What Are Benefits of Having an Electric Starter for a Turboprop Airplane?

When it comes to starting a turboprop airplane engine, there are several different methods that are currently being used. Each starting method has its benefits and its drawbacks. However, all of them have the ability to start the engine and get the aircraft airborne. 

Hand starting/propeller swinging

The hand start is the original method used to start a small airplane. The pilot simply positions the propeller so that the pistons pass through top dead center while the pilot is swinging the blades. While this method is effective when it comes to starting airplane engines, there are a couple of drawbacks to this method. First, the process usually requires a couple of tries before the pilot is successful, which can be somewhat tiring. And secondly, turboprop engines utilize compression in order to keep the engine running. If the propeller isn’t positioned right or the spark plugs initiate spark prior to the pistons passing through top dead center, the prop could kick back and cause serious injury to the pilot. In addition, because the pilot is on the ground, if the plane isn’t properly secured, it could move and harm personnel on the ground as well.
Electric starter

Electric starters have replaced hand starting in most modern aircraft. These starters produce the same results as hand spinning the propeller, however the electric starter can do it faster and can produce more reliable results. 

Electric starters eliminate all of the main drawbacks of hand starting an airplane motor. What’s even better is that airplanes that don’t have an electric starter installed can be retrofitted with one with the use of a portable turbine starting device. There are several manufacturers that offer these devices including Start Pac and a few others, making it much easier to start these airplanes.

In addition to providing a retrofit electric starter for non-equipped aircraft, having a portable starter on board will ensure that you have a backup electric starter in the event the primary starter goes out. 

While there are many other types of starters available for turboprop engines, these are, by far, the most popular for most recreational pilots and light aircraft owners. Electric starters offer a great deal of convenience as well as safety considerations over traditional hand starting and are encouraged for those who still own aircraft that do not come equipped with an electric starter.

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