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Thread: Looking for Options for Electronic Ignition

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    WWhunter's Avatar
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    Looking for Options for Electronic Ignition

    I've been looking at the different options for replacing my magnetos with EI. This is on an experimental with and O-320.

    Was mainly interested in the Emag/Pmag but have been doing a bit of internet searching and have read other options may be better. I've looked at the Pmag, SDS, Surefly, etc.

    What are the pros and cons of the various units?
    Don't take life too seriously ... no one gets out alive!

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    Quote Originally Posted by WWhunter View Post
    I've been looking at the different options for replacing my magnetos with EI. This is on an experimental with and O-320.
    Have you looked at Light Speed Engineering Plasma systems? They are standard on all CubCrafters experimentals. It's the only aircraft electronic ignition I have any experience with and it seems to work well on my YIO-360.

    The only downside that I see is the requirement for a completely independent backup power source. Something else to be maintained and replaced. I have seen reports that aggressive leaning can result in burnt valves but don't know it that's a common problem or it it only happens on carbureted engines.

    https://lightspeed-aero.com/

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    I have dual Pmags. I didn’t add the module to allow custom programming but did add the A-B curve switch on the panel. So far they’ve been reliable and have performed well. Timing them is simple. I love the auto plugs and harness. I have thought about changing to a totally non-mechanical ignition and if I do I’ll use EFFI’s System 32. Similar to Lightspeed they machine a trigger into your ring gear support so timing is foolproof. The spark duration is 32° of the stroke, which is pretty interesting. They offer a bus manager that’s essentially an automatic battery switch so you can carry an isolated spare EarthX in case of electrical failure. I have no problems with Pmags, I just always wonder about what to try next.

    My fav feature of EI is for starting my fuel injected motor. When hot? Flood it and crank it. The spark is hot enough to light it up every time. Old school FI hot start stories are a thing of the past. You’ll need to be careful with leaning. The old pull til it stumbles and enrich a little doesn’t work with EI. It’ll run smooth when leaner than you’re used to. Watch your temps.
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    WWhunter's Avatar
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    frequent_flyer, Yes I was looking at the lightspeed-aero also. The only downside is the additional power requirement for backup. Still weighing the options.

    stewartb, The Pmags have been at the top of my list. I may eventually change out the carb to a throttle body or FI system, but that'll be in the future. Actually the only con I have read is the 500 hour R/R check. But honestly,500 hours is a lot of flying.

    Thanks!
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    Cessna Skywagon-- accept no substitute!
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    stewartb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WWhunter View Post
    frequent_flyer, Yes I was looking at the lightspeed-aero also. The only downside is the additional power requirement for backup. Still weighing the options.

    stewartb, The Pmags have been at the top of my list. I may eventually change out the carb to a throttle body or FI system, but that'll be in the future. Actually the only con I have read is the 500 hour R/R check. But honestly,500 hours is a lot of flying.

    Thanks!
    Pmags are interesting. You position them any way you want and then time them with an air tube after indexing the crank to TDC. They fire every TdC whether compression or exhaust so which TDC isn’t important. My only bitch is their wire terminal blocks are a bit fragile for the location. Using itty bitty screwdrivers to secure itty bitty wires in a confined space is frustrating. They could improve on that part. Not a deal breaker, just not ideal.
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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frequent_flyer View Post
    The only downside that I see is the requirement for a completely independent backup power source. Something else to be maintained and replaced.
    A note to ANYONE running an ignition system that requires external power to operate/start: YOU NEED A BACKUP BATTERY! If you have an electrical emergency in flight, the first thing that happens is the master switch is shut off. This turns off the power to your ignition system. And if you have a system that generates it's own power, remember that power is only produced above a certain RPM. So when you maneuver and reduce power, you can shut down your engine (and this has happened).

    You do not need a second full sized ships battery as a backup. you simply need a battery capable of powering your ignition system for a max load of fuel. These days, this means a battery weighing ounces not pounds. Wired correctly, this backup battery will stay charged and ONLY power the ignition system, so if employed, the aircraft may go dark, but the engine will continue to run.

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    stewartb's Avatar
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    Few guys are too worried about backing up EI. Add EFI and it’s more of a concern. Lots of guys have both and manage the power thing easily.

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    Three CarbonCubs and 1300 hours total flying them, All with lightspeed, never a problem. Replace the spark plug leads every 500 hrs and uses inexpensive auto sparkplugs. Lightspeed has a really good troubleshooting section on their website if you run into troubles. they will run on the battery, then run on the alternator if need be, then backup battery is supposed to be good for 30 minutes. I have heard there hasnt been any engine stoppage from failed power sources in CarbonCubs with lightspeed.
    Have heard of early lithium batteries shutting off from over/undervoltage shutdown protectionk. Flew home on backup battery.
    jim

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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Not sure what you mean about adding EFI. Electronic ignitions require power from an external source to function. Whether it works in conjunction with a carb or injection is irrelevant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    If you have an electrical emergency in flight, the first thing that happens is the master switch is shut off. This turns off the power to your ignition system.
    All CubCrafters aircraft have each ignition module powered by a "battery direct" circuit breaker. The engine runs just fine with master off! In the event of an electrical system malfunction the master goes off saving all main battery power for the ignition. Only when the main battery is drained is the emergency battery selected.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Not sure what you mean about adding EFI. Electronic ignitions require power from an external source to function. Whether it works in conjunction with a carb or injection is irrelevant.
    EFI, at least in my experience, means Electronic Fuel Injection. It does not work without electrical power.

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    More reserve power required. One member here runs EI and EFI and doesn't have an accessory case on the engine so no mechanical fuel pump. He uses dual electric fuel pumps. That plane's as electric dependent as I can imagine and he gets around quite nicely. He does maintain a second battery for backup.

    Here's EFII's bus manager. I imagine there are other similar systems out there. https://www.flyefii.com/media/Bus-Ma...ons-1-6-20.pdf
    Last edited by stewartb; 11-01-2021 at 12:27 PM.

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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    That makes sense, but if you are using true EFI, then use a bigger backup battery.

    Think about your 'what ifs'. In this case what if the ships charging system or the battery itself is the cause of a failure. That backup battery is what gets you home. or at least to the ground in a controlled fashion.

    The whole point here is to be as safe as possible/practical. Hand propping with a battery that powers the ignition system is safer than being stuck some where on the ground. Running the ignition on a backup battery is infinitely safer than landing power off anywhere. Don't get bit by a single point of failure.

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    frequent_flyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scouter View Post
    then backup battery is supposed to be good for 30 minutes.
    That's one of those YMMV situations. CubCrafters requires the emergency ignition battery to be changed once a year. I have seen two reports of new batteries that did not hold voltage under load. I have chosen to load test my emergency ignition battery and only replace it when I don't think it will provide 30 minutes of operation.

    My load testing is in two forms. I monitor voltage drop during a 10 second emergency ignition pre-flight test. I also performed two inflight tests of the emergency ignition battery and demonstrated 30 minute operation. I now have a good data set for trend monitoring.

    I also believe you'd have to badly mismanage an electrical malfunction to actually ever need the emergency ignition battery.
    Last edited by frequent_flyer; 11-01-2021 at 01:03 PM.

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    frequent_flyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Interesting data but CubCrafters is now using Plasma III not Plasma II+. I haven't yet found a detailed description of the differences.

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    From Lightspeed’s Plasma III page-

    For detailed information on the output capabilities available in the Plasma III, please refer to the PLASMA II PLUS page.

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    WWhunter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    I looked at this, along with the EFI, but it's more in-depth work than I want to tackle currently. As the plane is gravity feed, that would require a return line or at least installing a header tank. All doable, but that's a project for another day. So far, Pmag is looking like the easiest install, which equates to less time.
    Thanks everyone for the help so far.
    Don't take life too seriously ... no one gets out alive!

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    Huh? You must be reading about their EFI? The ignition system has nothing to do with fuel injection.

    There’s nothing wrong with Pmags, especially with a carb. The guys running EFI can benefit from better ignitions. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ll stand pat with my Pmags because I’d rather spend my airplane dollars on other priorities.
    Last edited by stewartb; 11-02-2021 at 08:11 AM.
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    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    I have been using the P mags for about 1200 hours now. I have been very pleased. Simple, light, and they work. I did have a total electrical failure, (with a dead battery and everything else), and the engine continued to run fine on the internal generators in the P mags. Keep it simple keep it light. Just offering my experience with the P mags.


    Bill
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    Hi Bill

    Did you note the RPM when the internal generator cut off? Did that match the claims from the manual?

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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wireweinie View Post
    Hi Bill

    Did you note the RPM when the internal generator cut off? Did that match the claims from the manual?

    Web
    I had one incident with the Pmags when I ran the ship's battery dead. As I recall the Pmags stopped sparking at about 700+/- rpm. I had to paddle to shore.
    N1PA
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    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    I believe it says it cuts off at about 450, which is actually lower than my idle so I can’t really say. With the lightweight composite props it’s pretty hard to get the idle real low because there’s just no flywheel effect. Sorry I can’t help more


    Bill
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    850-900 rpm. The manual says 900.
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    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    Thank you Stuart. I know mine works at idle which is about 650 RPM. Perhaps they only guarantee it to 900.

    Bill
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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Thanks for the real world feedback.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Huh? You must be reading about their EFI? The ignition system has nothing to do with fuel injection.

    There’s nothing wrong with Pmags, especially with a carb. The guys running EFI can benefit from better ignitions. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ll stand pat with my Pmags because I’d rather spend my airplane dollars on other priorities.
    stewartb,
    Apologies, yes, I want off topic a bit. I was just relaying that I had looked at their system and also looked at their EFI system. Should have left that part out of the conversation.

    For the replies, it looks like my original plan on using the Pmags is a sound idea. The low RPM is a slight detractor, but only due to the plane may be on floats. It already is set up to idle very slow with the stock magnetos, so may just replace one so I still have another point of redundancy. Thanks all!!
    Last edited by WWhunter; 11-03-2021 at 09:14 AM. Reason: additional info
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    stewartb's Avatar
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    The low RPM thing is only with battery power turned of. In that same condition any other EI would fail at any RPM. Pmag says their mags are totally self-powered at around 1200-1500 rpm. That unique feature is why the majority of us use them. They slow idle very nicely when the airplane’s electrical system is functional. There are planes using Emags in one or both positions. Emags aren’t self-powered. Everyone I know uses dual Pmags.

    If you’re into tuning and tweaking add their Eicad module and you can fine tune to your heart’s content. I put an A/B curve switch on my panel and rarely use that. All I want is the motor to start easily and run smoothly and my Pmags have satisfied that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    I put an A/B curve switch on my panel and rarely use that.
    Stewart, what did you find when you did use the A/B switch. Was there more or less power, fuel consumption, smoothness, etc -- anything? I just installed the jumper and didn't check it further.
    N1PA
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    For my use I haven't recognized a difference. I believe the benefit of the additional advance in the B curve is to optimize LOP ops. I haven't explored LOP at all. My injection is nicely balanced so the potential is there. I have friends who operate LOP to the point of needing to restrict cooling because their CHTs are so low. I'm not there yet.
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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WWhunter View Post
    For the replies, it looks like my original plan on using the Pmags is a sound idea. The low RPM is a slight detractor, but only due to the plane may be on floats. It already is set up to idle very slow with the stock magnetos, so may just replace one so I still have another point of redundancy. Thanks all!!
    I don't see an issue with dual electronic ignitions, as long as there is some type of backup power source. Having the internal generator in systems like the P-mags is kind of like extra redundancy. It's better than no backup battery.

    Redundancy is good; two separate ignitions, two separate power supplies (such as ships and backup battery), and the ability to power left, right, or both ignitions from either ships battery or backup battery. In spite of most electrical failures, these selections should help you keep the engine running

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    We have experimented with many different types of electronic ignitions for a while now and I think it comes down to the mission of the aircraft. I have dual P-mags on my Clipwing Taylorcraft and am a huge fan. I do have redundant battery but it is very small and also powers my G3X in the event of a failure. I test my P-mags every run up via the switch and they run at idle speed on the internal alternator just fine.

    I've used Lightspeed, SkyDynamics (was my favorite but discontinued) and also Surefly. We did a lot of testing on various dynos. I too had good luck with the Lightspeed systems as installed on Cubcrafters airplanes. My only complaint with Lightspeed is the customer service. I overheard the way they were talking to one of my guys and we had a quick come to Jesus moment. I understand there are likely many dummies calling with dumb questions but that is the reason I would never consider their systems on my personal airplane. It was that bad.

    Of all these systems I plan to use 1 P-Mag and 1 Slick mag on my Javron build. We found that 1 electronic ignition gave about 90% of the efficiency benefit on the dyno. The magneto just makes sense for my Super Cub because I'd be able to hand prop it in the event of an electrical failure while away from civilization. In doing it this way, I would not run back up battery.

    The Surefly is extremely sensitive to grounding and has been the source of some head scratching for many. If I were going certified- this would obviously have to be my choice. I think it is good but the P-mag offers more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by acroeric View Post
    The Surefly is extremely sensitive to grounding and has been the source of some head scratching for many. If I were going certified- this would obviously have to be my choice. I think it is good but the P-mag offers more.
    If you have the time could you point out the issues.
    Thanks,
    Mark
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  35. #35
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    Mark- The grounding issues I mention are discussed in some detail on the Surefly website here under the *Input Voltage note at https://www.surefly.net/copy-of-home

    It's also now covered in the latest revision of the installation instructions.

    The applications I speak of where grounding/ noise gave a bit of a problem were both 24 volt aircraft (Newer Cessna 206). Existing magneto switches and wires were attempted to be used as they worked fine with the original magneto install and appeared to be in excellent condition. In both cases replacement of the switch wiring with all shielded wire and going to a different ground location helped a great deal. The issue was eventually reconciled and I assume there have been no further difficulty.

    I was involved in a Field Approval a few months ago for a Surefly install on a T-34. I stopped in last week to check on how the install went and how it was working. The mechanic said they had issues with existing aircraft wiring and grounding location. This particular T-34 is a recent restoration with all new wiring and a modern glass panel so that could be a good or a bad thing. I did not inspect the electrical system. I understand they got it working well and I did not get specifics on what the exact cause was. I am happy to follow up and get the exact fix if you would like.
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    I am running a surefly on the left mag only. Only been since spring but so far so good. Instant starting and very smooth at idle. (Again a composite prop so not a low low idle.) Probably 6 to 7 hundred most times. I have not used the varying timing feature because my flying is all low altitude and I just wanted the quick start solid state feature that is built into the elec. mags. I do have backup bat available especially for starting in case of a power loss. Will advise if issues arise if others are interested. I have noticed no changes in cyl temps that others have talked about and I run 10- compression. I am interested in anyone elses experiences with this mag good or bad.
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    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acroeric View Post

    I've used Lightspeed, SkyDynamics (was my favorite but discontinued) and also Surefly. We did a lot of testing on various dynos. I too had good luck with the Lightspeed systems as installed on Cubcrafters airplanes. My only complaint with Lightspeed is the customer service. I overheard the way they were talking to one of my guys and we had a quick come to Jesus moment. I understand there are likely many dummies calling with dumb questions but that is the reason I would never consider their systems on my personal airplane. It was that bad.
    Been down that road. I kinda looked at it as a sport. Had a Lightspeed ignition not firing on one system on a pretty new FX2 Carbon Cub. It was a PITA because the airplane was at an airport 30 miles away and did not have a lot of experience with this system. I downloaded the manual and started troubleshooting. I determined the crank sensor on that side was not working. I called Klaus at Lightspeed and immediately felt like I was talking to Lars at Oratex, must be a German thing. It took a little while but after I told him my troubleshooting procedure and the results he warmed up to my conclusion and wanted the crank sensor back because he had not had a failure of one before. I called him again when 4 of us were doing an engine swap in the middle of nowhere and we had an ignition issue. He mention something as I was standing on a work stand looking down at the crank sensor, I interrupted him and told him "got it" one of us put the crank sensor bracket on the same as the opposite side instead of mirror image. I told him thanks and that was it. As I was talking to Jim Richmond at Oshkosh a couple came up and engaged in the conversation. Jim introduced me to Klaus and his lady friend. I reminded him of the crank sensor and he remembered. We got in a very interesting conversation about ignition systems horsepower etc. I think it is a great system and I now have another resource since I work on a lot of airplanes with this system. It is kinda like I proved I was worthy and was excepted. Over my lifetime I have learned a lot about mechanical things but even more about people.
    Steve Pierce

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  38. #38
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    Steve- good to hear of your experience. You were obviously much more patient and mature than I. Could have been my fault being quick to go into full send mode when I heard one of my guys being spoken to like that. It's funny how I would take a lot more of that than I'd allow to go to my guys.
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  39. #39
    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acroeric View Post
    Steve- good to hear of your experience. You were obviously much more patient and mature than I. Could have been my fault being quick to go into full send mode when I heard one of my guys being spoken to like that. It's funny how I would take a lot more of that than I'd allow to go to my guys.
    I had been fore warned and was prepared, plus I wanted to fix the airplane, it was cold in a guys tee hangar 30 miles from my heated hangar and all my tools.
    Steve Pierce

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  40. #40
    frequent_flyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Pierce View Post
    It took a little while but after I told him my troubleshooting procedure and the results he warmed up to my conclusion and wanted the crank sensor back because he had not had a failure of one before.
    I had been involved with that failure via the CC forum and, based on the information available, I diagnosed which sensor channel had failed. Did you ever get any feedback on the failure mode or did Klaus hold fast to the strange idea that his stuff can't fail.

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