When an aircraft battery is not up to the task of starting, a dead battery can cause potentially life-threatening situations. As Eve Storm, president of Start Pac relays, it was one of those situations that lead to the 1997 founding of the Las Vegas-based company and its release last year of the Start Pac PRO.

“Our chief engineer [Jim Wurth], one of the founders of the company, flew his MD 500 helicopter out into the Arizona desert during the winter in 1997.  The battery got cold soaked and he was stranded until late afternoon when the battery could heat up,” Storm says. “He was 400 miles from any town and no cell phone service. So, if they couldn’t get the helicopter started, it could have gone badly.”

From that real-life near-catastrophic incident, Start Pac formed and has since spent years researching lithium battery technology and implementing it in their portable and ground power units.

“We’ve been manufacturing safe lithium-ion products since 2007. We have about 8,000 lithium units in the field all over the world with a perfect safety record,” Storm says.

Last year, Start Pac took its lithium technology and downsized it to create the Start Pac PRO, a 28-volt portable starting unit, as well as the Start Pac ONE, a 26-volt unit for voltage sensitive aircraft. Storm says the PRO is designed for use with any small to medium turbine engine or piston engine aircraft.

“We recognized there was a need, especially with medivac companies, where weight is everything. They needed something even smaller – even though we manufactured the smallest lithium units ever – they needed smaller ones for emergency starts. They didn’t need to do three or four individual starts in the field before, just needed one or two,” Storm says. “We were able to downsize our existing technology that was proven for almost 12 years into something that was even more portable and that is how we developed the PRO and the ONE.”

Weighing 14 pounds, the Start Pac PRO boasts a 14-amp hour capacity, and up to 1,800 peak amps for engine starting.

The Start Pac PRO comes with a standard 3-pin aircraft cable extension kit, a 5-amp universal charger and carrying bag.

The advantage of the PRO’s lithium-ion battery over traditional lead-acid batteries is that it holds a charge twice as long, has twice the cycle life, is 40 percent lighter and 32 percent smaller.

Lithium batteries also do not suffer from sulfation – the buildup of lead sulfide crystals and the chief cause of premature lead-acid battery failure.

"You can leave it in a discharged state with no damage being done to the batteries,” Storm says, “unlike a lead-acid battery where sulfation can begin within 72 hours after discharge.”

One drawback to the PRO’s battery is that, by nature, lithium batteries do not like cold temperatures and should be stored at room temperature to provide optimum starting capability.

No special care is required when recharging the PRO and Storm says its recharge time is dependent on the number and size of engine starts done with it.

“If you’re starting a small turbine engine it can recharge in 20 to 30 minutes. If you start a medium turbine engine or did a couple of engine starts on a smaller turbine engine, it could take two to three hours to recharge,” Storm points out.

Once charged, the PRO can be disconnected from the charger. For optimal battery health, Storm recommends performing one engine start a month to exercise the PRO’s battery’s chemistry.

“The great thing about the unit is that once it’s charged, you unplug it from the charger and then it can sit on the shelf for months. You do not to leave it plugged in when charging is completed," Storm notes. “If it’s been sitting for three or four or five months and you haven’t done an engine start, even though you should do one engine start a month just to get the maximum battery life from the unit, you maybe only need to check the level of charge every two to three months.”

Over a year on the market, the PRO sees use worldwide by private pilots, FBOs, the military and maintenance facility personnel. Storm says they’ve received nothing but positive feedback, thanks in part to Start Pac’s real-world aviation know-how and the fact that the product line is high  quality and cost-effective.

“Our chief engineer, who is an aeronautical/mechanical engineer by degree and has 12,000 plus flight hours in both fixed-wing commercial aircraft and helicopters, knows what he’s doing in designing the product line.”