Aircraft Electrical System Components

With the widespread adoption of glass cockpits and the implementation of various electronics for both crew and passenger use, aircraft have become increasingly reliant on electrical systems for their functionality. Depending on the type of aircraft, the various systems it employs, and other factors, the electrical system may vary in its complexity. Nevertheless, there are common components that are found in all aircraft electrical system assemblies, those of which work to establish basic functionality of systems and apparatuses. To help you better understand the basic design of an aircraft electrical system, we will provide a brief overview of the most common components that make them up.


When dealing with more than one circuit, switch components are a must. Capable of opening and closing circuits with pairs of contacts, switches manage the flow of current within an electrical system. Depending on the need, switches may be normally open or closed, that of which means that the contact position will remain open or closed when energized. For current to flow, a switch will need to have its contact pair(s) closed. There are many types of switches that one may take advantage of, and common types include toggle switches, rocker switches, rotary switches, micro switches, and other such variations.

Relays & Solenoids

Relays are often considered to be a type of electromagnet switch, and they are capable of managing large currents with a smaller current. As a low-power circuit actuates the relay with direct current, it will be able to control a larger alternating current with ease. Generally, relays are used to control the powering of switch motors and other electrical equipment. Relays often come in electromechanical and solid-state forms, the latter being devoid of any moving components. Solenoids are a special type of relay that features a moving core instead of a fixed type, and they can be used as mechanical actuators instead of just for switching larger currents.

Fuses & Circuit Breakers

While switches, relays, and solenoids all have power over directing current, current limiting devices ensure the safety of equipment and surrounding personnel by mitigating the effects of faults and surges. Fuses are a common option for a wide number of electrical apparatuses and assemblies, and such components are placed in series with a voltage source so that all current moves through it. With a small strip of metal placed within a housing, current will continue to flow without issue until an unsafe threshold is met. At this point, the metal strip will melt and break down, preventing current from flowing until the issue is resolved and the fuse is replaced.

Circuit breakers are fairly similar in their ability to protect systems from unsafe current, though they are able to be reset so that they can be reused multiple times. As a type of automatically operated electrical switch, circuit breakers will break contacts and extinguish arcs in the instance that a fault condition is detected. To return a circuit to standard operations, the circuit breaker will need to be reset.


Beyond such common examples, aircraft electrical systems also take advantage of a wide number of electrical components that enable the operations of countless systems. If you find yourself in need of top-quality aircraft electrical system components for your operations, look no further than NSN Unlimited. On our website, we provide customers access to an unrivaled inventory of electronic components that have been sourced from leading aviation manufacturers that we trust. With our peerless dedication to quality control and export compliance, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation. Send us a completed RFQ form at your earliest convenience, and a dedicated account representative will reach out to you within 15 minutes to offer a customized solution for your needs.


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