The purchase of an aircraft isn’t as simple as kicking the tires and taking a test flight. Most aircraft have a significant dollar value to the buyer and seller. The value of the airplane is directly affected by the sum total of the state of repair of all of the airframe, powerplant, and a myriad of installed equipment. To verify the value of the airplane, dozens of “good-bad” assessments of the operating condition of the plane must be made. These assessments are based upon not only the physical inspection of major components but also the condition of the supporting accessory components.
Buried in the powerplant package are the magnetos. A simple observation may be to run the engine, flip the mag to left and right to see what the RPM drop is and how the engines run on the individual magnetos. If the magnetos are working, they are working, if the engine runs, it runs. Right?
Well, maybe not so simple. While the magnetos may pass a basic engine run-up inspection, there are lots of not so obvious logbook records for required maintenance which keeps the magnetos in good operating condition. New airplane owners may get hit with “catch up maintenance” to the tune of thousands of dollars if the inspection and Airworthiness Directive compliance of the magnetos require attention.
It is a certainty that various maintenance issues will be identified during the inspection. Repairs will either need to be done or inspections may be due at some point after the purchase of the plane. These issues are not likely to substantially affect the purchase price of the airplane unless particularly expensive or of negative impact on the operation of the aircraft or engine.
Ultimately, the prepurchase inspection benefits the buyer to know what maintenance requirements are upcoming for the purposes of budgeting and scheduling maintenance. If money needs to be spent after buying an airplane to correct maintenance issues, better to know this upfront. As the saying goes “better to be advised than surprised!”
The very first step is to confirm that the magnetos installed on the engine match the logbook entries. No surprise, but logbook records can be messy and entries to record installation and removal of magnetos may be incomplete.
A common scenario is that a magneto was installed in a hurry and the work was never recorded in the logs. The result is that the serial numbers of the installed magnetos actions of Airworthiness Directive compliance and 500-hour inspection in the logbook will not match the unrecorded, but installed, magneto. Verify the installed part number and serial number and then review the logs to match to required or recorded maintenance events.
Regarding maintenance events, magnetos will have some fundamental inspection points which should be recorded in the logbook:
The logbooks may have a list of Airworthiness Directive AND Service Bulletin compliance, but is the list complete and accurate? The ADs and Service Bulletins on Bendix and Slick mags are too numerous to list in this discussion and should be researched for current effectiveness (Kelly Aero ES magnetos do not have any Airworthiness Directives, so a much shorter discussion!).
Surprisingly, a complete listing for ADs for both Slick and Bendix may not be found by searching the FAA or magneto manufacturer databases. Some ADs are only found when searching on the engine model, and in some cases, the magneto AD is against the airframe (!!). Of note, one Slick Airworthiness Directive, AD 88-25-04, is applied against the airframe and requires instrument panel placards and Airframe POH amendments. A great example is that the deep dive into records may extend beyond the logbooks.
The bottom line with logbook AD records: Trust but Verify. It is likely that the previous mechanics have done the required work. But, any mechanic working on an airplane and engine new to them will need to research and review that the magnetos match the records.
CALENDAR YEAR MAINTENANCE
All magneto manufacturers require an overhaul of magnetos based on calendar time, regardless of hours. The idea is that a magneto that is not operated frequently is perhaps even more likely to experience service issues than a magneto operating 1,000 hours in one year.
Bendix has a detailed Service Bulletin SB643C that details how some Bendix magnetos are subject to either a 5-year overhaul or 12-year overhaul, depending upon the serial number and model number specifics. Both Slick and Kelly detail 12-year overhaul requirements in their manuals.
The basic idea here is that, when purchasing an airplane with a low-time engine, the date when the engine was overhauled, may have some unforeseen implications. The magnetos may have low operating hours. But, the low operating hours’ overtime may trigger manufacturer requirements for inspections that could potentially incur a substantial expense for the new owner.
THE 500 HOUR INSPECTION
The record of the 500-hour inspection may be the single most important record in the logbook. The 500-hour inspection is a routine maintenance event that can be performed at any time during the service history of the magneto. This inspection can be used to remedy Airworthiness Directive compliance and other inspection requirements if the magneto has an unclear service record. If the logbook shows no record of 500-hour inspections and the magnetos have more than 500 hours, then the inspection is due.
Consideration at the prepurchase inspection is to negotiate with the seller to complete the magneto inspection as part of the sale. Or, perhaps split the cost? It is a relatively low-cost inspection, but the benefit is that both the seller and buyer are assured that the magnetos are back to a known baseline. For the seller and buyer, the Kelly Aero 500-hour inspection provides a warranty for the magnetos and simply removes any post-sale liability concerns for the ignition system after the aircraft purchase.
If the seller is not willing to provide the 500-hour inspection, then the buyer should consider spending the money to get the inspection done. Once again, the benefit is that the new owner can have Kelly Aero baseline the magnetos to a known condition. With one less thing to worry about, the new owner can fly their new airplane with greater confidence that unplanned magneto maintenance will not keep them grounded.
Have Fun and Fly! Harry Fenton, Director of Business Development and Product Support
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By Harry Fenton, Business Development and Product Support
Lots of older Bendix magnetos are returned to Kelly Aero either as cores or for a custom overhaul with large external capacitors attached to the outside of the magneto. Much to the surprise of the customer, this big capacitor is not replaced or provided as new as part of a Kelly Aero overhauled magneto. In fact, this capacitor is not shown in the magneto overhaul manual or parts list, and there is little to no documentation as to how these parts are installed with the magneto. So…what is this thing?
This big capacitor is called a “Radio Noise Filter” and its intended purpose is to reduce radio noise generated by the magneto. It is a relic of a bygone era as an attempt to fix radio static problems experienced in aircraft radios used in general aviation airplanes of the 1950s and 1960s. While not useful for current aircraft and avionics, these capacitors are still sold by Kelly Aero as a spare part.
NOISE FILTER- WHY IT WAS NEEDED, WHY IT IS NOT NEEDED NOW
When the magneto is operating, the contact points close to allow the magneto to build a charge, and then open to allow the current to discharge which creates the ignition spark. The result is a pulsating voltage produced at the internal magneto capacitor, and this voltage is carried by the P-Lead and switch.
For the most part, this voltage has no effect on the engine or magneto and is simply a byproduct of normal operation. However, the pulsating voltage in the P-Lead can result in a low amplitude radiated signal that has the potential to create a signal that can be picked up by radio.
Because this signal is not a structured signal in the form of voice or morse code to identify VOR stations, it is termed “noise” and it is interpreted as interference. Radio noise is a rare occurrence and is as described: A steady whine, a general static or a staccato clicking sound as the spark plugs fire that is heard while tuned into aviation radio frequencies.
A lot has changed in the world of avionics from the 1950s to now. One of the serious problems in the 1950s and 1960s as radios became more common to the airplane cockpit, was “radio noise”. Early radios worked on dozen frequencies for voice and navigation and the radio designs were based on frequency crystals and vacuum tubes. The old radios were very susceptible to radio noise due to the limits of the components and circuit designs available at the time. On top of that, all of the components like lights, strobes, generators, spark plugs, ignition harnesses, and magnetos generated some sort of radio noise. From the radio standpoint, it was a noisy environment.
Noise filters, in the form of capacitors, were attached to all sorts of wires connected to lights, generators, and magnetos. The idea was that the filter would simply change or diminish the radio frequency of the noise generated by these devices to something outside of the aircraft radio frequency range.
Modern avionics manufactured since the late 1980s onward are digital, microprocessor controlled with much better filtering and much greater capability to reject noise. Additionally, FAA certification required that airborne emitters of electrical noise- like magneto ignition systems- keep the level of radiated electrical noise within acceptable levels.
For the most part, airplanes and engines built from the 1980s onward eliminated the noise filters as an extra part that was subject to maintenance or failure just wasn’t needed. Radio noise was cured by better shielding of airframe wires, lower noise emissions of magnetos, ignition wire, and spark plugs. The noise filters just were no longer required as they were Band-Aids to other issues such as unshielded P-Leads. A subtle issue is that the extra noise filter is in-line with the P-Lead and just another component subject to failure that could have a negative effect on magneto operation. In short, just another part that is subject to failure, so if it is not needed, it can easily be removed from the ignition system for greater overall system reliability.
NOT REQUIRED, BUT STILL IN DEMAND
Having said that, Kelly Aero still sells a lot of the MF3A Ignition Noise Filters. Why? We are not exactly sure, but there is a continuing demand for these parts. One reason may be that A&P mechanics are conservative and want to reinstall the replacement magneto to match, in every exact detail, the magneto that was removed. If the magneto was originally fitted with a noise filter, then a new Kelly Aero MF3A noise filter is installed to replace the old, worn-out noise filter. Admittedly, the noise filter may serve a purpose on some older airframes or experimental airplanes where the wire shielding and ground paths are not as well designed towards reducing the effects of radio noise. Mechanics and amateur aircraft builders can use the filter as a tool to isolate the root cause of radio noise interference.
P-Lead connections are likely the most practical reason why the noise filter continues on in service. Most of the older Bendix magnetos used “bayonet connectors” for P-Leads. The bayonet connector is configured with a large nut, and an insulator, looking much like the spark plug connector on an ignition wire. The airframe P-Lead is configured with a #8 ring terminal. If the filter is discarded, then airframe P-Lead needs to be re-configured from the ring terminal to the bayonet-style hardware. The easiest path is the just re-use the old noise filter on the replacement magneto. This is discouraged by Kelly Aero as, in effect, an untested, decades-old part of unknown history is attached to a freshly overhauled magneto. There is a lot of risk to degrading the service life of the magneto with the worn-out and unneeded noise filter.
But, if an installer wants to install a noise filter, then the Kelly Aero MF3A is the best option. The current Kelly Aero MF3A noise filter is configured with a ring terminal on the wire that connects to the magneto. This connection works with all current manufacture Bendix short cover 20/200 Series, Bendix 1200 Series, and all Slick 4300/6300 and Kelly ES4300/6300 Series magnetos. But, long cover Bendix 20/200 Series magnetos will need the ring terminal on the MF3A to be replaced with bayonet hardware as pictured below.
One final note: Remove the noise filter before returning the core magneto back to the parts supplier or back to Kelly Aero. While the filter is not required, it is useful to have to get the replacement magneto quickly installed until the airframe P-Leads can be reconfigured or a new manufacture noise filter like the Kelly Aero MF3A is installed.
By Harry Fenton, Director of Business Development and Product Support, Kelly Aero
Today’s world is dominated by modern, high-tech smart electronics that can be found in every device imaginable from toothbrushes to spacecraft operating billions of miles away from Earth. General Aviation airplanes are equipped with the latest glass panel, GPS driven avionics that have more computing capability than any manned space vehicle that was sent to the moon. Aviation has historically been on the cutting edge of the newest and best technology found in the cockpit, so the expectation is that there should be an equally new technology applied to the aircraft engine and its systems. But, cutting-edge engine technology has been stubbornly slow to change piston aircraft engines.
In particular, why is it that mechanical magnetos- which have been in use on reciprocating engines for over 125 years- are still being used as the primary ignition systems for piston-engine aircraft? With all of the modern technology at our fingertips, why isn’t there something better? Auto engines have not used contact points for a few generations. It is likely that the parents of the high school students learning to drive today never drove or owned a car with an engine using a mechanical ignition system. Mention Magneto to these generations and the only reference they will have is a Marvel comic book character. Yet, magnetos remain the most prevalent ignition system used for aircraft engines. If asked, most aviation enthusiasts believe that aircraft engines use magnetos because that is the only ignition system approved by FAA Regulations. It is true that the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the predecessor to the FAA, defined the standards for piston-engine aircraft ignition systems nearly 85 years ago. The wording in the current regulations has remained virtually unchanged since then, and reads as follows: CFR 14, 33.37, PART 33—AIRWORTHINESS STANDARDS: AIRCRAFT ENGINES 33.37 Ignition System Each spark-ignition engine must have a dual ignition system with at least two spark plugs for each cylinder and two separate electric circuits with separate sources of electrical energy, or have an ignition system of equivalent in-flight reliability. Interesting….where are the words that say, specifically, magnetos must be used on piston-engine aircraft engines? The truth is there is no specific guidelines set forth by the FAA that piston engines must use magnetos as the primary ignition source for piston engines. So, why are magnetos used as the most prevalent ignition system used on aircraft piston engines when more modern technology for ignition is available?
BLAME IT ON WRIGHTS- AND CHARLES TAYLOR
The discussion of aircraft magnetos needs to begin with some sort of historical context as to how magnetos were first designed onto aircraft engines. As with virtually all the basics of flight, magnetos can be directly traced back to the engine used in the very first Wright Flyer of 1903. Everyone knows that the Wright Brothers built and flew the first successful powered airplane. But, very few people know that the Wrights also built the very first piston engine specifically designed for airplanes. The engine used by the Wrights was one of the most important, but overlooked elements that made their airplane successful.
The Wrights were not the first to fly or developing sophisticated aircraft designs. George Cayley, Otto Lilienthal, Octave Chanute had flown manned gliders many years ahead of the Wrights and had proven the concept of heavier than air flight. Samuel Langley made successful flights with an unmanned airplane powered by a steam engine. Langley unsuccessfully launched a steam engine-powered, man-carrying airplane in October 1903, 3 months prior to the Wright’s historic flight. The important point is, numerous inventors had developed flight-capable airframes at the time that the Wrights were experimenting with flight. However, the airframes lacked a suitable powerplant of the right power and weight that could propel the airplane in powered flight. The engine used by the Wrights solved the propulsion problem and directly contributed to their accomplishment to demonstrate controllable, powered flight of a heavier than air machine. The Wrights were assisted in their aircraft engine development work by their in-house master bicycle mechanic, Charlie Taylor. Keep in mind that gasoline-fueled piston engines were an emerging science of the time, and not common at all. The vast majority of people living at the time had never seen nor heard a piston engine and very likely had no knowledge of how a piston engine worked. In 1903, when the Wrights completed their first powered flight, Henry Ford was still 5 years away from producing the very first Model T car, so gasoline-powered engines used in vehicles were a rarity. Incredibly, with no formal engineering background, using only the skills he had learned as a toolmaker and bicycle repair mechanic, Charlie Taylor built the first successful airplane engine in only six weeks! He did follow established engineering concepts for piston engines of the time and used design elements from existing, successful engines. For the ignition system, he used what all other engine manufacturers were using- a magneto! What inspired Charles Taylor to use a magneto? Was there a better solution to be found in the automotive world? In a word- No. In 1903, the magneto was state of the art for ignition systems, was the very best solution for a lightweight, simple, self-contained generator of electrical energy. The magneto did not require any external sources of power to make it generate spark energy. The engine flywheel turned a magnetic rotor shaft in the magneto, and an electrical charge was generated. That energy fired the spark plug to ignite engine combustion which made the engine run to turn the propellers. The only other option available to Taylor was a battery ignition system that supplied power to an external coil and contact point mechanism to distribute the spark. The dilemma for Taylor was that batteries and generators of the time were extremely heavy, with all-up weight in the many hundreds of pounds. The size of the batteries also would have required considerable physical space, extra structure- and resulting weight- to support the batteries in the Flyer. The magneto solution used by Taylor was an engineering marvel. The average magneto weight was 20- 25lbs. and made a spark any time that the engine was running. The empty weight of the Wright Flyer was just over 600 lbs., meaning the magneto system was just under 5% of the total weight of the airplane. A battery ignition system probably would have added 30% more weight to the Wright Flyer, which would have clearly prevented it from flying. Is it a stretch to suggest that the Wrights were successful as the first to fly a controllable airplane due to the magneto? While that is an interesting idea, it is safe to say that the magneto certainly contributed to the overall success of the Wright Flyer and the Taylor engine.
THE GOVERNMENT REQUIRES DUAL IGNITION
The current day Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, can find trace its roots through a number of government agencies that were focused on defining the regulations for aviation safety. The Civil Aeronautics Authority of the 1930s put into effect more stringent regulations to improve the safety of aircraft and engines. The early Civil Aviation Regulations became the later Federal Aviation Regulations and established the basis for rulemaking and safety standards for aircraft and engine design. Through the 1920s and early 1930s, the aircraft engine continued to rely upon single magnetos as the primary ignition system. As the CAR’s developed to improve upon aircraft engine design and safety, the Regulations for a dual, independent ignition system made the spark generating magnetos a perfect solution to comply with this government requirement. Dual ignition systems became the standard design, and for good reason. If one ignition system malfunctioned, then the remaining ignition could keep the engine running so that the flight could continue and be landed normally, under complete control.
The magneto also made sense as it was uncommon for aircraft of the time to be fitted with electrical systems or starters. Aircraft electrical systems did not develop as quickly as they did for cars, primarily due to weight, complexity, and expense. Batteries, starters, and alternators were still very heavy and not particularly reliable. The added weight of an aircraft electrical system could easily add 200 lbs. to the aircraft weight or about the weight of a passenger and personal baggage. For the most part, pilots of the time did not care that there were no electrical systems on airplanes. With no electric starters, aircraft engines used the “Armstrong Method” to get engines started: The propeller was swung by a person using their arms, the mags were switched to on, and the engine started. No worry about dead batteries, no worry about the cost of maintaining starters and electrical systems, no worry about getting stranded due to a failed electrical system. If the pilot could swing the propeller, the magneto sparked, and the engine would run. Magnetos provided the perfect solution to provide simplified system installation, good starting characteristics, and low cost of operation.
IT IS ALL ABOUT THE TIMING
In the early 30s, aircraft ignitions and automotive ignitions took different paths in terms of development. Automakers favored battery-driven contact point/coil/distributor systems and aircraft engines remained steadfast with the magneto. There are numerous technical reasons why each system worked better in some way for either the automotive or aircraft application. First, the mission profile of automotive engines and airplane engines became distinctly different. Auto engines are subject to a frequent change of RPM to speed up and slow down, sometimes driving in stop-and-go traffic, sometimes driving fast for long distances. Because of this, auto engine ignition systems and timing to the engine were biased to improve starting, idle, and low to mid RPM acceleration. Magnetos are limited to “fixed” advance ignition timing for all operations other than starting the engine. The fixed advanced timing works for airplane engines because full power is required at takeoff, and engine RPM does not vary for all inflight operations after takeoff and landing. The requirement for the aircraft engine to make full power is critical to flying safety. Airplanes must carry their certified load at takeoff. Not only that, but they must takeoff within a specific length of the runway and climb at a rate sufficient to clear obstacles or terrain within the vicinity of the airport. Auto engines rarely need to run at full power for extended periods, and rarely run at greater than 30% to 40% power most of the time. Car drivers never worry about having enough power to clear a hill or the power required to drive with light or heavy loads. Full engine power is rarely if ever, required for a typical passenger car. Because auto engine RPM varies when driving and the engine accelerates or decelerates randomly, the fixed timing of the magneto does not provide the best overall performance. Magnetos were not optimum and automakers devised distributors with “variable advance” mechanisms that changed timing based on the centrifugal force applied to the advance mechanism as the engine RPM changed.
The advanced mechanisms had the potential for failure modes which could affect ignition reliability, though. The advance mechanism itself adds many extra components to the system, all of which are subject to maintenance, or in the worst case, failure. Auto ignitions were designed to default to an engine timing point not at full power, but to low power, idle timing position. The automotive failsafe provided for “limp home” capability, but at the cost of reduced power. The default timing for the aircraft engine magneto is the maximum power timing point, which provides for the safest situation should the engine be required to continue running after one of the ignition systems fails in flight. The lack of the advanced mechanism is a benefit in terms of maintenance and overall cost due to lower parts count. The picture comes into focus that aircraft engines and automotive engines have distinctly different “mission profiles” relative to how the engine develops power relative to ignition timing. Automotive engines timing is designed to provide the best starting spark and optimize spark at less than full power engine loads by varying engine timing o The limp home default in the event of a component malfunction is for reduced engine power
Aircraft engines timing is optimized to perform best at full power engine loads by keeping ignition system timing at a fixed point with no variability o The limp home default is normal operation provided by the remaining ignition system should one system fail
MAGNETOS ARE THE CHOICE
The FAA’s single-minded goal for safety does not necessarily inhibit innovation, but it can encourage aircraft engine manufacturers to follow conservative, simple design paths of engineering. However, is a conservative path, wrong, or just as pragmatic as a mindset of “not re-inventing the wheel?” There have been at least a half dozen electronic ignitions specifically designed to replace magnetos introduced into the aviation market since 1986. But, none of these ignitions have shown the potential to be the “perfect” replacement for magnetos. Incredibly, many of the electronic ignitions sold today require that a magneto be retained as part of the system for failsafe backup. When the electronic ignition fails, the old technology, tried and true magneto will save the day so that the aircraft engine continues to run safely
In the final analysis, electronic ignitions are challenged to match the simplicity of installation and repair support that exists for magnetos. By design, electronic ignitions are more complicated installations with numerous components and wiring connections that all have to be not only installed correctly but maintained correctly. Troubleshooting of electronic ignitions requires the ability to think in more abstract terms of electronics and component interactions. Magnetos are mechanical, maintenance and troubleshooting do not require any extraordinary troubleshooting skills. The vast majority of aircraft mechanics in the world know how to install, maintain and repair magnetos. Out of the hundreds of thousands of aircraft mechanics in the world, only a few hundred may have experience with installing maintaining, and servicing aircraft electronic ignitions. Parts and service support for magnetos are unparalleled. Magnetos, parts, and companies that can service magnetos can be found worldwide. Anywhere in the world where a piston engine airplane can take off or land, there are magnetos parts or support available within a one-day shipping time. In most cases, maintenance shops based at airports with higher levels of airplane activity will have parts in stock and mechanics available immediately to provide service for the magneto. Due to the very low population of electronic ignitions, virtually no repair parts are easily found in the worldwide market. Parts are stocked at a handful of locations, or available as a special order from the manufacturer. In some cases, electronic ignitions sold and installed at some point in the past are simply no longer supported by the manufacturer. The recommendation from the manufacturer is to replace that electronic ignition with magnetos should it need service! So why is it that mechanical magnetos- which have been in use on reciprocating engines for over 125 years- are still being used as the primary ignition systems for piston-engine aircraft? When all of the advantages and disadvantages are summed up, the very reason that Charlie Taylor selected the magneto for the first piston aircraft engine remains as true today as it was 125 years ago: The magneto is a self-contained generator of electricity and ultimately the least complicated, most common sense the choice for reliability and performance for aircraft engines.
By Harry Fenton, Director of Business Development and Product Support, Kelly Aero Routine maintenance requirements and all special service actions required by Service Bulletins and Airworthiness Directives typically require that the magneto serial number or part number be referenced to verify compliance. The OEM data found on the magneto data plates is always the baseline to establish the applicability of the compliance of a required maintenance or safety action. However, what is required when an OEM data plate has been replaced by a company that is not the OEM for the magneto? What if a serial number is added to the data plate that is different than the OEM serial number? Do OEM requirements still apply? The bigger question: Is the magneto considered an FAA legal part if the OEM data plate has been removed and replaced by a non-OEM data plate? Replacement Data Plates- Is This Legal? The simple answer is “yes”, Kelly Aero replaces worn and damaged OEM magneto data plates with new Kelly Aero data plates. But, the “yes” answer is not as simple as it sounds. The FAA considers the management and disposition of OEM data plates attached to FAA-PMA articles as serious business. The real world for Kelly Aero is that there is no option: worn data plates must be replaced when magnetos are inspected or overhauled. In most cases, magnetos returned to Kelly as cores for overhaul, or for the 500-hour inspection, may be legible, but not in a useable condition to continue on in service.
The continued use of the OEM data plate for ongoing service and compliance becomes a safety issue if the information on the data plate becomes illegible. The only practical and safe solution is to make a new data plate stamped with the information from the old, worn data plate. The FAA has strict regulations against the removal and replacement of airframe, engine, propeller, and life-limited parts, though. They spell out what can, and cannot be done in the Federal Code of Regulations, Part 45. The FAA states, specifically, that data plates of Type Certificated or Life Limited items may be removed in the course of maintenance and must be reattached to the item from which they were removed. Replacement data plates for these items can only be provided by the OEM, but the FAA must approve and accept that process. This concept has been drilled into mechanics thinking by the FAA and industry guidance. The general understanding is that all data plates are forbidden to be replaced.
The data plates of component articles that are FAA-PMA approved, such as magnetos, are not as strictly controlled and the FAA can approve a repair process that does not require OEM approval for data plate replacement. Kelly Aero’s process to replace the worn OEM data plate with a new Kelly Aero data plate
is part of our FAA-approved Repair Station Quality Manual. This manual details the process to replace data plates, but also documents the strict record-keeping and traceability procedure required to preserve the OEM data plate and magneto model information. Bendix and Slick magnetos worked on by Kelly Aero for overhaul or 500-hour inspection are completely disassembled and all parts are cleaned and inspected to make the magneto look and work like new. During the teardown and inspection process, the OEM data plate is removed from the magneto frame in order to strip the paint from the magneto and repaint it to a new condition. The OEM serial number and magneto part number are permanently coded onto the magneto frame to preserve the record of that part. All of the information on the data plate becomes part of the extensive overhaul record of the magneto as it progresses through the Kelly Quality system. When the inspection and re-work steps are completed, a list of parts to overhaul or to complete the 500 hour inspection of the magneto is generated and added to the magneto record. At every step in the process, from disassembly to completion of the overhaul, the OEM data is part of the documentation record.
After the magneto assembly is completed, a new Kelly Aero data plate is made for the magneto. The data plate will show the OEM serial number, the Kelly Aero Overhaul serial number, and the part number of the magneto. The new Kelly Aero data plate is attached and the inspected magneto looks as good as new. An FAA Form 8130-3 Authorized Release Certificate is generated to document and release the 500-hour inspection magneto to service. If the magneto is overhauled, the data plate marking will be slightly different as compared to the 500 hour inspection. Kelly Aero Overhauled magnetos are treated more like new production magnetos and a unique Kelly Aero serial number is assigned to the magneto. The OEM serial number is also retained and both the Kelly Aero and OEM serial numbers are engraved on the new magneto data plate.
The Dual Identity of a magneto overhauled by Kelly Aero After overhaul, an FAA Form 8130-3 Authorized Release Certificate is generated to document completion of the overhaul process and to authorize the release to service of this part by Kelly Aero. It is at this point that the magneto develops a dual identity based on the specific requirements that apply to the OEM serial number or the Kelly assigned a serial number. Both serial numbers become equally important in terms of ongoing maintenance compliance. The most common misconception is that the Kelly Aero data plate changes the requirements to comply with OEM maintenance guidance. This perception is 100% wrong. All OEM Service Bulletins and Airworthiness Directives continue to apply to the magneto based on the underlying OEM magneto data, regardless if it was overhauled by Kelly Aero or by any other company. However, the Kelly Aero overhaul uses Kelly manufactured FAA-PMA parts and additional processes of inspection and workmanship which are not part of the basic OEM minimum requirements. These additional features make the Kelly Aero overhaul unique. These unique features may be affected by inspections or service needs different than, or in addition to, than OEM requirements. To track service requirements of the content added by Kelly to an overhauled magneto, a unique Kelly Aero assigned serial number is added to the data plate and is listed on the FAA Form 8130-3 Authorized Release Certificate supplied with the magneto.
Given the “dual Identity” of the magnetos serviced by Kelly Aero, the replacement Kelly Aero data plate is clearly more than just a simple cosmetic replacement. The Kelly Aero data plate ensures legibility for the service cycle of the magneto, which is required for ongoing compliance and safety requirements. The Kelly Aero data plate also adds the extra layer of traceability of the Kelly added components and workmanship. Ultimately, ALL applicable OEM and Kelly Aero service requirements must be complied with after the magneto is released to service, and the new Kelly Aero data plate assures that action can be accomplished. Do you have a question about Kelly Aero products or piston engine ignition systems? Contact us at https://kellyaero.com/about/contact-us/
Kelly Aero receives calls daily from customers in need of product support to select a Kelly product or technical assistance after the product has been installed. Due to our long industry experience at Kelly Aero, the vast majority of calls are routine, and we can quickly provide an answer to any question asked to us. However, calls get a bit complicated when the first several minutes are spent trying to determine what the topic is when a customer calls. All too often, customers start their phone call with a vague request of “I have a Lycoming engine and I need a harness” or “…the magneto on my engine isn’t working…” While all conversations have to start somewhere, the reality is that some conversations stop as quickly as they start. The information provided by the customer is missing too many important details or the customer simply does not know the details. It can be frustrating to a customer who is in a rush or in the middle of working to solve a problem when the conversation with Kelly becomes a game of 20 Questions. Unfortunately, this game of 20 Question is particularly frustrating for both sides on a busy Friday afternoon when an airplane needs to fly on Saturday morning. Just like how a pilot completes a checklist before the airplane is ready to fly, customers and mechanics can complete a simple checklist of items prior to calling that will the customer to ask the right questions quickly, and the Kelly Aero representative to provide an accurate answer.
What is the engine make and model you are working on? Invariably, the Kelly Aero Product Support person will need the following specific information:
Which company manufactured the engine? Is it Continental, Lycoming, Superior, Franklin, etc.? As a note to this comment: The name of company who overhauled the engine is not useless, but also not particularly useful. Starting the conversation with “I have an engine overhauled by Empire Engines” is good to know, but does not really provide any magneto information. What is useful is the specific original manufacturer of the engine, such as Continental or Lycoming.
What is the complete engine designation? Ok, you know that you have a “four cylinder Lycoming” or a “550 Continental” but specific details are critical. For example, the magnetos used on a TSIO-550-K are much different in configuration and troubleshooting than the magnetos installed on an IO-550-A. Provide as much exact information as possible including the prefix, engine number and suffix, such as O- 320-D2J, O-470-R, TSIO-550-C. Additionally, some of the Kelly Aero Technical reps are experienced A&P mechanics with deep knowledge of specific engine and airframe applications. If a customer calls in with what seems to be a magneto operation issue, a bit of discussion may lead to other known areas of concern unique to specific engine models. What is make and model of magneto? Simply referring to a magneto “a Kelly mag” or maybe as a “Bendix” or “Slick” usually is too broad of a description. No surprise, but Kelly will need the exact magneto part number details to put the known service history or troubleshooting techniques into perspective.
Is the OEM manufacturer of the magneto Bendix or Slick? While Kelly takes it as a compliment when a customer says, “it’s a Kelly Aero mag”. While Kelly is an OEM for replacement parts, we are also a service provider to overhaul OEM magnetos. The magneto data plate may be labeled with Kelly Aero, but the magneto it is attached to is Bendix or Slick magneto, but overhauled by Kelly Aero.
What it is the magneto model series? Bendix makes the 20 series, 1200 series, and Dual D2000 and D3000 series magneto. Slick mags will be either a 4300 or a 6300 series. Drilling deeper, the part number of the magneto is critical as this identifies the configuration of the magneto. As an example, the Bendix 20 Series 10-51360-37 and the 10-500514-1 are approved for the same engine applications, but very different in the details of how the magnetos are mounted to the engine and how the ignition switch p-lead attaches. But, these seemingly small details can add a lot of time and expense to an otherwise simple installation if a mechanic has to alter a P-lead or order different mounting clamps and gaskets. What is the magneto serial number? The new data plate that Kelly Aero affixes to all Bendix and Slick overhauled magnetos has lots of information that the Kelly Aero product support representative will need to know. Most important will be the serial numbers stamped on the data plate. The Kelly Aero data plate will display both the OEM issued serial number and the Kelly Aero issued serial number. The OEM serial number is important to track any OEM specific service issues or compliance to OEM Service Bulletins. The Kelly Aero assigned serial number links the overhaul of the magneto to records maintained by the Kelly Aero Repair Station quality management records. The Kelly Aero serial number is required to confirm compliance to Airworthiness Directives, certain manufacturer Service Bulletins and the general timeframe when the magneto was serviced. When was the magneto installed? Calendar date and hours, please… Hours of operation and calendar time are two different ways to measure time in service for magnetos, and each tells a story independently, and together to put the magneto service history into perspective. For example, calendar time frames the reference for the type of parts or service issues known to be in effect during a particular year or month. Hours in service provides a view of how quickly, or slowly, hours were accrued on the magneto. The relationship of calendar time and hours is very important for the Kelly Aero product support specialist to assist with customer questions. For example, a customer may comment that they have a question regarding a magneto with 100 hours. However, was that 100 hours accrued over two months or ten years? Low magneto time is one story, but low magneto time over many years tells a different story. Harness Nuts and Spark Plug Type. Let’s have this discussion again…and again…and again… Search through Kelly Aero ignition system articles and ignition harness selection has been a topic more than once. Ignition harnesses have a few options and do required the buyer to do some homework as part of the selection process. Virtually all customers are able to determine which custom fit harness is required for their engine using Kelly’s Ignition Harness Application Data by clicking on this link: http://kellyaerospace.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Aircraft-Harness-Application.pdf.
But, there are also many, many times that customers, typically private owners who are learning the process to buy their own parts, who need a bit of guidance on selecting between ignition harnesses that fit Bendix or Slick magnetos. As always, the most confusing part is the difference between 5/8-24 or 3/4-20 spark plug nut connections. Sorting out the difference between spark plug nut sizes is usually the substance of most phone calls. The 5/8” and 3/4” refers to the diameter and thread pitch of the spark plug barrel, not the wrench used to remove the nuts. The easy way to determine nut size follows:
A 3/4” wrench is used to remove 5/8”-24 spark plug nuts used on REM style spark plugs
A 7/8” wrench is used to remove 3/4”-20 spark plug nuts used on RHM style spark plugs Who is asking the question: an A&P mechanic….or an Owner? Let’s be realistic: Aircraft owners are more deeply involved in the maintenance process of their airplanes than ever before. Owners provide important operational information used by mechanics and product support representatives. Owners research and purchase parts used on their airplanes, consulting their mechanic, parts supplier, and manufacturer sales and support teams. Internet owners groups can be useful, but very often lead to some good answers. The same groups also generate answers that may not be completely accurate or even completely incorrect. Ultimately, owners are going to have to spend their hard earned money and the educated owner is motivated to do research on the products that they own or want to buy. By no means does this imply that Kelly Aero does not want to talk to aircraft owners. In fact, we encourage and support aircraft owners to contact us to work through product selection or product operation questions. But, calls can become frustrating when the owner is speaking in terms which are not aligned with standard industry terminology used by trained mechanics. Additionally, Kelly Aero product support answers may overwhelm an untrained caller with all sorts of terms and references that will make no sense. It usually require a lot of repetitive discussion to explain terms and concepts that are easily understood, with no further explanation, by an A&P mechanic. From the technical support perspective, Kelly Aero can be less technical, use or explain more of the specific terms that an owner may not understand. In effect, Kelly Aero can tailor our conversation with the customer to speak with terminology useful to the caller. The end result is a much better experience for both the customer and the Kelly Product Support representative. Kelly Product Support does not replace required reading material! When working on a critical process, such as ordering internal components to the magneto, completing magneto assembly, or performing magneto to engine timing, the Kelly Product Support Representative will ask, “Do you have a manual?” To be blunt, working on a magneto is not the same set of skills as required to change the light bulb inside your refrigerator. The magneto and ignition harness are components critical to the safe operation of the engine. It only makes sense that anyone who plans to or is working on an item critical to safe operation would have a set of instructions in their hands. It is reasonable and obvious that a properly rated individual should have access to and use the service manual. Nevertheless, it is also a good idea
for an educated owner to read the service manual to have an idea of the work required for a particular component. While Kelly Aero is eager to assist our customers, discussions with a Kelly Product Support Representatives do not replace the need- or FAA requirement- to have a service manual for the component that will be serviced. Copyright laws restrict Kelly Aero from sending copies of OEM service manuals to customers, but Kelly can distribute our own documents freely. A brief note regarding Kelly Aero manuals: Keep checking the Kelly Aero web page during 2021! We are working on new product application manuals, product service manuals, and supplementary Service Letters to make it easy for users of Kelly Aero products to service all of the parts and assemblies that we manufacture. Are you ready to make the call? Get your notes ready and give Kelly Aero a call at 334-286-8551!
Magneto technology is some of the oldest and most trusted in the aviation industry! However, what happens when a pilot has magneto failure? When one magneto fails, there are a few things a pilot might notice. First, there will be a decrease in engine power, but the engine will remain running thanks to the second system being independent of the first. Second, sometimes a magneto can malfunction in its failure to ignite the spark plugs, or the internal timing may malfunction. In this instance, the pilot will notice the engine beginning to run rough and will need to switch to the remaining magneto and see if that clears the problem. Even though an engine will continue to run with the loss of one magneto, there are several problems with having a magneto failure mid-flight. With the loss of one magneto comes the security of redundancy. They are a vital piece of equipment, and there is a reason that aircraft are built with two. Additionally, the loss of engine power can be potentially problematic, though in most cases does not pose a serious threat to the safety of pilots and guests.
Even in the case of magneto failure, only a very few accidents are a direct result of magneto failure, according to statistics provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. NRSB reports 16 recorded cases of aviation accidents due to magneto failure, with two of those sixteen being fatal. Most of these failures were listed as being caused by a lack of maintenance or non-compliance with servicing and inspections.
With attention to detail and a history of reliability, Kelly Aero has made sure that the magnetos produced are dependable and safe. Our products are designed and engineered using in-house resources, with additional tooling and manufacturing for aftermarket magnetos occurring at our facilities. We offer an FAA and PMA approved quality system, which is readily available with low wait times. We both meet and exceed the standard industry testing with our own set of criteria for the product, whether it be the full system or a replacement part. We want to work with customers to ensure the delivery of a product that is first and foremost high quality and reliable, and that meets their needs.
One of the great additions to our processes in 2020 is a high power AmScope Microscope to our final inspection process. This allows every our inspection team to get take a high power look at our finished units before they leave our facility.
Our new 80 power microscope allows us to inspect our block components for carbon tracking, carbon particles can collect in small cracks and develop into problems down the road.
“The Kelly Aerospace Quality Team is committed to adding new technologies to our final inspection process,” says Neil Clark (VP Sales & Marketing) “This addition allows us to go one step further in catching minor imperfections before they leave our facility.”
Doubling down our commitment to quality, this addition allows for a 99.9% rating on all blocks that leaving our facility free of imperfections. Our engineering and development team has made major strides over the last few years to ensure that our processes at Kelly Aerospace continue to improve.