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Roshan Bhojwani | rbhojwani@hotmail.

com | 2012

PMDG 737NGX GroundWork


Electrical System

Lesson Introduction

Hello and welcome to the Electrical System lesson in the PMDG 737 Next Generation
GroundWork, from Angle of Attack.

This lesson will cover the following topics:

- Electric power description and types,


- 737NG Electrical system overview,
- AC Electric Busses,
- DC Electric Busses,
- DC Power Sources,
- AC Power Generation,
- Standby Electric Power System,
- Electric system control panels and indicators,
- Lesson Summary.

In general, electric systems may have interfaces and schematics that are very hard to
understand at first. For this reason, we are going to discuss the 737NG electric system in a
basic way, so that essential elements can be easily understood and non-essentials can be left
out. When in doubt, always refer to the PMDG 737NG FCOM, or simply leave a message in the
comments section of this video.

Electric Power Description & Types

Electricity is the presence of an electric charge that flows within a circuit, when excited, in order
to produce energy. Subatomic particles, knows as electrons, are the ones that flow inside a
circuit. When this occurs, a little magnetic interaction also takes place. This magnetic interaction
is known as a charge.

EXAMPLE: Electrons are charged negatively, however, a stable atom has an equivalent
amount of protons that are charged positively within the nucleus of the atom. When an
atom is excited, it may either loose or gain electrons in an attempt to re-stabilize itself,
thus producing a positive or a negative charge.

When charges move around the circuit, they are known as currents.

There are two types of electric currents:

Direct Current (DC): Where electricity flows in one direction,


Alternating Current (AC): Where electricity flows in two alternating directions.

Direct current causes electron flow in one direction by a magnetic field near an electricity
conductor, however it can carry only a fixed amount of energy and usually loses it as and when
the current travels a distance. In contrast, alternating current does not lose energy and it can
carry a significantly higher amount of power. A variable magnetic force is used to achieve
alternating current. DC output energy per charge, or voltage, is constant, whereas AC voltage
may be transformed into different values.

AC currents output power versus voltage are measured in a unit called Volt-Ampere, generally
expressed as thousands, or kVA. Another important concept associated to AC current is the
frequency at which the current alternates direction. Frequency is measured in hertz. For
example, a 60hz frequency is equal to 60 current direction changes per second.

Lets now talk a bit about the 737NG electrical system architecture.
737NG Electrical System Overview

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The electrical power system generates, supplies, and controls electricity for various components
in the 737NG that rely on it. Most elements and components aboard the aircraft rely on
electricity, either directly or indirectly, for their operation. A few of these are:

Flight deck avionics and display units,


Landing gear motor,
TE and LE devices retraction/extension actuators,
Aircraft lighting,
amongst other elements.

For this reason, overall redundancy and safety built into the electrical system is considerably
high, as many essential components depend on it. We will discuss this idea progressively as we
move through the lesson.

Both AC and DC currents are generated and supplied for the respective aircraft systems via
wires and cables that conduct electricity. These wires are insulated to protect from contact
between two different sets of cables.

QUICK TIP: Its extremely important to keep cables metallically isolated from each
other, with insulation. Failure to do so may cause short circuits or other weird effects. If
you dont believe us, ask Ms Suzana Darcy, a veteran Boeing test pilot who was once
testing a 737NG. Whenever she would turn the aircraft electric power on, she and her
test team would notice that all the flushes in the lavatories would activate. This was due
to some form of interference between electric cables.

The entire electric system has both manual and automatic controls, as well as standby AC and
DC systems to provide an emergency source of power.

We must also be familiar with the concept of an electric bus. Buses are essentially electric
platforms from which electricity is both supplied to and drawn from, by the respective aircraft
systems. Each electric current type has a respective set of buses for both essential and non-
essential items. The whole purpose of buses is to allow essential items to still remain powered if
there was an electric power shortage or emergency.

QUICK TIP: During an electrical emergency, it is far more important to have an active,
functional communication radio as opposed to having functional strobe lights. For this
purpose, both items draw current from different electrical buses.

The 737NG uses both AC power from engine-driven generators and DC power that is stored in
a Main battery and an Auxiliary battery.

Before having a deeper look at where does the 737NG get all its electric power from, lets talk
about the available electric buses on it.

AC Electric Buses

The AC electric system has two primary buses that take all the generated AC power and divide
them amongst smaller AC buses. AC current is supplied as 115/200 Volt 400 Hz power.

The two primary AC buses are known as AC Transfer Buses (1) & (2). AC Transfer bus (1)
subdivides into the following buses:

AC MAIN Bus (1),


AC GND Service Bus (1),
Galley Bus C&D,
AC STBY Bus.
The AC Transfer bus (1) also supplies electrical energy to the DC Bus (1) through a
component known as a Transformer Rectifier. Well discuss AC to DC energy
transformation and DC buses later in this lesson.

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Similarly, AC Transfer Bus (2) also subdivides into the following buses:

AC MAIN Bus (2),


AC GND Service Bus (2),
Galley Bus A&B,

AC Transfer Bus (2) also supplies energy to the DC Bus (2) with another Transformer
Rectifier.

Notice that the AC Standby bus is partly AC powered only by AC Transfer Bus (1), but it also
has a part, which is powered by AC current, derived from the DC Electric system. DC to AC
conversion is achieved with an Inverter, and will also be discussed later on.

DC Electric Buses

Moving on, the DC current system supplies and controls 28v power. It is comprised of the
following items:

DC Bus (1),
DC Bus (2),
Battery Bus,
Hot Battery Bus.

DC Power Sources

The DC system has the following power sources:

28v Battery,
Battery Charger,
Transformer Rectifier Units (TRUs).

We mentioned the Transformer Rectifiers before, so lets explain them now. The 737NG has
three of these components, which essentially transform and rectify the 115v AC power to
unregulated 28v DC power for the DC buses. The three transformer rectifiers are connected in
parallel, which means, if one of them fails, the other two may give backup. The TRUs are
connected according to the following logic:

TRU (1) gets power from the AC Transfer Bus (1) and connects directly to the DC Bus
(1).
TRU (2) gets power from the AC Transfer Bus (2) and connects directly to the DC Bus
(2).
TRU (3) gets power from the AC Transfer Bus (2) and provides a power source for the
Battery Bus. If power from the AC Transfer Bus (2) is lost, AC Transfer Bus (1) may
supply back-up power to TRU (3) through a relay.

The DC System has two batteries: One main battery and one auxiliary battery. Both batteries
are 48 ampere, 24v DC power sources.

In very simple terms, the batteries connection logic is the following:

The main battery normally only supplies power for APU Starting, but is a STBY power
source when all other power sources are inoperative, such as during a complete loss of
AC power if both engines are shutdown in flight. We all know that the chances of this
occurring are minimal, however, the redundancy must still be built-in to make the
systems more reliable and dependable.

Both batteries are always kept at maximum charge by a main and auxiliary battery charger,
powered by the AC power system. In case the batteries were ever to drain on ground, it takes
nearly three hours to charge the batteries from zero charge to an operational level!

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Its important to know that the main and auxiliary battery chargers do NOT charge the batteries
when either of the following cases take place:

Aircraft is being re-fueled and fuel station door is open,


APU is being started,
STBY power is being used due to a loss of power in the DC Bus (1) and AC Transfer
Bus (1),
Main or auxiliary batteries are overheated.

As weve mentioned, the main battery supplies power for APU start and normal operation of the
DC buses.

QUICK TIP: When fully charged, the batteries are guaranteed to supply 60 minutes of
STBY AC and DC power in case there were AC or DC supply failures.

Within DC power, theres also a Hot Battery Bus. This DC bus is always powered and active,
and is in charge of maintaining energy for two main items:

All the fire extinguishing systems,


Captains clock.

The hot battery bus, similarly to the battery bus, is powered by 28v DC power from the battery.

All these concepts may seem a bit intimidating at first. The AC system, which we will discuss
now, may be even more complex than the DC system, however, everything will make more
sense once we get to the end of the lesson and talk about the interfaces and indicators
associated to the 737NG electrical system.

AC Power Generation

AC Power in the 737NG is generated and supplied from four independent sources:

Left engine-driven generator,


Right engine-driven generator,
APU starter-generator,
External power.

The AC system is designed to prevent any two sources from powering a same transfer bus at
the same time. If any AC power source is being overloaded, the system automatically removes
electrical load from it and channelizes it to another AC source. This feature is known as load
shed.

QUICK TIP: The output power of the four AC sources is considerably larger than DC
sources, which is why the 737NG electrical architecture is designed so that AC sources
also supply energy to DC buses, via the transformer rectifiers.

Even though both AC transfer buses are powered by separate power sources, a bus power
control unit allows for the left and right systems to connect to each other in case there is:

AC power loss to either transfer bus,


GND External power is the only AC power source,
APU power is the only AC power source.

All AC power sources supply 115/200v, 400hz power. The external GND power is rated at
90kVA. The engine driven generators are also rated at 90kVA. The APU electric power supply
is dependant on flight altitude:

At or below 32,000ft, the APU supplies 90kVA power however,


Above 32,000ft, the APU generator supplies less power and it decreases linearly as the
aircraft climbs higher. At 41,000ft, the APU supplied power may be as low as 66kVA.

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Engine Driven Generators:

Lets talk a bit more about the primary source of electrical power on the 737NG: the engine
driven generators.

There are two generator drives, one for each engine. The generator drives are the normal
source of AC power. If they were to fail, the APU and GND power may be used.

Each generator drive has the following relevant components:

An integrated drive generator (IDG),


An IDG air/oil cooler.

As it is mentioned in the 737NG Engines and Powerplant lesson, the high pressure shaft turns
the N2 rotor, which also powers the integrated drive generator through the engine accessory
gearbox. Because engine speed is variable, the gearbox speed is also variable.

The IDG takes this variable input speed and converts it into a constant 24,000rpm for the
internal AC generator to produce power. The objective of this is to provide a uniform electric
supply during all phases of flight, rather than having the cabin lights dim down when engine
power is reduced to commence a descent!

Each IDG has a constant-speed drive section and a generator. Part of the generator drive
section is an IDG air/oil cooler that decreases the temperature of IDG oil. Similarly to engines,
oil is used in the IDG to lubricate and cool down moving parts, by minimizing metal-to-metal
contact thus reducing friction.

Heat is exchanged between hot IDG oil and cool air from the engine fan. Oil is filtered,
pressurized and ducted towards the coolers at between 240-290psi. If the filter were to get
clogged, oil bypasses the filter and flows into the coolers.

IDG oil is also in series with the engine fuel/oil cooler. This component is thoroughly discussed
in the Engines and Powerplant lesson.

As we mentioned before, each IDG supplies AC power to its respective AC transfer bus under
normal operation. System logic is such that each IDG may also supply AC power to both
essential, and non-essential electric loads of the opposite AC transfer bus.

APU Generator:

Moving on, during times when the engines are shutdown or faulty, the APU may supply the
electric demand of both AC transfer buses. This is guaranteed to work on ground, but during
flight it works only according to the altitude limitations we outlined earlier.

GND External Power:

Similarly to the APU, external GND power may also supply energy to both AC transfer buses.
The receptacle is located in the lower right forward fuselage, near the nose gear wheel well.
Sometimes, during ground operations that involve only cleanups or quick checks, all electric
buses dont have to be powered by GND power.

For this reason, even though GND power is capable of supplying power to both AC transfer
buses and therefore to all the systems that take power from them, for the purposes of ground
servicing, a ground service switch in the forward attendants panel allows for the GND external
power to provide energy only to the AC ground service buses.

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When the AC ground service buses are powered, the following items are available:

Utility outlets,
Cabin lighting,
Main and auxiliary battery chargers.

Note that DC power demanding components are unavailable.

To override the ground service configuration, both AC buses must be powered by some other
source of power.

Weve mentioned many items and components associated to the electrical system on the
737NG. What would happen if all primary sources of energy were to fail? Requirements for
aircraft certification demand that the aircraft should have alternate and backup sources of
power, which need not be unlimited, but should at least keep the aircraft electrically powered for
a known period of time.

In the 737NG, this system is known as the STBY Power System.

Standby Power System

Weve already mentioned the word STBY a couple times during this lesson, for example, in the
AC buses section, we talked about the AC Transfer Bus (1) powering an AC Standby Bus.

The STBY power system provides energy only to essential items in the event that both engines
and the APU were unavailable or faulty. The STBY produced power is:

115v AC power,
24v DC power.

For the most part, weve already talked about the STBY system components, however, in order
to summarize, they are the following:

AC Standby Bus,
DC Standby Bus,
Main Battery,
Auxiliary Battery,
Battery Bus,
Hot Battery Bus,
Switched Hot Battery Bus,
Static inverters, which switch DC to AC power.

The STBY power system has two modes of operation: Normal and Alternate.

During normal operation, different power sources are provided in case of partial power loss. A
complete transfer to battery power is provided if all normal power sources were lost.
As weve mentioned earlier, the AC Standby bus is powered by the AC transfer bus (1), the DC
Standby bus is powered by the three transformer rectifiers, the battery is powered by TR3 and
the hot battery bus is powered by the battery chargers.

During alternate operation, the power sources for standby power are the main and auxiliary
batteries. If engine driven or APU power were lost, both batteries would power the system
standby loads. In alternate operation, the AC Standby bus is powered by the static inverters,
which convert DC energy from the battery charger and battery bus. Both batteries power the DC
Standby bus, battery bus and hot battery bus.

Electrical System Controls & Indicators

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For all the contents in the previous sections to make any sense, well now talk about all the
controls and cockpit indicators that are related to the electrical system on the 737NG. It is
important that you grasp these items thoroughly as these are the components that pilots directly
interface with.

An electrical interface panel is located within the forward overhead panel. The electrical panel is
subdivided into the following panels:

AC & DC Metering Panel,


Generator Drive & STBY Power Panel,
GND Power Panel,
Bus Switching Panel.

Well now talk about each one of these in detail. Lets start with the AC & DC Metering Panel:

AC & DC Metering Panel:

The AC & DC metering panel has the following elements:

DC Meter Selector: selects a single DC source for DC volts and amperage indication.
DC Ammeter: indicates amperage of the selected DC source.
DC Voltmeter: indicates voltage of the selected DC source.

Similarly, there is also an:

AC Meter Selector: selects a single AC source for AC volts, amperage and frequency
indication.
AC Ammeter: indicates amperage of the selected AC source.
AC Voltmeter: indicates voltage of the selected AC source.
AC Frequency meter: indicates frequency of the selected AC source.

There is a BAT switch that has two positions:

OFF: Removes power from the hot battery bus and the battery bus when normal power
sources are available. Power from the DC Standby bus, static inverters and AC standby
bus are also removed with the battery is the only power source.

ON: Automatic switching of standby electrical power to battery power is provided when
a loss of normal power is detected. The BAT ON position is guarded.

A CAB/UTIL switch is normally there to either supply or remove electrical power from galleys
and cabin equipment systems. When the switch is placed OFF the following items lose electrical
power:

Left & Right recirculation fans,


Door area heaters,
Drain mast heaters,
Lavatory water heaters,
External logo lights,
Potable water tank compressor,
115v AC shaver outlets.

Most of these items are not available in the simulator, so you dont really have to
memorize them! Just keep in mind that certain passenger cabin and galley systems are
lost when the CAB/UTIL switch is placed OFF.

The IFE/PASS SEAT switch works with a similar logic to the CAB/UTIL switch, where if the
switch is placed OFF, electrical power to components in the passenger seats and in-flight
entertainment systems is removed. Of course, the only purpose of turning both these switches
OFF would be to conserve electrical power in case there was a shortage or unavailability. If the

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electricity demand is too high, these switches may also be turned off to conserve electrical
power for essential aircraft items.

There are three indicator lights in the AC & DC Metering Panel:

1) TR UNIT light: When illuminated on ground, it indicates that any TRU has failed.
When illuminated in flight, it indicates that either the TRU1 has failed or the TRU2 and
TRU3 have failed.

2) ELEC light: The electrical light illuminates when there is a fault in the DC or standby
power systems. Note that this light is only operative on ground.

3) BAT DISCHARGE light: The battery discharge light is illuminated with the BAT switch
is placed in the ON position and there is an excessive current discharge from the main
battery.

GEN DRIVE & STBY Power Panel

Moving on, the GEN DRIVE & STBY Power Panel has two switches and two indicator lights.

A DISCONNECT switch disconnects the integrated drive generators when electrical power is
available and the related engine start switch is placed in the IDLE position. The switch is red in
color and guarded because after disconnection, the IDGs may NOT be reconnected during
flight unless it becomes imperative for safety reasons. Normally, maintenance personnel would
have to perform the reconnection.

The other switch in this panel is the STANDBY POWER switch, which controls the operation
logic of the standby electrical system we talked about in the previous section. It has three
positions:

AUTO: The normal and alternate modes of operation are engaged according to AC
Power availability. This position is guarded.

For example, when the STBY power switch is placed in AUTO and the AC
transfer buses are powered, the AC Standby bus is powered by the AC Transfer
bus (1), under the normal mode. When all AC power is lost, the static inverters,
under the alternate mode, power the AC Standby bus.

OFF: The AC Standby bus, DC Standby bus, and static inverters are no longer powered
and a STANDBY PWR OFF light illuminates above the switch.

BAT: AC Standby bus is powered by the static inverter and the DC Standby bus is
powered directly by the battery. The BAT position can be regarded as a manual control
when compared to the AUTO position.
Finally, in the GEN DRIVE & STBY Power panel, there is also a DRIVE light that illuminates
when there is low oil pressure in the IDG caused by one of the following conditions:

IDGs disconnected through the GEN DRIVE DISCONNECT switch,


IDGs disconnect and trip-off due to high IDG oil temperature,
IDG failure,
Engine shutdown.

GND Power Panel:

Moving on, the third electrical panel in the 737NG is the GND Power Panel, and has only one
switch and one light.

A GND PWR switch that is spring loaded to neutral has the following positions:

OFF: Disconnects all ground-supplied power from both AC transfer buses.

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ON: Removes any previous connection to the AC Transfer buses, in order to avoid
multiple sources powering the same transfer bus. The ON position will only connect
ground power to the AC transfer buses if the power quality is the appropriate.

Above the GND PWR switch, a GND POWER AVAILABLE light illuminates in blue whenever
external ground power is connected and the power quality is appropriate enough to power both
AC transfer buses.

Bus Switching Panel:

Last but not least, is the Bus Switching panel. This panel has the following switches:

A GEN Switch that is spring-loaded to neutral and has the following positions:

ON: Connects the IDG to the related AC Transfer Bus and disconnects any previous
power source, like for example, ground power.
OFF: Disconnects the IDG from the related AC transfer bus. When the related AC
transfer bus is not being powered, a GEN OFF BUS blue light illuminates.

A BUS TRANSFER switch is also present, and works in a similar logic to the Bleed Air Isolation
valve. The Isolation valve is covered in the Air Systems-Bleed Air lesson.

This switch has the following positions:

AUTO: Power is maintained to the AC transfer buses from any source of the AC power
sources. DC Buses are connected or isolated as per the system logic.
OFF: AC Transfer bus (1) is isolated from the AC transfer bus (2) if only one IDG is
supplying AC power to both buses. DC Buses are isolated from each other.

If there is no manually active AC power source to the related transfer bus, a SOURCE OFF light
illuminates. Similarly, if an entire AC transfer bus is not powered, the related TRANSFER BUS
OFF light illuminates.

A final switch in the bus-switching panel is the pair of APU GEN switches, which have the
following positions:

ON:

When neither AC transfer bus is powered by the IDG, moving a single APU GEN switch
to ON:

Connects both AC transfer buses to the APU generator,


Disconnects ground power, if it is connected,
Opposite side SOURCE OFF light illuminates until its APU GEN switch is
moved to the ON position.

When both AC transfer busses are powered by the IDGs, moving a single APU GEN
switch to ON:

Powers the related AC transfer bus from the APU generator,


The opposite AC transfer bus still receives power from the IDG.

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OFF:

If the APU generator is powering both AC transfer buses:

Moving a single APU GEN switch to OFF will illuminate the related SOURCE
OFF light, but the APU continues to power AC Transfer buses.

Moving the other APU GEN switch to OFF will disconnect APU power from the
AC Transfer buses.

If the APU Generator is powering one AC Transfer bus and the IDG is powering the
other AC transfer bus:

Moving the related APU GEN switch to OFF disconnects the APU generator
from the AC Transfer Bus, therefore the IDG powers both AC Transfer buses.

Lesson Summary

Most large aircraft have very complex electrical systems to meet the requirement of electrical
power for all the components. Understanding them thoroughly is desirable, but is difficult at first.
The 737NG is no exception.

Weve seen during this lesson that the electrical system has both manual and automatic
controls, as well as a fully functional standby electrical system that powers essential items for
approximately 60min after an electrical failure. In the handouts section of this video, weve
included a list of essential items that are powered by the standby system in case of a full
electrical failure.

Worth mentioning, is that the entire electrical system is also protected by circuit breakers
located behind the first-officers seat. These circuit breakers jump when there is a problem
within the related circuit, and may be reset on ground by maintenance personnel. Flight-crew
may also reset a tripped circuit breaker if it becomes imperative for safety reasons. A cooling
time must be allowed within successive circuit breaker resets.

Dont despair if you dont understand the electric system very well. Even current 737NG pilots
sometimes find it hard to understand the concepts at first glance, however, if you have any
doubts, refer to the PMDG 737NG FCOM for more information, or simply drop a comment in the
comments section of this video.

This lesson covered the following topics:

- Electric power description and types,


- 737NG Electrical system overview,
- AC Electric Busses,
- DC Electric Busses,
- DC Power Sources,
- AC Power Generation,
- Standby Electric Power System,
- Electric system control panels and indicators,
- Lesson Summary.

Throttle, On!

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