Know About Aircraft Alternators and Generators

Thanks to the rise of affordable integrated circuitry, modern general aviation aircraft now mount a wide range of electronics and avionics capable of offering pilots real-time displays of weather conditions, navigating in all three dimensions thanks to satellite signals, and storing a comprehensive database of engine operation parameters. However, these devices require a reliable power source, which takes the form of a generator or alternator. These devices are rated in volts and amps in terms of their power output. Generators and alternators come in 12 and 14 volt variants, with 12 volt variants running at 12, 15, 25, 38, 50, and 60 amps, while 24-volt alternators typically feature 60 or 95 amps.

Both generators and alternators produce electrical energy by moving wires (also called conductors) through electrical fields, or vice versa. In a generator, conductors are copper wires that wind around an armature that is bolted to the drive pulley. As the armature rotates, the copper wires move through a magnetic field produced by a set of magnets, inducing electrical power in the wires that is then transferred from the spinning commutator to stationary carbon brushes that are held against the commutator segments by spring pressure. The main drawbacks of generators are that they don’t produce enough output until the engine RPM reaches the midrange of operations, typically 1,400 RPM. Aircraft generators are also much heavier than alternators, have lower amperage ratings, and often cause electrical noise and static that can radiate to and interfere with other avionics.

Aircraft alternators, on the other hand, are capable of producing full output even at lower engine RPMs. This is important, as modern general aviation aircraft need electrical power from the beginning of the flight. Alternators work off of the engine’s power similar to generators, but rotate a shaft made from magnetic iron wrapped in wire. The two ends of the wire attached to copper slip rings that then attach to brushes. With one of these brushes attached to ground, the other attaches to the field terminal in the voltage regulator. The spinning belt hooked up to the engine turns the rotor positioned inside the stator. Because the stator is a conductor and the rotor is a magnet, turning the rotor creates electricity in the stator windings. Compared to generators, alternators are much lighter and more capable of producing the amounts of electricity that modern aircraft need. However, alternators are vulnerable to electrical spikes and reversed polarity.

At Unlimited Purchasing, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the aircraft generator parts and aircraft alternator parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at or call us at 1-434-321-4470.


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