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The aircraft powerplant

The airplane engine and propeller, often referred to as the aircraft powerplant, work in combination to produce thrust. The powerplant propels the airplane and drives the various systems that support the operation of an airplane.

Reciprocating engines

Most small airplanes are designed with reciprocating engines. The name is derived from the back-and-forth, or reciprocating, movement of the pistons. It is this motion that produces the mechanical energy needed to accomplish work. Two common means of classifying reciprocating engines are:

  1. by cylinder arrangement with respect to the crankshaft—radial, in-line, v-type or opposed, or

  2. by the method of cooling—liquid or air-cooled.

Radial engines were widely used during World War II, and many are still in service today. With these engines, a row or rows of cylinders are arranged in a circular pattern around the crankcase. The main advantage of a radial engine is the favorable power-to-weight ratio.

In-line engines have a comparatively small frontal area, but their power-to-weight ratios are relatively low. In addition, the rearmost cylinders of an air-cooled, in-line engine receive very little cooling air, so these engines are normally limited to four or six cylinders.

V-type engines provide more horsepower than in-line engines and still retain a small frontal area. Further improvements in engine design led to the development of the horizontally-opposed engine.

Opposed-type engines are the most popular reciprocating engines used on small airplanes. These engines always have an even number of cylinders, since a cylinder on one side of the crankcase “opposes” a cylinder on the other side. The majority of these engines are air cooled and usually are mounted in a horizontal position when installed on fixed-wing airplanes. Opposed-type engines have high power-to-weight ratios because they have a comparatively small, lightweight crankcase. In addition, the compact cylinder arrangement reduces the engine´s frontal area and allows a streamlined installation that minimizes aerodynamic drag.

The main parts of a reciprocating engine include the cylinders, crankcase, and accessory housing. The intake/exhaust valves, spark plugs, and pistons are located in the cylinders. The crankshaft and connecting rods are located in the crankcase. The magnetos are normally located on the engine accessory housing.

Figure 1: Main components of a reciprocating engine.

The basic principle for reciprocating engines involves the conversion of chemical energy, in the form of fuel, into mechanical energy. This occurs within the cylinders of the engine through a process known as the four-stroke operating cycle. These strokes are called intake, compression, power, and exhaust.

Figure 2: The arrows in this illustration indicate the direction of motion of the crankshaft and piston during the four-stroke cycle.

  1. The intake stroke begins as the piston starts its downward travel. When this happens, the intake valve opens and the fuel/air mixture is drawn into the cylinder.

  2. The compression stroke begins when the intake valve closes and the piston starts moving back to the top of the cylinder. This phase of the cycle is used to obtain a much greater power output from the fuel/air mixture once it is ignited.

  3. The power stroke begins when the fuel/air mixture is ignited. This causes a tremendous pressure increase in the cylinder, and forces the piston downward away from the cylinder head, creating the power that turns the crankshaft.

  4. The exhaust stroke is used to purge the cylinder of burned gases. It begins when the exhaust valve opens and the piston starts to move toward the cylinder head once again.

Even when the engine is operated at a fairly low speed, the four-stroke cycle takes place several hundred times each minute. In a four-cylinder engine, each cylinder operates on a different stroke. Continuous rotation of a crankshaft is maintained by the precise timing of the power strokes in each cylinder. Continuous operation of the engine depends on the simultaneous function of auxiliary systems, including the induction, ignition, fuel, oil, cooling, and exhaust systems.

Propeller

The propeller is a rotating airfoil, subject to induced drag, stalls, and other aerodynamic principles that apply to any airfoil. It provides the necessary thrust to pull, or in some cases push, the airplane through the air.

The engine power is used to rotate the propeller, which in turn generates thrust very similar to the manner in which a wing produces lift. The amount of thrust produced depends on the shape of the airfoil, the angle of attack of the propeller blade, and the r.p.m. of the engine. The propeller itself is twisted so the blade angle changes from hub to tip. The greatest angle of incidence, or the highest pitch, is at the hub while the smallest pitch is at the tip.

Figure 3: Changes in propeller blade angle from hub to tip.

The reason for the twist is to produce uniform lift from the hub to the tip. As the blade rotates, there is a difference in the actual speed of the various portions of the blade. The tip of the blade travels faster than that part near the hub, because the tip travels a greater distance than the hub in the same length of time.

Changing the angle of incidence (pitch) from the hub to the tip to correspond with the speed produces uniform lift throughout the length of the blade. If the propeller blade was designed with the same angle of incidence throughout its entire length, it would be inefficient, because as airspeed increases in flight, the portion near the hub would have a negative angle of attack while the blade tip would be stalled.

Figure 4: Relationship of travel distance and speed of various portions of propeller blade.

Small airplanes are equipped with either one of two types of propellers. One is the fixed-pitch, and the other is the controllable-pitch.

Fixed-pitch propeller

The pitch of this propeller is set by the manufacturer, and cannot be changed. With this type of propeller, the best efficiency is achieved only at a given combination of airspeed and r.p.m. There are two types of fixed-pitch propellers—the climb propeller and the cruise propeller. Whether the airplane has a climb or cruise propeller installed depends upon its intended use:

  • The climb propeller has a lower pitch, therefore less drag. Less drag results in higher r.p.m. and more horsepower capability, which increases performance during takeoffs and climbs, but decreases performance during cruising flight.

  • The cruise propeller has a higher pitch, therefore more drag. More drag results in lower r.p.m. and less horsepower capability, which decreases performance during takeoffs and climbs, but increases efficiency during cruising flight.

The propeller is usually mounted on a shaft, which may be an extension of the engine crankshaft. In this case, the r.p.m. of the propeller would be the same as the crankshaft r.p.m. On some engines, the propeller is mounted on a shaft geared to the engine crankshaft. In this type, the r.p.m. of the propeller is different than that of the engine. In a fixed-pitch propeller, the tachometer is the indicator of engine power.

Figure 5: Engine r.p.m. is indicated on the tachometer.

A tachometer is calibrated in hundreds of r.p.m., and gives a direct indication of the engine and propeller r.p.m. The instrument is color-coded, with a green arc denoting the maximum continuous operating r.p.m.

Some tachometers have additional markings to reflect engine and/or propeller limitations. Therefore, the manufacturer´s recommendations should be used as a reference to clarify any misunderstanding of tachometer markings.

The revolutions per minute are regulated by the throttle, which controls the fuel/air flow to the engine.

At a given altitude, the higher the tachometer reading, the higher the power output of the engine.

When operating altitude increases, the tachometer may not show correct power output of the engine. For example, 2,300 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet produce less horsepower than 2,300 r.p.m. at sea level. The reason for this is that power output depends on air density. Air density decreases as altitude increases. Therefore, a decrease in air density (higher density altitude) decreases the power output of the engine. As altitude changes, the position of the throttle must be changed to maintain the same r.p.m. As altitude is increased, the throttle must be opened further to indicate the same r.p.m. as at a lower altitude.

Adjustable-pitch propeller

Although some older adjustable-pitch propellers could only be adjusted on the ground, most modern adjustable-pitch propellers are designed so that you can change the propeller pitch in flight. The first adjustable-pitch propeller systems provided only two pitch settings - a low-pitch setting and a high-pitch setting. Today, however, nearly all adjustable-pitch propeller systems are capable of a range of pitch settings.

A constant-speed propeller is the most common type of adjustable-pitch propeller. The main advantage of a constant-speed propeller is that it converts a high percentage of brake horsepower (BHP) into thrust horsepower (THP) over a wide range of r.p.m. and airspeed combinations. A constant-speed propeller is more efficient than other propellers because it allows selection of the most efficient engine r.p.m. for the given conditions.

An airplane with a constant-speed propeller has two controls—the throttle and the propeller control. The throttle controls power output, and the propeller control regulates engine r.p.m. and, in turn, propeller r.p.m., which is registered on the tachometer.

Once a specific r.p.m. is selected, a governor automatically adjusts the propeller blade angle as necessary to maintain the selected r.p.m. For example, after setting the desired r.p.m. during cruising flight, an increase in airspeed or decrease in propeller load will cause the propeller blade angle to increase as necessary to maintain the selected r.p.m. A reduction in airspeed or increase in propeller load will cause the propeller blade angle to decrease.

The range of possible blade angles for a constant-speed propeller is the propeller´s constant-speed range and is defined by the high and low pitch stops. As long as the propeller blade angle is within the constant-speed range and not against either pitch stop, a constant engine r.p.m. will be maintained. However, once the propeller blades contact a pitch stop, the engine r.p.m. will increase or decrease as appropriate, with changes in airspeed and propeller load. For example, once a specific r.p.m. has been selected, if aircraft speed decreases enough to rotate the propeller blades until they contact the low pitch stop, any further decrease in airspeed will cause engine r.p.m. to decrease the same way as if a fixed-pitch propeller were installed. The same holds true when an airplane equipped with a constant-speed propeller accelerates to a faster airspeed. As the aircraft accelerates, the propeller blade angle increases to maintain the selected r.p.m. until the high pitch stop is reached. Once this occurs, the blade angle cannot increase any further and engine r.p.m. increases.

On airplanes that are equipped with a constant-speed propeller, power output is controlled by the throttle and indicated by a manifold pressure gauge. The gauge measures the absolute pressure of the fuel/air mixture inside the intake manifold and is more correctly a measure of manifold absolute pressure (MAP). At a constant r.p.m. and altitude, the amount of power produced is directly related to the fuel/air flow being delivered to the combustion chamber. As you increase the throttle setting, more fuel and air is flowing to the engine; therefore, MAP increases. When the engine is not running, the manifold pressure gauge indicates ambient air pressure (i.e., 29.92 in. Hg). When the engine is started, the manifold pressure indication will decrease to a value less than ambient pressure (i.e., idle at 12 in. Hg). Correspondingly, engine failure or power loss is indicated on the manifold gauge as an increase in manifold pressure to a value corresponding to the ambient air pressure at the altitude where the failure occurred.

Figure 6: Engine power output is indicated on the manifold pressure gauge.

The manifold pressure gauge is color-coded to indicate the engine´s operating range. The face of the manifold pressure gauge contains a green arc to show the normal operating range, and a red radial line to indicate the upper limit of manifold pressure.

For any given r.p.m., there is a manifold pressure that should not be exceeded. If manifold pressure is excessive for a given r.p.m., the pressure within the cylinders could be exceeded, thus placing undue stress on the cylinders. If repeated too frequently, this stress could weaken the cylinder components, and eventually cause engine failure.

You can avoid conditions that could overstress the cylinders by being constantly aware of the r.p.m., especially when increasing the manifold pressure.

Conform to the manufacturer´s recommendations for power settings of a particular engine so as to maintain the proper relationship between manifold pressure and r.p.m.

When both manifold pressure and r.p.m. need to be changed, avoid engine overstress by making power adjustments in the proper order:

  • When power settings are being decreased, reduce manifold pressure before reducing r.p.m. If r.p.m. is reduced before manifold pressure, manifold pressure will automatically increase and possibly exceed the manufacturer´s tolerances.

  • When power settings are being increased, reverse the order—increase r.p.m. first, then manifold pressure.

  • To prevent damage to radial engines, operating time at maximum r.p.m. and manifold pressure must be held to a minimum, and operation at maximum r.p.m. and low manifold pressure must be avoided.

Under normal operating conditions, the most severe wear, fatigue, and damage to high performance reciprocating engines occurs at high r.p.m. and low manifold pressure.

Excursion: Aerodynamics of the propeller

Induction systems

The induction system brings in air from the outside, mixes it with fuel, and delivers the fuel/air mixture to the cylinder where combustion occurs. Outside air enters the induction system through an intake port on the front of the engine cowling. This port normally contains an air filter that inhibits the entry of dust and other foreign objects. Since the filter may occasionally become clogged, an alternate source of air must be available. Usually, the alternate air comes from inside the engine cowling, where it bypasses a clogged air filter. Some alternate air sources function automatically, while others operate manually.

Two types of induction systems are commonly used in small airplane engines:

  1. the carburetor system, which mixes the fuel and air in the carburetor before this mixture enters the intake manifold, and

  2. the fuel injection system, which mixes the fuel and air just before entry into each cylinder.

Carburetor systems

Carburetors are classified as either float-type or pressure-type. Pressure carburetors are usually not found on small airplanes. The basic difference between a pressure carburetor and a float-type is the pressure carburetor delivers fuel under pressure by a fuel pump.

In the operation of the float-type carburetor system, the outside air first flows through an air filter, usually located at an air intake in the front part of the engine cowling. This filtered air flows into the carburetor and through a venturi, a narrow throat in the carburetor.

When the air flows through the venturi, a low-pressure area is created, which forces the fuel to flow through a main fuel jet located at the throat. The fuel then flows into the airstream, where it is mixed with the flowing air.

Figure 7: Float-type carburetor.

The fuel/air mixture is then drawn through the intake manifold and into the combustion chambers, where it is ignited. The “float-type carburetor” acquires its name from a float, which rests on fuel within the float chamber. A needle attached to the float opens and closes an opening at the bottom of the carburetor bowl.

This meters the correct amount of fuel into the carburetor, depending upon the position of the float, which is controlled by the level of fuel in the float chamber. When the level of the fuel forces the float to rise, the needle valve closes the fuel opening and shuts off the fuel flow to the carburetor. The needle valve opens again when the engine requires additional fuel.

The flow of the fuel/air mixture to the combustion chambers is regulated by the throttle valve, which is controlled by the throttle in the cockpit.

Mixture control

Carburetors are normally calibrated at sea-level pressure, where the correct fuel-to-air mixture ratio is established with the mixture control set in the FULL RICH position. However, as altitude increases, the density of air entering the carburetor decreases, while the density of the fuel remains the same. This creates a progressively richer mixture, which can result in engine roughness and an appreciable loss of power. The roughness normally is due to spark plug fouling from excessive carbon buildup on the plugs. Carbon buildup occurs because the excessively rich mixture lowers the temperature inside the cylinder, inhibiting complete combustion of the fuel. This condition may occur during the pretakeoff runup at high-elevation airports and during climbs or cruise flight at high altitudes. To maintain the correct fuel/air mixture, you must lean the mixture using the mixture control. Leaning the mixture decreases fuel flow, which compensates for the decreased air density at high altitude.

During a descent from high altitude, the opposite is true. The mixture must be enriched, or it may become too lean. An overly lean mixture causes detonation, which may result in rough engine operation, overheating, and a loss of power. The best way to maintain the proper mixture is to monitor the engine temperature and enrichen the mixture as needed.

Proper mixture control and better fuel economy for fuel-injected engines can be achieved by use of an exhaust gas temperature gauge. Since the process of adjusting the mixture can vary from one airplane to another, it is important to refer to the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) or the Pilot´s Operating Handbook (POH) to determine the specific procedures for a given airplane.

Carburetor icing

One disadvantage of the float-type carburetor is its icing tendency. Carburetor ice occurs due to the effect of fuel vaporization and the decrease in air pressure in the venturi, which causes a sharp temperature drop in the carburetor. If water vapor in the air condenses when the carburetor temperature is at or below freezing, ice may form on internal surfaces of the carburetor, including the throttle valve.

Figure 8: The formation of carburetor ice may reduce or block fuel/air flow to the engine.

The reduced air pressure, as well as the vaporization of fuel, contributes to the temperature decrease in the carburetor. Ice generally forms in the vicinity of the throttle valve and in the venturi throat. This restricts the flow of the fuel/air mixture and reduces power. If enough ice builds up, the engine may cease to operate.

Carburetor ice is most likely to occur when temperatures are below 70°F (21°C) and the relative humidity is above 80 percent. However, due to the sudden cooling that takes place in the carburetor, icing can occur even with temperatures as high as 100°F (38°C) and humidity as low as 50 percent. This temperature drop can be as much as 60 to 70°F.

Therefore, at an outside air temperature of 100°F, a temperature drop of 70°F results in an air temperature in the carburetor of 30°F.

Figure 9: Although carburetor ice is most likely to form when the temperature and humidity are in ranges indicated by this chart, carburetor ice is possible under conditions not depicted.

The first indication of carburetor icing in an airplane with a fixed-pitch propeller is a decrease in engine r.p.m., which may be followed by engine roughness. In an airplane with a constant-speed propeller, carburetor icing usually is indicated by a decrease in manifold pressure, but no reduction in r.p.m. Propeller pitch is automatically adjusted to compensate for loss of power. Thus, a constant r.p.m. is maintained. Although carburetor ice can occur during any phase of flight, it is particularly dangerous when using reduced power during a descent. Under certain conditions, carburetor ice could build unnoticed until you try to add power. To combat the effects of carburetor ice, engines with float-type carburetors employ a carburetor heat system.

Carburetor heat

Carburetor heat is an anti-icing system that preheats the air before it reaches the carburetor. Carburetor heat is intended to keep the fuel/air mixture above the freezing temperature to prevent the formation of carburetor ice. Carburetor heat can be used to melt ice that has already formed in the carburetor provided that the accumulation is not too great. The emphasis, however, is on using carburetor heat as a preventative measure.

The carburetor heat should be checked during the engine runup. When using carburetor heat, follow the manufacturer´s recommendations.

When conditions are conducive to carburetor icing during flight, periodic checks should be made to detect its presence. If detected, full carburetor heat should be applied immediately, and it should be left in the ON position until you are certain that all the ice has been removed. If ice is present, applying partial heat or leaving heat on for an insufficient time might aggravate the situation. In extreme cases of carburetor icing, even after the ice has been removed, full carburetor heat should be used to prevent further ice formation. A carburetor temperature gauge, if installed, is very useful in determining when to use carburetor heat.

Whenever the throttle is closed during flight, the engine cools rapidly and vaporization of the fuel is less complete than if the engine is warm. Also, in this condition, the engine is more susceptible to carburetor icing. Therefore, if you suspect carburetor icing conditions and anticipate closed-throttle operation, adjust the carburetor heat to the full ON position before closing the throttle, and leave it on during the closed-throttle operation. The heat will aid in vaporizing the fuel, and help prevent the formation of carburetor ice. Periodically, open the throttle smoothly for a few seconds to keep the engine warm, otherwise the carburetor heater may not provide enough heat to prevent icing.

The use of carburetor heat causes a decrease in engine power, sometimes up to 15 percent, because the heated air is less dense than the outside air that had been entering the engine. This enriches the mixture. When ice is present in an airplane with a fixed-pitch propeller and carburetor heat is being used, there is a decrease in r.p.m., followed by a gradual increase in r.p.m. as the ice melts. The engine also should run more smoothly after the ice has been removed. If ice is not present, the r.p.m. will decrease, then remain constant. When carburetor heat is used on an airplane with a constant-speed propeller, and ice is present, a decrease in the manifold pressure will be noticed, followed by a gradual increase. If carburetor icing is not present, the gradual increase in manifold pressure will not be apparent until the carburetor heat is turned off.

It is imperative that a pilot recognizes carburetor ice when it forms during flight. In addition, a loss of power, altitude, and/or airspeed will occur. These symptoms may sometimes be accompanied by vibration or engine roughness. Once a power loss is noticed, immediate action should be taken to eliminate ice already formed in the carburetor, and to prevent further ice formation. This is accomplished by applying full carburetor heat, which will cause a further reduction in power, and possibly engine roughness as melted ice goes through the engine. These symptoms may last from 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on the severity of the icing. During this period, the pilot must resist the temptation to decrease the carburetor heat usage. Carburetor heat must remain in the full-hot position until normal power returns.

Since the use of carburetor heat tends to reduce the output of the engine and also to increase the operating temperature, carburetor heat should not be used when full power is required (as during takeoff) or during normal engine operation, except to check for the presence or to remove carburetor ice.

Carburetor air temperature gauge

Some airplanes are equipped with a carburetor air temperature gauge, which is useful in detecting potential icing conditions. Usually, the face of the gauge is calibrated in degrees Celsius (°C), with a yellow arc indicating the carburetor air temperatures where icing may occur. This yellow arc typically ranges between -15°C and +5°C (5°F and 41°F). If the air temperature and moisture content of the air are such that carburetor icing is improbable, the engine can be operated with the indicator in the yellow range with no adverse effects. However, if the atmospheric conditions are conducive to carburetor icing, the indicator must be kept outside the yellow arc by application of carburetor heat.

Certain carburetor air temperature gauges have a red radial, which indicates the maximum permissible carburetor inlet air temperature recommended by the engine manufacturer; also, a green arc may be included to indicate the normal operating range.

Outside air temperature gauge

Most airplanes also are equipped with an outside air temperature (OAT) gauge calibrated in both degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit. It provides the outside or ambient air temperature for calculating true airspeed, and also is useful in detecting potential icing conditions.

Fuel injection systems

In a fuel injection system, the fuel is injected either directly into the cylinders, or just ahead of the intake valve. A fuel injection system is considered to be less susceptible to icing than the carburetor system. Impact icing on the air intake, however, is a possibility in either system. Impact icing occurs when ice forms on the exterior of the airplane, and blocks openings such as the air intake for the injection system.

The air intake for the fuel injection system is similar to that used in the carburetor system, with an alternate air source located within the engine cowling. This source is used if the external air source is obstructed. The alternate air source is usually operated automatically, with a backup manual system that can be used if the automatic feature malfunctions.

A fuel injection system usually incorporates these basic components—an engine-driven fuel pump, a fuel/air control unit, fuel manifold (fuel distributor), discharge nozzles, an auxiliary fuel pump, and fuel pressure/flow indicators.

Figure 10: Fuel injection system.

The auxiliary fuel pump provides fuel under pressure to the fuel/air control unit for engine starting and/or emergency use. After starting, the engine-driven fuel pump provides fuel under pressure from the fuel tank to the fuel/air control unit. This control unit, which essentially replaces the carburetor, meters fuel based on the mixture control setting, and sends it to the fuel manifold valve at a rate controlled by the throttle. After reaching the fuel manifold valve, the fuel is distributed to the individual fuel discharge nozzles. The discharge nozzles, which are located in each cylinder head, inject the fuel/air mixture directly into each cylinder intake port.

Some of the advantages of fuel injection are:

  • Reduction in evaporative icing.

  • Better fuel flow.

  • Faster throttle response.

  • Precise control of mixture.

  • Better fuel distribution.

  • Easier cold weather starts.

Disadvantages usually include:

  • Difficulty in starting a hot engine.

  • Vapor locks during ground operations on hot days.

  • Problems associated with restarting an engine that quits because of fuel starvation.

Superchargers and turbosuperchargers

To increase an engine´s horsepower, manufacturers have developed supercharger and turbosupercharger systems that compress the intake air to increase its density. Airplanes with these systems have a manifold pressure gauge, which displays manifold absolute pressure (MAP) within the engine´s intake manifold.

On a standard day at sea level with the engine shut down, the manifold pressure gauge will indicate the ambient absolute air pressure of 29.92 in. Hg. Because atmospheric pressure decreases approximately 1 in. Hg per 1,000 feet of altitude increase, the manifold pressure gauge will indicate approximately 24.92 in. Hg at an airport that is 5,000 feet above sea level with standard day conditions.

As a normally aspirated aircraft climbs, it eventually reaches an altitude where the MAP is insufficient for a normal climb. That altitude limit is the aircraft´s service ceiling, and it is directly affected by the engine´s ability to produce power. If the induction air entering the engine is pressurized, or boosted, by either a supercharger or a turbosupercharger, the aircraft´s service ceiling can be increased. With these systems, you can fly at higher altitudes with the advantage of higher true airspeeds and the increased ability to circumnavigate adverse weather.

Superchargers

A supercharger is an engine-driven air pump or compressor that increases manifold pressure and forces the fuel/air mixture into the cylinders. The higher the manifold pressure, the more dense the fuel/air mixture, and the more power an engine can produce. With a normally aspirated engine, it is not possible to have manifold pressure higher than the existing atmospheric pressure. A supercharger is capable of boosting manifold pressure above 30 in. Hg.

The components in a supercharged induction system are similar to those in a normally aspirated system, with the addition of a supercharger between the fuel metering device and intake manifold. A supercharger is driven by the engine through a gear train at one speed, two speeds, or variable speeds. In addition, superchargers can have one or more stages. Each stage provides an increase in pressure. Therefore, superchargers may be classified as single stage, two stage, or multistage, depending on the number of times compression occurs.

An early version of a single-stage, single-speed supercharger may be referred to as a sea-level supercharger. An engine equipped with this type of supercharger is called a sea-level engine. With this type of supercharger, a single gear-driven impeller is used to increase the power produced by an engine at all altitudes. The drawback, however, is that with this type of supercharger, engine power output still decreases with an increase in altitude, in the same way that it does with a normally aspirated engine.

Single-stage, single-speed superchargers are found on many high-powered radial engines, and use an air intake that faces forward so the induction system can take full advantage of the ram air. Intake air passes through ducts to a carburetor, where fuel is metered in proportion to the airflow. The fuel/air charge is then ducted to the supercharger, or blower impeller, which accelerates the fuel/air mixture outward. Once accelerated, the fuel/air mixture passes through a diffuser, where air velocity is traded for pressure energy. After compression, the resulting high pressure fuel/air mixture is directed to the cylinders.

Some of the large radial engines developed during World War II have a single-stage, two-speed supercharger. With this type of supercharger, a single impeller may be operated at two speeds. The low impeller speed is often referred to as the low blower setting, while the high impeller speed is called the high blower setting. On engines equipped with a two-speed supercharger, a lever or switch in the cockpit activates an oil-operated clutch that switches from one speed to the other.

Under normal operations, takeoff is made with the supercharger in the low blower position. In this mode, the engine performs as a ground-boosted engine, and the power output decreases as the aircraft gains altitude. However, once the aircraft reaches a specified altitude, a power reduction is made, and the supercharger control is switched to the high blower position. The throttle is then reset to the desired manifold pressure. An engine equipped with this type of supercharger is called an altitude engine.

Figure 11: Power output of normally aspirated engine compared to a single-stage, two-speed supercharged engine.

Turbosuperchargers

The most efficient method of increasing horsepower in a reciprocating engine is by use of a turbosupercharger, or turbocharger, as it is usually called. A drawback of gear-driven superchargers is that they use a large amount of the engine´s power output for the amount of power increase they produce. This problem is avoided with a turbocharger, because turbochargers are powered by an engine´s exhaust gases. This means a turbocharger recovers energy from hot exhaust gases that would otherwise be lost.

Another advantage of turbochargers is that they can be controlled to maintain an engine´s rated sea-level horsepower from sea level up to the engine´s critical altitude. Critical altitude is the maximum altitude at which a turbocharged engine can produce its rated horsepower. Above the critical altitude, power output begins to decrease like it does for a normally aspirated engine.

Turbochargers increase the pressure of the engine´s induction air, which allows the engine to develop sea level or greater horsepower at higher altitudes. A turbocharger is comprised of two main elements—a turbine and a compressor. The compressor section houses an impeller that turns at a high rate of speed. As induction air is drawn across the impeller blades, the impeller accelerates the air, allowing a large volume of air to be drawn into the compressor housing. The impeller´s action subsequently produces high-pressure, high-density air, which is delivered to the engine. To turn the impeller, the engine´s exhaust gases are used to drive a turbine wheel that is mounted on the opposite end of the impeller´s drive shaft. By directing different amounts of exhaust gases to flow over the turbine, more energy can be extracted, causing the impeller to deliver more compressed air to the engine. The waste gate is used to vary the mass of exhaust gas flowing into the turbine. A waste gate is essentially an adjustable butterfly valve that is installed in the exhaust system. When closed, most of the exhaust gases from the engine are forced to flow through the turbine. When open, the exhaust gases are allowed to bypass the turbine by flowing directly out through the engine´s exhaust pipe.

Figure 12: Turbocharger components.

Since the temperature of a gas rises when it is compressed, turbocharging causes the temperature of the induction air to increase. To reduce this temperature and lower the risk of detonation, many turbocharged engines use an intercooler. An intercooler is a small heat exchanger that uses outside air to cool the hot compressed air before it enters the fuel metering device.

System operation

On most modern turbocharged engines, the position of the waste gate is governed by a pressure-sensing control mechanism coupled to an actuator. Engine oil directed into or away from this actuator moves the waste gate position. On these systems, the actuator is automatically positioned to produce the desired MAP simply by changing the position of the throttle control.

Other turbocharging system designs use a separate manual control to position the waste gate. With manual control, you must closely monitor the manifold pressure gauge to determine when the desired MAP has been achieved. Manual systems are often found on aircraft that have been modified with aftermarket turbocharging systems. These systems require special operating considerations. For example, if the waste gate is left closed after descending from a high altitude, it is possible to produce a manifold pressure that exceeds the engine´s limitations. This condition is referred to as an overboost, and it may produce severe detonation because of the leaning effect resulting from increased air density during descent.

Although an automatic waste gate system is less likely to experience an overboost condition, it can still occur.

If you try to apply takeoff power while the engine oil temperature is below its normal operating range, the cold oil may not flow out of the waste gate actuator quickly enough to prevent an overboost. To help prevent overboosting, you should advance the throttle cautiously to prevent exceeding the maximum manifold pressure limits.

There are system limitations that you should be aware of when flying an aircraft with a turbocharger. For instance, a turbocharger turbine and impeller can operate at rotational speeds in excess of 80,000 r.p.m. while at extremely high temperatures. To achieve high rotational speed, the bearings within the system must be constantly supplied with engine oil to reduce the frictional forces and high temperature. To obtain adequate lubrication, the oil temperature should be in the normal operating range before high throttle settings are applied. In addition, you should allow the turbocharger to cool and the turbine to slow down before shutting the engine down. Otherwise, the oil remaining in the bearing housing will boil, causing hard carbon deposits to form on the bearings and shaft.

These deposits rapidly deteriorate the turbocharger´s efficiency and service life. For further limitations, refer to the AFM/POH.

High altitude performance

As an aircraft equipped with a turbocharging system climbs, the waste gate is gradually closed to maintain the maximum allowable manifold pressure. At some point, however, the waste gate will be fully closed, and with further increases in altitude, the manifold pressure will begin to decrease. This is the critical altitude, which is established by the airplane or engine manufacturer. When evaluating the performance of the turbocharging system, if the manifold pressure begins decreasing before the specified critical altitude, the engine and turbocharging system should be inspected by a qualified aviation maintenance technician to verify the system´s proper operation.

Excursion: Turbine engines

Ignition system

The ignition system provides the spark that ignites the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders and is made up of magnetos, spark plugs, high-tension leads, and the ignition switch.

Figure 13: Ignition system components.

A magneto uses a permanent magnet to generate an electrical current completely independent of the aircraft´s electrical system. The magneto generates sufficiently high voltage to jump a spark across the spark plug gap in each cylinder. The system begins to fire when you engage the starter and the crankshaft begins to turn. It continues to operate whenever the crankshaft is rotating.

Most standard certificated airplanes incorporate a dual ignition system with two individual magnetos, separate sets of wires, and spark plugs to increase reliability of the ignition system. Each magneto operates independently to fire one of the two spark plugs in each cylinder. The firing of two spark plugs improves combustion of the fuel/air mixture and results in a slightly higher power output. If one of the magnetos fails, the other is unaffected. The engine will continue to operate normally, although you can expect a slight decrease in engine power. The same is true if one of the two spark plugs in a cylinder fails.

The operation of the magneto is controlled in the cockpit by the ignition switch. The switch has five positions:

  1. OFF

  2. R—Right

  3. L—Left

  4. BOTH

  5. START

With RIGHT or LEFT selected, only the associated magneto is activated. The system operates on both magnetos with BOTH selected.

You can identify a malfunctioning ignition system during the pretakeoff check by observing the decrease in r.p.m. that occurs when you first move the ignition switch from BOTH to RIGHT, and then from BOTH to LEFT. A small decrease in engine r.p.m. is normal during this check. The permissible decrease is listed in the AFM or POH. If the engine stops running when you switch to one magneto or if the r.p.m. drop exceeds the allowable limit, do not fly the airplane until the problem is corrected. The cause could be fouled plugs, broken or shorted wires between the magneto and the plugs, or improperly timed firing of the plugs. It should be noted that “no drop” in r.p.m. is not normal, and in that instance, the airplane should not be flown.

Following engine shutdown, turn the ignition switch to the OFF position. Even with the battery and master switches OFF, the engine can fire and turn over if you leave the ignition switch ON and the propeller is moved because the magneto requires no outside source of electrical power. The potential for serious injury in this situation is obvious.

Loose or broken wires in the ignition system also can cause problems. For example, if the ignition switch is OFF, the magneto may continue to fire if the ignition switch ground wire is disconnected. If this occurs, the only way to stop the engine is to move the mixture lever to the idle cutoff position, then have the system checked by a qualified aviation maintenance technician.

Combustion

During normal combustion, the fuel/air mixture burns in a very controlled and predictable manner. Although the process occurs in a fraction of a second, the mixture actually begins to burn at the point where it is ignited by the spark plugs, then burns away from the plugs until it is all consumed. This type of combustion causes a smooth buildup of temperature and pressure and ensures that the expanding gases deliver the maximum force to the piston at exactly the right time in the power stroke.

Figure 14: Normal combustion and explosive combustion.

Detonation is an uncontrolled, explosive ignition of the fuel/air mixture within the cylinder´s combustion chamber. It causes excessive temperatures and pressures which, if not corrected, can quickly lead to failure of the piston, cylinder, or valves. In less severe cases, detonation causes engine overheating, roughness, or loss of power.

Detonation is characterized by high cylinder head temperatures, and is most likely to occur when operating at high power settings. Some common operational causes of detonation include:

  • Using a lower fuel grade than that specified by the aircraft manufacturer.

  • Operating with extremely high manifold pressures in conjunction with low r.p.m.

  • Operating the engine at high power settings with an excessively lean mixture.

  • Detonation also can be caused by extended ground operations, or steep climbs where cylinder cooling is reduced.

Detonation may be avoided by following these basic guidelines during the various phases of ground and flight operations:

  • Make sure the proper grade of fuel is being used.

  • While on the ground, keep the cowl flaps (if available) in the full-open position to provide the maximum airflow through the cowling.

  • During takeoff and initial climb, the onset of detonation can be reduced by using an enriched fuel mixture, as well as using a shallower climb angle to increase cylinder cooling.

  • Avoid extended, high power, steep climbs.
  • Develop a habit of monitoring the engine instruments to verify proper operation according to procedures established by the manufacturer.

Preignition occurs when the fuel/air mixture ignites prior to the engine´s normal ignition event. Premature burning is usually caused by a residual hot spot in the combustion chamber, often created by a small carbon deposit on a spark plug, a cracked spark plug insulator, or other damage in the cylinder that causes a part to heat sufficiently to ignite the fuel/air charge.

Preignition causes the engine to lose power, and produces high operating temperature. As with detonation, preignition may also cause severe engine damage, because the expanding gases exert excessive pressure on the piston while still on its compression stroke.

Detonation and preignition often occur simultaneously and one may cause the other. Since either condition causes high engine temperature accompanied by a decrease in engine performance, it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. Using the recommended grade of fuel and operating the engine within its proper temperature, pressure, and r.p.m. ranges reduce the chance of detonation or preignition.

Fuel systems

The fuel system is designed to provide an uninterrupted flow of clean fuel from the fuel tanks to the engine. The fuel must be available to the engine under all conditions of engine power, altitude, attitude, and during all approved flight maneuvers. Two common classifications apply to fuel systems in small airplanes - gravity-feed and fuel-pump systems.

The gravity-feed system utilizes the force of gravity to transfer the fuel from the tanks to the engine - for example, on high-wing airplanes where the fuel tanks are installed in the wings. This places the fuel tanks above the carburetor, and the fuel is gravity fed through the system and into the carburetor. If the design of the airplane is such that gravity cannot be used to transfer fuel, fuel pumps are installed - for example, on low-wing airplanes where the fuel tanks in the wings are located below the carburetor.

Figure 15: Gravity-feed and fuel-pump systems.

Fuel pumps

Airplanes with fuel pump systems have two fuel pumps. The main pump system is engine driven, and an electrically driven auxiliary pump is provided for use in engine starting and in the event the engine pump fails. The auxiliary pump, also known as a boost pump, provides added reliability to the fuel system. The electrically driven auxiliary pump is controlled by a switch in the cockpit.

Fuel primer

Both gravity fed and pump systems may incorporate a fuel primer into the system. The primer is used to draw fuel from the tanks to vaporize it directly into the cylinders prior to starting the engine. This is particularly helpful during cold weather, when engines are hard to start because there is not enough heat available to vaporize the fuel in the carburetor. It is important to lock the primer in place when it is not in use. If the knob is free to move, it may vibrate out during flight and can cause an excessively rich mixture. To avoid overpriming, read the priming instructions for your airplane.

Fuel tanks

The fuel tanks, normally located inside the wings of an airplane, have a filler opening on top of the wing through which they can be filled. A filler cap covers this opening. The tanks are vented to the outside to maintain atmospheric pressure inside the tank. They may be vented through the filler cap or through a tube extending through the surface of the wing. Fuel tanks also include an overflow drain that may stand alone or be collocated with the fuel tank vent. This allows fuel to expand with increases in temperature without damage to the tank itself. If the tanks have been filled on a hot day, it is not unusual to see fuel coming from the overflow drain.

Fuel gauges

The fuel quantity gauges indicate the amount of fuel measured by a sensing unit in each fuel tank and is displayed in gallons or pounds. Aircraft certification rules only require accuracy in fuel gauges when they read “empty.” Any reading other than “empty” should be verified. Do not depend solely on the accuracy of the fuel quantity gauges. Always visually check the fuel level in each tank during the preflight inspection, and then compare it with the corresponding fuel quantity indication.

If a fuel pump is installed in the fuel system, a fuel pressure gauge is also included. This gauge indicates the pressure in the fuel lines. The normal operating pressure can be found in the AFM/POH, or on the gauge by color coding.

Fuel selectors

The fuel selector valve allows selection of fuel from various tanks. A common type of selector valve contains four positions: LEFT, RIGHT, BOTH, and OFF. Selecting the LEFT or RIGHT position allows fuel to feed only from that tank, while selecting the BOTH position feeds fuel from both tanks. The LEFT or RIGHT position may be used to balance the amount of fuel remaining in each wing tank.

Figure 16: Fuel selector valve.

Fuel placards will show any limitations on fuel tank usage, such as “level flight only” and/or “both” for landings and takeoffs.

Regardless of the type of fuel selector in use, fuel consumption should be monitored closely to ensure that a tank does not run completely out of fuel. Running a fuel tank dry will not only cause the engine to stop, but running for prolonged periods on one tank causes an unbalanced fuel load between tanks. Running a tank completely dry may allow air to enter the fuel system, which may cause vapor lock. When this situation develops, it may be difficult to restart the engine. On fuel-injected engines, the fuel may become so hot it vaporizes in the fuel line, not allowing fuel to reach the cylinders.

Fuel strainers, sumps, and drains

After the fuel selector valve, the fuel passes through a strainer before it enters the carburetor. This strainer removes moisture and other sediments that might be in the system. Since these contaminants are heavier than aviation fuel, they settle in a sump at the bottom of the strainer assembly. A sump is defined as a low point in a fuel system and/or fuel tank. The fuel system may contain sump, fuel strainer, and fuel tank drains, some of which may be collocated.

The fuel strainer should be drained before each flight.

Fuel samples should be drained and checked visually for water and contaminants. Water in the sump is hazardous because in cold weather the water can freeze and block fuel lines. In warm weather, it can flow into the carburetor and stop the engine. If water is present in the sump, it is likely there is more water in the fuel tanks, and you should continue to drain them until there is no evidence of water. In any event, never take off until you are certain that all water and contaminants have been removed from the engine fuel system.

Because of the variation in fuel systems, you should become thoroughly familiar with the systems that apply to your airplane. Consult the AFM or POH for specific operating procedures.

Fuel grades

Aviation gasoline, or AVGAS, is identified by an octane or performance number (grade), which designates the antiknock value or knock resistance of the fuel mixture in the engine cylinder. The higher the grade of gasoline, the more pressure the fuel can withstand without detonating. Lower grades of fuel are used in lower-compression engines because these fuels ignite at a lower temperature. Higher grades are used in higher-compression engines, because they must ignite at higher temperatures, but not prematurely. If the proper grade of fuel is not available, use the next higher grade as a substitute. Never use a lower grade. This can cause the cylinder head temperature and engine oil temperature to exceed their normal operating range, which may result in detonation.

Several grades of aviation fuel are available. Care must be exercised to ensure that the correct aviation grade is being used for the specific type of engine. The proper fuel grade is stated in the AFM or POH, on placards in the cockpit, and next to the filler caps. Due to its lead content, auto gas should NEVER be used in aircraft engines unless the aircraft has been modified with a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The current method to identify aviation gasoline for aircraft with reciprocating engines is by the octane and performance number, along with the abbreviation AVGAS. These aircraft use AVGAS 80, 100, and 100LL. Although AVGAS 100LL performs the same as grade 100, the “LL” indicates it has a low lead content.

Fuel for aircraft with turbine engines is classified as JET A, JET A-1, and JET B. Jet fuel is basically kerosene and has a distinctive kerosene smell.

Since use of the correct fuel is critical, dyes are added to help identify the type and grade of fuel.

Figure 17: Aviation fuel color-coding system.

In addition to the color of the fuel itself, the color-coding system extends to decals and various airport fuel handling equipment. For example, all aviation gasolines are identified by name, using white letters on a red background. In contrast, turbine fuels are identified by white letters on a black background.

Fuel contamination

Of the accidents attributed to powerplant failure from fuel contamination, most have been traced to:

  • Inadequate preflight inspection by the pilot.

  • Servicing aircraft with improperly filtered fuel from small tanks or drums.

  • Storing aircraft with partially filled fuel tanks.

  • Lack of proper maintenance.

Fuel should be drained from the fuel strainer quick drain and from each fuel tank sump into a transparent container, and then checked for dirt and water. When the fuel strainer is being drained, water in the tank may not appear until all the fuel has been drained from the lines leading to the tank. This indicates that water remains in the tank, and is not forcing the fuel out of the fuel lines leading to the fuel strainer. Therefore, drain enough fuel from the fuel strainer to be certain that fuel is being drained from the tank. The amount will depend on the length of fuel line from the tank to the drain. If water or other contaminants are found in the first sample, drain further samples until no trace appears.

Water may also remain in the fuel tanks after the drainage from the fuel strainer had ceased to show any trace of water. This residual water can be removed only by draining the fuel tank sump drains.

Water is the principal fuel contaminant. Suspended water droplets in the fuel can be identified by a cloudy appearance of the fuel or by the clear separation of water from the colored fuel, which occurs after the water has settled to the bottom of the tank. As a safety measure, the fuel sumps should be drained before every flight during the preflight inspection.

Fuel tanks should be filled after each flight, or at least after the last flight of the day to prevent moisture condensation within the tank. Another way to prevent fuel contamination is to avoid refueling from cans and drums. Refueling from cans or drums may result in fuel contamination.

The use of a funnel and chamois skin when refueling from cans or drums is hazardous under any conditions, and should be discouraged. In remote areas or in emergency situations, there may be no alternative to refueling from sources with inadequate anticontamination systems, and a chamois and funnel may be the only possible means of filtering fuel. However, the use of a chamois will not always ensure decontaminated fuel.

Worn-out chamois will not filter water; neither will a new, clean chamois that is already water-wet or damp.

Most imitation chamois skins will not filter water.

Refueling procedures

Static electricity is formed by the friction of air passing over the surfaces of an airplane in flight and by the flow of fuel through the hose and nozzle during refueling.

Nylon, dacron, or wool clothing is especially prone to accumulate and discharge static electricity from the person to the funnel or nozzle. To guard against the possibility of static electricity igniting fuel fumes, a ground wire should be attached to the aircraft before the fuel cap is removed from the tank. The refueling nozzle then should be grounded to the aircraft before refueling is begun, and should remain grounded throughout the refueling process. When a fuel truck is used, it should be grounded prior to the fuel nozzle contacting the aircraft.

If fueling from drums or cans is necessary, proper bonding and grounding connections are important.

Drums should be placed near grounding posts, and the following sequence of connections observed:

  1. Drum to ground.

  2. Ground to aircraft.

  3. Drum to aircraft.

  4. Nozzle to aircraft before the fuel cap is removed.

When disconnecting, reverse the order.

The passage of fuel through a chamois increases the charge of static electricity and the danger of sparks. The aircraft must be properly grounded and the nozzle, chamois filter, and funnel bonded to the aircraft. If a can is used, it should be connected to either the grounding post or the funnel. Under no circumstances should a plastic bucket or similar nonconductive container be used in this operation.

Starting system

Most small aircraft use a direct-cranking electric starter system. This system consists of a source of electricity, wiring, switches, and solenoids to operate the starter and a starter motor. Most aircraft have starters that automatically engage and disengage when operated, but some older aircraft have starters that are mechanically engaged by a lever actuated by the pilot.

The starter engages the aircraft flywheel, rotating the engine at a speed that allows the engine to start and maintain operation.

Electrical power for starting is usually supplied by an on-board battery, but can also be supplied by external power through an external power receptacle. When the battery switch is turned on, electricity is supplied to the main power bus through the battery solenoid. Both the starter and the starter switch draw current from the main bus, but the starter will not operate until the starting solenoid is energized by the starter switch being turned to the “start” position. When the starter switch is released from the “start” position, the solenoid removes power from the starter motor. The starter motor is protected from being driven by the engine through a clutch in the starter drive that allows the engine to run faster than the starter motor.

Figure 18: Typical starting circuit.

When starting an engine, the rules of safety and courtesy should be strictly observed. One of the most important is to make sure there is no one near the propeller. In addition, the wheels should be chocked and the brakes set, to avoid hazards caused by unintentional movement. To avoid damage to the propeller and property, the airplane should be in an area where the propeller will not stir up gravel or dust.

Oil systems

The engine oil system performs several important functions, including:

  • Lubrication of the engine´s moving parts.

  • Cooling of the engine by reducing friction.

  • Removing heat from the cylinders.

  • Providing a seal between the cylinder walls and pistons.

  • Carrying away contaminants.

Reciprocating engines use either a wet-sump or dry-sump oil system. In a dry-sump system, the oil is contained in a separate tank, and circulated through the engine by pumps. In a wet-sump system, the oil is located in a sump, which is an integral part of the engine.

Figure 19: Wet-sump oil system.

The main component of a wet-sump system is the oil pump, which draws oil from the sump and routes it to the engine. After the oil passes through the engine, it returns to the sump. In some engines, additional lubrication is supplied by the rotating crankshaft, which splashes oil onto portions of the engine.

An oil pump also supplies oil pressure in a dry-sump system, but the source of the oil is a separate oil tank, located external to the engine. After oil is routed through the engine, it is pumped from the various locations in the engine back to the oil tank by scavenge pumps. Dry sump systems allow for a greater volume of oil to be supplied to the engine, which makes them more suitable for very large reciprocating engines.

The oil pressure gauge provides a direct indication of the oil system operation. It measures the pressure in pounds per square inch (p.s.i.) of the oil supplied to the engine. Green indicates the normal operating range, while red indicates the minimum and maximum pressures. There should be an indication of oil pressure during engine start. Refer to the AFM/POH for manufacturer limitations.

The oil temperature gauge measures the temperature of oil. A green area shows the normal operating range and the red line indicates the maximum allowable temperature. Unlike oil pressure, changes in oil temperature occur more slowly. This is particularly noticeable after starting a cold engine, when it may take several minutes or longer for the gauge to show any increase in oil temperature.

Check oil temperature periodically during flight especially when operating in high or low ambient air temperature. High temperature indications may indicate a plugged oil line, a low oil quantity, a blocked oil cooler, or a defective temperature gauge. Low temperature indications may indicate improper oil viscosity during cold weather operations.

The oil filler cap and dipstick (for measuring the oil quantity) are usually accessible through a panel in the engine cowling. If the quantity does not meet the manufacturer´s recommended operating levels, oil should be added. The AFM, POH, or placards near the access panel provide information about the correct oil type and weight, as well as the minimum and maximum oil quantity.

Figure 20: Always check the engine oil level during the preflight inspection.

Engine cooling systems

The burning fuel within the cylinders produces intense heat, most of which is expelled through the exhaust system. Much of the remaining heat, however, must be removed, or at least dissipated, to prevent the engine from overheating. Otherwise, the extremely high engine temperatures can lead to loss of power, excessive oil consumption, detonation, and serious engine damage.

While the oil system is vital to internal cooling of the engine, an additional method of cooling is necessary for the engine´s external surface. Most small airplanes are air cooled, although some are liquid cooled.

Air cooling is accomplished by air flowing into the engine compartment through openings in front of the engine cowling. Baffles route this air over fins attached to the engine cylinders, and other parts of the engine, where the air absorbs the engine heat. Expulsion of the hot air takes place through one or more openings in the lower, aft portion of the engine cowling.

Figure 21: Outside air aids in cooling the engine.

The outside air enters the engine compartment through an inlet behind the propeller hub. Baffles direct it to the hottest parts of the engine, primarily the cylinders, which have fins that increase the area exposed to the airflow.

The air cooling system is less effective during ground operations, takeoffs, go-arounds, and other periods of high-power, low-airspeed operation. Conversely, high-speed descents provide excess air and can shock-cool the engine, subjecting it to abrupt temperature fluctuations.

Operating the engine at higher than its designed temperature can cause loss of power, excessive oil consumption, and detonation. It will also lead to serious permanent damage, such as scoring the cylinder walls, damaging the pistons and rings, and burning and warping the valves. Monitoring the cockpit engine temperature instruments will aid in avoiding high operating temperature.

Under normal operating conditions in airplanes not equipped with cowl flaps, the engine temperature can be controlled by changing the airspeed or the power output of the engine. High engine temperatures can be decreased by increasing the airspeed and/or reducing the power.

The oil temperature gauge gives an indirect and delayed indication of rising engine temperature, but can be used for determining engine temperature if this is the only means available.

Many airplanes are equipped with a cylinder-head temperature gauge. This instrument indicates a direct and immediate cylinder temperature change. This instrument is calibrated in degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, and is usually color-coded with a green arc to indicate the normal operating range. A red line on the instrument indicates maximum allowable cylinder head temperature.

To avoid excessive cylinder head temperatures, increase airspeed, enrich the mixture, and/or reduce power. Any of these procedures help in reducing the engine temperature. On airplanes equipped with cowl flaps, use the cowl flap positions to control the temperature. Cowl flaps are hinged covers that fit over the opening through which the hot air is expelled. If the engine temperature is low, the cowl flaps can be closed, thereby restricting the flow of expelled hot air and increasing engine temperature. If the engine temperature is high, the cowl flaps can be opened to permit a greater flow of air through the system, thereby decreasing the engine temperature.

Exhaust systems

Engine exhaust systems vent the burned combustion gases overboard, provide heat for the cabin, and defrost the windscreen. An exhaust system has exhaust piping attached to the cylinders, as well as a muffler and a muffler shroud. The exhaust gases are pushed out of the cylinder through the exhaust valve and then through the exhaust pipe system to the atmosphere.

For cabin heat, outside air is drawn into the air inlet and is ducted through a shroud around the muffler. The muffler is heated by the exiting exhaust gases and, in turn, heats the air around the muffler. This heated air is then ducted to the cabin for heat and defrost applications. The heat and defrost are controlled in the cockpit, and can be adjusted to the desired level.

Exhaust gases contain large amounts of carbon monoxide, which is odorless and colorless. Carbon monoxide is deadly, and its presence is virtually impossible to detect. The exhaust system must be in good condition and free of cracks.

Some exhaust systems have an exhaust gas temperature probe. This probe transmits the exhaust gas temperature (EGT) to an instrument in the cockpit.

The EGT gauge measures the temperature of the gases at the exhaust manifold. This temperature varies with the ratio of fuel to air entering the cylinders and can be used as a basis for regulating the fuel/air mixture. The EGT gauge is highly accurate in indicating the correct mixture setting. When using the EGT to aid in leaning the fuel/air mixture, fuel consumption can be reduced.

For specific procedures, refer to the manufacturer´s recommendations for leaning the mixture.

This concludes the aircraft powerplant page. You can now go on to the Auxiliary Aircraft Systems page or test your knowledge with the FAA Principles of Flight question bank.

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