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Piper Seminole

PA-44
Electrical System

The Electrical System
Of the systems in the Seminole, the electrical system is probably the most difficult to
understand. It helps to think in terms that are more familiar, so the comparison to a
plumbing system is often made. The electrical system is a closed system, so think of a
circulating garden fountain powering a decorative water wheel. The water is pulled out
of the pool at the lowest point, pumped to the top, and flows from the pump to the wheel
and back into the pool, as illustrated below. The principle elements required for the
water wheel illustration are Flow, Resistance, Pressure, and Power.
(PICTURE)
The system illustrated above is designed to power the wheel. In the same way,
electrical systems are designed to power items of equipment. Imagine a system with 50
water wheels. The pump would be very busy!
Below are some definitions of electrical terms. Read the definitions carefully, and they
will help you understand the description of system operation, which follows the
definitions.
Definitions
Flow
Current is a measurement of the rate of electron flow through the electrical
system. Flow is called current, and is expressed in amperes (amps). For a
plumbing comparison, Amperes (Amps) are the unit of measure of electrical
current.
Resistance
The Ohm is the resistance through which a pressure of one Volt can force a flow
of one Amp. It is the standard unit of resistance, or the opposition to current flow.
In general terms resistance is the heat energy lost from the flow of electricity.
Pressure
Voltage is a measure of the pressure in an electrical system. For a plumbing
comparison, think of pounds per square inch (psi). One volt is the amount of
pressure required to force one Amp of flow through one Ohm of resistance.
Electrical systems are defined by the normal system pressure. Most general
aviation airplane systems are usually either 14 or 28 volt systems. There is often
confusion between the terms current and voltage. In your house, there is
almost always water pressure. This would be akin to voltage. When you turn on a
faucet to fill a cup, the flow of the water would akin to current.
Power
In general, the end result of practical electricity is power and this is expressed in
Watts.
Watts represent the power dissipated when one Amp of current flows under a
pressure of one volt.
A source is a device that generates electrical power. In the water example, the
pump is a source. Common power sources are batteries, alternators, and
generators.
Batteries are a source of electrical power stored in chemical form.
Batteries have ratings that reflect their storage capacity as well as their
voltage. The capacity is amp-hours, which is the number of amps or
current the battery can supply for one hour. So, for example, the Seminole
has a 12-volt, 35 amp-hour battery. This means the Seminole could supply
35 amps of electricity for 1 hour.
Alternators produce electrical power by spinning a magnetic rotor within
three stationary coils of wire called a stator. The lines of flux created from
the magnetic field pass across the stator, creating electricity. The power
produced by an alternator is commonly called :Alternating Current. In the
Seminole electrical system, the alternating current is changed to Direct
Current, and the system is referred to as a DC system. Alternators are
rated by their capacity in amps as well as the system voltage they are
designed for. For example, the Seminole has 14 volt, 70 amp alternators.
Generators produce power in much the same way as an alternator, except
that a generator makes direct current DC power. Generators are rated by
their capacity in amps as well as the system voltage they are designed for.
Most modern airplanes use alternators instead of generators because
alternators tend to produce more power relative to unit weight, and
because alternators can operate at lower RPM settings.
Field is a magnetic force field inside an alternator (or generator). The alternators
armature rotates through the field to produce electricity. The field must be
present for electricity to be produced. Most alternators rely entirely on an
electromagnetic field initiated by an external electrical power source to initialize
the field, so they need power from a battery or another alternator to excite the
field. Some light twins have alternators with permanent magnets, which always
create a weak field. These are referred to as self-exciting alternators, since an
external power source is not required for the alternators to begin producing
electricity. The Seminole requires external power to create the magnetic field
required to generate electricity. Although they are not self-exciting alternators the
magnetic cores on the Seminoles alternators tend to hold a residual charge
strong enough to excite the alternators if the aircraft is operated on a semi-
frequent basis.
Ground is where electricity goes after it power equipment. In the water example
above, the common pool is similar to ground. In airplanes, since the system is
really pushing electrons instead of water, ground is how electricity completes
the loop back to the source. An electrical ground has to be a conductor of
electricity to complete a circuit. If the airplane were plastic, there would have to
be a wire from the load back to the source as well as one from the source to the
load. In the Seminole, the metal of the airframe is used as the ground return wire,
so the system is a single-wire system.
like lights, radios, and electric motors. Each device is a load that is carried by
a source. The sum of all the loads is referred to as load.
Ammeters measure the amount of current flow using a shunt.
Shunt is a conductor whose size and therefore resistance is precisely
established so that a voltage drop will be proportional to the large amount of
current flowing through it.
Loadmeters are a type of ammeter installed in a circuit in such a way that they
measure the load being carried by an alternator. Generally, current flows only in
one direction through a loadmeter, so an ammeter that deflects in only one
direction from zero amps is called a loadmeter. A loadmeter usually is marked in
percent of alternator rated capacity, however the Seminoles loadmeters display
the number of amps drawn on each alternator.
Circuit is the path electricity travels. Ordinarily, it is useful to think of electricity as
flowing from source to load to ground and back to source. A complete circuit is
closed. An incomplete circuit is open. Current will not flow through an open
circuit. A short circuit occurs when the electricity bypasses the load and goes
directly from source to ground. Short circuits are a fault in the system that pose
the risk of electrical fire. Devices designed to prevent circuit fires are circuit
breakers, fuses, and current limiters.
Circuit breakers are circuit protection devices. When a circuit is overloaded, the
wires get hot. The CB is designed to heat up with the wire, and to open when
overheated. Some switches are designed to be circuit breakers.
Voltage regulators are devices that control voltage in the system. Airplane
electrical systems are designed to be constant-voltage systems. The regulator
looks for a drop in system voltage and increases the strength of the alternator
field, which in turn causes the voltage of the system to rise to the regulated
value. Voltage regulators often incorporate protection devices in case the voltage
rises excessively. The device is referred to as an overvoltage relay, and will
open the field circuit of an alternator that is misbehaving and producing
excessive voltage.
Buses are places where power from a source is divided. Most items of electrical
equipment are connected to a bus. There is usually a main bus where power is
divided among the other buses.
Switches are devices for controlling system operation. Switches are located
between the source and the load, and are used to open and close a circuit.
Relays are switches that are controlled remotely. Relays use electromagnets
and springs to control their position. A relay that is spring-loaded to open a circuit
is referred to as a normally open relay. Relays are used to control circuits that
carry a lot of current. Relays in the Seminole are used to control the starter,
electrical master, avionics master, and external power circuits. The Seminole
electrical system we will describe and analyze is a 14 volt D.C. single-wire,
negative ground type system. The single wire system means that only one wire
from the battery is required to power any particular component in the system.
The component is attached to the airframe, which completes the circuit.

Alternators
Alternators are the primary source of electrical power in the airplane once the
engines are running. The two alternators in the Seminole are belt-driven and
rated at 14 volts and 70 amps. Alternators produce AC current, which is internally
rectified to DC current for use in the aircrafts electrical system. The Seminoles
alternators rely entirely on an electromagnetic field initiated by an external
electrical power source, so they need power from a battery or another alternator
to excite the field. Once an electro-magnetic field is created, the alternators will
begin to produce electricity and become self-sustaining, no longer requiring an
external power source to excite the magnetic field. As previously stated, some
light twins have permanent magnets, which always create a weak field: these are
considered self-exciting alternators, since an external power source is not
required for the alternators to begin producing electricity. Although not self-
exciting, the magnetic cores on the Seminoles alternators tend to hold a residual
charge strong enough to excite the alternators irregardless of external electrical
power, if the aircraft is operated on a semi-frequent basis. This feature allows the
Seminoles alternators to continue generating electricity even at lower power
settings.
Battery
The Piper Seminole has a 12 volt 35 amp hour battery. This means that, when
fully charged, the battery can provide 35 amps of current for 1 hour (or 1 amp of
current for 35 hours). The major functions of the battery are to supply current to
the engine starters, to power the buses before the engines are started and the
alternators are on line, to act as a shock absorber for electrical transients or
spikes, and as a supplemental power source in the event of alternator failure.

External Power
A receptacle located on the lower right side of the nose section permits an
external battery for engine start.

To Use:
- Battery Switch off
- All electrical off
- Connect EPU
- Turn on EPU
- Start left engine per normal checklist
- EPU off
- EPU disconnect
- Battery switch on
- Alternator switch on
- Ammeter check
- Start right engine per normal checklist
Note: Electrical power is supplied directly to the electrical buses though a
solenoid. Turn off all electrical equipment before applying or removing
external power to protect electrical systems in the event of a power surge.
Electrical System Monitors
There are two load meters, or ammeters (one for each alternator), located on
the instrument panel below the engine instruments. The meters display the
number amps in use from each alternator. There is a white mark on each
gauge between 50 and 100 amps to represent each alternators maximum
rated output of 70 amps.
(PICTURE HERE)
Two annunciator lights also provide a way of monitoring the electrical system
and are located at the upper right of the pilots control column on the master
caution panel. When either alternator fails, or is selected OFF, the amber ALT
annunciator light will illuminate. A low voltage monitor, also connected to the
tie bus, will illuminate a red LOW BUS annunciator light when the system
drops from bus voltage (14 Vdc) to battery voltage (12.5 Vdc).

Power Distribution

Battery Bus is located in the battery compartment and provides a continuous
source of power to the clock, engine hourmeter, flight-time hourmeter, and the
heater hourmeter. When the battery master switch is turned ON, the battery
solenoid contractor closes, enabling current to flow from the battery to both
the starter contractors and the tie bus.
Tie Bus is located on the left side of the circuit breaker panel and distributes
power to the other electrical systems. In one sense all the electrical power for
the aircraft is dumped onto the tie bus and is then distributed through
secondary busses or sub-systems. Each Sub-system is protected by
appropriately rated circuit breakers. The Sub-systems include the main bus,
non-essential bus, and two avionics buses. Overcurrent protection for the tie
bus is provided by a 60 amp tie bus BATTERY circuit breaker, and two 70
amp breakers for power coming from the alternators.
Main Bus provides electricity for all electrical equipment, except Avionics
equipment, the heater and blower, and standby and recognition lights. It is
protected by two 60 amp breakers.
Non-Essential Bus provides electrical power for the standby lights,
recognition lights, cabin heater, and cabin vent blower. It is protected by a 40
amp circuit breaker.
Two Avionics Buses provides power to the avionics equipment. The radios
and avionics are divided between the two buses to protect against the
possible loss of one of the avionics buses. The avionics buses are
interconnected through a 25 amp AVI BUS TIE circuit breaker. When the
radio master switch is turned on, power coming from the Tie Bus passes
through the two 40 amp breakers before accessing the Avionics buses.

Lights
The interior lighting consists of post lights, an internally lighted avionics, and
switches. Radio, panel, and switch lights are controlled by rheostat switches
located below the pilots control column. A Day/Night Dimmer switch is
provided to adjust the intensity of the gear lights. NOTE: If the Dimmer Switch
is set to night during daylight operations it may be difficult to see the landing
gear indicator lights.
Switches
The engine Switches are located on the left hand side of the pilots sub-panel.
The Mag switches have switch guards over them to protect against

The exterior aircraft lighting switches are located in the center of the dash panel
below the avionics equipment. The switches are designed where if all lights are on,
all of the rocker switches will be in the up position. If all of the switches are down,
only the fin strobe will be actuating. The fin strobe switch is a three-position switch;
the upper position turns on all strobe lights, the middle turns off all strobe lights, and
the lower turns only the fin strobe on. The master switch, left alternator, and right
alternator switches are located just to the left of the aircraft lighting switches.

The Pitot heat and environmental switches are located on the right-hand side of the
dash panel just above the circuit breakers.

A. Overview
1. Standard electrical accessories include an alternator, starter, and one (1) electric fuel
pump for each engine, and stall warning horn, ammeter, and annunciator panel
B. Components
1. Alternator
- 14-volt, 60-amp alternator on each engine
- Primary electrical power source when in operation, even at low eng RPM
- Protected by alternator control unit that incorporates a voltage regulator and
overvoltage relay
- Two (2) solid-state voltage regulators maintain load sharing while regulating
electrical system bus voltage to 14-volts
- An over-voltage relay in each alternator circuit prevents damage to electrical and
avionics equipment by taking an alternator off-line if its output exceeds 17-volts.
The ALT light on the annunciator panel will illuminate.
- Engine must be operated at 2000rpm or more to obtain full alternator output of
60 amps
2. Battery
- One 12-volt, 35 amp-hour battery, used for engine starting and a secondary
power source, located in the forward part of the nose section
- Solenoids (in battery and starter circuits) control high current drain functions
from the cabin
- Remove from airplane if recharging is required
3. Ammeters
- Two load meters, or ammeters, for each alternator
- Does not show battery discharge
- Displays the number of amps in use from each alternator
- **With all electrical equipment off and the battery master and alternator
switches on, the ammeter will indicate the charging rate of the battery. As each
electrical unit (i.e., landing light, nav light, etc) is switched on, the ammeter will
indicate the total ampere drawn for all units, including the battery.
4. Annunciator Panel
- Contains alternator (ALT), low oil pressure (OIL), and low vacuum (VAC) warning
lights
- Provided only to alert the pilot that a system may not be operating properly
- If a light illuminates, monitor the system gauge to determine when, or if any
corrective action is necessary.
5. Power Distribution
- Battery Bus Located in the battery compartment and provides a continuous
source of power to the clock, engine hourmeter, flight-time hourmeter, and the
heater hourmeter
- Tie Bus Located on the left side of the circuit breaker panel and distributes
power to the other electrical systems. In one sense all the electrical power for
the aircraft is dumped onto the tie bus and is then distributed through secondary
busses or sub-systems. Each Sub-system is protected by appropriately rated
circuit breakers. The Sub-systems include the main bus, non-essential bus, and
two avionics buses.
- Main Bus Provides electricity for all electrical equipment, except Avionics
equipment, the heater and blower, and standby and recognition lights. It is
protected by two 60 amp breakers.
- Non-Essential Bus Provides electrical power for the standby lights, recognition
lights, cabin heater, and cabin vent blower. It is protected by a 40 amp circuit
breaker.
- Two Avionics Buses provides power to the avionics equipment. The radios and
avionics are divided between the two buses to protect against the possible loss
of one of the avionics buses.
6. System Monitoring
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