7 Things You Need to Know About Piston Aircraft Engines PDF Print E-mail
Written by Aviator   
Tuesday, 21 July 2015 22:50

7 Things You Need to Know About Piston Aircraft Engines

Did you know that the piston engine attached to a propeller (which you can see in something like the wildly popular Cessna 172) is basically the same setup used by the Wright brothers? In fact, the basic system of a piston engine in a plane is about the same as those used in cars. It’s just that in a car you don’t absolutely need a light engine that can provide maximum power for long periods of time.

While all these little factoids may (or may not) interest you, they’re not exactly crucial. Here, then, are some of the things you need to know about piston aircraft engines:

  1. The cost (at least at first) of a piston aircraft engine is much lower than other types of engine (like a turboprop, for example). That’s because the design is much simpler in the piston engine. However, maintenance costs over time can sap your budget. Piston engines vibrate, and they have a lot of moving parts. These factors cut down on reliability, and that means there’s a shorter time in between major overhauls.

  2. As for the performance of the piston aircraft engine, it is well suited only for short distances (300 miles at the most). Moreover, the speed of a piston aircraft tends to be slower than other types of aircraft that use different types of propulsion.

  3. You don’t have to comply with the manufacturer’s TBO. A manufacturer generally publishes the number of hours that a piston engine should operate before it needs an overhaul. That figure is called the TBO, and it stands for “to be overhauled.” For piston aircraft engines, a TBO of 2000 hours is not unusual.

    However, that doesn’t mean you have to get the engine overhauled at the appointed time when it doesn’t need an overhaul (and conversely, you don’t have to wait for the required hours before you get an overhaul if you think your engine needs it). For private citizens, most insurance policies won’t require you to comply with the letter of the law, so to speak. As for commercial operators, they may apply to the local FSDO for a TBO extension, and the FAA tends to grant that extension.

  1. Operate at minimum rpm and at maximum manifold pressure allowed by your engine manual. This allows for lower turbine inlet temperature and exhaust gas temperature, your valves to run cooler, more efficient propellers, lower losses due to friction, and improved cylinder compression.

  2. Don’t let your engine run too hot or too cold either. We all know that engines can overheat, but oil temperatures lower than 170°F can lead to a buildup of water that can be bad for your engine as well. Maintain an oil temp of 180°F to 200°F on the gauge.

  3. Don’t overstress the low oil consumption. Low oil consumption is an indication of a tight and properly broken-in engine, but there’s such a thing as too low (such as using only a quart every 30 hours).

  4. Use single-weight oil. The newer multi-viscosity oil isn’t all that great, and most overhaul shops recommend the single-weight variant.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2016 23:12