The Vital Role of Aircraft Gas Turbine Engine Ignition Systems

Posted on October 9, 2023 James Hinds Aerospace Engine

Gas turbine engines play a central role in modern aviation, powering numerous aircraft across the skies. However, these engines depend on a critical component known as the ignition system to function effectively. In this blog, we will discuss the basic components and working principles of aircraft gas turbine engine ignition systems so that you can have a better understanding of them.

The primary function of the ignition system in a gas turbine engine is to initiate the combustion process within the engine's combustion chamber. This controlled explosion generates high-pressure and high-temperature gasses that propel the aircraft forward. In brief, the ignition system is crucial for a smooth start-up, in-flight operation, and relighting in case of flameout.

Components of the Ignition System

  • Ignition Leads: These are high-voltage cables that transmit electrical energy from the ignition system to the spark plugs located in the combustion chamber. The ignition leads are insulated to prevent electrical discharge in the engine's harsh environment.

  • Igniters or Spark Plugs: These are essentially the engine's spark plugs, and they provide the spark necessary to ignite the air-fuel mixture within the combustion chamber. Gas turbine engines often use multiple igniters for redundancy and improved reliability.

  • Exciter Units: An exciter, a vital component of the ignition system, generates the high-voltage electrical pulse necessary to create a spark at the igniters. The exciter units are designed to withstand the extreme conditions of the engine environment, including high temperatures and vibrations.

Working Principles

  • Start-up: When the pilot initiates the engine starting process, the ignition system plays a crucial role. To begin, a starter motor spins the engine's compressor, drawing in air. Fuel is then introduced into the combustion chamber, and the ignition system sends a high-voltage electrical pulse through the ignition leads to the spark plugs. This spark ignites the fuel-air mixture, starting the combustion process. Once combustion is established, the engine continues to run, and the ignition system switches to continuous operation.

  • Continuous Operation: During normal operation, the ignition system periodically fires the spark plugs to maintain combustion in the engine. This continuous ignition ensures a stable and efficient combustion process, preventing flameouts or uncontrolled shutdowns.

  • Relighting in Flight: In the event of a flameout, where combustion is lost due to factors like high altitude or adverse weather conditions, the ignition system can reignite the engine to ensure the safety and reliability of the aircraft. Additionally, the pilot can command the ignition system to relight the engine, which involves sending a series of high-voltage pulses to the spark plugs to reestablish combustion.

Innovation and Manufacturers

Aircraft gas turbine engine ignition systems have seen continuous improvement over the years. Leading manufacturers like General Electric (GE) have spearheaded the development of advanced ignition systems, with a primary emphasis on bolstering reliability, diminishing maintenance demands, and optimizing efficiency.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using digital technologies to monitor and control ignition systems in real time. This allows for more precise control of the combustion process, optimizing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.


The ignition system of an aircraft gas turbine engine is a critical component that plays a pivotal role in starting the engine, maintaining combustion during flight and relighting mixtures in case of a flameout. When you are looking for dependable gas turbine engine parts and other similar products, look no further than ASAP AM Spares. To maintain the quality of our inventory, we uphold a strict NO CHINA SOURCING pledge, meaning every purchase ships out alongside any applicable qualifying certifications and manufacturing trace documentation. If you are prepared to see how we can serve you, get in contact with us today.

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