Sooner or later, every helicopter pilot will need to jump-start their craft. When the inevitable dead battery rears its ugly head, you don’t want to be without a ground power unit to save your hide. Although portable starters aren’t that expensive when compared to general cost of private aviation, it still makes sense to carefully weigh your options before buying. Auxiliary power supplies can be roughly divided into three general categories. Depending on the bird you happen to fly, at least one of the following devices should serve you well.
Portable Battery Packs
For smaller craft, a briefcase-sized helicopter starting unit should provide more than enough power to get you off of the ground. Quite a few are capable of providing a jump for 12, 24 and 28-volt batteries rated at a variety of amperages. While there are some manufacturer-specific external battery packs in existence, most will provide an appropriate boost to any helicopter with a standard NATO plug. While they might not deliver enough power to fire up a larger jet, they’re extremely portable and quick to recharge.
Gas-Fired Ground Power Units
When you need a big surge of electricity and a battery pack won’t do, a generator-style GPU is the answer. Heavy-duty, wheel-equipped ground power units can run on either diesel or gasoline and can act as an APU as well as a jump-starter. Aside from the considerable power that they can deliver, generator GPUs boast a fair degree of mobility in spite of their heft. If you need to jump a larger helicopter that’s more than 30 feet from a power source, a gas or diesel-fired GPU is the way to go.
Diesel Electric Hybrid Starters
When you need a healthy mix of power and portability, a diesel electric hybrid GPU is probably your best bet. Diesel electric hybrids boast respectable continuous and peak power for starting mid-sized helicopters and turboprops. By design, they’re geared towards jumping a variety of craft whose batteries differ widely in terms of voltage and required CCAs. While you can’t take them with you on the flight as you would with battery packs, they’re extremely easy to wheel around and don’t consume much shed space.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Obviously, no one auxiliary power unit can be all things to all people. If space and weight are the most pressing concerns, a rechargeable battery pack is ideal if it meets your power requirements. For larger craft, a gas-fired GPU will essentially be the only external power source that will do. If your power needs fall somewhere in between those two extremes, the best option is a diesel electric hybrid model that can power up a diverse array of craft.
Start Pac sells a variety of portable power units, like the military tank starter. To find portable power for large aircraft, visit Start Pac online.