Alternator Constant Speed Drive System

Alternators are not always connected directly to the airplane engine like DC generators. Since the various electrical devices operating on AC supplied by alternators are designed to operate at a certain voltage and at a specified frequency, the speed of the alternators must be constant; however, the speed of an airplane engine varies. Therefore, the engine, through a constant speed drive installed between the engine and the alternator, drives some alternators.

A typical hydraulic-type drive is shown in Figure 10-314. The following discussion of a constant speed drive system will be based on such a drive, found on large multiengine aircraft.

The constant speed drive is a hydraulic transmission, which may be controlled either electrically or mechanically.

The constant speed drive assembly is designed to deliver an output of 6,000 rpm, provided the input remains between 2,800 and 9,000 rpm. If the input, which is determined by engine speed, is below 6,000 rpm, the drive increases the speed in order to furnish the desired output. This stepping up of speed is known as overdrive.

In overdrive, an automobile engine will operate at about the same rpm at 60 mph as it does in conventional drive at 49 mph. In aircraft, this principle is applied in the same manner. The constant speed drive enables the alternator to produce the same frequency at slightly above engine idle rpm as it would at takeoff or cruising rpm.

With the input speed to the drive set at 6,000 rpm, the output speed will be the same. This is known as straight drive and might be compared to an automobile in high gear. However, when the input speed is greater than 6,000 rpm, it must be reduced to provide an output of 6,000 rpm. This is called underdrive, which is comparable to an automobile in low gear. Thus, the large input, caused by high engine rpm, is reduced to give the desired alternator speed.

As a result of this control by the constant speed drive, the frequency output of the generator varies from 420 cps at no load to 400 cps under full load.

This, in brief, is the function of the constant speed drive assembly. Before discussing the various units and circuits, the overall operation of the transmission should be discussed as follows.

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