A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation
so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it
all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as
representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have
heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we
might never have considered before, or something that didn't
"stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for
the practical test.
It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers
become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our
ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those
strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow
them to soar magnificently through it.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are
always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips.
Remember... when it comes to being good pilots, we're all in this
Aircraft starters use a lot of electrical power. Because they
are air-cooled (they do their work before the oil is flowing) they
get very hot. If a starter runs for more than just a few seconds at
a time, it will overheat—damaging the starter and possibly
“starting” a fire.
If the starter relay sticks in the “contact”
position, or even welds itself into contact because of excessive
current, the starter will quickly overheat. How will you know if
you have a “hung starter”? After you release the START
- The airplane’s ammeter shows a massive discharge.
- A buss voltage gauge, if installed, shows low voltage, rapidly
- A STARTER ENERGIZED or similar annunciator light, if installed,
- The propeller spins, but slowly, as the engaged starter
provides too much friction for the engine to run.
What do you do if you see any of these indications?
- Make sure the START switch or key has sprung to the BOTH
MAGENTOS position (a broken internal spring may prevent this normal
function). If it hasn’t, try to move it manually to
- Turn OFF the battery and alternator switches. This may remove
power from the starter.
- Some airplanes wire the starter directly to the battery. If you
turn off the battery and alternator switches and the prop continues
- EVACUATE THE AIRCRAFT (being careful to remain well clear of
the propeller), then
- GUARD THE AIRPLANE for the few minutes it takes for the battery
to run out, to keep people clear. Chock the plane or tie it down if
- Send someone for a large fire extinguisher (not the little
“avionics fire” bottle you have in the airplane) in
case the starter begins to burn.
Aero-tip of the day: Know the indications of a
“hung starter,” and watch for them every time you start