Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

You are showing ignitions for four cylinder Lycoming engines, but are there plans for six cylinders and Continental engines as well?

Yes, we will expand the line as rapidly as prudent development allows. Six cylinder, Continental, and even dual magneto versions are planned. Anyone wanting to be updated on a particular type can drop us an email and note your area of interest. That will serve two purposes. The volume of interest helps us decide what new versions to work on first, and also lets us keep those people updated on progress.

Are there plans to certify your ignition?

Yes. We started the project with certification in mind.

When I run dual electronic ignitions, do I need two P-Mags, or can I run one E-MAG and one P-MAG?

One E-MAG and one P-MAG is what we consider “standard dual configuration”, which should be quite adequate. However, given the small difference in price, many builders are opting for dual P-MAGs. Their reasoning is that one P-MAG is already “required” (in dual installations), so the only question is whether or not to invest $250 to make the second ignition self-powered. One E-MAG and one P-MAG should be fine, but it depends on how you make that value choice.

Can I run one traditional magneto and one E-MAG (or P-MAG)?

Yes, but… This is an inexpensive way evaluate an electronic ignition and start your transition. You can wait on the second one, but you should consider converting it sooner rather than later. Engines are designed for simultaneous firing from two plugs. If you set the E-MAG to operate in Advance Mode, it’s plugs will fire either before or after the plugs from the magneto most of the time. The cylinder will fire on which ever plug fires first. You do have the option of setting the E-MAG to operate in Mag Mode so it will match your magneto timing. You will, however, lose the advantages of variable timing. But at least you do have the choice.

Can I prop-start with an E-MAG? How about with a P-MAG?

Yes and no. Even the P-MAG model needs some source of outside power at start-up. If you are prop starting because the battery is “low”, there is plenty of power for the ignition. If you’re battery is “almost” dead (you only get a faint glow from the cabin light) you probably have enough power for the ignition. However if you’re battery is removed or is absolutely/totally dead, you cannot prop start with the electronic ignition and “no” outside power. It doesn’t take much. We get plug spark (on the bench) with only a 9 volt flashlight battery.

When is the P-MAG actually working? How will I know?

The P-MAG will automatically switch to what ever voltage source is the greatest (aircraft or generator). The generator will provide enough power to sustain the ignition at about 750 rpm. Somewhere around 1500 rpm, the generator will typically provide more power than the aircraft, and the P-MAG will switch over. At this point, the generator has become the “primary” and the aircraft is acting as “back-up”. You can easily check to make sure it is working during your preflight run-up and “mag” check. While running on the P-MAG only (750 rpm+), turn off the breaker for that ignition. If the generator is working, it won’t skip a beat. If it’s not, the engine will start to quit.

Does the E-MAG do "everything" other electronic ignitions do? Do you have comparison data?

These questions share a common thread and are frequently asked as a pair. However, they require several answers.

  • No. [tongue-in-cheek] In some respects, the E-MAG has taken great pains to behave differently. Examples: voltage dip protection, kick-back protection, and in-flight power failure protection (P-MAG model).
  • Yes, there are inherent efficiencies and economies that are associated with all electronic ignitions. However, the E-MAG is oriented toward day-to-day fliers looking for a simplified, easy to install, and easy to operate ignition. Not CAFE racing.
  • No. We don’t have plans for head-to-head closed course, dynamometer, or other comparisons. The performance characteristics of all electronic ignitions are much more alike than they are different, certainly in comparison to magnetos. No doubt there are differences at some level, but drawing focus to relatively minor variations would distract from more substantive points of comparison.

Which plugs and harness option do you recommend?

We don’t favor either the aircraft or automotive harnesses/plug option over the other. Customers tend to have their own preferences, and as long as the ignition is not affected we don’t want to limit their options.

What are the starting procedures for your ignition? Does it start the same way as other ignitions, i.e. start engine turning then switch on power?

To start your engine with an E-MAG, simply turn on ignition power (this happens when you turn on power at the breaker), and then start the engine. Do NOT start the engine spinning and then turn on power to the ignition. If you are running a split system (one E-MAG and a magneto) start your engine using the electronic ignition.

When setting timing, you say to set the engine at TDC, but don't mention whether that is on the compression or exhaust stroke on #1 cylinder. Did you forget something?

No we didn’t forget. The ignition doesn’t care whether the setup TDC is on the compression or exhaust stroke for #1 cylinder. The ignition does not use a distributor. Instead, it uses a wasted spark system, firing both the cylinder that is in compression as well as the cylinder in the exhaust stroke.

Does it really take only 2 to 3 hours to install?

It takes us very little time (1 to 2 hours). One customer reported taking 6 hours to change mounting studs, rewrap all the wires, and troubleshoot crossed spark plug leads. Even so, it’s not supposed to be a race. The point is that installing the E-MAG does not require days of downtime and drudgery. You can be meticulous or set a leisurely pace and still finish up in much less than a day.

Can I use the P-MAG in an aircraft with no electrical system?

You could, in theory, use a small battery to allow the ignition to fire when prop starting the engine. Once started, the P-MAG will generate its own power. However, the P-MAG was designed to serve as a back-up (redundant) power source, not the sole power source.

What affects does altitude have on an E-MAG ignition vs. a traditional magneto?

E-MAG ignitions do not have a distributor, so it does not have the same distributor ionization issues at altitude.

You talk about E-MAG being a new design "from the ground up". Can you give examples of what this means and why it is important?

One good example is E-MAG’s position sensor. Most automotive based ignitions use a hall effect sensor that signals a “known” position only once per revolution. Other intermediate positions are then calculated by segmenting the time interval between signals. This system works well in automotive engines that have relatively smooth operation, but traditional aircraft engines are different. They have larger displacement and operate at low rpm. They routinely surge through compression strokes at startup. E-MAG uses a digital position encoder that reports engine position at hundreds of points, so the engine is always at a “known” position. Unlike a hall effect, E-MAGs encoder is direction sensitive. If the engine experiences any bounce back against a compression stroke while starting, the ignition “sees” the bounce and can adapt. Precise position sensing is at the heart of the E-MAG ignition, and it had to be designed into the system’s foundation.

Another example is our P-MAG model. The self-powered feature of this model is not needed in an automotive environment, but is very desirable in aircraft.

Will the P-MAG work when I slow the engine on final approach?

The P-MAG is designed to operate at less than typical in-flight idle speeds (1,000 rpm) . It will operate at 700 to 800 rpm, and sometimes less. If a particular craft is known to have an in-flight idle below the speed the P-MAG alternator will sustain the ignition, it should be noted so the pilot can stay above that speed if the emergency condition is ever encountered.

This minimum P-MAG speed is easy to ascertain on the ground. Your ground idle will be significantly less than your in-flight idle. When doing a run up, simply isolate the P-MAG side of the ignition (if not running dual P-MAGs), and gradually slow the engine toward idle. Note the speed where the engine quits (if at all). If this speed is comfortably less than your in-flight idle speed, you should be covered. If not, note the operating limitation so you’ll be prepared in the even of a power emergency.

What air shows are you going to this year?

Sun-N-Fun 06 – We aren’t exhibiting this hear, but we may spend a few days meeting people. If we do go and you want to meet up, e-mail us and we will exchange cell numbers.

Oshkosh/Airventure 2006 – Yes! We will be exhibiting in Building D Booth 4075. We are anxious to put faces to the many names and e-mail addresses. Please stop by.

Does it matter to you if I order direct, or through my engine shop?

It does not matter at all to us. Keep in mind that, from the engine shop’s standpoint, we have not been easy to work with here in the early stages. Our longer lead times, production delays, firmware updates, etc. don’t mesh easily with the tight schedule engine shops need to keep. This is a short-term problem that will resolve once production is ramped up. In the mean time, you might ask the shop to run-in the engine with their test magnetos, and ship without ignitions. You can then install your E-MAGs on a more relaxed schedule. We all need to recognize and thank those engine suppliers that have persevered with us as we bring this new technology on-line.

Planning & Pre-Installation FAQs

I am planning my electrical system, and want to know the current requirements of E-MAG and P-MAG units.

This chart below shows the current draw assuming buss voltage of 13.8 volts. Because the ignition compensates for input voltage variations to maintain constant power (spark energy) output the input current will increase slightly with lower input voltage.

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Why do I need switchable breakers? Can a switch and a breaker work just as well?

The recommended way to check P-MAG’s internal alternator is to turn OFF the 12 volt power supply (via a switchable breaker or separate switch) during your ground run-up. Either type of switch is fine, but you do need a way to cut power in order to do the test.

E-MAGs sound pretty easy to install, but what are the most common installation errors/oversights?

  • Bypass Jumpers – If you are replacing a non-starting magneto, the switch (or the circuit controlling that magneto) has a mechanism to prevent it from being engaged during start-up. Key type ignition switches have a jumper on the back that performs the bypass function. It’s easy to overlook, but this jumper (or other bypass mechanism) needs to be removed. Failure to remove the bypass will disable the E-MAG during start-up.
  • Magneto Tachometer Artifacts – In order to feed a magneto based tach signal to the instruments during R & L magneto checks, it is not uncommon to find magneto P-Leads being coupled through a pair of capacitors at the tachometer. While this arrangement works for magnetos, it needs to be removed when using an E-MAG ignition. Remember, you only need a tach signal from one E-MAG (not both). E-MAGs will continue to provide a tach signal even when turned off through the p-lead. You will get a continuous tach signal during your R & L ignition check without having to interconnect both ignitions.
  • Not reading the instructions. The E-MAG system is not difficult to install, but it is not “like” any other system. You can’t just “wing it”.
  • Entering “setup” mode. The ignition will be in setup mode ONLY when it is 1) first powered up with 2) the key (or other p-lead switch) in the OFF (grounded) position. If you turn the p-lead switch ON and then OFF again, it will NOT be in setup mode. If you power the ignition up with the switch ON, you cannot enter setup mode.
  • Any time you power up the ignition and turn the drive shaft, you should have all the leads connected (except tach which is optional). In the case of the plug leads, spark plugs need to be installed and grounded. Alternatively, the coil plug can be disconnected. Leaving the spark plug leads off the coil can damage the ignition and/or shock the installer if being held by the coil.