Tag Archives: Pratt and Whitney Radial Engine

Refresher Lesson: The Difference Between Radial and Turbine Engines

Turbine engines, also commonly known as jet engines, are different than radial engines. Some pilots who fly smaller aircraft find that radial engines are more fun to fly, while pilots of jet engine aircraft find the extra steps involved in flying a radial engine too difficult.

Turbine Engines

Turbine enginesTurbine engines operate similar to a steam power plant, except they use air instead of water. Air flows through a compressor, creating higher pressure, and fuel is sprayed into that air so that it ignites and creates energy. The gas created enters a turbine, expanding and producing shaft work output. The turbine shaft then works to drive the compressor and generator, and energy not used in the process is expelled as exhaust fumes.

Radial Engines

Radial engines, also referred to as “round engines” by pilots, resemble a star when viewed from the front, as cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft. Radial engines were common in aircraft before the development of turbine engines, and many pilots still prefer flying radial engine airplanes. In a radial engine, pistons are connected to the crankshaft using a rod assembly. One piston has a master rod with a direct attachment to the crankshaft. Normally, radial engines have an every-other-piston firing action that makes the motion more uniform.

Main Differences

Radial engines often have a large frontal area, which sometimes made planes—especially those used in battle—less aerodynamic. Turbine engines also fly at higher rates of speed than aircraft powered by rotary engines, but are often less fuel efficient and much louder than rotary engines. Many pilots claim that rotary engines are more challenging to fly, as the steps for take-offs, in flight and landings are much more complicated than turbine engines.

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Pratt and Whitney Radial Engine -“A Modern Marvel”

In 1925 many wonderful things were accomplished. President Coolidge became the first president to have an inaugural address to be broadcast over the radio, thus bringing politics into living rooms throughout the country.   No less important, Richard Drew invented a product intended to help bring an easier way to give cars a custom and more precise paint job, your wife may find this product more useful in wrapping Christmas gifts, the invention was scotch tape.   More importantly, at least to the aviation community, 1925 was the year that the Pratty and Whitney Radial Engine, the R-1340, was conceived and brought to life. In Andy Willgoos’s small backyard garage, he and fellow engineer George J. Mead drafted the engine that would be the cornerstone of one of the greatest companies in aviation history, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.

With almost 35,000 engines produced and a production run that lasted into the 1960’s, the R-1340 has the distinction of being the first radial engine produced by Pratt & Whitney and also the last.

Covington Aircraft, is committed to the overhaul and maintenance of the Pratt & Whitney R-1340 and R-985 radial engines.  We are continually looking for new processes and ways to improve reliability and affordability of the engine.

Covington Aircraft is proud to support the radial engine and we look forward to doing so for many years to come.

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