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Tue, Apr 11, 2023

“D” Stands For Dreaded in Aircraft Engines

E-Mag Retrofit Frees Owners from Magnetomic Nightmares

Look out for the “D” when you’re buying an aircraft or aircraft engine. “Those things are unreliable and will let you down at the worst moment” is often the sentiment when it comes to aviation engines with the single drive/dual magneto ignition system found on certain engines used in Cessna and Mooney’s.

These magnetos are much maligned, and not without reason. Many dual magneto owners are faced with repeated inspections, lack of repair parts, and in some cases no options for repair at all as these units are no longer made or supported by the major ignition manufacturers.

Owners of Cessna 177 Cardinals are a vocal bunch that have been chomping at the bit for several years trying to develop or manufacture some reasonable remedy for their aging ignitions. No suitable options have been found. The opportunity therefore exists for any enterprising entrepreneur, however developing a system as important and complex as an ignition system for aircraft is no trivial pursuit.
Newer solid state ignition suppliers such as Sure-fly and Electroair have either shied away from the dual mag all together or developed a system that requires external power, not fully replicating the standalone self-exciting system of the original unit. However, one manufacturer is on the cusp of a revolutionary product.

E-Mag brought a single drive dual magneto display unit to Sun N Fun 2023 this year, giving a glimmer of hope to dual mag owners. Speaking at length with Brett Dement of E-Mag about this new unit reveals a profound leap in reliability, operation, and even performance with their new offering. Derived from years of single magneto development, guided by the ever-present input of owners such as the Cardinal Flyers Organization, E-mag has produced a solid-state ignition unit comprising only one moving part, the central shaft with a set of bearings, two stacked alternator magnets, and one trigger magnet. Gone are the triple plastic gears and rotors of the stock magnetos and the unreliable aspects associated with the design.

A clear tenet of independent dual ignition units was for redundancy in case one magneto failed, this design intent was completely circumvented in the original dual magneto product. The difference between the original magneto and E-mag product is even though a common drive shaft is used to operate both magnetos there is no common drive train where one side is taken out if the other side fails. The e-mag products only moving part is a simple bearing supported shaft that has no other parts being driven from it. The likely hood of the bearings failing are not 0, but nearly so, and are very well known, giving rise to an elementary estimation of mean time between failures, also known as overhaul interval, expected to be in the many 1000’s of hours.

Additionally, the e-mag product promises variable engine timing, self-excitation, a much hotter and intense spark, and automotive style spark plugs replacing the VERY expensive original aircraft standard plugs. The caveat is that e-mag may have to forgo the variable timing to appease the FAA during certification. Lets hope not as there are significant benefits to variable timing including increased fuel mileage, better performance at altitude, easier starting and reduced vibration in general. The e-mag is not only a significant performance enhancement it is a genuine safety improvement as well. Eliminating the single point failure mode plaguing the original magnetos is a huge benefit.

Brett stated that the e-mag dual mag unit is just now going on a test engine, and it will still be some while before the product enters the market, lets hope e-mag strong tail winds.

FMI: www.emagair.com

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