Aircraft have sophisticated electrical systems made up of a multitude of varying components, each with an important role. An average aircraft electrical system consists of a generator, battery, master switch, generator switch, bus bar, fuses, circuit breakers, voltage regulators, ammeter, and corresponding wiring. The generator’s purpose is to supply electric currents to the electrical system and maintain sufficient charge in the battery. The energy in the battery is used to start the engine and also provides a small supply of power in the event of a failure of the generator.
The electrical system is controlled via a master switch. Turning the system on provides power to all electrical components apart from the ignition. A few of the things controlled by the master switch are the lights (of all kinds), radio equipment, turn indicators, fuel gauges and pumps, stall warning systems, and the starting motor. The bus bar is used as a terminal connecting the main electrical system to the individual pieces of equipment. This greatly simplifies the wiring system and provides a common point from which voltage can be distributed.
Fuses and circuit breakers serve to protect the circuits and equipment from electrical overload. The main difference between fuses and circuit breakers is that, in the event of an electrical overload, fuses must be replaced while a circuit breaker can simply be manually reset. It’s important to make note of the amperage limit of the circuit breakers; this can usually be identified by a placard on the back panel. Another important tool is the ammeter, a tool used to monitor the performance efficiency of the aircraft electrical system as a whole. However, not all aircraft are equipped with an ammeter. Less sophisticated aircraft will typically feature a simple warning light to indicate a problem with the generator or battery.
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