Wiring Installation – Wire Size Selection (Part Three)

in Aircraft Electrical System

Allowable Voltage Drop

The voltage drop in the main power wires from the generation source or the battery to the bus should not exceed 2 percent of the regulated voltage when the generator is carrying rated current or the battery is being discharged at the 5-minute rate. The tabulation shown in Figure 9-121 defines the maximum acceptable voltage drop in the load circuits between the bus and the utilization equipment ground.


Figure 9-121. Tabulation chart (allowable voltage drop between bus and utilization equipment ground).

Figure 9-121. Tabulation chart (allowable voltage drop between
bus and utilization equipment ground).

The resistance of the current return path through the aircraft structure is generally considered negligible. However, this is based on the assumption that adequate bonding to the structure or a special electric current return path has been provided that is capable of carrying the required electric current with a negligible voltage drop. To determine circuit resistance, check the voltage drop across the circuit. If the voltage drop does not exceed the limit established by the aircraft or product manufacturer, the resistance value for the circuit may be considered satisfactory. When checking a circuit, the input voltage should be maintained at a constant value. Figures 9-122 and 9-123 show formulas that may be used to determine electrical resistance in wires and some typical examples.

Figure 9-122. Determining required tin-plated copper wire size and checking voltage drop.

Figure 9-122. Determining required tin-plated copper wire size and checking voltage drop.

Figure 9-123. Determining maximum tin-plated copper wire length and checking voltage drop.

Figure 9-123. Determining maximum tin-plated copper wire length and checking voltage drop.

The following formula can be used to check the voltage drop. The resistance/ft can be found in Figures 9-122 and 9-123 for the wire size.

Calculated Voltage drop (VD) = resistance/ft × length × current

Electric Wire Chart Instructions
To select the correct size of electrical wire, two major requirements must be met:

  1. The wire size should be sufficient to prevent an excessive voltage drop while carrying the required current over the required distance. [Figure 9-121]
  2. The size should be sufficient to prevent overheating of the wire carrying the required current. (See Maximum Operating Temperature earlier in this chapter for computing current carrying capacity methods.)

To meet the two requirements for selecting the correct wire size using Figure 9-116, the following must be known:

  1. The wire length in feet.
  2. The number of amperes of current to be carried.
  3. The allowable voltage drop permitted.
  4. The required continuous or intermittent current.
  5. The estimated or measured conductor temperature.
  6. Is the wire to be installed in conduit and/or bundle?
  7. Is the wire to be installed as a single wire in free air?

Example A.
Find the wire size in Figure 9-116 using the following known information:

Figure 9-116. Conductor chart, continuous (top) and intermittent flow (bottom).

Figure 9-116. Conductor chart, continuous (top) and intermittent flow (bottom). [click image to enlarge]

  1. The wire run is 50 feet long, including the ground wire.
  2. Current load is 20 amps.
  3. The voltage source is 28 volts from bus to equipment.
  4. The circuit has continuous operation.
  5. Estimated conductor temperature is 20 °C or less. The scale on the left of the chart represents maximum wire length in feet to prevent an excessive voltage drop for a specified voltage source system (e.g., 14V, 28V, 115V, 200V). This voltage is identified at the top of scale and the corresponding voltage drop limit for continuous operation at the bottom. The scale (slant lines) on top of the chart represents amperes. The scale at the bottom of the chart represents wire gauge.

Step 1—From the left scale, find the wire length 50 feet under the 28V source column.

Step 2—Follow the corresponding horizontal line to the right until it intersects the slanted line for the 20-amp load.

Step 3—At this point, drop vertically to the bottom of the chart. The value falls between No. 8 and No. 10. Select the next larger size wire to the right, in this case No. 8. This is the smallest size wire that can be used without exceeding the voltage drop limit expressed at the bottom of the left scale. This example is plotted on the wire chart in Figure 9-116. Use Figure 9-116 (top) for continuous flow and Figure 9-116 (bottom) for intermittent flow.

Example B.
Find the wire size in Figure 9-116 using the following known information:

  1. The wire run is 200 feet long, including the ground wire.
  2. Current load is 10 amps.
  3. The voltage source is 115 volts from bus to equipment.
  4. The circuit has intermittent operation.

Step 1—From the left scale, find the wire length of 200 feet under the 115V source column.

Step 2—Follow the corresponding horizontal line to the right until it intersects the slanted line for the 10 amp load.

Step 3—At this point, drop vertically to the bottom of the chart. The value falls between No. 16 and No. 14. Select the next larger size wire to the right—in this case, No. 14. This is the smallest size wire that can be used without exceeding the voltage drop limit expressed at the bottom of the left scale.