Primer for the LASAR electronic ignition system

Primer for the LASAR® Electronic Ignition System By Jim Melvin, Bryan Quillen, and Harry Fenton February 1998 When you hear pilots or technicians talk about electronic ignition, electronic engine controllers, or electronic fuel injection...


After installation and all your logbook entries have been made, a 337 must be completed and filed with your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). A flight manual supplement is also required; this is part of the document package sent with the LASAR® controller. It is a small document which fits nicely into the pilot's operating handbook (POH). This document makes no changes to the POH, but is still required and of interest to pilots and aircraft owners.

Installation of the LASAR® system changes the aircraft's empty weight. For this reason, some technicians do a "weight and balance." Weighing about 1.5 pounds, the electronic controller is the only component which contributes to a net change in the aircraft's weight. The LASAR® magnetos and low voltage harness do not appreciably change the aircraft's weight. The net change due to the LASAR® system does not significantly impact the aircraft's C.G. Some FAA inspectors feel it is a requirement to do a "weight and balance" — others do not. The technician or IA should check with their local inspector.

System Checks
In general, the improved engine performance due to the LASAR® system will be immediately noticeable. The engine will typically start within a single prop rotation and will idle more smoothly. Before flying with the LASAR® system and in order to prepare yourself for demonstrating the newly installed system's proper operation and performance improvements, you might want to get comfortable with pulling the ignition breaker. Take the engine up to 2,000 rpm and pull the breaker. The only indication that you are running on backup ignition should be that fact the cockpit light (if installed) is illuminated. The transition is seamless. Once the breaker is back in its normal position, the cockpit light will not shut off for 30 seconds. Nothing to be alarmed about; this is a safety feature in case the aircraft has an intermittent loss of power in flight.

The first part of flight testing is done on preflight. When the pilot switches the ignition to the left or right position during a magneto check, the controller switches the system to backup. This check ensures the pilot that the backup ignition is functioning properly. Again, the POH has not changed so the pass/fail criteria for the magneto remains as the engine manufacturer originally intended. Once the magneto check is complete, the system will switch back to automatic mode. This takes approximately 20 seconds from the moment the switch is returned to the BOTH position.

The final stage of completely checking out a newly installed LASAR® system is conducting an in-flight check. It is during this stage that the best benefit of the LASAR® system can be demonstrated. With the system in the automatic mode, the pilot will be able to lean the engine to the maximum extent recommended by the engine manufacturer's operating instructions, thereby achieving greater savings than is normally possible without LASAR® installed. Unison Industries has put together a document called, "The LASAR® Experience, A Guide for Fixed Pitch Propeller Airplanes," which provides a good outline for conducting in-flight demonstrations of the LASAR® system. This guide also describes what the typical pilot can expect in-flight with a baseline LASAR® system. A copy of the document comes with each LASAR® Master Service Manual (Slick Manual L-1500). Topics discussed in the guide are easier starting, smoother engine operation, faster rate-of-climb, reduced fuel consumption, and increased horsepower. As with any guide, the document should only be used as a guide. Your actual experiences may vary depending upon the installation, test conditions, and state of the equipment.

Cost
In terms of cost, one of the design parameters for the LASAR® project was to bring this technology to market at a reasonable price. The list price for a complete LASAR® system is approximately $2,700 and approximately 3 hours of installation time is required. As with any new technologically advanced system, the first installation might take longer.

For the weekend pilot, the total equipment and installation costs may create some trepidation, but when offered as part of a total engine overhaul (when the mags usually receive maintenance anyway), the incremental cost becomes less of a budgetary factor. For flight schools, check haulers, and other high flight hour companies, the benefits far outweigh the cost.

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