Category Archives: radial engine

The Radial Engine: There’s No Beating a Classic

When it comes to airplane engines, radial engines are the true classic

radial aircraft enginesEver since Louis Bleriot crossed the English Channel in 1909, the radial engine has been an integral part of modern aviation.   Their simple yet powerful design has been improved upon throughout the 1900’s, but the basic principles behind the airplane engine have remained constant. Pratt and Whitney R-985 and R-1340 radial engines were designed starting in the 1920’s, and have withstood the test of time.  Many of these radial engines are still in use today, thanks to companies like ours who are able to perform the overhaul and maintenance required for these masterpieces.

The R-1340 radial engine was Pratt and Whitney’s first foray into airplane engines, and approximately 35,000 engines were produced.  The next engine to be mass-produced was the R-985.  This engine was manufactured from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, and over 39,000 of them were made

Radial engines played a major part in the First World War, outlasting and outperforming rotary engines over time.  The R-985 and R-1340 engines became the standard aircraft engine for World War II, powering airplanes used in basic training as well as military versions of civil aircraft.  After the war, R-985 engines were used in various smaller civil and military airplanes, including utility aircraft, small transports and agricultural aircraft.  Their simple design and reliability made them popular among airplane enthusiasts around the country.

Ford Trimotor, powered by 3 Pratt & Whitney R-985 Radial Engines loaded up for the first flight of the day, following quite a downpour. At least with the rains comes the benefit of the reflections of Lake Lyon. Via @markRFoster

Today, you’ll find most R-985 and R-1340 engines in bush planes and agricultural aircraft, as well as on WarBirds.  Parts for these engines are still available on the market, but repair and overhaul of R-985 and R-1340 radial engines requires a skilled technician.  As a certified FAA Repair Station, our Radial Engine Division is the largest R-985 and R-1340 overhaul facility in the world, and we pride ourselves on being true artisans when it comes to overhaul and maintenance of radial engines.

So, if you’ve got a plane with one of these engineering marvels, be sure to entrust its maintenance to a facility that specializes in the radial engine.  They can keep your engine running for years to come.

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How Jim Savage Gets the 1939 Spartan Executive So Shiny

This blog is republished with the permission of Jim Savage. His website, VintageSpartanAircraft.com which features his 1939 Spartan Executive, is a must visit.

What do you do to make your Spartan so shiny?  That’s a question I am often asked and the answer may be easier than you expect. Obviously, it takes quite a bit of polishing, using quality polishing supplies and good polishing techniques. Most experienced metal polishers with bare metal airplanes already know that.  The missing piece has to do with how light behaves when it reaches the airplane. Specifically, it is either reflected or it is absorbed.  The more light that is reflected, the shinier the airplane appears to be.  The trick is to eliminate anything that absorbs the light. In the case of Spartan NC17634, it has minimal paint trim, so there is more surface available to reflect light. Of course, that holds true for many bare metal airplanes.  The other source of light absorption is the tiny black rings around each of the rivet heads.  Although often unnoticed unless you are specifically looking for them, almost every bare metal has these light absorbing rings, including ones that have been judged as Grand Champions.  They originate during the normal polishing process and over time and many polishings, they slowly accumulate.  With the passage of time, these rings become extraordinarily difficult to eliminate.  

While a tiny black ring around a single rivet doesn’t seem like much, consider what the cumulative amount is if you have 9000+ polished rivets, as is the case with NC17634. To the best of my knowledge, there is no magic potion that easily removes the black residue.  It is simply a matter of finding a process that works best for you and then proceeding, one rivet at a time.  While the removal of all traces of black from every rivet of an entire airplane is a daunting task, the results are clearly noticeable.   

Here are some close-up pictures rivets on a 1939 Spartan Executive.  The first nine pictures show examples of what domed rivets with black rings look like on a highly polished airplane.

The next nine pictures show similar views of the same Spartan, after removal of the black rings.

For those of you who are really, really curious about how long it took to remove all traces of black from the 9000 rivets on the Spartan, it is probably far more than you can imagine and likely far more than you will believe. It took approximately 800 hours of effort but as the following picture shows, the final results can be stunning.

More Pictures of the Spartan 1939 Executive

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The 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior Powered Winjeel ‘404 – A Home Coming and Return to Flight

by Stephan Bowtell, Nathan Bowtell and Phil Buckley
Rising like a young eagle to fly once more, a former Royal Australian Air Force CAC Winjeel A85-404 has returned to the skies in Australia to take her place as a living warbird once again.

Continue reading The 450hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior Powered Winjeel ‘404 – A Home Coming and Return to Flight

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The R-985 Powered de Havilland Beaver: Arguably the Best Bush Plane Ever Built

With a big, nine-cylinder Pratt & Whitney strapped to the front, this 5,100-pound workhorse boasts a useful load of around 2,000 pounds, and it’s built to operate out of short and rough airstrips.

Continue reading The R-985 Powered de Havilland Beaver: Arguably the Best Bush Plane Ever Built

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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).

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

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Canadians set to rock “Thunder Over Louisville” with R-1340 North American Harvard Trainers

On April 18, the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team (CHAT) wrapped up several weeks of spring training and is heading south for the coming “Thunder Over Louisville” airshow.

Continue reading Canadians set to rock “Thunder Over Louisville” with R-1340 North American Harvard Trainers

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