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Basic Propeller Principles (Part Six) – Asymmetric Loading (P-Factor)

by Flight Learnings

in Aerodynamics

When an aircraft is flying with a high AOA, the “bite” of the downward moving blade is greater than the “bite” of the upward moving blade. This moves the center of thrust to the right of the prop disc area, causing a yawing moment toward the left around the vertical axis. To prove this explanation is complex because it would be necessary to work wind vector problems on each blade while considering both the AOA of the aircraft and the AOA of each blade.

This asymmetric loading is caused by the resultant velocity, which is generated by the combination of the velocity of the propeller blade in its plane of rotation and the velocity of the air passing horizontally through the propeller disc. With the aircraft being flown at positive AOAs, the right (viewed from the rear) or downswinging blade, is passing through an area of resultant velocity which is greater than that affecting the left or upswinging blade. Since the propeller blade is an airfoil, increased velocity means increased lift. The downswinging blade has more lift and tends to pull (yaw) the aircraft’s nose to the left.

When the aircraft is flying at a high AOA, the downward moving blade has a higher resultant velocity, creating more lift than the upward moving blade. [Figure 4-43] This might be easier to visualize if the propeller shaft was mounted perpendicular to the ground (like a helicopter). If there were no air movement at all, except that generated by the propeller itself, identical sections of each blade would have the same airspeed. With air moving horizontally across this vertically mounted propeller, the blade proceeding forward into the flow of air has a higher airspeed than the blade retreating with the airflow. Thus, the blade proceeding into the horizontal airflow is creating more lift, or thrust, moving the center of thrust toward that blade. Visualize rotating the vertically mounted propeller shaft to shallower angles relative to the moving air (as on an aircraft). This unbalanced thrust then becomes proportionately smaller and continues getting smaller until it reaches the value of zero when the propeller shaft is exactly horizontal in relation to the moving air.

Figure 4-43. Asymmetrical loading of propeller (P-factor).

Figure 4-43. Asymmetrical loading of propeller (P-factor).

The effects of each of these four elements of torque vary in value with changes in flight situations. In one phase of flight, one of these elements may be more prominent than another. In another phase of flight, another element may be more prominent. The relationship of these values to each other varies with different aircraft—depending on the airframe, engine, and propeller combinations, as well as other design features. To maintain positive control of the aircraft in all flight conditions, the pilot must apply the flight controls as necessary to compensate for these varying values.

1 Don August 20, 2011 at 4:46 am

I am building a PPG motor and your website has given me a clear understanding on what I thought I knew. Thank you for (maybe) saving my life.
Don

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