Returning to the skies, proudly-sponsored by Covington Aircraft, AeroShell Aerobatics will dazzle spectators at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015! In recent years, many have voiced concerns over the safety of air shows, but the talented pilots of AeroShell Aerobatics are putting many of these fears to rest. With nearly 100,000 combined hours of flight time and extensive backgrounds in aviation, the six-member team of AeroShell Aerobatics promises an amazing show this year.
Covington Aircraft is pleased to sponsor KidVenture at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 and the “Children’s Aviation Art Contest!” Entries for this year’s contest will be accepted from July 1 through August 14, 2015. All entrants must create an aviation-themed drawing on a standard 8.5” by 11” sheet of blank paper. All children must be 12-years-old, or younger; however, children under 5-years-old may print out and color the Covington King Air Coloring Page.
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The yearly Oshkosh Air Show is the highlight of the summer for any serious aircraft enthusiast. The week-long show held in Wisconsin has a long history of showcasing home built as well as certified aircraft. Whether you fly into Oshkosh as part of the show or you are simply a visitor, the show is something you will never forget.
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It’s surprising to me just how many customers don’t have any idea of the value of their core or mid-time engine that they are looking to trade in. You’d be amazed at how many calls I take, as a sales professional, from customers who really don’t know what their core engine is worth. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. After all, I have three children in college. However, it seems that a little education could help the trade-in process go more smoothly for both of us. That’s the purpose of this blog post.
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Pacific Aerospace describes its flagship product, the P-750 XSTOL, as the world’s first Extremely Short Take-Off and Landing (XSTOL) aircraft and as the best in the world for the missions it was designed to accomplish. Bold claims from the New Zealand based company, to be sure, but not without foundation, as it can boast some pretty impressive performance. Much of that performance can be credited to the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 engine that powers the plane, but more on that in a moment.
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The question of how a radial engine can be compared to a turbine engine is a question that has been asked many times over. Individuals in the Agricultural world are still asking themselves this question every year on a purely economic basis. However, the question can also be asked from a historic basis as well. In looking at the Pratt & Whitney family of Radial Engines and the PT6A family of engines, it is clear that the two are closely related.
A Bit of Background on Pratt & Whitney’s Engine Marvels: The PT6A, R-1340, & The R-985
A legendary engine deserves a story as extraordinary as it is, and such is the case with the early history of Pratt & Whitney’s PT6. This story begins decades before the turbulent history of the PT6 when radial engines were still the dominant engine for airplane use. The gas turbine engine of the PT6 revolutionized the industry, but not before the static, air-cooled radial engines had a few decades in the limelight.
Of all the radial engines, Pratt & Whitney’s R-985 was always a favorite since its inception in 1932. Simply sit back and watch a smile cross an aviation enthusiast’s face upon observing the sputter of the round radial engine as it starts up, and it is clear that these engines were something special.
However, the transition into the era of the PT6 was not an easy one. In fact, it was something of a miracle.
The Rise of the PT6
While the advancements of gas turbine engines were known to the aviation industry in the early 1950s, the expenses of the manufacturing, maintenance and repairing processes were problematic. However, that did not deter Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) while they forged ahead with their plans of designing a powerful gas turbine engine. They hired a team of specialists and proceeded with attempts to develop a 450 hp engine that had growth potential up to 500 hp. Their goal was to keep operating costs at a similar level as the previous radial engines, and their first foray into gas turbine engines was designed to fit small and lightweight airplane models.
However, they still needed to decide on a gas turbine technology, but eventually settled on a free turbine configuration that was more expensive, but had crucial advantages such as less starting power requirements, simplified controls for fuel and the ability for fixed-wing aircrafts to purchase off the shelf propellers rather than custom ones. Once the team decided to move in this direction, they still were not ready to get to work since they had to travel to Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters to convince the chief engineer that their plan was the right one. Upon securing his approval, the jubilant team started working on the ambitious project.
Unfortunately, their work was a blight on company balance sheets. The new design attempts led to a sort of development nightmare, but the chief engineer that approved the project still had faith in the vision. As a result, he sent a team of six experts spearheaded by a highly skilled engineer named Bruce Torell. The goal was to get the project back on track, and history reveals that this historic engine would have likely failed without his aid.
Progress was quickly made thanks to Torell’s engine expertise, but then the team faced obstacles from PWC itself. Despite aggressive attempts to terminate the project, work continued and was finally ready for flight testing in 1961. A search began for a suitable twin engine airplane to test with the PT6, and the team chose Beechcraft C-45 “Expeditor”. This Beechcraft Model 18 was equipped with two R-985s, meaning that the traditional radial engines played a huge role in the development and rise of the PT6. While further tweaks to the engine were made, the future of airplane engines was clear. Gas turbine technology was here to stay, it was just a matter of whether the PT6 was the engine that would dominate the airplane industry. It did, thanks to Beechcraft, the same company that used P&W’s radial R-985 engines of decades past. With that agreement, the PT6 finally saw mainstream success that produced its dominant run as one of the great engines of history and in fact was the first engine ever put on a King Air.
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Turbine Vs. Radial, Why the Comparison?
I’ve been privileged to know both the PT6A and the 9-cylinder Pratt engines. Both engines operate on a different technique for deriving horsepower from the combustion process, but at heart they are still both internal combustion engines that share the same engineering DNA.
One of the most complex parts of the R-1340/R-985 engine, which has remained relatively unchanged since December 24, 1925 when the very first R-1340 roared to life, is the supercharger or blower section. The blower section, which also serves as the anchor-point when installing the engine, is attached to the rear power case. The circular case receives the fuel/air mixture from the impeller assembly through diffuser channels then delivers the fuel/air mixture to the cylinders via the intake pipes. The blower is driven directly by the crankshaft through a spring loaded gear coupling located at the aft section of the crankshaft assembly. This ingenious design helps protect the blower gearing from sudden acceleration or deceleration. The spring loaded gear drives the floating gear. The impeller assembly, being indirectly driven by the crankshaft, turns ten or even twelve times crankshaft speed.
In like manner the PT6A Impeller is located in the gas generator housing which is the anchor point when installing the engine. The centrifugal impeller delivers air through diffuser tubes to the combustion chamber. The hot gases flow through a series of turbines which produce horsepower to the propeller shaft.
The impeller is only one area of similar design and function. The reduction gearing in both the PT6A & R-1340G engines are remarkably similar as well as many other features. It is not difficult to see a common engineering theory. Many pilots and mechanics love the history and engineering that goes along with engines and aircraft. Certainly looking and comparing two of the legacy engines from Pratt & Whitney is enjoyable information for many in the aviation community. I have always found it entertaining that as the PT6A engine took its first breath of life, there were R-985 engines on each side! The photo (left) is of the first flight of the PT6A, being test flown on a Beech 18 (May 1961).
In closing, I am a mechanic that holds to the history of aviation. Learning about the past can certainly give insight to the present while possibly holding a glimpse into the future. Drawing a comparison between these two engines certainly does that.
– Rob Seeman, Covington Aircraft Operations Manager
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The Epic E1000 is drawing attention for its sleek carbon-fiber design and intelligent engineering, producing the fastest turboprop available. Emerging from roughly a decade of perfecting its kit-plane predecessor (The Epic LT Dynasty), the E1000 promises to build on the devoted following growing around Epic Aircraft with exhilarating speed, fuel efficiency, and plenty of space.
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An Airworthiness Directive (A.D.) is a directive issued when the FAA realizes that a perilous condition exists in a product (aircraft engine, airframe, appliance or propeller). They notify aircraft operators and owners of potentially unsafe conditions that need special inspections, alterations, or repairs.
A Service Bulletin (S.B.) is a notice to an aircraft operator from a manufacturer informing him/her of a product improvement. An alert service bulletin is issued when an unsafe condition shows up that the manufacturer believes to be a safety related as opposed to a mere improvement of a product.
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If you are interested in becoming a missionary pilot or mechanic, you will need to meet a set of criteria. Aviation training and education is necessary and quite expensive. Those with significant debt will be challenged to qualify for the field. Let’s take a look at what is required to become a missionary pilot or mechanic.
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If you are interested in aviation, even on the most casual level, then you’ve no doubt heard time and again that composite materials are both lighter and more flexible than aluminum, with a much higher elasticity.
Yet, people still build airframes using aluminum, don’t they? So it can’t be all that bad, right? The truth is that each serve their own purpose, one isn’t “better” than the other, just better depending on your goals. For instance, aluminum still tends to be cheaper than composite alloy. That is shifting, with the cost of composite materials coming down all the time, but as it stands, here and now, aluminum is still the choice for many budget-minded aviators around the world.