SA Flyer’s Saratoga ZS-OFH doesn’t have a cigarette lighter, and installing one so that we could charge a portable GPS, iPads or phones isn’t an option as it requires an STC. We’ve been powerless since, but a solution lies in a panel mounted USB charger.
The thing is, a peak into your aircraft’s POH will probably reveal that you aren’t allowed to use your cigarette lighter for anything other than lighting a cigarette. Things might be different for NTCAs but for most TCAs, it’s a no go. The reason is that most older sockets are fused thermally. They cut out when the temperature of the cigarette lighter gets to a critical point. The fuse will either reset when it cools or you have to manually reset it – the thermal protection is in the part that you would take out to light a cigarette.
If you are powering an electrical device with a USB converter plugged into your cigarette lighter, there is no longer a mechanism in place to protect against over current and heat build-up. You would need to install an in-line fuse or circuit breaker leading to the cigarette lighter to protect the circuit.
We’ll ignore the fact that a red hot lighter and burning cigarette are fire hazards in their own right.
The MD93 Series Digital Clock/USB Charger, made by Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics, is designed to replace your existing clock in the aircraft, so you don’t have to make any changes to your panel. The clock features four modes: local time, universal time, flight timer and stopwatch.
The Dual USB Charging Port supplies the electric current needed to charge any standard or high-power device with a USB interface, while protecting itself and the charging device from short circuit, power surges and over-current potential.
For type certified aircraft the MD93 must be installed by an approved avionics engineer and requires a logbook entry. Contact Century Avionics for a quote – in the USA they retail for around US$500.