Aircraft Propellers and How They Work


One of the most recognizable parts of an airplane is the aircraft propeller, and many people are unaware that there are many different types of aircraft propellers.  Each type requires different repairs and maintenance, and companies that specialize in aircraft engine overhaul must be aware of the requirements for each type of propeller.

Fixed Pitch

Made in one piece, a fixed pitch aircraft propeller has only one pitch setting possible.  Normally, a fixed pitch propeller consists of two blades made of wood or metal.

  • Wooden propellers are created with separate layers of wood, usually birch, sugar maple, black cherry or walnut.  Normally laminated to prevent warping, often between five and nine separate laminations at least three-quarters of an inch thick, are used to build the aircraft propeller.  Wooden propellers were popular on personal and business aircraft before World War II.
  • Metal Propellers were popular during the 1940s and were common on militarAircraft-Propellers-and-How-They-Work-150x150y aircraft.  , Metal propellers are created from heat-treated aluminum alloys.  They are used extensively in the construction of propellers for modern aircraft.
  • Composite Propellers of a variety of materials (wood,fiberglass,etc) are increasing in number.

Adjustable Pitch

An aircraft propeller that allows for propeller pitch adjustment is an adjustable pitch propeller.  There are several types of adjustable pitch propellers, including:

  • Ground adjustable pitch – A ground adjustable pitch propeller must be adjusted while the plane is on the ground and the engine is not running.   The aircraft propeller usually has a split hub, and the blade angle is determined by the aircraft specifications.
  • Two-position – This type of aircraft propeller allows the pitch to be changed from one position to another while the airplane is in flight.
  • Controllable pitch – A pitch-changing mechanism allows the pilot to change the pitch of the propeller while in flight or while the engine is running.  The pitch is changed hydraulically.
  • Constant speed – A constant speed propeller uses either a hydraulic or electric pitch changing mechanism controlled by a governor.  During flight, the pitch automatically changes based on data entered by the pilot prior to the flight.
  • Full Feathering – A full feathering aircraft propeller reduces drag by turning the edge of the propeller to a better wind position.  Feathering is necessary during engine failure or during engine shut off during flight.
  • Reversing – A reversing aircraft propeller is a constant speed propeller that can allow a negative blade angle to produce a reducing thrust in an aircraft.  Large aircraft use reverse propeller thrust during landing.
  • Beta Control – A beta control propeller allows the pilot to reposition the angle of the propeller blade manually beyond normal low pitch stop.  Many pilots use this mechanism during taxiing for thrust reversing (turboprop engines only)

Covington Aircraft offers quality repairs and maintenance for your aircraft engine.  Covington Aircraft is only a phone call away.  Give us a call today at 918-756-8320  and join us online on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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