Tag 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.

Radial Engine Operation Techniques That Can Shorten Cylinder Life

There are a number of Radial Engine Operation techniques that can shorten cylinder life (head failure). There are also a few mechanical problems that can cause premature cylinder head failure. The following items, hopefully, will shed some light on the subject.howmanyenginesdoyoucount

Continue reading Radial Engine Operation Techniques That Can Shorten Cylinder Life

The R-1340: The Pratt & Whitney Radial Engine that started it all

Covington Aircraft firmly believes in the history of aviation (you can’t get to where your going without knowing where you have been).  So, this week, we talk about the modern marvel that is 100 years old, R-1340 Engine, Pratt & Whitney’s first engine.

Mr. Willgoos and Mr. Mead innovate a Modern Marvel


In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge had his inaugural address broadcast over the radio, a first in the United States.  Richard Drew invented scotch tape, making it easier for the world to wrap Christmas presents, in 1925 as well.  However, one of the most important firsts to happen in 1925 was the conception and development of the R-1340 engine, a single-row, nine-cylinder air-cooled radial design.  Brought to life by Andy Willgoos and George J. Mead, the R-1340, which became the cornerstone of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, was discovered in the small backyard garage owned by Mr. Willgoos.

Innovative Design

The difference in the R-1340 engine from other engines was the supercharger or blower section which has remained unchanged since its humble beginnings in 1925.  The blower section is attached to the rear power case and receives the fuel/air mixture from the impeller assembly.  This mixture is delivered to the cylinders via the intake pipes and and then to the crankshaft using a spring loaded gear.  This protects the blower gearing from sudden acceleration or deceleration.

Introduction of Different Blower


The original blower developed by Willgoos and Mead came to be known as a ball bearing blower as it was supported by three ball bearings.  Pratt & Whitney later introduced a plain type blower which does not use ball bearings.  Many believe that the reason for the development of the plain type blower was due to weakness of the ball bearing blowers, but this is not the case, as both types of blowers have good and bad qualities.

Classified as a top-secret design when it was developed in the 1920’s, the R-1340 engine is still as much of a modern marvel today as it was almost 100 years ago, making it one of the aviation industry’s modern marvels.
Covington Aircraft has been overhauling, selling, and maintaining radial engines and turbine engines since 1979. If you need a radial engine part, perhaps for your R-1340, make sure you visit our website and give us a call! Happy Flying!

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Radial Engine Expert: Alfred Harley

With 33 years of radial engine experience for Covington Aircraft, Alfred Harley is a respected and valued member of the Covington family.  His work ethic shines through in his dependability and reliability.  In addition, to his excellent work at Covington, Alfred has a rich and fulfilling life outside of work as well.


The Beginning

jetengine_radial_largeAfter graduating from Wilberton High School, Albert Harley went on to earn an automotive repair degree at OSU Okmulgee.  The shop foreman at Covington at the time, Ron Hollis, convinced Alfred to apply as Ron believed Alfred could put his mechanical skills to work better on aircraft than on autos.  Alfred began working at Covington in 1977, working on radial engines as he continues to do today.

Outstanding Work Ethic


Alfred is a dependable and experienced mechanic, responsible for many tasks including balancing crankshafts and impeller shafts, as well as final engine checks after test cell runs.  In the afternoons, he works in the stockrooms.  Alfred loves the Christian environment at Covington Aircraft and says that the Abbotts “make us feel we are part of the business and not just employees.”

Life Outside of Covington

alfred-649x1024Alfred loves to spend time with this three grown children, Jason, Aaron and Bethany as well as his two grandchildren.  A pastor at the Fundamental Indian Baptist Church in Okmulgee Oklahoma, keeps him busy in addition to his work at Covington.  Alfred is an avid fisherman and hunter.

Covington Aircraft is proud to call Alfred Harley a member of its family.  His outstanding work ethic, combined with his rich life outside the company, is an asset to Covington.  He is an excellent role model to any young person looking to enter the aviation mechanical field.