Types of Aircraft Piston Engines

There are many types of aircraft piston engines, all of which have specific aircraft engine overhaul and repair needs.  Understanding the different types of aircraft piston engines can help you know what maintenance or repairs are necessary on your aircraft.


Straight or In-Line Piston Engines

As the name indicates, straight or in-line aircraft piston engines have cylinders in a line, much like automobile engines, which is why they were popular in early aircraft.  The main advantage to an in-line piston engine in an aircraft is that the engine is narrow, allowing the plane to have a more narrow front fuselage that reduces drag.  However, because the airflow around the engine is poor, this type of piston engine must be water-cooled, which increases the weight-to-power ratio of the aircraft.  These engines also require additional maintenance and have a greater risk of failure than other types of aircraft piston engines.  Because these engines are found in older aircraft, it is important to find an aircraft maintenance company, such as Covington Aircraft, that is familiar with this type of engine.

Rotary Piston Engines

Developed during World War I for military aircraft, the rotary piston engine came about when military personnel determined that inline aircraft engines were too heavy for military operations.  In this type of aircraft piston engine, the entire engine rotated with the prop, which created additional airflow for cooling.  These types of engines were bulky and awkward, and found not to be practical for commercial use.  The maintenance requirements for this type of engine can be significant, so it is important to contact a knowledgeable company who has experience working on rotary aircraft piston engines.

V-Type Piston Engine

Basically two in-line engines welded together, the V-type piston engine has also been used in the automotive industry, as well as in trains and ships due to the tremendous torque they provide.  Most of these aircraft piston engines are water-cooled, but sear power balanced the extra weight of the cooling system.  However, during World War II, the planes were more vulnerable due to bullet strikes that damaged the cooling systems.

Radial Piston Engine

Far more complex than the V-type piston engine, the radial piston engine produced smooth and efficient running.  The engine consists of one or more rows of odd-numbered cylinders arranged in a circle around a central crankshaft.  With a relatively small crankcase and one crank per row, this type of aircraft piston engine had a much better power to weight ratio than v-type engines.  The engines cool evenly and run smoothly due to the cylinder arrangement’s exposure to air.

Horizontally Opposed Piston Engine

Also known as flat or boxer engines, these aircraft piston engines have two banks of cylinders on opposite sides of a central crankcase.  These engines can be air or liquid cooled, but are most often air cooled.  Reliability, simplicity and easy maintenance have made this type of piston engine the most popular aircraft engine for more than half a decade.  In addition to their efficiency, the engine can run on many different types of fuels as well.

Older aircraft piston engines such as in-line, rotary or v-type need special care.  Covington Aircraft is only a phone call away fro your aircraft engine repair needs. Give us a call today at 918-756-8320 and join us online on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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12 thoughts on “Types of Aircraft Piston Engines

  1. My name is sudarshan patil B.E(Aeronautical Engineering) in 2012 passed out and i have one year experience in NDT co-ordinator and two to three months worked as QA/QC trainee engineer so if aanything related to my profile call me on +918050399280 or patil.s.ae014@gmail.com

  2. An odd numbered radial cylinder arrangement is nor perfectly balanced. Most of the unballance is counterbalanced with crankshaft weights, but there is mechanical unbalance. In addition the firing order is not exactly 720/7 or 9 The configuration of the master/slave rods makes the TDC different on each cylinder.

    Only a straight 6 oor v-12 is perfectly balanced.

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