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13 STARTING AND IGNITION SYSTEMS


13.1 BASIC PRINCIPLES OF GAS TURBINE ENGINE STARTING SYSTEMS
13.1.1 PURPOSE
The purpose of a gas turbine engine starting system is to:
a. carry out a normal ground start.
b. relight the engine should flame out occur during flight.
c. enable certain components of the system to be isolated for ground servicing
purposes (e.g. wet runs and dry runs).
13.1.2 ESSENTIAL STARTING REQUIREMENTS
In order to effect a start, the engine must be supplied with:-
a. Air
b. Fuel
c. Ignition
13.1.2.1 Air Supply.
The air supply is provided from the engine compressor which must be accelerated
from rest to self-sustaining rpm by means of a starter motor. In flight the engine may
be windmilled by the forward speed of the aircraft. This has to be within a speed
envelope where the engine rotation is fast enough for the engine to start but not so
fast that the flame will be blown out by the airflow.
13.1.2.2 Fuel Supply.
The fuel required for starting is supplied from the normal engine fuel system. It is
usually initiated by the pilot opening the HP cock at around 10% HP compressor
speed.
If vaporiser type burners are used, the fuel is supplied in the initial stages of starting
via a starting solenoid valve and starting atomisers. Once the fuel has been ignited
and the vaporisers are heated, the solenoid valve closes, normal combustion
continues and fuel supply to the starting atomisers ceases. (Fig. 11.22)
13.1.2.3 Ignition.
Ignition of the air/fuel mixture is provided by high energy igniter plugs fitted in the
combustion chambers. They are positioned close to the fuel spray and operate for a
timed period during the starting cycle. HE ignition units supply the high energy
electrical supply to the ignitor plugs.
The same ignitor plugs are used to provide relight (restarting) in flight and also for
continuous ignition for operation when rain, snow or standing water is present and
may cause the engine to flame out.
Figure 13.1 illustrates a typical starting sequence applicable to gas turbine engines.

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Typical Engine Start Sequence.


Figure 13.1.

13.2 STARTER MOTORS


In commercial aviation, there are basically two types of starter motor in general use:-
a. Electric starters. Electrical starter generator.
b. Turbo starters (Air Starters).

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ELECTRICAL STARTER MOTOR

Typical Starting Control System.


Figure 13.2.
This usually consists of a heavy duty, compound wound, DC motor, which draws its
electrical supply from an external source. The motor works in conjunction with a
starter control panel, the sequence of events during a start being precisely controlled.
To allow the starter motor to overcome the initial inertia of the rotating assembly, the
supply to the motor is via a series of resistors, this allows the motor to build up to full
speed gradually, reducing the chance of failure within the drive system. The drive
from the starter motor to the engine is through suitable reduction gearing and some
form of clutch is fitted to disengage the drive when the engine is running.
The start master switch does not just switch the starting system ON. On some
aircraft it will prepare the aircraft electrical system for the start operation i.e. starter
motors require a very high current for starting which is usually too much for a single
transformer rectifier (TRU), so it will parallel the DC systems. To ensure that a start is
not carried out on a single TRU, it will place all the AC power systems onto one
generator, so if it fails the start is aborted. It will also ensure that the engine gauging
systems are all powered for the start in all conditions.
13.2.1 ELECTRIC STARTER/GENERATOR
On some smaller aircraft e.g. Jetstream, an electric starter/generator is employed.
The starter /generator initially functions as a starter, and when the engine is running it
automatically becomes a generator. The drive is through a suitable reduction gearing
hence there is no requirement for any form of clutch. The main advantage is the
reduction in weight.

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13.2.1.1 Safety Interlocks


On some helicopter electric starting systems, a series of safety interlocks are
incorporated in the control circuit. The purpose of the interlocks is to prevent the
starter relay from closing should an unsafe condition exist.

Figure 13.3 Typical Electric Starting System


.

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13.2.2 AIR TURBO STARTERS


Sources of Air Supply. The air starter can be supplied with air from one or more of the
following sources:-
a. Ground air starting trolley.
b. Airborne auxiliary power unit (APU).
c. Air from another engine (multi-engined aircraft).
d. Air cylinders.
13.2.2.1 Operation.
Air is supplied to the starter via an electrically operated air valve. This is controlled by
the starter control unit and is activated by pressing the starter button in the flightdeck.
The air is fed to a manifold around the turbine and then directed onto the turbine
blades by nozzles or guide vanes. The turbine revolves at very high speed and
through reduction gearing and a one way clutch (sprag) mechanism, drives the
engine compressor rotor. After a timed period of operation, the control unit closes the
air valve. The starter is often mounted on the external gearbox.

An Air Start System.


Figure 13.4.

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An Air Starter
Figure 13.5.

13.2.2.2 Sprag Clutch


Sprag clutches are used to provide the disconnect mechanism between the starter
motor and the engine. The clutch will transmit drive from the starter motor, but will
disconnect the drive when the engine speed exceeds the starter. The clutch consists
of two smooth concentric drive faces and between them a cage containing many
elongated figure-of-eight shaped cams called sprags. All the contact surfaces are
hardened to reduce wear, and are lubricated by oil. The sprags are spring loaded in
contact with the starter drive so that when the shaft starts to rotate the sprags stand
up and contact the engine drive due to the cam action of their shape, (Figure 13.6).
As the engine accelerates its drive will be faster than the starter motor and the clutch
will automatically disengage as sprags get pushed back to their minimum height
position.
Sprag clutches are used on most types of starter motor or in drives where one-way
drive is required such as helicopter gearboxes.

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Sprag Clutch.
Figure 13.6.

13.2.2.3 Speed Switch


The speed switch can give warning of an over-speed of the starter (engine driving
starter) and/or an auto shut-down.
As the starter speeds up towards an over-speed, the ball weights centrifuge out
forcing up the bell housing breaking the micro-switch to give an over-speed signal.

LOW HIGH
SPEED SPEED

Overspeed Switch
Figure 13.7.
Operation

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13.3 A300 STARTING SYSTEM


The following example of an engine start is taken from the training manuals for an
A300-134 fitted with GE 6-50 engines.
13.3.1 GE 6-50 STARTING PROCEDURE
The engines are equipped with air starters.
The air to start the engine is provided by:-
The APU, the ground connectors, or the other engine, if it is already running.
The starting system has provision for:-
Engine start.
Engine crank.
Continuous ignition.

The A300 Starting System Simplified


Figure 13.8.
13.3.1.1 The control panel
The control panel is located on the overhead panel.
Figure 13.9 shows the start panel with, at the top, the ignition selector which controls
the two ignition systems of each engine. The selector has three positions: CRANK in
the vertical position, then ground START ignition A or B when turned to the left and
continuous RELIGHT when turned to the right.
At the bottom of the panel is the master switch with ARM and START ABORT
positions.
Finally on each side, one yellow push-to-start button for each engine with its
corresponding start valve position light, which is blue and is marked OPEN.
The ignition system is supplied by two different electrical circuits.

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Engine Start Panel


Figure 13.9.

115v AC is used to energise the exciter and is controlled through the HP fuel shut off
valve lever, the ignition selector and the ignition relay.
The ignition relay is energised by 28v DC when the master switch is in the ARM
position and the start button is pushed.
Starting is achieved in the following manner:-
Set the ignition selector to A or B.
Set the master switch to ARM.
This arms the ignition circuit and closes the air conditioning system if it is open. The
amber lights in the push-to-start buttons will illuminate during this transit.
When the air conditioning valves are closed, the lights in the push-to-start buttons
extinguish and the operator can push the start button which will latch. This increases
the APU rpm to 100% to provide sufficient air for starting.
It also arms the ignition circuit and finally, provided that pneumatic power is available,
it opens the start valve and the blue OPEN light illuminates.

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When the Start Button is Pressed the APU goes to 100%


Figure 13.10.

When engine N2 reaches 10% the HP Fuel Shut-Off Valve must be opened.

At 10% N2 the HP Fuel Valve is opened.


Figure 13.11.

This supplies fuel to the engine and energises the ignition exciters. The engine
should light up and the EGT should increase.

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When N2 reaches 45% the engine will reach self-sustaining speed, so the ignition is
switched off, the push-to-start button pops out and the APU demand goes back to
normal.
Engine rpm should now accelerate to Ground Idle, which is approximately 65% N 2
and 24% N1.

At 45% The Starter Sequence is cancelled.


Figure 13.12.

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Figure 13.11.
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13.4 IGNITION SYSTEMS


13.4.1 HIGH ENERGY IGNITION UNIT
13.4.1.1 Basic Operation
The outline of a high energy ignition system is illustrated in figure 13.13. Each high
energy ignition unit (HEIU) has a low voltage supply which is controlled by the control
unit in the starting system. Depending upon the engine and installation, the supply
voltage may be either direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). If the supply is
DC, either a trembler mechanism or a transistor inverter is used to convert the dc
input to low voltage ac. Thereafter, the operation is the same as the system supplied
with AC:-
The low value of AC is stepped up to a high value by a transformer.
The high value alternating voltage is then rectified to provide a high value of DC
voltage that is used to charge a capacitor.

DC Ignition Unit Block Diagram.


Figure 13.13.
When the capacitor voltage is high enough, it breaks down a discharge gap and
the discharge is applied to the igniter plug where the energy (high voltage, high
current) is converted to a spark across the face of the igniter plug.
13.4.1.2 Construction
A modern transistorised version of a high-energy ignition unit is illustrated in figure
13.14. Although the construction varies according to the type of ignition unit, the
basic operation is as described. A choke is fitted to extend the duration of the
discharge and safety resistors are fitted to ensure dissipation of energy in the
capacitors.
13.4.1.3 Lethal Warning
The electrical energy stored in the HE ignition unit is potentially lethal and,
even though the capacitor is discharged when the electrical supply is
disconnected, safety precautions are necessary. Before handling the
components, the associated circuit breaker should be tripped, or the fuse
removed. Never rush in; at least one minute must be allowed between
disconnecting the power supply and touching the ignition unit, HT lead or
igniter plug.

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Transistor
generator

A Transistorised Ignition Unit.


Figure 13.14.

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13.4.2 IGNITER PLUG


There are two basic types of igniter plug; the constricted (or constrained) air gap type
and the shunted surface discharge type, (figure 13.15).
The air gap type is similar in operation to a conventional reciprocating engine spark
plug, but has a larger air gap between the electrode and body for the spark to cross.
A potential difference of approximately 25000 volts is required to ionise the gap
before a spark will occur. This high voltage requires very good insulation throughout
the circuit.
The surface discharge igniter plug has the end of the insulator formed by a semi-
conducting pellet which permits an electrical leakage from the central high tension
electrode to the body. This ionises the surface of the pellet to provide a low
resistance path for the energy stored in the capacitor. The discharge takes the form
of a high intensity flashover from the electrode to the body and only requires a
potential difference of approximately 2000 volts for operation.
The normal spark rate of a typical ignition system is between 60 and 100 sparks per
minute. Periodic replacement of the igniter plug is necessary due to the progressive
erosion of the igniter electrodes caused by each discharge.
The igniter plug tip protrudes approximately 0.1 inch into the flame tube. During
operation the spark penetrates a further 0.75 inch. The fuel mixture is ignited in the
relatively stable boundary layer which then propagates throughout the combustion
system.

Ignitor Plugs
Figure 13.15.

13.4.3 SERVICING THE IGNITION SYSTEM


Before any servicing is carried out on an ignition system, you must read the relevant
Safety Notes together with the Maintenance Manual relating to this work. You must,
in particular, understand the lethal warning notice regarding handling high energy
ignition equipment and the safety precautions you are to observe.

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