Electrical Systems: Advantages of Generators and Alternators

On an aircraft, there are multiple electrical systems that play their part in ensuring the proper functioning and sustaining flight. Just like your house needs an electricity source, an aircraft needs a reliable source of power that will not only start up the aircraft but keep it running with all the various aircraft lights and indicators.

There a few key components of an electrical system that are found in all aircraft. While they may be more advanced in some aircraft, the underlying principles and features of an electrical system are the same throughout the various makes and models. There are switches, backup batteries, alternators, and voltage regulators. Like a typical electric system, electrical energy needs to be diverted and stored to prevent system outages.

The energy supply source of an aircraft reflects the efficiency of the aircraft. An engine driven generator delivers electrical power throughout the system. Without the electrical power of the generator, all the essential parts of the aircraft would not function.

For example, the generator helps to run the bright white taxi light that is located on the nose of the plane. Without power, the taxi light would not turn on, thus preventing a safe landing or take-off in darkness. The generator also supplies energy to a connected battery. While directing electricity to the battery lowers the overall electrical current, it is important to supply the battery with electricity in the case of a generator failure. It is also worth noting that a generator can produce electrical power even if the battery itself is dead.

On the other hand, alternators produce energy to efficiently operate the entire electrical system. Alternators produce electricity through the alternating current that is turned into direct current. The advantage of an alternator is that, compared to a generator, an alternator provides a more constant supply of energy. Just as you turn a light switch on and off, the alternator has a master switch that shifts the electrical load. The switch has the capability to channel all electricity to the battery; however, if the switch is turned off the entire electrical load is drawn from the battery. It is important to have this ability in case the alternator fails and needs to be shut off.

Despite their differences, generators, and alternators both need an accompanying instrument to help gauge the level of electricity that is generated. Ammeters are used to read the efficiency and the output of the generator or alternator. There needs to an adequate balance between the amount of energy being funneled into the battery versus how much energy is being pulled. On an ammeter, zero is the governing rate. If the reading is less than zero, the system is drawing more energy out of the battery that is being generated. A fully negative or positive reading is an indication of a larger electrical problem that should be addressed.

At, NSN Fulfillment, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the aircraft electrical system parts such as generators, alternators, and ammeters for the civil and defense aerospace and aviation industries. We’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@nsnfulfillment.com or call us at +1-714-705-4780.


July 14, 2023

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