In creating my Electroair Electronic Ignition wiring diagram and digging down into the weeds of it all, I kept coming across an issue that on the surface might not seem that difficult to fix. And honestly, perhaps it’s not for some folks.
So let me give a little background. For my ignition system I had planned to install an Electroair electronic ignition system in lieu of one Slick magneto on one side, but still go with a Slick magneto on the other side. I had talked at length with Kevin at Sky Dynamics and few other engine gurus on simply replacing the Slick mag with a P-MAG when that dreaded “500” hour mag overhaul came due. They understood the economy of using what was available and cheaper in the near term, but going with a much better solution in the long run. In short, the feedback was that it wasn’t a bad plan.
This ignition configuration then became my plan for quite a while. However, in my recent focus on this system, I’ve run across a couple of things threw a wrench into my planning process. The final result though, is a more optimized install and system anyway, IMO.
First, after talking to a couple builders and reading a few accounts of swapping a magneto out for a P-MAG, or any other electronic ignition, probably made my statement, “Oh, I’ll just swap out the mag for a P-MAG” maybe just a bit too simplistic. Can it be done? Certainly. And of course it’s not an insurmountable job. The problem though really comes down to space & access. There is simply not a whole lot of room between the engine accessory case & the firewall in an EZ. Again, it doesn’t place the swap-out in the realm of the impossible, I’ve just heard (most recently from my buddy Dave Berenholtz) that it’s a real PITA! And I don’t know about you, but I try to avoid PITA situations as often as possible!
Second, I had planned on using the Slick mag side of my ignition to start the engine, then flip the Electroair EI ON once the engine was going. The issue here becomes a little multi-faceted. Slick mags of course come in two flavors: Impulse & Non-impulse. Impulse mags are used to start the engine, while non-impulse mags are used as just a redundant ignition system to get juice to the spark plugs. In an attempt to make my future P-MAG install as painless and pre-readied as possible, I would need to use a non-impulse mag in order to NOT have to pull the impulse mag innards and also still be able to reuse the non-impulse drive gear (‘cuz it costs a bit). Well, in order to use a non-impulse mag, I would need to use the Electroair EI side to start the engine. No problem, the Electroair EI works great and can be used as the engine starting ignition if that’s how I wanted to configure my ignition system.
While researching the feasibility of using the Electroair as the starting ignition, and how to do it, I ran across a potential issue. Apparently, some Electroair users have had starting issues when the bus voltage is too low, caused by anything from a battery issue to cold weather. Moreover, these issues were popping up (NOT in overwhelming numbers mind you) in RVs and Glastars, not just canards. In my mind, with such a long power run between the battery in the nose and starter/EI at the tail end that we have in canards, this configuration could very well exacerbate any propensity for this type of scenario to occur.
The solution? Throw a small 1.3AH battery in the circuit and call it a day. Simple enough eh? But how exactly does this work? And now I’m throwing more weight and complexity at the issue. I contacted Electroair to see if this was in fact a good idea to have a power boost for engine starting to avoid such potential nasties as kickbacks & simple non-starts. They said it was & gave me a generic solution for running a battery in parallel with my starting circuit. Since my back-up battery system is TCW, I contacted Bob there and asked him about it. Of course Bob isn’t an Electroair guru, so he also gave me a generic solution. The bottom line is as I tried to work this solution, I kept going back to my original specific design goal for all of this: to use the cheaper Slick Mag solution as long as I could, then swap it out for a P-MAG after it essentially died on the vine. Now, quite often I’m just not that bright, and it sometimes takes a while for a solution to sink in. But hey, if my ultimate goal is to have a P-MAG installed anyway, and by having it installed it eliminates all my current design & planning woes…. WOAH, WAIT A MINUTE!!! HA!
If you’re a Cohen brothers fan, and you’ve seen the movie, The Hudsucker Proxy, then you’ll understand that maybe this blog post should have been titled, “The Future is Now!”
Thus, I stopped all the madness, all the silliness, all the hand-wringing, and started listening to ECi, Kevin at Sky Dynamics, Nick Ugolini, Dave Berenholtz, et al by simply deciding to go with the P-MAG solution from the git-go and dump any ideas of saving money with the Slick Mag solution.