Batteries are the heart of GA airplanes – FLYING Magazine – FLYING | CarTailz

Airplanes are complex creatures composed of various small parts, aluminum, rubber, steel, cables, pipes and more. Designers invent the concept. Engineers create the plans. Manufacturers push them down the assembly line. The owners use their financial resources to procure and the mechanics bless them for the pilots to get them flying. How does it all work? Pure Fantastic Magic or PFM.

Let’s start at the beginning. An elderly mechanic once told me that aircraft batteries are almost always an afterthought. Electricity, he said, is like oxygen. You don’t think about it until you get none.

Aircraft batteries power aircraft on both 12 and 24 volt systems and range from nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries, vented (flooded) lead-acid, valve regulated (VR) lead-acid maintenance batteries to the latest technology, lithium ion. We will start our battery journey with the lead acid type.

You should be familiar with the exercise by now. Let’s see what the Feds have to say about aircraft batteries. Remember not to memorize anything, use reference material and trust but verify. Ready go.

Battery system instructions

The FAA publishes guidance to educate, inform, and govern aircraft battery care and storage activities. FAR 23.1353 Storage Battery Design and Installation provides the roadmap to successfully maintaining your aircraft battery systems.

We have yet to cover standard technical orders in detail, but TSO-C173 Subject: Nickel Cadmium, Nickel Metal Hydride, and Lead Acid Batteries is another excellent resource. The FAA link doesn’t work well; You have to dig to get there. Email me at and I’ll send you a copy.

Any worthy maintenance endeavor begins with a detour to the aircraft mechanic’s sacred text, Advisory Circular AC 43.13. In the early days of our time together, I featured 43.13 in The First Airworthiness Guide of the Maintainer Journey, emphasizing AC #: 43.13-1B and AC #: 43.13-2B.

AC 43.13-1B devotes Section 2 to storage batteries. Beginning with 11-15, the general section, this AC informs us that most small private aircraft use lead-acid batteries. Continue on and you will learn more about inspection and operation, maintenance and possible problems. AC 43.13-2B addresses aircraft modifications and covers batteries in Chapter 10.

A third source is AC No.: 23-17C Systems and Equipment Guide for Certification of Part 23 Airplanes and Airships.

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Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. aircraft batteries vary by brand, size and scope. A case in point is the Gill G-25 aircraft battery. This 12 volt device comes with acid (part number 11-01833) and without acid (part number 11-01673). A quick look at the application guide lists all standard aircraft, Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper and more.

Another popular model is the Concorde RG-24-15 Platinum Series (part number 11-03878). This 24 volt battery is TSO approved under FAA TSO-C173a. This is where the aforementioned TSO comes into play. Spruce does a great job of providing aircraft owners and maintenance personnel with all the information they need. They even have the RG series aircraft battery instruction manual. Check out the Q+A session at the bottom of the page.

Aircraft Battery Shop, LLC has a list of information sheets that can help you manage your battery maintenance schedule. According to their website, “The company builds FAA PMAs for nickel-cadmium, lead-acid, backup battery packs and temperature sensors on the market today.”

Teledyne Battery Products is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the Gill battery line. They come with a battery selector, accessories, chargers and even Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs). Most manufacturers provide access to technical data and Gill distributes theirs through the maintenance center which provides environmental documents, technical updates, CMMS and continuing airworthiness instructions (ICAs). One of their top distributors is Air Power Inc., which offers an extensive catalog.

heart of the aircraft system

Chris Holder, Eastern US Sales Manager at Concorde Battery, and I recently sat down to go through the intricacies of aircraft batteries.

FLYING: How important are lead-acid batteries for general aviation aircraft? They are expensive car batteries; only you can’t get them from NAPA.

CH: The battery is the heart of an aircraft system – like a human heart. So to say it’s important is a bit of an understatement. If you take care of your health, have your heart checked annually during a physical exam. The same attention needs to be given to your aircraft battery during its annual inspection. It must undergo a capacity test to ensure it has power for at least 51 minutes – commonly referred to as essential power. Suppose you lose an alternator or generator in flight. In this case, the necessary equipment must continue to function, and the battery provides power to these essential components during this time – no power – no basic work equipment. Understand?

Although there are similarities between car batteries and aircraft batteries, there are key differences. The plates in an aircraft battery are thinner. This is why you will when charging an airplane battery got to control the tension. You can damage aircraft battery plates with too much voltage. It is important to refer to Concorde’s Component Maintenance Manual (CMM) for these voltage settings.

FLYING: What innovations has Concorde developed in recent years? Anything notable?

CH: Our batteries have hardly changed in the last ten years. Our commitment to educating the flying public about the importance of your battery and what needs to be done over time to ensure airworthiness and reliability has become a focus at Concorde over the past decade.

If we’re being honest, we don’t think too much about our car or truck battery – until it stops working. Failure is not an option with aircraft batteries. You must stay healthy. Some might find it a bit unusual, but Concorde spends a lot of time helping our customers make their Concorde batteries last as long as possible. We do this every January through our Virtual IA Renewal Series, which offers free training for technicians and pilots. We host several forums annually at places like Sun ‘n Fun [Aerospace Expo], [Experimental Aircraft Association] Airventure [Oshkosh]and HA [Helicopter Association International]. We also travel thousands of miles annually to training seminars around the world, teaching pilots and technicians alike the skills needed to reliably operate Concorde lead-acid aircraft batteries.

Concorde expands the applications annually through STCs or through the initial equipment of new aircraft. Whatever is noteworthy, Concorde batteries are primarily hand built, which means that attention to detail and robustness of construction are the resulting advantages. Batteries live in a vibrant environment and their resilience is vital. Larger connections between cells allow Concorde batteries to charge more efficiently, reducing the chances for sulfation to begin. Concorde’s RG (recombinant gas) series batteries are also constructed with proprietary PolyGuard separators and AGM (absorbed glass mat) technology – technology so reliable that U.S. and foreign air forces use Concorde batteries around the world introduced world. As we like to say, “If Concorde batteries are good enough for the F-117 stealth fighter, they’ll be good enough for your plane!”

FLYING: Please provide readers with the most important takeaway for aircraft battery maintenance.

CH: Fly the plane! I know it sounds simple, but it’s the key. If your aircraft (and therefore your battery) is stationary for a long period of time, the battery will discharge itself – even without a load. The hotter the ambient temperature, the faster it happens. A sealed lead-acid aircraft battery loses 25 percent of its charge:

  • Every 90 days at 77 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Every 45 days at 95 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Every 21 days at 113 degrees Fahrenheit

As you can see, it can go pretty fast. If you can’t fly once a week (and that’s at least an hour), then a BatteryMINDer from VDC Electronics is a must-have. We worked with them years ago to develop an aircraft battery maintenance regulator that can be left on the battery for extended periods (if required).

Prolonged use of typical automotive maintenance equipment will dry out the AGM mats and damage the plates of an aircraft battery, ultimately shortening – rather than extending – life.

The sulfation acts as a “barrier” and prevents that part of the plate from getting a charge. If you neglect an aircraft battery (by not flying regularly or by using a BatteryMINder during extended downtimes) the sulphation on the battery plates will begin to harden. If sulphation is not corrected, it will expand and crystallize to the point where the battery is no longer airworthy. However, there is a solution to sulfation. Our Component Maintenance Manual (CMM) describes an effective method called Conditioning Charge to remove sulfation. It would be best if you had a charger with a constant current mode to perform this task.

There you have it folks, the run-down aircraft lead-acid batteries. I recommend that you download Concorde’s General Aviation Catalog and keep it handy. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Thanks again for reading, and let’s be careful out there.

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