Pilot and student pilot community. Share your pilot lessons or aviation stories.



Reciprocating Engines (Part Two)

by Flight Learnings

in Aircraft Systems

Continued improvements in engine design led to the development of the horizontally-opposed engine which remains the most popular reciprocating engines used on smaller aircraft. These engines always have an even number of cylinders, since a cylinder on one side of the crankcase “opposes” a cylinder on the other side. [Figure 6-2]  The majority of these engines are air cooled and usually are mounted in a horizontal position when installed on fixed-wing airplanes. Opposed-type engines have high power-to-weight ratios because they have a comparatively small, lightweight crankcase. In addition, the compact cylinder arrangement reduces the engine’s frontal area and allows a streamlined installation that minimizes aerodynamic drag.

Figure 6-2. Horizontally opposed engine.

Figure 6-2. Horizontally opposed engine.

Depending on the engine manufacturer, all of these arrangements can be designed to utilize spark or compression ignition, and operate on either a two- or four-stroke cycle.

In a two-stroke engine, the conversion of chemical energy into mechanical energy occurs over a two-stroke operating cycle. The intake, compression, power, and exhaust processes occur in only two strokes of the piston rather than the more common four strokes. Because a two-stroke engine has a power stroke each revolution of the crankshaft, it typically has higher power-to-weight ratio than a comparable four-stroke engine. Due to the inherent inefficiency and disproportionate emissions of the earliest designs, use of the two-stroke engine has been limited in aviation.

Recent advances in material and engine design have reduced many of the negative characteristics associated with two-stroke engines. Modern two-stroke engines often use conventional oil sumps, oil pumps and full pressure fed lubrication systems. The use of direct fuel injection and pressurized air, characteristic of advanced compression ignition engines, make two-stroke compression ignition engines a viable alternative to the more common four-stroke spark ignition designs. [Figure 6-3]

Figure 6-3. Two-stroke compression ignition.

Figure 6-3. Two-stroke compression ignition.

518VcjVMo3L._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about aircraft and their systems with A Pilot’s Guide to Aircraft and Their Systems by ASA. Pilot-oriented rather than mechanic-oriented, this guide to aircraft systems is designed specifically to help general aviation pilots understand how aircraft systems work so that they can better use them in flight.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: