Product Reviews | Basic Aircraft Products

Product Reviews

American Bonanza Society Magazine
November 1999

Bonanza with the BAE-28 turbo alternator deployed Bonanza with the BAE-28 turbo alternator deployed

Basic Aircraft Products has announced the completion of the STC on their Turbo Alternator for the Raytheon/Beech Model 33 Debonair/Bonanza, Model 35 Bonanza and Model 36 Bonanza aircraft. The Turbo Alternator is available in 14- or 28-volt versions, and is mounted aft of the wheel well on the right side of the aircraft.

During a loss of electrical power, the pilot shuts off the primary failed alternator, then pulls a small lever mounted inside the cockpit to deploy the Turbo Alternator. Once deployed, the pilot maintains normal cruse speed and reduces electrical loads as required to provide a sufficient electrical supply to the airplane.

Unlike backup battery systems, the air-driven Turbo Alternator is capable of supplying electric power to drive the basic complement of flight-critical instruments all the way to the end of a safe flight and is not limited by the capacity of a battery. The basic complement of instruments tested with the Turbo Alternator during the STC process included two Nav/Comms, a transponder, HSI, Stormscope and GPS system with stable bus voltage.

The unit, which is constructed with a permanent magnet rotor, does not require battery power to function. Weighing only six pounds, the Turbo-Alternator requires little maintenance and comes standard with its own voltage regulator and easy-to-follow instructions for mounting and connection the the Raytheon/Beech electrical system.

---George Wilhelmsen

Aviation Consumer Magazine
January 1998

A clever turbine alternator delivers on its claim of 12 to 14 ram air-driven amps; it's a terrific electrical back-up

Alternator failures are an unpleasant fact of life for aircraft owners. In most instances, they're not a big deal. The undervolt or ALT light blinks on, you dump some electrical load and land as soon as you can.

It's not so easy at night, in IMC and 100 miles from the nearest airport. Nightmare scenario: An alternator diode fries and you don't notice the failure until the battery voltage drops to the point where the avionics give up all at once.

Newer airplanes have a second alternator option but most older aircraft don't have a spare accessory pad to mount another alternator, even if an STC exists to add one. One solution we recently flight tested is a stowable ram air turbine alternator from Basic Aircraft Products, an Evans, Georgia accessory builder. (See Aviation Consumer, March 1996 for our first mention of this product.)

The BAE-14 turbo alternator (for 14-volt) RAT alternator is designed purely as emergency back-up, not supplemental power. It remains stowed inside the airframe--wing, fuselage or baggage compartment--until needed, at which point it's popped into the breeze via a cable release.

BAE-14/28 turbo alternator deployed on a Piper PA32

The installation we tested was in our friend Brian Peck's TurboSaratoga. On the Saratoga, the turbine is installed inside the frontbaggage compartment door, as show in the photos at right. When the cable is tugged, a small gas-cylinder spring pushes the door open and deploys the turbine into the slipstream.

Basic Aircraft has STCs for the Saratoga and the Cessna 210, with approvals planned for the Bonanza, Cessna 206 and Piper PA28 series. (Note: See Products Page for current STCs) In the Cessna 210 and Bonanza, the turbine is mounted under the right wing. In the Cherokees, it will go under the fuselage, below the baggage compartment.

To try out the turbine, we simulated an alternator failure by switching off the aircraft's alternator and monitoring the voltage on the Stormscope's battery monitor. Surprisingly, the aircraft alternator delivered voltage between 11.9 and 12.2 volts, with everything in the panel on.

When we deployed the turbine at 110 knots with the panel equipment turned off, the voltage soared to 13.1. Flipping the boxes on one by one, and adding the high-drain pitot heat, the voltage decreased only slightly, never dipping below 12.5 volts, except when we slowed for landing.

Because of its mount behind the prop, the turbine voltage is quite sensitive to engine power setting. Even at slow airspeeds, a high engine power setting will maintain sufficient voltage. (The wing-mounted models don't benefit from the prop blast and require higher airspeeds.)

Power output for both 14- and 28volt models depends on airspeed, but it's nominally given as 12 to 14 amps, at 150 knots. Ron Cox, who owns Basic Aircraft and builds the devices himself, tells us the turbines have been deployed at speeds of 170 knots. At 110 knots, we noticed no noise, yawing or loss of airspeed when the turbine was deployed. In fact, except for the "in operation" light alongside the T-handle, we wouldn't have known the turbine was humming away outside the airplane.

Single T-handle, below, deploys the turbo alternator. Single T-handle, below, deploys the turbo alternator.

To control electrical load effectively, Cox recommends that the system be wired into the avionics, rather the main bus, thus allowing the master switch to turned off to isolate the rest of the electrical system. Turning the master on then ties the turbine's output into the entire system, allowing the gear to be lowered or the battery to be charged, if necessary.

When stowed, an aluminum guard protects it against damage from baggage compartment contents. When stowed, an aluminum guard protects it against damage from baggage compartment contents.

Cox told us the system has not been significantly tested in icing conditions. It has a plastic turbine wheel, thus there's no way to heat it. (Nor is there sufficient power to do so in any case.) Wax or Ice-X on the turbine blades may help, but no promises. That shortcoming notwithstanding, we think this is one of the best-made products we've seen in a while, performing even a bit better than the maker claims it will.

At $1795 for the kit, plus another $400 to $600 to install, this is not a cheap accessory. But in many singleengine airplanes, it's the only choice for reliable electric back-up, thus we think it's worth the asking price. Basic Aircraft also makes wind-driven alternators for aircraft which have no electrical system, such as Cubs, Champs and Taylorcraft.