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Lighting That Fire: The Proper Use of Continuous Ignition

Coming up with a catchy phrase to describe the proper use of continuous ignition on the CF34-3 engines is a challenge. To keep your engines singing the right tune on each and every start is, fortunately, a lot easier. The key to prolonged component life of the CF34-3 engine ignition system starts with a good understanding of the design architecture. For simplicity’s sake, the information provided here is specific to the CF34-3 engine, but the design concept is similar on other GE engines found on business jet applications, including the CF34-8C.

System description

The CF34-3 ignition system is an airframe-powered, capacitor-discharge and high-tension type design. Each powerplant has dual engine circuits, for safety and redundancy, to supply the necessary electrical power required for combustion during engine start. They are labeled IGNITION-A and IGNITION-B. The components include:

Two ignition exciters

Two ignition leads

Two igniters

L-ENG-R/IGNITION panel (cockpit)

Static inverter (IGNITION-B)

panel (cockpit) • Static inverter (IGNITION-B) CF34-4 Ignition System The ignition systems for the left and

CF34-4 Ignition System

The ignition systems for the left and the right engines are the same, but operate independently. Both exciter boxes utilize 115 volts AC and are identical part numbers. The IGNITION-A system is powered

by the 115 volts AC ESS Bus, while the IGNITION-B system is powered by the 28 volts DC Bus, through the static inverter. They are located at (approximately) the 11 and 12 o’clock positions respectively.

the 11 and 12 o’clock positions respectively. Ignition System The two surface-gap type igniter plugs are

Ignition System

The two surface-gap type igniter plugs are located in bosses in the combustion chamber frame at the 2 and 10o’clock positions. The 10 o’clock igniter plug represents the "A" ignition circuit as labeled in the cockpit, and the 2 o’clock plug represents the "B" ignition circuit. The igniters are connected to the ignition exciters by means of two ignition leads.

ignition circuit. The igniters are connected to the ignition exciters by means of two ignition leads.

Igniter "A"

Igniter "B" Operation There are three ignition system operational modes: In the normal (or manual)

Igniter "B"

Operation

There are three ignition system operational modes:

In the normal (or manual) mode, the ignition systems are controlled from the L-ENG-R/IGNITION panel. When ignition A or B is selected, the respective ignition system is armed and the white ARM light illuminates. With the starting system energized (L-R ENG START switch/light pressed), power is supplied from the IGNITION SET switch/light to the engine start relays and then to the ignition power (exciter boxes). The related ignition green “ON” light illuminates along with the A or B ignition green EICAS IGNITION A (B) advisory message. The start sequence is latched and the START switch/light “switch” is released. When the engine starts and accelerates to the idle speed, the starter cutout switch opens at 55% N2. At this point, the start latch relay and the start bleed air relay de-energize, deactivating ignition, the switch/lights extinguish, and EICAS messages un-post.

the switch/lights extinguish, and EICAS messages un-post. Engine/Start Ignition Panel The continuous ignition mode

Engine/Start Ignition Panel

The continuous ignition mode may be selected by pressing the “CONT” ignition switch/light on the L- ENG-R/IGNITION panel. When continuous ignition is selected, both ignition systems A and B are activated, both green “ON” lights illuminate, and the IGNITION A (B) advisory EICAS message posts. According to Bombardier training publications and FCOMs, “continuous ignition must be used during the following flight conditions”:

Take-off and landings on contaminated runways

Take-off with high crosswind components (greater than 10 knots)

Flight through moderate or heavier-intensity rain

Flight through moderate or heavier-intensity turbulence

Flight in the vicinity of thunderstorms The auto-ignition mode is activated by the Stall Protection System (SPS) based upon angle-of- attack (AOA) data. Both ignition systems A and B are activated by the stall warning computer, and remain on until the airplane flight attitude is corrected. The system is also activated when the SPS is tested. Please note that both ignition systems A and B are disabled on the associated engine when the L (R) “ENGINE FIRE PUSH” switch/light is selected. If continuous ignition was in use prior to the L (R) “ENGINE FIRE PUSH” switch/light being selected (to comply with an engine related checklist procedure), the white “ON” annunciation of the “CONT” switch/light will extinguish, but the green “ON” lights in the switch/lights remain illuminated, and the IGNITION A/B advisory EICAS message remains displayed (to advise the crew that continuous ignition is still active on the unaffected engine).

Best practices

Flight operations departments can implement several best practices to prevent premature ignition system life-cycle reduction. As always, airframe OEM procedures supplant any information presented in this newsletter. If you recall from the system description presented above, both systems are powered by 115 volts AC with system A receiving power from the AC ESS Bus and system B receiving power from the BATT Bus through a static inverter. Unnecessary use of continuous ignition has been demonstrated to reduce ignition system component life by 45% when exciter boxes work harder to fire deteriorated igniters.

In flight departments that have an internal policy of utilizing continuous ignition for every take-off and landing (T/O and Ldg.), some operators have reported that ignition system components have been replaced at 900 flight hours versus the engine maintenance manual limits of 1,600. GE Flight Operations Support queried multiple flight departments and industry training providers that have advocated the use of continuous ignition on all T/Os and Ldgs for their input. Most indicated their policies stemmed from concerns about engine operation due to FOD ingestion during T/O and Ldg. as the primary reason for differing from FCOM norms.

The nature of the fan design on the CF34 is such that FOD ingestion (e.g. ice, particulate matter, birds, etc.) is designed to be thrown to the outer diameter of the fan by centrifugal force. The design of the fan and cowl minimizes FOD ingestion to the core airflow path and promotes the movement of contaminants into the bypass airflow. FOD is then ejected into the slipstream rather than causing an obstruction of compressor core airflow and combustor ignition.

There are no additional requirements for the use of continuous ignition on the Challenger 601/604/605/850/870/890 series aircraft. Excessive use of the continuous ignition outside of FCOM guidance will lead to shorter life-cycle times and is detrimental to component life. Accordingly, there are no regulatory or published techniques for the use of continuous ignition beyond what is stated here. GE does not advocate any continuous ignition usage procedures conducted during engine flight

or certification tests as a basis for change in normal engine operating procedures. We do, however, respect the authority of the pilot in command and pilot prerogative in operating the aircraft.

There is an economic impact as well to the use of continuous ignition. Our Product Support Engineering (PSE) has provided the following response to operator questions about continuous ignition usage:

If we assume that the total ignition time for a given flight for both igniters is 15 min (both takeoff and landing combined)…that is roughly 8X the duration currently assumed in the manual. Because of this, we would change our current inspection interval – based on that additional duration – to every 200 flight hours. Again, GE does not recommend the use of this excessive continuous ignition unless warranted (as directed by the AFM). However, if an operator chooses to use continuous ignition during every takeoff and landing, GE would recommend inspecting per the ESM…SEI-870, 72-00-00 – Maintenance Practice 17 – Table 201…every 200 hrs.

Our recommendations are to follow airframe FCOM guidance. The best practices presented here follow the GE engine operating instructions (OI) from which airplane flight manual (AFM) procedures are derived for the engine installation on Challenger 601/604/605/850/870/890 series aircraft. GE Aviation Flight Operations Support is the proponent for the engine OIs. GE’s instructions on the use of continuous ignition on the CF34-3 are as follows:

A. Continuous ignition must be used during takeoff from contaminated runways, during heavy turbulence, heavy precipitation, in the proximity of lightning activity, and in accordance with the Aircraft Flight Manual. Use of continuous ignition in excess of these conditions will cause premature deterioration of the ignition exciters, igniters, and ignition leads.

B. If large quantity of ice on the airframe is detected, either visually or by ice detectors, and engine/cowl anti-ice has not been activated, activate continuous ignition before the activation of engine/cowl anti-ice. After a minimum of 1 minute of stable engine operation, with engine/cowl anti- ice activated, continuous ignition may be deactivated.