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Thu, Jan 26, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (01.26.06): Hung Starter

Aero-Tips!

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 together.

Aero-Tips 01.26.06

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.

Hung Starter

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 switch,

  1. The airplane’s ammeter shows a massive discharge.
  2. A buss voltage gauge, if installed, shows low voltage, rapidly dropping.
  3. A STARTER ENERGIZED or similar annunciator light, if installed, remains illuminated.
  4. 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?
  1. 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 BOTH.
  2. Turn OFF the battery and alternator switches. This may remove power from the starter.
  3. Some airplanes wire the starter directly to the battery. If you turn off the battery and alternator switches and the prop continues to spin,
  • 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 safe. Meanwhile,
  • 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 the airplane.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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