How does a Gnome rotary piston engine work? I would like to see how it works in detail, possibly with text explanation.

  • $\begingroup$ animatedengines.com/gnome.html $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 22:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Do you mean a rotary piston engine as fitted to early aircraft (like the Gnome), or the Wankel rotary engine? $\endgroup$
    – user31680
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ Yes..thank you..I mean like Gnome engine $\endgroup$
    – Carlo Nava
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ Wikipedia has a couple of animations. Are they "good"? If not, what's wrong with them? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 15:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For the people voting this as off-topic, what about this question? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 12, 2018 at 22:01

1 Answer 1


Link from @Gerry 's comment: http://www.animatedengines.com/gnome.html

Short version: take a radial and attach the output shaft to the aircraft firewall/structure. Feed the intake through the shaft, let the exhaust go where it goes. Fasten the propeller to the crankcase.

These engines were usually lubricated by mixing oil in the fuel, and passing the intake charge through the crankcase (similar to a modern 2-stroke engine, though without the pressurized crankcase). Spark was produced by a fixed magneto and distributed to the plugs by a gap contact similar to that in an old style auto distributor.

Many of these engines had no effective throttle, or could only throttle a little (35%, maybe even 50% minimum power). If you see an air show with an original or repro aircraft using the correct engine, you'll hear them blipping the ignition off and back on during landing approach, as that's the only way to reduce power sufficiently to land.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The oil for lubrication was usually castor oil, which explains the elaborate scarfs worn by many pilots. Failing to put those over your mouth during flight meant that you would spend hours on the loo after landing. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 3:45

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