100 votes
Accepted

Why do most radial engines use an odd number of cylinders?

An odd number of cylinders is required by the combination of the single-crank radial design, the four-stroke (Otto) work cycle, and the desire to keep the power strokes evenly spaced in time. To keep ...
user avatar
77 votes
Accepted

What are the differences between fuel types (comparing with vehicles)?

Broadly speaking, there are three families of motor fuel that you're probably interested in: Diesels, Kerosenes, and Gasolines. The difference between the families mainly has to do with the molecular ...
user avatar
  • 67.2k
75 votes
Accepted

What are some of the differences between piston engines used in aircraft and automobiles?

The engine in a typical light airplane (say a Cessna 172 or a Piper Cherokee) has a lot in common with the engine in a classic 1960s VW Beetle (Type 1): Both engines are horizontally opposed four-...
user avatar
  • 67.2k
73 votes
Accepted

Why isn't the APU a standard diesel generator?

Weight. Piston APUs for trucks are designed for frugal and quiet operation. This one produces 5.2 kW electrical power and weighs 375 lbs. The APU for the A320 and B737 is a noisy screaming unit that ...
user avatar
  • 57.7k
72 votes
Accepted

Why are two-stroke engines nearly unheard of in aviation?

Several issues: As you mentioned, high specific fuel consumption. About to that of turboprops, but without the reliability. If you're going to live with that SFC, you might as well as go with ...
user avatar
  • 104k
54 votes
Accepted

Why is water-contaminated fuel bad, but water-injection is not?

Because of the quantity of water in the fuel, as opposed to a careful introduction of water into the combustion process. Typical water contamination is bad in fuel tanks as water is denser than ...
user avatar
47 votes

Why increase the number of cylinders in an engine instead of increasing their volume?

Constraints Different applications have different constraints: Aviation: very light weight, highly reliable Marine: very high endurance Automotive: moderately light weight, responsive Motorcycle: ...
user avatar
  • 10.6k
46 votes
Accepted

Why does the lack of a magneto affect engine RPM?

Firstly, to understand the answer, we need to understand that the Cessna 152's and 172's run a 4 Cylinder, Horizontally-opposed Engine. Each Cylinder has 2 spark plugs, one on the top side of the ...
user avatar
  • 2,011
46 votes
Accepted

What is the metal bit in the front of this propeller spinner?

It is a fitting for a Hucks Starter. Photos from Vintage Wings Canada
user avatar
  • 31.9k
45 votes
Accepted

Why do aircraft piston engines consume so much oil?

Automobile engines are not similar. They are liquid-cooled and therefore can be built to much tighter tolerances with regard to thermal expansion and contraction. Air-cooled aircraft engines must ...
user avatar
  • 31.9k
42 votes
Accepted

Starting on the left magneto only - why?

The reasons seems to be that only the left magneto is equipped with an impulse coupling which delays and intensifies the spark during engine starting: Many opposed reciprocating engines are equipped ...
user avatar
  • 44k
42 votes
Accepted

Why do propeller driven planes have intakes/inlets, such as this one on the P-51 Mustang?

Propellers are driven by engines, and engines burn fuel, and burning requires oxygen from the air. The intake supplies air to the engine. Burning creates heat, and air intakes also direct cooler air ...
user avatar
  • 49.1k
38 votes

Is a turbocharged piston aircraft the same thing as turboprop?

They are both internal combustion engines that have a turbine in their exhaust that is used to power a compressor to pressurize the air before it is used for combustion. In the turboprop, the turbine ...
user avatar
  • 763
36 votes

Why do propeller driven planes have intakes/inlets, such as this one on the P-51 Mustang?

The design of the P-51 means the engine radiator (a component of the cooling system) is situated behind and below the pilot, as in this diagram (from here):
user avatar
  • 8,823
33 votes

Why are propeller engines uncommon on airliners?

Reading the answers here tells me to put a few facts into the discussion: Piston engines are the most fuel efficient aviation engines. Their drawback is a constant power output over speed, so that ...
user avatar
33 votes
Accepted

C-152 carb heat on before landing in hot weather?

You should always pull the carb heat when throttling back no matter the conditions for 3 reasons: Ice forms from moisture (duh!), and there's much more moisture in hot tropical air than cold arctic ...
user avatar
  • 49.1k
32 votes
Accepted

Why did the turbojet replace the piston engine?

Two more reasons the gas turbine supplanted the piston engine for aircraft use: Power output. Aircraft piston engines have a practical limit on how much power they can put out, before becoming ...
user avatar
  • 8,557
31 votes
Accepted

What is "detonation" in a piston engine?

Detonation, as the name suggests, is an explosion of the fuel-air mixture inside the cylinder. Under normal operation, the spark plugs each ignite a point in the fuel/air charge, which then propagate ...
user avatar
  • 6,004
31 votes
Accepted

What is an aircraft magneto?

A magneto is a gear driven electric generation device connected to the crankshaft of the engine. It supplies the ignition system (spark plugs) with power. Each engine has two magnetos. Each cylinder ...
user avatar
  • 16.1k
31 votes

Why can we not use full throttle in a C172 when cruising at lower altitudes?

These engines are not designed to run at maximum horsepower output all the time with a lean mixture. They are designed to cruise at 50-75% of their rated max power, and deal with that level of ...
user avatar
  • 104k
29 votes

Why did the turbojet replace the piston engine?

There are several benefits: piston engines are best for driving propellers. At the same shaft horse power $P$, propeller thrust $T$ varies with the inverse of air speed $v$: ($T_{Prop} = \frac{P}{v}$)...
user avatar
28 votes

Why is water-contaminated fuel bad, but water-injection is not?

Water-injection in jet engines and piston engines is mixed with fuel before it enters the combustion This is actually somewhat wrong (or at least imprecise) and I think it is adding to the ...
user avatar
28 votes

Why increase the number of cylinders in an engine instead of increasing their volume?

Your reasoning is correct if engine mass is not important. Ships use huge engines, because increasing the number of cylinders beyond 8 will have diminishing returns in terms of smoothing out the ...
user avatar
27 votes

What was the first aircraft that could fly inverted?

Deliberate momentarily inverted flight The first reported deliberately inverted flight was probably in a Blériot model XI. Inverted flight was also being considered. Several pilots had inadvertently ...
user avatar
27 votes
Accepted

Is there any legitimate reason for adding momentary power when descending at idle with full carburettor heat on?

straight out of the Airplane Flying Handbook, pp 9-4 Operating the engine at idle speed for any prolonged period during the glide may result in excessive engine cooling, spark plug fouling, ...
user avatar
27 votes
Accepted

Why cycle the magnetos before engine shutdown?

This is a hot-mag check to verify that when you shut the engine down, you are really putting it in a safe(r) state. Think about how the mag-switch works, when you switch to R or L, it grounds the P-...
user avatar
  • 35.1k
27 votes

Did people really hand-start big bombers in WWII?

When you shut down a radial the unscavenged oil in the case (oil coating the surfaces that didn't get pumped back to the reservoir tank) runs down and seeps past the rings of the cylinders directly ...
user avatar
  • 104k
27 votes
Accepted

What does "spark plugs appear yellow at the ignition point" mean?

Use the tip residue to evaluate the combustion process The yellow the manual is describing is the normal condition found in the top left corner: If the plug is not the yellow/tan shown in the top ...
user avatar
  • 3,072
26 votes
Accepted

Why do piston engines in aircraft burn fuel at a higher rate than a comparable car engine?

As others have noted, airplane engines and car engines have very different duty cycles. An airplane engine will typically run at full power for a few minutes during takeoff & climb, then at a ...
user avatar
  • 2,507

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible