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The AeroElectric Connection
What is it?: Examination of theory, operation,
design, and fabrication of aircraft electrical systems
Jeers: Would have been nice if a list of web sites (or phone numbers) of electrical device suppliers was included.
Many RV builders, even those of us who have some background in electrical stuff, take a deep breath when we contemplate wiring our RV project. This is an undertaking we want to get right the first time! Few things are more discouraging than letting the smoke escape from a freshly wired panel the first time power is applied. Once the smoke is released, it is replaced only with great difficulty, and the confidence factor in the new panel is lowered several notches.
The AeroElectric Connection is a great collection of articles from the fertile mind of Bob Nuckolls. Readers who frequent the RV mail-list no doubt have seen posts from Mr. Nuckolls concerning things electrical. His book, which is delivered as a thick bundle of prepunched pages (you provide the binder), contains not only tips for fabricating aircraft wiring, but also the theory behind the scenes. For some readers (the folks who never read an instruction manual...), the book may be a bit too heavy on theory. But for most of us, a basic understanding of the "why" of electrical systems helps us recognize and diagnose glitches when they occur. Theoretical knowledge is also necessary if we wish to modify a system. So while the explanations of electrical theory may be tedious to some, they are highly recommended reading.
There is plenty of good ol' everyday information provided, however. The electrical system and its components are a mystery to many pilots, and a reading of this book will eliminate many of the short circuits. A glance at the table of contents shows some of the topics covered:
Each chapter begins with a basic primer on the wheres and wherefores of the devices to be discussed, then progresses into a discussion of how this info fits into the electrical scheme of our planes. Bob drops several interesting tidbits from his long exposure to aviation electrics, and generally does a good job of removing the mystery of electrical systems. An example of an esoteric anecdote is found in the "Electrical System Instrumentation" chapter. Did you know that early Lear jets had some problems with gauge needles sticking due to the lack of vibration in the cockpits? The designers had to install "panel shakers" to enable the early instruments to perform as designed for use in piston-powered planes. Cool.
One of the most useful chapters for me was the discussion of the relatively new RG batteries. There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the care and feeding of these new-technology units. Another interesting section concerns the use of "fusible links". While common in automobiles, I haven't seen much about their use in aircraft.
Numerous diagrams are provided to illustrate the principles being explored. The illustrations are well-drawn, and are sufficient to prepare the reader to decipher the wiring diagrams at the end of the book. Speaking of which, several architectural wiring diagrams are provided that are applicable to the simplest aircraft all the way to multi-engined birds. Each of the these diagrams incorporate Nuckoll's trademark "essential bus" which is a feature that provides power to basic instruments and radios even if the battery contactor fails. I found the examination of this feature to be most enlightening as I contemplated how to design a system that had as much redundancy as possible while eliminating single point failures and keeping the whole thing fairly simple.
As previous readers of Bob's articles already know, his views are regarded by some as a bit unconventional; However, he goes to great length to explain the "why" behind the innovative features of his wiring architecture. The AeroElectric Web Site is a great resource of articles and links that the RV builder will find useful. Many of the products discussed in the book are available for purchase on the site along with a subscription to The AeroElectric Connection that will provide you with annual updates.
For people who build airplanes, education is powerful and essential. All pilots realize the consequences of serious electrical problems in-flight, and the necessity of fabricating reliable wiring is recognized by most builders. This book will help you understand how to wire your project so it will perform reliably for a long time. I consider the hours spent with The AeroElectric Connection to be time well spent, and no doubt I will use it for a reference many times in the future. As my page on the design and construction of the panel for N399SB progresses, you will see several references to The AeroElectric Connection.