How to Care for a Piston Engine Aircraft

How to Care for a Piston Engine Aircraft

Posted by Kendra Kuhar on Apr 25th 2018

Piston engines, or internal combustion engines, became prominent in the Wright brother's era.

All aircraft was powered by a piston engine until the early 20th century when jet engines were introduced. They were even installed in steam engines and function similarly to automobile engines.

Today, piston engines are generally for business and private use as they have an average range of 300 miles or less, seat six passengers or fewer, and do not exceed altitudes of 12,000 feet since they are not pressurized.

When cared for properly, piston engine aircraft offer years of reliability, as well as safety, for both the pilot and passengers. Knowing the appropriate amount of care is usually acquired through years of experience, but makes owning the plane worthwhile

Knowing general maintenance for your piston engine will ensure its longevity, as well as the joy of flying your favorite plane for as long as possible.

Here's What to Know About Internal Combustion

Internal combustion occurs in a cylinder where chemical energy is converted to mechanical energy, turning the propellers and generating thrust.

Inside the cylinder, a piston compresses a fuel and air mixture before combustion occurs, pushing it back down the cylinder. The average 4- or 6-cylinder piston engine fastens to the crankshaft in counterbalanced intervals, allowing piston firing to be even. The process continues to repeat and powers the aircraft engine.

The Most Important Piston Engine Practice

While turbine engines are highly regulated, the same does not go for piston engines.

Maintenance standards and ways to achieve longevity differ; however, one of the easiest and most effective ways of caring for a piston engine aircraft is by flying it frequently.

A piston engine wears slower when being flown more.

The reasoning is because the engine is highly susceptible to rust, and having it sit for too long is detrimental. It's suggested to fly piston engine aircraft at least one hour a week.

When the airplane sits, oil drains off cylinder walls and allows condensation to interact with iron, forming rust. The rust causes wear on the engine. Every time the engine cools it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere. The only way to eliminate this water content is to get the engine temperature above 212° F, the evaporation point of water. In turn, the more you fly then the less moisture your engine will be exposed to.

Do you own a piston engine aircraft? Need lubricants? Shop aircraft piston engine oil at Aviation Oil Outlet!


Sources:

https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ANASAGUIDETOENGINES.pdf

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Piston_Engine

http://www.thisaviationlife.com/science-starting-piston-aircraft-engine/

http://www.planeandpilotmag.com/article/theres-more-to-oil-than-you-think/#.WgMz2FtSyUk

https://www.flyingmag.com/aircraft/pistons/piston-engines-keeping-your-cylinders-happy