Listen closely to the engine sound here.

It seems to me all rotaries continuously sound on/off. Is that a pilot application to manage the engine's torque (with the whole block rotating), or as mentioned when I brought it up in chat, due to the throttle control choosing which cylinders to fire?

(...) the Camel gives you throttle control by simply not firing some cylinders.

This question pertains to both the control (mechanism) and application (in-flight) of rotary engines. Prior to the comment I received, I always thought it was the pilot walking the lever up/down. Perhaps due to too much power and not enough fine control.


Some of the early radial engines that operated by rotating the entire engine along with the prop, specifically, the very popular Le Rhone didn't have proper throttles. The pilot controlled engine speed by switching the ignition on and off.

This wasn't so much a limitation of that particular design, as a limitation of engine tech in general at that time. Wilhelm Maybach first devised the jet spray carburetor (patterned after a scent spray) in 1893, but the throttle body didn't appear for another ten years. Those early engines had only two speeds: wide open, or off.

Thus, the reason that many of the early WW1 fighters are constantly revving their engines on the ground... the pilot was switching the ignition on and off. Must have made for interesting ground handling.

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  • $\begingroup$ How did they prevent flooding? Seems like repeatedly toggling the ignition would be a sure recipe for it $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jan 17 '18 at 21:59

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