Single-engine aircraft (one propeller on the 'nose')

Why do propellers on aircraft have a slight offset angle? I have picked up this information that the rotational axis of the propeller is not aligned with the roll axis of the aircraft, but I don't know why and by how much it is off. I also don't know the direction in which the propeller's rotation axis pointing (other than 'roughly' in roll axis direction).

Is the direction of the propeller's rotation axis important?

Does the direction of the propeller's rotation have any influence on it?

How big are these angles between aircraft roll axis and propeller rotation axis typically?

Is this concept only useful for propellers?

  • $\begingroup$ clarified it: only one propeller $\endgroup$
    – jkbx
    Jun 4 '17 at 18:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It is to help with the P factor effects, I'll try to find a source but this was explained to me by my CFI. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 4 '17 at 18:41

The direction of rotation of the propeller introduces an asymmetry which designers try to mitigate by adding more asymmetries. Specifically, a right-turning tractor propeller (clockwise from the pilot's viewpoint) will swirl the propeller wake in the same direction which adds a negative sideslip angle on the vertical tail (which sticks up into the upper half of the wake only). By pointing the axis of rotation of the propeller slightly to the right (right sidethrust), this sideslip angle can be reduced.

Other means of correction like an incidence on the vertical tail would not work equally well: Once the engine is throttled back, such an incidence would require to re-trim the aircraft.

On multi-engined aircraft a sidethrust can help to reduce rudder input in engine-out cases. Here each wing engine points slightly away from the fuselage so its thrust will pull the aircraft into a helpful sideslip when the opposite engine has failed.

The propeller axis can also point slightly down in order to move the thrust line closer to the center of gravity, reducing thrust-related trim changes, and to reduce the P-factor effect (sideways shift of the thrust vector) at high angle of attack. This is called downthrust. One example would be the RR Griffon-engined version of the Supermarine Spitfire: When the new engine was installed, its lower thrust line required 2° more downthrust.

This is one of the few topics where the English version of Wikipedia stays schtum; only the German version has an article on it (Motorzug and Motorsturz).


Some planes have this designed into the engine mounts to offset the more pronounced left turning tendencies of larger engines. "Large" in this case is a 400/500 series Lycoming or Continental.

Googling "Bonanza canted engine" will turn up more information than you could ever need and you can probably substitute "bonanza" out for any other model of common single engine airplane (Centurion, Skylane, Mirage, etc).

The angle is only a few degrees and the direction of rotation does decide to which side the engine is canted. The "large" (285hp) engined Bonanzas going back to at least the S35 model have engines canted 2.0° down and 2.5° right of center.


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