical system.

What Are the Basic Components of an Aircraft Electrical System?

A 14-28-volt DC electrical system is commonplace in most aircraft. Some of the components that constitute a typical aircraft electrical system are:

  • Generators

Generators or engine-driven alternators are primarily used to supply electric current to the electrical system, apart from maintaining a constant electrical charge in the battery. However, when a generator or alternator breaks down or fails to provide sufficient energy, the battery is used as a secondary power source for starting the engine.

Today, most DC generators do not provide enough electricity to run the whole system smoothly. During in-flight operation, the electrical energy supplied by the battery can get depleted very quickly. Alternators prove advantageous in such situations because even at fluctuating engine speeds, they provide a constant energy output. In other words, heavy electric power mandates the usage of an AC source.

  • Battery

Batteries used in aviation can be primary (meant for one-time use) or secondary (can be reused after recharging). All aircraft batteries used as a power source are ideally operable over broad environmental parameters, lightweight, have a high energy density, and require minimal maintenance.

The engine starter motor is connected to the battery, and this is why it is crucial to shut down all avionics installed within the aircraft before starting the engine. This is to prevent a high current overflow to the starter motor that could damage navigation equipment and sensitive radios which might have been left on.

  • Bus Bar

A bus bar is comparable to a terminal that connects different equipment with the overall electric system. By providing a common source for voltage distribution throughout the electrical system, bus bars prevent the need for an intricate wiring system.

  • Inverter

Inverters can convert DC to AC and be either static or rotary, each of which can be multi-phase or single-phase types. This converted AC uses the appropriate switches, transformers, and control units to serve as a 24-volt system.

  • Ammeter

An ammeter is used for monitoring the electrical supply of the overall electrical system by indicating whether a generator/alternator is producing sufficient electrical power. It is also indicative of whether the battery is being charged electrically. 

The General Layout of an Aircraft Electrical System 

The alternator and battery-run dual circuits supply electrical current to all electrical components. As soon as an engine starts running, the engine-driven alternator generates a constant supply of energy using electromagnetic induction. This electricity is then redirected toward the bus bar, where it powers all electrical components connected to the electrical system, and immediately gets switched on.

Wrapping Up

For sourcing the best aircraft electrical components, Unlimited Purchasing is your ultimate go-to destination. Being a leading supplier of IT hardware, NSNs, and board-level parts, Unlimited Purchasing is proud to maintain a legacy of quality assurance and efficient customer assistance. Get a quote from us today and our sales team will be glad to offer help and guidance with your purchasing process.


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