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#4447053 - 07/01/17 10:18 PM Difference between automotive and aircraft engines
jhellwig Offline


Registered: 07/01/13
Posts: 1542
Loc: Ottumwa, Iowa
I got to woundering the other day when I was reading about aviation fuel why there is such a radical difference between aircraft engines and automobile engines.

I do understand that their are completely different demands on the engines in each applications and you need far more reliability for something carying people off the ground. Today's engines though seam to have a power to weight ratio and reliability that would make them viable aircraft engines. I can understand the need for more of a modular designe for ease of maintenance and preventative maintenance.

It seems like an alluminum block Ls engine could be a production aircraft engine. I wouldn't want one of these high strung 300hp 1L engines they use in small cars now though.


And now that I go looking I see that their are planes like this. Still and interesting topic of discussion though.


Edited by jhellwig (07/01/17 10:20 PM)
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#4447081 - 07/01/17 11:10 PM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
Reddy45 Offline


Registered: 08/15/08
Posts: 2973
Loc: USA
I'm pretty sure I've heard of the GA types putting small block Chevy engines into their planes.

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#4447088 - 07/01/17 11:26 PM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
Reddy45 Offline


Registered: 08/15/08
Posts: 2973
Loc: USA

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#4447112 - 07/02/17 12:57 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
dwendt44 Offline


Registered: 05/17/06
Posts: 3971
Loc: Central Wisconsin
IIRC, Volkswagen modified a auto engine to work in a light aircraft.
Did very well, quieter, better fuel economy, etc....
This was same years ago.
Lycoming and Continental engines are basically old designs, with up-dates.
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#4447122 - 07/02/17 01:44 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
Kibitoshin Online   content


Registered: 04/19/16
Posts: 698
Loc: Kaiōshinkai
Lexus 1UZ V8's were used as aviation engines. Probably due to it's inherent smoothness.
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#4447134 - 07/02/17 03:06 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
chrisri Offline


Registered: 06/01/14
Posts: 1744
Loc: Rijeka, EU
FIAT diesels are used in planes for their-wait now- reliability.
1.9,8v and 2.0,16v.
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#4447142 - 07/02/17 03:57 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
OneEyeJack Offline


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 7479
Loc: S California
There are a lot of differences between airplane engines and automotive/light duty truck applications. Airplane engines experience a lot of run time at a constant speed like maybe a cross country diesel truck. Often the load varies but the engine still runs at the same RPM by using a constant speed prop. The old designs persist because of the cost of certifying a new one. People want reliability, fuel economy and reliability. Airplane engines have not only a different environment but they are attached to a delicate structure that does not suffer or dampen vibration very well. Overall the amount of care taken when rebuilding an airplane engine is fascinating to watch.

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#4447153 - 07/02/17 04:44 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
Exhaustgases Offline


Registered: 12/18/11
Posts: 87
Loc: wa
Average auto engine is running at maybe 20% of its rated power when traveling down the road. Aircraft engines are running maybe closer to 70% of rated power all through the flight. Kind of like marine engines. Lot more stress and thermal stress with the ac engines too. Most auto engines are very lacking in quality of construction as well, you may not think so until you are at 10,000 feet above a huge body of water with no land in sight when it stops.

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#4447182 - 07/02/17 06:56 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: dwendt44]
fdcg27 Offline


Registered: 09/25/09
Posts: 15718
Loc: OH
Originally Posted By: dwendt44
IIRC, Volkswagen modified a auto engine to work in a light aircraft.
Did very well, quieter, better fuel economy, etc....
This was same years ago.
Lycoming and Continental engines are basically old designs, with up-dates.



Fornier powered gliders (a bit of an oxymoron, but this is a class of aircraft) used VW flat fours. Mira Slovak flew one of these across the Atlantic.
Porsche did build and certify a flat six. The only application I recall for this Porsche Flug Motor was the Mooney PFM. The engine has long been gone from the scene.
The thing about auto versus aircraft engines is that aircraft piston engines are typically direct drive. The prop is bolted directly to a flange on the crankshaft. Since the prop tips must not reach the speed of sound, which causes a huge loss in efficiency as well as a horrible increase in noise, aircraft engines make their rated power at around 2200 revs. They typically make around 30 bhp/liter and are a few times more costly than auto engines of similar output. Auto engines turn quite a bit faster, so some sort of reduction drive is required.
Also, aircraft engines have dual magneto ignition and can run on left, right or both with the engine's ignition being entirely independent of the aircraft electrical system. Fuel injection is common, but it's a simple and dead reliable mechanical system. Many aircraft still fly with carburetors. Turbocharging is also widely used, but not typically to boost output at sea level. There are some engines that always operate at greater then ambient pressure, but they are usually not long-lived in service. Forced induction is most commonly used to maintain output with altitude in aircraft applications.
All of the above applies to powerplants for type-certified aircraft. For a builder intending to license something in the experimental category, any engine can be used although most of the higher-end kit planes use real (and expensive) aircraft engines.
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#4447204 - 07/02/17 07:41 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
madRiver Offline


Registered: 07/11/15
Posts: 3544
Loc: New England
Putting value on your life and others vs cheaping out.

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#4447290 - 07/02/17 10:03 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
Oldmoparguy1 Offline


Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 5613
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Check out This link for converting chevy corvair engines to aircraft use. Not much left of the original engine when your done.
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#4447326 - 07/02/17 10:38 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
Andy636 Offline


Registered: 12/30/10
Posts: 778
Loc: Romania
Actually what amazes me is how Rotax can make airplane engines but can't build a half **& decent motorcycle engine...

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#4447375 - 07/02/17 11:48 AM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
andyd Offline


Registered: 09/25/04
Posts: 7158
Loc: Marshfield , MA
https://www.brooklandsmuseum.com/explore/our-collection/aircraft/vickers-vimy

Australia flight: 2 x 454 cubic inch (7.4litre) Chevrolet V8s in NSCAR racing trim
South Africa Flight: 2 x 5.4litre BMW M73 V12s producing 321bhp (240kw)
Atlantic flight: 2 x 495 cubic inch (8.1 litre) Orenda OE600 V8s producing 600bhp (450kW) maximum/500bhp (375kW) continuous
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#4447393 - 07/02/17 12:10 PM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: OneEyeJack]
maximus Offline


Registered: 01/24/08
Posts: 723
Loc: TX
Cessna just got their JT-A 172 approved by the FAA and the European equivalent. It's a 172 that uses 155 HP turbo diesel engine. It almost doubles the range of the 172 and this variant uses less expensive(than AVGAS) JET-A. Hopefully it will sell well and set a new precedent. I can see the big Embry-Riddle and UND types ordering these maybe. We're getting into the half million dollar range...for a 172.
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#4447401 - 07/02/17 12:21 PM Re: Difference between automotive and aircraft engines [Re: jhellwig]
A_Harman Offline


Registered: 10/01/10
Posts: 6921
Loc: Michigan
Certification costs of new engines are what is killing innovation in aircraft engine design. I've run up against this a couple of times. I used to work at John Deere Rotary Engine Division, back in the late '80's. We were developing a 2-rotor, 3.4L engine for general aviation use. It was turbocharged, direct-injected, stratified-charge and the primary fuel was to be Jet A. Working in conjunction with Avco Lycoming, the engine was designed and prototypes were in progress when management pulled the plug on the project, citing the certification costs and product liability concerns. One engine was completed and run in my test cell for a couple of months, basically to prove it could make rated power.

Then again in the early 90's, I interviewed for a job at Teledyne Continental, where they were working on a 2-stroke diesel, basically using a 53-series Detroit Diesel cylinder design. The chief project engineer took me on a tour of the plant, where he told me that 50% of the volume going through the shop were remanufactured engines. This did not give me a lot of confidence in the future of the business. I stayed where I was at.
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