Category Archives: Aviation History

The History of the Pratt & Whitney R-985 & The List of Aircraft Powered by the Radial Engine

The Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior is a series of nine-cylinder, air-cooled, radial aircraft engines built by the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company from the 1930s to the 1950s. These engines have a displacement of 985 in; initial versions produced 300 hp (220 kW), while the most widely used versions produce 450 hp (340 kW).

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What is the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp & List of R-1340 Powered Aircraft

The Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp was a 9 cylinder, single-row, air-cooled radial engine with horsepower ranging from 410 hp to 600 hp, depending on the model and configuration. It was used in a range of aircraft that included the North American AT-6, Boeing P-26, and Boeing 247. Jimmy Doolittle used the Wasp to set records in his Gee Bee Racer and Amelia Earhart made history using the Wasp in her Electra L-10.

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The History & Story of the R-985 Powered Boeing PT-17 Stearman

Climbing over the narrow, wing-root walkway and stepping on to the cushioned seat of the tandem, two-place, blue and yellow fabric-covered open-cockpit Boeing PT-17 Stearman registered N55171 in Stow, Massachusetts, I lowered myself into position with the aid of the two upper wing trailing edge hand grips and fastened the olive-green waist and shoulder harnesses.  Donning era-prerequisite goggles and helmet, I surveyed the fully duplicated instrumentation before me and prepared myself both for an aerial sightseeing fight of Massachusetts and a brief, although temporary, return to World War II primary flight training skies.

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A History Of King Air

A History Of King AirOne of the most storied and famous of Beechcraft’s lines is the King Air.  This aircraft family is comprised of many different lines of twin-turbopop aircraft including the Model 90 and the Model 100 series. Beechcraft’s King Air continues to be one of the very best selling models of aircraft in history, and has managed to outsell all other twin-turbopop competitors combined. The history of the King Air series began all the way back in 1961, and the King Air has grown in innovation and technology throughout the years while still upholding its respected name.  
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Beechcraft Innovations

Beechcraft Innovations Throughout its 84 year long history, Beechcraft has brought to the table some of the most innovative designs and concepts in the aviation industry. With such a storied history, Beechcraft has seen some hits and some misses in its 84 years, but continues to push the envelope when it comes to aviation design up until this day. From designing planes used in the fighting during the second world war, to those made for personal use, to regional aircrafts, the history of Beechcraft is a fascinating one for anyone interested in modern day aviation. Continue reading Beechcraft Innovations

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What It Means To Be An Internationally Recognized Distributor & Designated Overhaul Facility

What It Means To Be An Internationally Recognized DistributorAt Covington Aircraft, we sure have carved out our little niche. If you take a tour of our easy to use website, then you will recognize that there isn’t a whole lot of history listed. You won’t read any articles about how the company started. You won’t see how Covington Aircraft has slowly grown into an internationally recognized authority on the PT6A, R-985 and R-1340 small aircraft engines. You won’t read about how the company invest in people first, reaching out to charitable endeavors all over the world. Continue reading What It Means To Be An Internationally Recognized Distributor & Designated Overhaul Facility

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What Are The Covington Aircraft “Missions”? Find Out & Join Us

The Covington Aircraft MissionToday’s economic climate can be downright poisonous. It can feel like large companies take advantage, making profits a priority over people. That is why it is such a breath of fresh air to see a company like Covington Aircraft. The business puts people first, no matter what, especially when it comes to furthering Christ and the gospel. Continue reading What Are The Covington Aircraft “Missions”? Find Out & Join Us

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PT6 Celebrates Fifty Years Part 1

When it was developed in 1963, the PT6 was the first turboprop engine rated at 450 shaft horsepower, impressing Beechcraft to the point that the company chose to install the engine in their King Air line of turboprop twins.  Fast-forward 50 years, and Beechcraft still choose the PT6, although of ever-increasing power ratings, to power their engines.

 Before The PT6

beechcraftPratt & Whitney began development of the PT6 in the late 1950’s in an attempt to replace the manufacturer’s Wasp radial engines, developed during in the 1930’s.  In 1925, Frederick Rentschler, President of Wright Aeronautical, approached his brother, Gordon, and Edward Deeds, who were both on the board of Niles Bement Pond, convincing them that Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, a subsidiary of Niles, should fund the creation of a new aircraft engine Rentschler and a colleage, George Mead, were developing.  The engine was to be a large, air-cooled radial design.  The executives at Pratt & Whitney saw an opportunity for growth and lent Rentschler $250,000, the use of the Pratt & Whitney name and space in their building to begin creating the new engine.  Rentschler left Wright Aeronautical and took over operations of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division, The first of the Wasp series debuted on December 24, 1925, quickly becoming one of the most widely used aircraft engines in the industry due to their superior speed, rate of climb and reliability.  Charles Lindbergh and Ameila Earhart both set records in Wasp-powered aircraft.

Wasp to Hornet

 With the development of the PT6 still a few decades away, Pratt & Whitney created the next line of radial engines, the Hornet, rated at 525 horsepower.  The dependability of both the Wasp and the Hornet made them very popular among commercial aircraft, and as the public use of air travel increased, so did the demand for Pratt & Whitney engines.  As it became apparent that the United States would enter World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on manufacturers to produce 50,000 aircraft a year for military use, requiring Pratt & Whitney to expand its workforce from 3,000 to 40,000.  Throughout the war, Pratt & Whitney continued to innovate, until, by the end of the war, their largest engine provided 3,600 horsepower.  However, radial engines were slowly being replaced by lighter turboprop engines.

Vision of the PT6

In 1957, Pratt & Whitney saw an opportunity to channel profits from the piston engine spare parts business to the development of smaller gas turbine engines than those currently being manufactured in the United States. The company gathered a team of 12 young engineers after conducting market studies that found there was a need for a 500 shaft horsepower engine that could replace piston engines, such as the Wasp and Hornet.  In December 1963, Pratt & Whitney shipped the first of the PT6 series, the PT6A-6, a highly innovative gas turbine representing technology advances that were significant at the time.  Because gas turbines have a higher power to weight ratio than piston engines, the PT6 was perfect for aviation engines.

pt6aThe PT6 has enjoyed a rich and colorful history since it began production in 1963, and Pratt & Whitney is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this timeless aircraft engine.  Learn more about the colorful past, pioneers who flew this engine and continuing evolution of an engine ahead of its time.  For more information on the PT6 or about aircraft maintenance, contact Covington Aircraft online or by telephone today.

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Aircraft Evolution: How an Industry Took Flight

On that December day in 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright could not have known what lay ahead in aircraft evolution. Even in the decade after that famous flight, there was little science or engineering that went into the development of planes, and many of these early planes either flew poorly or not at all. Now fast-forward to the modern era, a time when planes not only fly well, but transport people around the globe on a daily basis.

The Beginning of Aircraft Evolution

aircraft evolutionAmong their many accomplishments, the Wright Brothers invented wind warping, which combined with yaw control, helped them control their aircraft. Using data obtained from experiments performed in the wind tunnel they built, they designed and carved wooden propellers. They then added a low-powered combustion engine to supply power to the plane. These factors enabled them to be the first men to fly on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, N.C. The Wright brothers continued to dominate aircraft evolution from 1903 to 1910. By 1914, planes had evolved to the point that they became instrumental during World War I.

World War I

Government laboratories greatly affected aircraft evolution, as the European nations realized the defense possibilities available through the use of aircraft. During World War I, engineers worked to design planes that would be successful in battle with little thought given to the comfort of the plane. The first aerial combat occurred in August 1914 when Allied and German pilots began shooting at each other with pistols and rifles, which were very ineffective. The first planes used during World War I were monoplanes, which were not fast or easily maneuvered, but allowed for a machine gun to be mounted and synchronized with the engine so that bullets passed between propeller blades.

World War II

Aircraft evolution increased rapidly after World War I, as governments realized the potential airplanes offered as a form of defense. Before the war, extensive manufacturing, engineering and research in the airplane industry created another aircraft evolution. Manufacturers focused on higher performance, speeds and altitudes, along with better maneuverability and handling. Planes became all metal, with retractable landing gear, wing flaps and enclosed crew compartments. During the war, heavy and light bombers, fighters, reconnaissance and transport planes made up the majority of the aircraft used. It was during this war that the air transport industry began to take shape.

Transport Industry

The first aircraft built specifically for cargo was the German Arado Ar 232, but only a few were built. In 1939, a version of the Junkers Ju 90 military transport aircraft included the first rear-loading ramp, an important innovation in cargo aircraft. Cargo aircraft evolution continued with the C82 Packet, which featured a removable cargo area, and the creation of the turboprop.

Jet Airplanes

Today’s aircraft is highly developed over the propeller-driven aircraft of previous generations, using turbojet and turbofan technology. Jet engines enable planes to be bigger, fly faster, and transport more passengers and cargo than any previous aircraft. After the popularity of the cargo plane, manufacturers realized that aircraft could be used to transport passengers, and the aircraft evolution to create bigger and better passenger planes began. Today, passenger flight is mainstream, with planes that are reliable, safe, and that endure all types of conditions.

For more information on aircraft care and maintenance, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and at CovingtonAircraft.com!

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