Electronic ignition

Discussion in 'Maintenance Bay' started by BobKutzler, Oct 9, 2019.

  1. BobKutzler

    BobKutzler Filing Flight Plan

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    We are considering electronic ignition for our club airplanes. Would like to hear from pilots that have installed it, with your thoughts. With a little background, as to the costs, type, and how long you’ve had it, and approximate hours flown. Thank you
     
  2. Unit74

    Unit74 Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Knowing what the club airplane is might help.
     
  3. BobKutzler

    BobKutzler Filing Flight Plan

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    Start with one of our Piper Archers.
     
  4. chemgeek

    chemgeek Cleared for Takeoff

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    I don't recall anyone on the Grumman Gang list that has regretted installing either the Surefly or ElectroAir although there is lots of discussion about which one is "better".
     
  5. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Even if a Surefly is half as good as an ElectroAir, it's only 1/3 the price, 1/5th the install time and 10x better than a traditional mag.
     
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  6. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Looked into it during last year's annual, when the mags were due for overhaul.

    Bottom line: It was too dang expensive, and you can only replace one mag, not both. So, you're still stuck sending mags out for overhaul every 500 hours, and it takes a long time to pay for itself.

    That said, the SureFly one looks to be much cheaper, and if installation cost is reasonable and it does only what the mag did it'll pay for itself in about 1,000 hours (and it's good for 2,400). If it saves a gallon an hour like I've heard said about other electronic ignitions, payoff would be more like 400 hours.
     
  7. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    For a 4cyl, the SureFly SIM4P is $1250 plus a couple hours of install time. Servicing a Slick is what, $500?

    ($1500-$500)/$5/gallon/1gph = 200hours not counting the skipped Slick service intervals.
     
  8. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 Pattern Altitude

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    I have had 2 slicks 500 hour service for less than $500, that includes labor. And does the 1 gph improvement claim take into account you’d probably get improvement from just servicing your old mags?
    I know an experimental guy pulled his ElectroAir and went back to mags, but I didn’t find why.


    Tom
     
  9. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Lycoming just came out with what looks like an E Mag clone. They're fixed timing for now but variable timing is coming.

    I like my dual Pmags but may switch to EFII. You standard category guys are missing out.
     
  10. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've got a 6-cyl and my last mag overhauls (incl. R&R labor) cost $2000 and a bit of change for the pair. $1550 plus install, I was figuring $2K total, so 1000 hours if you don't see any fuel savings. And my gas is under $4/gal, so the 1 gal/hr doesn't save me as much.

    All that, and I still have to pull the other mag every 500 hours. I'd really like a permanent solution to allow for zero mechanical mags. Don't expect the FAA to certify that any time soon.
     
  11. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Yes, if it's configured for variable timing mode and you operate within a certain MP/RPM range.
    It's a re-branded Surefly.
    That reminds me, if you go for the variable timing mode then a CHT monitor is required per the AFMS.

    Also the Surefly is incompatible with certain tachometers, most notably Horizon. The ElectroAir can be used with a Horizon tach.
     
  12. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    So ($1700-$1000)/$3.5/gallon/1gph = 200 hours?

    Or is it buy one mag service, get one free? :)
     
  13. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Until there is a million hours of service time (1000 airplanes x 1000 hours each), I'd be careful with grand pronouncements. I know Emag had a ton of problems on early units in the experimental world.
     
  14. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Maybe I should have added "when they aren't defective" :)
     
  15. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    There are lots and lots of experimentals enjoying Pmags, Lightspeed, EFII, etc, and in all other motor vehicles EI has dominated for decades. Be careful with grand pronouncements? That's funny!
     
  16. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    The problem with his statement is that he put a quantity to how much better it was. I don’t see any real way to prove such a statement.

    Are they better? Probably. But I can’t see them being 10 times better than a properly serviced magneto. therein lies part of the problem as well, many of the electronic ignitions are likely being installed to replace a magneto is past its prime so the improvements may appear greater than they actually are.
     
  17. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    Try it yourself.

    What's a hot start????? ;)
     
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  18. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    My RV-6 has had one EI and one mag for 19 years. The failure rate is 3 AOG’s for EI problems and zero for mag problems.

    In theory, EI should offer better performance and reliability. In reality, the reliability hasn’t been there.

    The other piece is that if you do have an AOG, your chances of a local A&P being able to get you back in the air quickly are better with a mag.
     
  19. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You're forgetting install cost. ;)

    How hard would it be, if one has a SureFly for example, to just swap a mag back into its place if it goes down?
     
  20. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I can't speak for Surefly, but my Emag has different plug leads and plugs than a mag. The wiring change wouldn't be difficult - maybe an hour for a mechanic, but you're into a fair amount of work to do that, change the spark device, the harness, the plugs, time everything, and do the paperwork.

    Something worth checking would be how quickly (or if) Surefly could get you a loaner unit if your unit failed. Next day? Two days? Do they even have a loaner program? Something to think about.
     
  21. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    It's in there. I allocated 1.5 hours. :)
     
  22. Flybuddy

    Flybuddy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Lycoming simply rebranded Surefly (and probably added a few bucks)

    Back to the OP question...I've got an Archer and installed a Surefly a few months back and have been very pleased with it. Easy install, took about an hour. Starts much easier. Seems to run smoother and is a bit more efficient.
     
  23. Stephen Shore

    Stephen Shore Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Two airplanes, two Lycomings, and two Electroaires. One on a O-360 and one on a IO-540.

    Count on about $7K installed. Is it worth it? I think I saw the most noticeable improvement on smoothness and climb on the O-360, which is not surprising. I think you will see a moderately improved climb and and fuel burn. Worth 7K?....probably could not make that case.

    The other part of it is that I just cannot stand the fact that we don't have the ability to adjust firing timing on these archaic engines. That part bothers me. At least we can move from 1910 technology to 1985 technology, which is generally about where these certified EFI units fall.
     
  24. Morgan3820

    Morgan3820 Pattern Altitude

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    I just received my surefly. Looking forward to running it. Talking with surefly, they are close adding a second unit with 4 hr. battery backup.
     
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  25. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Weird. Why do they need a battery backup when it generates its own electricity as long as it's spinning? :dunno:

    Is this something that will allow the FAA to consider replacing both mags?
     
  26. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Restart a windmilling prop? :dunno:
     
  27. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If it's windmilling, that means it's spinning and thus would have energy without a backup battery.

    It would be to start a stopped prop... But you can do that in the air just like you can on the ground by engaging the starter.
     
  28. bkspero

    bkspero Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Surefly uses the harness from a Slick magneto, so if that's what you have, then there is no cost for another harness or harness installation. Same with using the already installed plugs. That is also why changing back to a conventional mag in a pinch is a viable strategy.

    There is some trade-off for this feature (as I understand it). I've read that the spark from a Surefly mag, while being materially stronger than a conventional mag, is not as strong as that from an Electro-air system. This difference in spark strength is what allows the Surefly to use a standard wiring harness rather than the special wiring required for the EA (wire with presumably greater dielectric strength).
     
  29. bkspero

    bkspero Pre-takeoff checklist

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    There is one idiosyncrasy that some have experienced with the Surefly that I find troubling. During run-up some on the Grumman Gang have reported a backfire when switching from the conventional mag (alone) passing through the Surefly to the Both position (or if the mags installed on the reverse sides of the engine, passing through the conventional mag alone to the Surefly alone). As I understand it, the issue is that it takes a material amount of time for a grounded Surefly to begin sparking once it is ungrounded. That lets some fuel pass into the exhaust system where it is ignited by hot exhaust once the Surefly starts operation.

    One person told me that they experienced this particularly severely when they tried to do an in-flight mag check. Presumably higher fuel flow meant more fuel in the exhaust system and a more spirited backfire.

    I know that Surefly is aware of the issue. I'm holding off a purchase hoping that they will find a solution.
     
  30. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    What if it's windmilling at low speed, say 100RPM or so?
     
  31. donjohnston

    donjohnston Line Up and Wait

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    Surefly doesn’t have a built in generator. E-Mag does.
     
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  32. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    From their FAQ page:
    _____
    Why does the engine stumble during mag check?
    On some aircraft there is a slight engine stumble when doing a mag check. We have discovered that some mag switches actually ground both ignition systems in the transition between Left and Right positions. The SureFly Ignition Module requires a few milliseconds to power up after being tuned on. This only occurs on a small percentage of aircraft. If you are one of the lucky ones, stay tuned as we are working on a solution.
    Please make sure your ACS aircraft ignition switch is in compliance with AD 93-05-06.
    _____

    At 2400 RPM or 40 RPS, each revolution takes 25ms so each full cycle is 50 ms. "A few milliseconds" should maybe keep one cylinder from firing if it happens at the wrong time (possibly two on a 6-cylinder), but I suppose in combination with a mag switch that's grounding both during transitions it'd be, uh, noticeable. :eek:

    Ah. Thanks.

    It does sound like they're planning to certify it to replace both sides. If they have this done by the time we do our engine overhaul, we'll probably go for the upgrade... As long as it works with the Garmin EIS as well.
     
  33. Morgan3820

    Morgan3820 Pattern Altitude

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    I read on another thread that there was a 20ms lag when cycling mags. I understand that Surefly was able to reduce the lag time to 2 ms. Mostly eliminating the issue.
     
  34. bkspero

    bkspero Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'd be interested in finding out if the fix can be applied to older units, or if it's a modification only applicable to newly manufactured devices? I ask because the person who told me about their in-flight mag check/backfire is the owner of our local shop and just had that unit installed 2 weeks ago. So it would seem to be a candidate to have the fix. But who knows how long ago it was manufactured. If the fix only applies to new units, then how can one know whether or not one is getting an original or upgraded model?

    BTW, when telling me about his backfire experience, he didn't say anything about a fix from Surefly that could be applied to his unit.
     
  35. Flybuddy

    Flybuddy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have one of the first certified units and find the microsecond lag issue to be a non event. When cycling through your mag checks on run up, the rpm simply drops off a little bit (100 or less) while the Surefly kicks back in. There is no backfire or any adverse effects. You wouldn't even know it was happening if you weren't looking at your tach. Might be different with a mag check in flight at high rpm but that's not something that's done very often.
     
  36. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Why would you want to remove BOTH mags?

    Seems just the ability to hand prop it alone would make keeping a mag worth it.

    Shy of a Reno racer or something that never leaves the home drome or a majorly populated area, I wouldn’t want a 100% electronic ignition.
     
  37. Domenick

    Domenick Pre-Flight

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    Which mag did you replace? Any physical space issues with the replacement? I have a Warrior, and the engine form factor is the same as the Archer, though the Archer has 20 more HP.
     
  38. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Lightspeed Plasma III on one side, Slick on the other.
    Observations about this setup:
    -if you generate a charge in the PIII coil and the spark has no where to go, you may lose a coil.
    ie you cannot spin the prop with a plug wire disconnected. I could not figure out what happened til the many experienced users on another chat told me of this.
    -if the sensor gap (behind the prop, three magnets pass a trio of sensor)...if the gap grows (it's supposed to be .030-.060" or so) beyond about .090", no firing of several cylinders
    mine 'grew' when I added a bracket to a floppy baffling part, pulling them apart a tad.
    -it's true, I no longer have any hotstart problems in fact I need no prime at all; crank and go like a car.
    -it has MP and RPM sensors; uses that info to advance the spark. So at full power there is risk of detonation with an advance beyond what is stamped on the engine data plate; and the PIII abides by that at full power (so expect no improvement by having one e-mag at full power). As you pull throttle or prop, the spark advances...I think it goes up to 35btc at low power.
    -I think most of the time, my engine is running on the e-mag as the Slick is wasted spark.
    Does that mean a less complete combustion or later combustion event? Not sure.
    -I worry about being at cruise and that thing firing the cylinders so early especially during the Big Pull. Maybe I try to do the Big Pull faster! (yank; stumble; oops)
    -No ship's electric power? No emag; you are running solely on that Slick and it's trusty little electric generator til you get down.
    -the engine sounds 'weird' to me when I turn off the Slick.
    -the whole setup is much more complicated than a regular mag. Computer box behind a sidewall. The sensors out front. Power supply and additional wiring.
    -the auto sparkplugs which go into an adapter to fit the cylinder hole...they are cheaper than a massive Tempest but I don't think they last as long.
    The airplane has 800hrs like this and I did north of 150 of those so it's early.
     
  39. Flybuddy

    Flybuddy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I replaced the left mag. Mine was a hard starter and that was the main reason I opted for the Surefly. No issues with space or fit.
     
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  40. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The whole point, to me, is to eliminate the relatively short maintenance interval of the mags, as well as eliminating a common failure point for my only engine. Getting spark advance is a nice bonus, but you're leaving performance on the table by only advancing one spark.

    I'm never gonna hand prop my engine. It's 280hp, I think it'd be pretty difficult.

    Now, it may be prudent to have two different electronic ignition systems to avoid common mode failures, but mags are just ancient technology and we can do better.