Aircraft Engine Starting Systems

Most aircraft engines, reciprocating or turbine, require help during the starting process. Hence, this device is termed the starter. A starter is an electromechanical mechanism capable of developing large amounts of mechanical energy that can be applied to an engine, causing it to rotate. Reciprocating engines need only to be turned through at a relatively slow speed until the engine starts and turns on its own. Once the reciprocating engine has fired and started, the starter is disengaged and has no further function until the next start. In the case of a turbine engine, the starter must turn the engine up to a speed that provides enough airflow through the engine for fuel to be ignited. Then, the starter must continue to help the engine accelerate to a self-sustaining speed. Turbine engine starters have a critical role in starting of the engine.

If the starter turns the turbine engine up to a self sustaining speed, the engine start process will not be successful. There are only a few types or methods used to turn the engine. Almost all reciprocating engines use a form of electric motor geared to the engine. Modern turbine engines use electric motors, starter/generators (electric motor and a generator in the same housing), and air turbine starters. Air turbine starters are driven by compressed air through a turbine wheel that is mechanically connected through reduction gears to one of the engine’s compressors, generally the highest pressure compressor.