Wednesday, October 31, 2007


An octane identifies aviation gasoline, or AVGAS, or performance number (grade), which designates the antiknock value or knock resistance of the fuel mixture in the engine cylinder. The higher the grade of gasoline, the more pressure the fuel can withstand without detonating. Lower grades of fuel are used in lower-compression engines because these fuels ignite at a lower temperature. Higher grades are used in higher-compression engines, because they must ignite at higher temperatures, but not prematurely. If the proper grade of fuel is not available, use the next higher grade as a substitute. Never use a lower grade. This can cause the cylinder head temperature and engine oil temperature to exceed their normal operating range, which may result in detonation.

Several grades of aviation fuel are available. Care must be exercised to ensure that the correct aviation grade is being used for the specific type of engine. The proper fuel grade is stated in the AFM or POH, on placards in the cockpit, and next to the filler caps. Due to its lead content, auto gas should NEVER be used in aircraft engines unless the aircraft has been modified with a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The current method to identify aviation gasoline for aircraft with reciprocating engines is by the octane and performance number, along with the abbreviation AVGAS. These aircraft use AVGAS 80, 100, and 100LL. Although AVGAS 100LL performs the same as grade 100, the "LL" indicates it has a low lead content.

Fuel for aircraft with turbine engines is classified as JET A, JET A-1, and JET B. Jet fuel is basically kerosene and has a distinctive kerosene smell.

Since use of the correct fuel is critical, dyes are added to help identify the type and grade of fuel.

In addition to the color of the fuel itself, the color-coding system extends to decals and various airport fuels handling equipment. For example, all aviation gasoline is identified by name, using white letters on a red background. In contrast, white letters on a black background identifies turbine fuels.

Monday, October 29, 2007


After the fuel selector valve, the fuel passes through a strainer before it enters the carburetor. This strainer removes moisture and other sediments that might be in the system. Since these contaminants are heavier than aviation fuel, they settle in a sump at the bottom of the strainer assembly. A sump is defined as a low point in a fuel system and/or fuel tank. The fuel system may contain sump, fuel strainer, and fuel tank drains, some of which may be collocated.

The fuel strainer should be drained before each flight. Fuel samples should be drained and checked visually for water and contaminants. Water in the sump is hazardous because in cold weather the water can freeze and block fuel lines. In warm weather, it can flow into the carburetor and stop the engine. If water is present in the sump, it is likely there is more water in the fuel tanks, and you should continue to drain them until there is no evidence of water. In any event, never take off until you are certain that all water and contaminants have been removed from the engine fuel system.

Because of the variation in fuel systems, you should become thoroughly familiar with the systems that apply to your airplane. Consult the AFM or POH for specific operating procedures.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The fuel selector valve allows selection of fuel from various tanks. A common type of selector valve contains four positions: LEFT, RIGHT, BOTH, and OFF. Selecting the LEFT or RIGHT position allows fuel to feed only from that tank, while selecting the BOTH position feeds fuel from both tanks. The LEFT or RIGHT position may be used to balance the amount of fuel remaining in each wing tank.

Fuel placards will show any limitations on fuel tank usage, such as "level flight only" and/or "both" for landings and takeoffs.

Regardless of the type of fuel selector in use, fuel consumption should be monitored closely to ensure that a tank does not run completely out of fuel. Running a fuel tank dry will not only cause the engine to stop, but running for prolonged periods on one tank causes an unbalanced fuel load between tanks. Running a tank completely dry may allow air to enter the fuel system, which may cause vapor lock. When this situation develops, it may be difficult to restart the engine. On fuel-injected engines, the fuel may become so hot it vaporizes in the fuel line, not allowing fuel to reach the cylinders.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The fuel quantity gauges indicate the amount of fuel measured by a sensing unit in each fuel tank and is displayed in gallons or pounds. Aircraft certification rules only require accuracy in fuel gauges when they read "empty." Any reading other than "empty" should be verified. Do not depend solely on the accuracy of the fuel quantity gauges. Always visually check the fuel level in each tank during the preflight inspection, and then compare it with the corresponding fuel quantity indication.

If a fuel pump is installed in the fuel system, a fuel pressure gauge is also included. This gauge indicates the pressure in the fuel lines. The normal operating pressure can be found in the AFM/POH, or on the gauge by color coding.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The fuel tanks, normally located inside the wings of an airplane, have filler opening on top of the wing through which they can be filled. A filler cap covers this opening. The tanks are vented to the outside to maintain atmospheric pressure inside the tank. They may be vented through the filler cap or through a tube extending through the surface of the wing. Fuel tanks also include an overflow drain that may stand-alone or are collocated with the fuel tank vent. This allows fuel to expand with increases in temperature without damage to the tank itself. If the tanks have been filled on a hot day, it is not unusual to see fuel coming from the overflow drain.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Both gravity fed and pump systems may incorporate a fuel primer into the system. The primer is used to draw fuel from the tanks to vaporize it directly into the cylinders prior to starting the engine. This is particularly helpful during cold weather, when engines are hard to start because there is not enough heat available to vaporize the fuel in the carburetor. It is important to lock the primer in place when it is not in use. If the knob is free to move, it may vibrate out during flight and can cause an excessively rich mixture. To avoid over priming, read the priming instructions for your airplane.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Airplanes with fuel pump systems have two fuel pumps. The main pump system is engine driven, and an electrically driven auxiliary pump is provided for use in engine starting and in the event the engine pump fails. The auxiliary pump, also known as a boost pump, provides added reliability to the fuel system. A switch in the cockpit controls the electrically driven auxiliary pump.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The fuel system is designed to provide an uninterrupted flow of clean fuel from the fuel tanks to the engine. The fuel must be available to the engine under all conditions of engine power, altitude, attitude, and during all approved flight maneuvers. Two common classifications apply to fuel systems in small airplanes�gravity-feed and fuel-pump systems.

The gravity-feed system utilizes the force of gravity to transfer the fuel from the tanks to the engine�for example, on high-wing airplanes where the fuel tanks are installed in the wings. This places the fuel tanks above the carburetor, and the fuel is gravity fed through the system and into the carburetor. If the design of the airplane is such that gravity cannot be used to transfer fuel, fuel pumps are installed�for example, on low-wing airplanes where the fuel tanks in the wings are located below the carburetor.

Monday, October 15, 2007


During normal combustion, the fuel/air mixture burns in a very controlled and predictable manner. Although the process occurs in a fraction of a second, which the mixture actually begins to burn at the point where it is ignited by the spark plugs, then burns away from the plugs until it is all consumed. This type of combustion causes a smooth build-up of temperature and pressure and ensures that the expanding gases deliver the maximum force to the piston at exactly the right time in the power stroke.

Detonation is an uncontrolled, explosive ignition of the fuel/air mixture within the cylinder's combustion chamber. It causes excessive temperatures and pressures which, if not corrected, can quickly lead to failure of the piston, cylinder, or valves. In less severe cases, detonation causes engine overheating, roughness, or loss of power.

Detonation is characterized by high cylinder head temperatures, and is most likely to occur when operating at high power settings. Some common operational causes of detonation include:
  • Using a lowers fuel grade than that specified by the aircraft manufacturer.
  • Operating with extremely high manifold pressures in conjunction with low rpm
  • Operating the engine at high power settings with an excessively lean mixture.
  • Detonation also can be caused by extended ground operations, or steep climbs where cylinder cooling is reduced.

    Detonation may be avoided by following these basic guidelines during the various phases of ground and flight operations:
    • Make sure the proper grade of fuel is being used.
    • While on the ground, keep the cowl flaps (if available) in the full-open position to provide the maximum airflow through the cowling.
    • During takeoff and initial climb, using an enriched fuel mixture, as well as using a shallower climb angle to increase cylinder cooling can reduce the onset of detonation.
    • Avoid extended, high power, steep climbs.
    • Develop a habit of monitoring the engine instruments to verify proper operation according to procedures established by the manufacturer.

      Pre-ignition occurs when the fuel/air mixture ignites prior to the engine's normal ignition event. Premature burning is usually caused by a residual hot spot in the combustion chamber, often created by a small carbon deposit on a spark plug, a cracked spark plug insulator, or other damage in the cylinder that causes a part to heat sufficiently to ignite the fuel/air charge.

      Pre-ignition causes the engine to lose power, and produces high operating temperature. As with detonation, pre-ignition may also cause severe engine damage, because the expanding gases exert excessive pressure on the piston while still on its compression stroke.

      Detonation and pre-ignition often occur simultaneously and one may cause the other. Since either condition causes high engine temperature accompanied by a decrease in engine performance, it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. Using the recommended grade of fuel and operating the engine within its proper temperature, pressure, and rpm ranges reduce the chance of detonation or pre-ignition.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


As an aircraft equipped with a turbo charging system climbs, the waste gate is gradually closed to maintain the maximum allowable manifold pressure. At some point, however, the waste gate will be fully closed, and with further increases in altitude, the manifold pressure will begin to decrease. This is the critical altitude, which is established by the airplane or engine manufacturer. When evaluating the performance of the turbo charging system, if the manifold pressure begins decreasing before the specified critical altitude, the engine and turbo charging system should be inspected by a qualified aviation maintenance technician to verify the system's proper operation.

The ignition system provides the spark that ignites the fuel/air mixture in the cylinders and is made up of magnetos, spark plugs, high-tension leads, and the ignition switch.

Exhaust Gas Discharge Waste Gate
This controls the amount of exhaust through the turbine. Waste gate position is actuated by engine oil pressure.

Turbo charger
The turbo charger incorporates a turbine, which is driven by exhaust gases, and a compressor that pressurizes the incoming air.

Throttle Body
This regulates airflow to the engine.

Intake Manifold
Pressurized air from the turbo charger is supplied to the cylinders.

Exhaust Manifold
Exhaust gas is ducted through the exhaust manifold and is used to turn the turbine which drives the compressor.

Air Intake
Intake air is ducted to the turbo charger where it is compressed.

A magneto uses a permanent magnet to generate an electrical current completely independent of the aircraft's electrical system. The magneto generates sufficiently high voltage to jump a spark across the spark plug gap in each cylinder. The system begins to fire when you engage the starter and the crankshaft begins to turn. It continues to operate whenever the crankshaft is rotating.

Most standard certificated airplanes incorporate a dual ignition system with two individual magnetos, separate sets of wires, and spark plugs to increase reliability of the ignition system. Each magneto operates independently to fire one of the two spark plugs in each cylinder. The firing of two spark plugs improves combustion of the fuel/air mixture and results in a slightly higher power output. If one of the magnetos fails, the other is unaffected. The engine will continue to operate normally, although you can expect a slight decrease in engine power. The same is true if one of the two spark plugs in a cylinder fails.

The operation of the magneto is controlled in the cockpit by the ignition switch. The switch has
five positions:
1. OFF
2. R—Right
3. L—Left

With RIGHT or LEFT selected, only the associated magneto is activated. The system operates on both magnetos with BOTH selected.

You can identify a malfunctioning ignition system during the pre-take-off check by observing the decrease in r.p.m. that occurs when you first move the ignition switch from BOTH to RIGHT, and then from BOTH to LEFT. A small decrease in engine r.p.m. is normal during this check. The permissible decrease is listed in the AFM or POH. If the engine stops running when you switch to one magneto or if the r.p.m. drop exceeds the allowable limit, do not fly the airplane until the problem is corrected. The cause could be fouled plugs, broken or shorted wires between the magneto and the plugs, or improperly timed firing of the plugs. It should be noted that "no drop" in r.p.m. is not normal, and in that instance, the airplane should not be flown.

Following engine shutdown, turn the ignition switch to the OFF position. Even with the battery and master switches OFF, the engine can fire and turn over if you leave the ignition switch ON and the propeller is moved because the magneto requires no outside source of electrical power. The potential for serious injury in this situation is obvious. Loose or broken wires in the ignition system also can cause problems. For example, if the ignition switch is OFF, the magneto may continue to fire if the ignition switch ground wire is disconnected. If this occurs, the only way to stop the engine is to move the mixture lever to the idle cutoff position, then have the system checked by a qualified aviation maintenance technician.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


On most modern turbo charged engines, the position of the waste gate is governed by a pressure-sensing control mechanism coupled to an actuator. Engine oil directed into or away from this actuator moves the waste gate position. On these systems, the actuator is automatically positioned to produce the desired MAP simply by changing the position of the throttle control.

Other turbo charging system designs use a separate manual control to position the waste gate. With manual control, you must closely monitor the manifold pressure gauge to determine when the desired MAP has been achieved. Manual systems are often found on aircraft that have been modified with after market turbo charging systems. These systems require special operating considerations. For example, if the waste gate is left closed after descending from a high altitude, it is possible to produce a manifold pressure that exceeds the engine's limitations. This condition is referred to as an over boost, and it may produce severe detonation because of the leaning effect resulting from increased air density during descent.

Although an automatic waste gate system is less likely to experience an over boost condition, it can still occur. If you try to apply takeoff power while the engine oil temperature is below its normal operating range, the cold oil may not flow out of the waste gate actuator quickly enough to prevent an over boost. To help prevent over boosting, you should advance the throttle cautiously to prevent exceeding the maximum manifold pressure limits.

There are system limitations that you should be aware of when flying an aircraft with a turbo charger. For instance, a turbo charger turbine and impeller can operate at rotational speeds in excess of 80,000 r.p.m. while at extremely high temperatures. To achieve high rotational speed, the bearings within the system must be constantly supplied with engine oil to reduce the frictional forces and high temperature. To obtain adequate lubrication, the oil temperature should be in the normal operating range before high throttle settings are applied. In addition, you should allow the turbo charger to cool and the turbine to slow down before shutting the engine down. Otherwise, the oil remaining in the bearing housing will boil, causing hard carbon deposits to form on the bearings and shaft.

These deposits rapidly deteriorate the turbo charger's efficiency and service life. For further limitations, refer to the AFM/POH.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The most efficient method of increasing horsepower in a reciprocating engine is by use of a turbo supercharger, or turbo charger, as it is usually called. A drawback of gear-driven superchargers is that they use a large amount of the engine's power output for the amount of power increase they produce. This problem is avoided with a turbo charger, because turbo chargers are powered by an engine's exhaust gases. This means a turbo charger recovers energy from hot exhaust gases that would otherwise be lost.

Another advantage of turbo chargers is that they can be controlled to maintain an engine's rated sea-level horsepower from sea level up to the engine's critical altitude. Critical altitude is the maximum altitude at which a turbo charged engine can produce its rated horsepower. Above the critical altitude, power output begins to decrease like it does for a normally aspirated engine.

Turbo chargers increase the pressure of the engine's induction air, which allows the engine to develop sea level or greater horsepower at higher altitudes. A turbo charger is comprised of two main elements—a turbine and a compressor. The compressor section houses an impeller that turns at a high rate of speed. As induction air is drawn across the impeller blades, the impeller accelerates the air, allowing a large volume of air to be drawn into the compressor housing. The impeller's action subsequently produces high-pressure, high-density air, which is delivered to the engine. To turn the impeller, the engine's exhaust gases are used to drive a turbine wheel that is mounted on the opposite end of the impeller's drive shaft. By directing different amounts of exhaust gases to flow over the turbine, more energy can be extracted, causing the impeller to deliver more compressed air to the engine. The waste gate is used to vary the mass of exhaust gas flowing into the turbine. A waste gate is essentially an adjustable butterfly valve that is installed in the exhaust system. When closed, most of the exhaust gases from the engine are forced to flow through the turbine. When open, the exhaust gases are allowed to bypass the turbine by flowing directly out through the engine's exhaust pipe.

Since the temperature of a gas rises when it is compressed, turbo charging causes the temperature of the induction air to increase. To reduce this temperature and lower the risk of detonation, many turbo charged engines use an inter cooler. An inter cooler is a small heat exchanger that uses outside air to cool the hot compressed air before it enters the fuel metering device.

Monday, October 8, 2007


A supercharger is an engine-driven air pump or compressor that increases manifold pressure and forces the fuel/air mixture into the cylinders. The higher the manifold pressure, the more dense the fuel/air mixture, and the more power an engine can produce. With a normally aspirated engine, it is not possible to have manifold pressure higher than the existing atmospheric pressure. A supercharger is capable of boosting manifold pressure above 30 in. Hg. The components in a supercharged induction system are similar to those in a normally aspirated system, with the addition of a supercharger between the fuel metering device and intake manifold. A supercharger is driven by the engine through a gear train at one speed, two speeds, or variable speeds. In addition, superchargers can have one or more stages. Each stage provides an increase in pressure. Therefore, superchargers may be classified as single stage, two stage, or multistage, depending on the number of times compression occurs.

An early version of a single-stage, single-speed supercharger may be referred to as a sea-level supercharger. An engine equipped with this type of supercharger is called a sea-level engine. With this type of supercharger, a single gear-driven impeller is used to increase the power produced by an engine at all altitudes. The drawback, however, is that with this type of supercharger, engine power output still decreases with an increase in altitude, in the same way that it does with a normally aspirated engine.

Single-stage, single-speed superchargers are found on many high-powered radial engines, and use an air intake that faces forward so the induction system can take full advantage of the ram air. Intake air passes through ducts to a carburetor, where fuel is metered in proportion to the airflow. The fuel/air charge is then ducted to the supercharger, or blower impeller, which accelerates the fuel/air mixture outward. Once accelerated, the fuel/air mixture passes through a diffuser, where air velocity is traded for pressure energy. After compression, the resulting high pressure fuel/air mixture is directed to the cylinders. Some of the large radial engines developed during World War II have a single-stage, two-speed supercharger. With this type of supercharger, a single impeller may be operated at two speeds. The low impeller speed is often referred to as the low blower setting, while the high impeller speed is called the high blower setting. On engines equipped with a two-speed supercharger, a lever or switch in the cockpit activates an oil-operated clutch that switches from one speed to the other.

Under normal operations, takeoff is made with the supercharger in the low blower position. In this mode, the engine performs as a ground-boosted engine, and the power output decreases as the aircraft gains altitude. However, once the aircraft reaches a specified altitude, a power reduction is made, and the supercharger control is switched to the high blower position. The throttle is then reset to the desired manifold pressure. An engine equipped with this type of supercharger is called an altitude engine.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


To increase an engine's horsepower, manufacturers have developed supercharger and turbo super charger systems that compress the intake air to increase its density. Airplanes with these systems have a manifold pressure gauge, which displays manifold absolute pressure (MAP) within the engine's intake manifold.

On a standard day at sea level with the engine shut down, the manifold pressure gauge will indicate the ambient absolute air pressure of 29.92 in. Hg. Because atmospheric pressure decreases approximately 1 in. Hg per 1,000 feet of altitude increase, the manifold pressure gauge will indicate approximately 24.92 in. Hg at an airport that is 5,000 feet above sea level with standard day conditions.

As a normally aspirated aircraft climbs, it eventually reaches an altitude where the MAP is insufficient for a normal climb. That altitude limit is the aircraft's service ceiling, and it is directly affected by the engine's ability to produce power. If the induction air entering the engine is pressurized, or boosted, by either a supercharger or a turbo super charger, the aircraft's service ceiling can be increased. With these systems, you can fly at higher altitudes with the advantage of higher true airspeeds and the increased ability to circumnavigate adverse weather.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Most airplanes also are equipped with an outside air temperature (OAT) gauge calibrated in both degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit. It provides the outside or ambient air temperature for calculating true airspeed, and also is useful in detecting potential icing conditions.

In a fuel injection system, the fuel is injected either directly into the cylinders, or just ahead of the intake valve. A fuel injection system is considered to be less susceptible to icing than the carburetor system. Impact icing on the air intake, however, is a possibility in either system. Impact icing occurs when ice forms on the exterior of the airplane, and blocks openings such as the air intake for the injection system.

The air intake for the fuel injection system is similar to that used in the carburetor system, with an alternate air source located within the engine cowling. This source is used if the external air source is obstructed. The alternate air source is usually operated automatically, with a backup manual system that can be used if the automatic feature malfunctions.

A fuel injection system usually incorporates these basic components—an engine-driven fuel pump, a fuel/air control unit, fuel manifold (fuel distributor), discharge nozzles, an auxiliary fuel pump, and fuel pressure/flow indicators.

The auxiliary fuel pump provides fuel under pressure to the fuel/air control unit for engine starting and/or emergency use. After starting, the engine-driven fuel pump provides fuel under pressure from the fuel tank to the fuel/air control unit. This control unit, which essentially replaces the carburetor, meters fuel based on the mixture control setting, and sends it to the fuel manifold valve at a rate controlled by the throttle. After reaching the fuel manifold valve, the fuel is distributed to the individual fuel discharge nozzles. The discharge nozzles, which are located in each cylinder head, inject the fuel/air mixture directly into each cylinder intake port.

Some of the advantages of fuel injection are:
  • Reduction in evaporative icing.
  • Better fuel flow.
  • Faster throttle response.
  • Precise control of mixture.
  • Better fuel distribution.
  • Easier cold weather starts.

Disadvantages usually include:
  • Difficulty in starting a hot engine.
  • Vapor locks during ground operations on hot days.
  • Problems associated with restarting an engine that quits because of fuel starvation.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Some airplanes are equipped with a carburetor air temperature gauge, which is useful in detecting potential icing conditions. Usually, the face of the gauge is calibrated in degrees Celsius (C), with a yellow arc indicating the carburetor air temperatures where icing may occur. This yellow arc typically ranges between -15°C and +5°C (5°F and 41°F). If the air temperature and moisture content of the air are such that carburetor icing is improbable, the engine can be operated with the indicator in the yellow range with no adverse effects. However, if the atmospheric conditions are conducive to carburetor icing, the indicator must be kept outside the yellow arc by application of carburetor heat.

Certain carburetor air temperature gauges have a red radial, which indicates the maximum permissible carburetor inlet air temperature recommended by the engine manufacturer; also, a green arc may be included to indicate the normal operating range.


Carburetor heat is an anti-icing system that preheats the air before it reaches the carburetor. Carburetor heat is intended to keep the fuel/air mixture above the freezing temperature to prevent the formation of carburetor ice. Carburetor heat can be used to melt ice that has already formed in the carburetor provided that the accumulation is not too great. The emphasis, however, is on using carburetor heat as a preventative measure.

The carburetor heat should be checked during the engine run-up. When using carburetor heat, follow the manufacturer's recommendations. When conditions are conducive to carburetor icing during flight, periodic checks should be made to detect its presence. If detected, full carburetor heat should be applied immediately, and it should be left in the ON position until you are certain that all the ice has been removed. If ice is present, applying partial heat or leaving heat on for an insufficient time might aggravate the situation. In extreme cases of carburetor icing, even after the ice has been removed, full carburetor heat should be used to prevent further ice formation. A carburetor temperature gauge, if installed, is very useful in determining when to use carburetor heat.

Whenever the throttle is closed during flight, the engine cools rapidly and vaporization of the fuel is less complete than if the engine is warm. Also, in this condition, the engine is more susceptible to carburetor icing. Therefore, if you suspect carburetor icing conditions and anticipate closed-throttle operation, adjust the carburetor heat to the full ON position before closing the throttle, and leave it on during the closed-throttle operation. The heat will aid in vaporizing the fuel, and help prevent the formation of carburetor ice. Periodically, open the throttle smoothly for a few seconds to keep the engine warm, otherwise the carburetor heater may not provide enough heat to prevent icing.

The use of carburetor heat causes a decrease in engine power, sometimes up to 15 percent, because the heated air is less dense than the outside air that had been entering the engine. This enriches the mixture. When ice is present in an airplane with a fixed-pitch propeller and carburetor heat is being used, there is a decrease in r.p.m., followed by a gradual increase in r.p.m. as the ice melts. The engine also should run more smoothly after the ice has been removed. If ice is not present, the r.p.m. will decrease, then remain constant. When carburetor heat is used on an airplane with a constant-speed propeller, and ice is present, a decrease in the manifold pressure will be noticed, followed by a gradual increase. If carburetor icing is not present, the gradual increase in manifold pressure will not be apparent until the carburetor heat is turned off.

It is imperative that a pilot recognizes carburetor ice when it forms during flight. In addition, a loss of power, altitude, and/or airspeed will occur. These symptoms may sometimes be accompanied by vibration or engine roughness. Once a power loss is noticed, immediate action should be taken to eliminate ice already formed in the carburetor, and to prevent further ice formation. This is accomplished by applying full carburetor heat, which will cause a further reduction in power, and possibly engine roughness as melted ice goes through the engine. These symptoms may last from 30 seconds to several minutes, depending on the severity of the icing. During this period, the pilot must resist the temptation to decrease the carburetor heat usage. Carburetor heat must remain in the full-hot position until normal power returns.

Since the use of carburetor heat tends to reduce the output of the engine and also to increase the operating temperature, carburetor heat should not be used when full power is required (as during takeoff) or during normal engine operation, except to check for the presence or to remove carburetor ice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


The mixture needle controls fuel to the discharge nozzle. Mixture needle position can be adjusted using the mixture control.

The reduced air pressure, as well as the vaporization of fuel, contributes to the temperature decrease in the carburetor. Ice generally forms in the vicinity of the throttle valve and in the venturi throat. This restricts the flow of the fuel/air mixture and reduces power. If enough ice builds up, the engine may cease to operate.

Carburetor ice is most likely to occur when temperatures are below 70°F (21°C) and the relative humidity is above 80 percent. However, due to the sudden cooling that takes place in the carburetor, icing can occur even with temperatures as high as 100°F (38°C) and humidity as low as 50 percent. This temperature drop can be as much as 60 to 70°F. Therefore, at an outside air temperature of 100°F, a temperature drop of 70°F results in an air temperature in the carburetor of 30°F.

The first indication of carburetor icing in an airplane with a fixed-pitch propeller is a decrease in engine r.p.m., which may be followed by engine roughness. In an airplane with a constant-speed propeller, carburetor icing usually is indicated by a decrease in manifold pressure, but no reduction in r.p.m. Propeller pitch is automatically adjusted to compensate for loss of power. Thus, a constant r.p.m. is maintained. Although carburetor ice can occur during any phase of flight, it is particularly dangerous when using reduced power during a descent. Under certain conditions, carburetor ice could build unnoticed until you try to add power. To combat the effects of carburetor ice, engines with float-type carburetors employ a carburetor heat system.


One disadvantage of the float-type carburetor is its icing tendency. Carburetor ice occurs due to the effect of fuel vaporization and the decrease in air pressure in the venturi, which causes a sharp temperature drop in the carburetor. If water vapor in the air condenses when the carburetor temperature is at or below freezing, ice may form on internal surfaces of the carburetor, including the throttle valve.

The blend of fuel and air is routed to the combustion chambers to be burned.

The flow of the fuel/air mixture is controlled by the throttle valve. The throttle valve is adjusted from the cockpit by the throttle.

Fuel is forced through the discharge nozzle into the venturi by greater atmospheric
pressure in the float chamber.

The shape of the venturi creates an area of low pressure.

Air enters the carburetor through the air inlet.

The air bleed allows air to be mixed with fuel being drawn out of the discharge nozzle to decrease fuel density and promote fuel vaporization.

Fuel is received into the carburetor through the fuel inlet.

Fuel level is maintained by a float-type device.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Carburetors are normally calibrated at sea-level pressure, where the correct fuel-to-air mixture ratio is established with the mixture control set in the FULL RICH position. However, as altitude increases, the density of air entering the carburetor decreases, while the density of the fuel remains the same. This creates a progressively richer mixture, which can result in engine roughness and an appreciable loss of power. The roughness normally is due to spark plug fouling from excessive carbon buildup on the plugs. Carbon buildup occurs because the excessively rich mixture lowers the temperature inside the cylinder, inhibiting complete combustion of the fuel. This condition may occur during the pretakeoff runup at high-elevation airports and during climbs or cruise flight at high altitudes. To maintain the correct fuel/air mixture, you must lean the mixture using the mixture control. Leaning the mixture decreases fuel flow, which compensates for the decreased air density at high altitude.

During a descent from high altitude, the opposite is true. The mixture must be enriched, or it may become too lean. An overly lean mixture causes detonation, which may result in rough engine operation, overheating, and a loss of power. The best way to maintain the proper mixture is to monitor the engine temperature and enrichen the mixture as needed.

Proper mixture control and better fuel economy for fuel-injected engines can be achieved by use of an exhaust gas temperature gauge. Since the process of adjusting the mixture can vary from one airplane to another, it is important to refer to the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) or the Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) to determine the specific procedures for a given airplane.


Carburetors are classified as either float-type or pressure-type. Pressure carburetors are usually not found on small airplanes. The basic difference between a pressure carburetor and a float-type is the pressure carburetor delivers fuel under pressure by a fuel pump.

In the operation of the float-type carburetor system, the outside air first flows through an air filter, usually located at an air intake in the front part of the engine cowling. This filtered air flows into the carburetor and through a venturi, a narrow throat in the carburetor.

When the air flows through the venturi, a low-pressure area is created, which forces the fuel to flow through a main fuel jet located at the throat. The fuel then flows into the airstream, where it is mixed with the flowing air.
The fuel/air mixture is then drawn through the intake manifold and into the combustion chambers, where it is ignited. The "float-type carburetor" acquires its name from a float, which rests on fuel within the float chamber. A needle attached to the float opens and closes an opening at the bottom of the carburetor bowl. This meters the correct amount of fuel into the carburetor, depending upon the position of the float, which is controlled by the level of fuel in the float chamber. When the level of the fuel forces the float to rise, the needle valve closes the fuel opening and shuts off the fuel flow to the carburetor. The needle valve opens again when the engine requires additional fuel.

The flow of the fuel/air mixture to the combustion chambers is regulated by the throttle valve, which is controlled by the throttle in the cockpit.


The induction system brings in air from the outside, mixes it with fuel, and delivers the fuel/air mixture to the cylinder where combustion occurs. Outside air enters the induction system through an intake port on the front of the engine cowling. This port normally contains an air filter that inhibits the entry of dust and other foreign objects. Since the filter may occasionally become clogged, an alternate source of air must be available. Usually, the alternate air comes from inside the engine cowling, where it bypasses a clogged air filter. Some alternate air sources function automatically, while others operate manually.

Two types of induction systems are commonly used in small airplane engines:
  1. The carburetor system, which mixes the fuel and air in the carburetor before this mixture enters the intake manifold, and
  2. The fuel injection system, which mixes the fuel and air just before entry into each cylinder.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Although some older adjustable-pitch propellers could only be adjusted on the ground, most modern adjustable-pitch propellers are designed so that you can change the propeller pitch in flight. The first adjustable-pitch propeller systems provided only two pitch settings�a low-pitch setting and a high-pitch setting. Today, however, nearly all adjustable-pitch propeller systems are capable of a range of pitch settings.

Aconstant-speed propeller is the most common type of adjustable-pitch propeller. The main advantage of a constant-speed propeller is that it converts a high percentage of brake horsepower (BHP) into thrust horsepower (THP) over a wide range of r.p.m. and airspeed combinations. A constant-speed propeller is more efficient than other propellers because it allows selection of the most efficient engine r.p.m. for the given conditions.

An airplane with a constant-speed propeller has two controls—the throttle and the propeller control. The throttle controls power output, and the propeller control regulates engine r.p.m. and, in turn, propeller r.p.m., which is registered on the tachometer.

Once a specific r.p.m. is selected, a governor automatically adjusts the propeller blade angle as necessary to maintain the selected r.p.m. For example, after setting the desired r.p.m. during cruising flight, an increase in airspeed or decrease in propeller load will cause the propeller blade angle to increase as necessary to maintain the selected r.p.m. A reduction in airspeed or increase in propeller load will cause the propeller blade angle to decrease.

The range of possible blade angles for a constant-speed propeller is the propeller's constant-speed range and is defined by the high and low pitch stops. As long as the propeller blade angle is within the constant-speed range and not against either pitch stop, a constant engine r.p.m. will be maintained. However, once the propeller blades contact a pitch stop, the engine r.p.m. will increase or decrease as appropriate, with changes in airspeed and propeller load. For example, once a specific r.p.m. has been selected, if aircraft speed decreases enough to rotate the propeller blades until they contact the low pitch stop, any further decrease in airspeed will cause engine r.p.m. to decrease the same way as if a fixed-pitch propeller were installed. The same holds true when an airplane equipped with a constant-speed propeller accelerates to a faster airspeed. As the aircraft accelerates, the propeller blade angle increases to maintain the selected r.p.m. until the high pitch stop is reached. Once this occurs, the blade angle cannot increase any further and engine r.p.m. increases.

On airplanes that are equipped with a constant-speed propeller, power output is controlled by the throttle and indicated by a manifold pressure gauge. The gauge measures the absolute pressure of the fuel/air mixture inside the intake manifold and is more correctly a measure of manifold absolute pressure (MAP). At a constant r.p.m. and altitude, the amount of power produced is directly related to the fuel/air flow being delivered to the combustion chamber. As you increase the throttle setting, more fuel and air is flowing to the engine; therefore, MAP increases. When the engine is not running, the manifold pressure gauge indicates ambient air pressure (i.e., 29.92 in. Hg). When the engine is started, the manifold pressure indication will decrease to a value less than ambient pressure (i.e., idle at 12 in. Hg). Correspondingly, engine failure or power loss is indicated on the manifold gauge as an increase in manifold pressure to a value corresponding to the ambient air pressure at the altitude where the failure occurred.

The manifold pressure gauge is color-coded to indicate the engine's operating range. The face of the manifold pressure gauge contains a green arc to show the normal operating range, and a red radial line to indicate the upper limit of manifold pressure.

For any given r.p.m., there is a manifold pressure that should not be exceeded. If manifold pressure is excessive for a given r.p.m., the pressure within the cylinders could be exceeded, thus placing undue stress on the cylinders. If repeated too frequently, this stress could weaken the cylinder components, and eventually cause engine failure.

You can avoid conditions that could overstress the cylinders by being constantly aware of the r.p.m., especially when increasing the manifold pressure. Conform to the manufacturer's recommendations for power settings of a particular engine so as to maintain the proper relationship between manifold pressure and r.p.m.

When both manifold pressure and r.p.m. need to be changed, avoid engine overstress by making power adjustments in the proper order:
  • When power settings are being decreased, reduce manifold pressure before reducing r.p.m. If r.p.m. is reduced before manifold pressure, manifold pressure will automatically increase and possibly exceed the manufacturer's tolerances.
  • When power settings are being increased, reverse the order—increase r.p.m. first, then manifold pressure.
  • To prevent damage to radial engines, operating time at maximum r.p.m. and manifold pressure must be held to a minimum, and operation at maximum r.p.m. and low manifold pressure must be avoided.

Under normal operating conditions, the most severe wear, fatigue, and damage to high performance reciprocating engines occurs at high r.p.m. and low manifold pressure.


The pitch of this propeller is set by the manufacturer, and cannot be changed. With this type of propeller, the best efficiency is achieved only at a given combination of airspeed and r.p.m.

There are two types of fixed-pitch propellers—the climb propeller and the cruise propeller. Whether the airplane has a climb or cruise propeller installed depends upon its intended use:
  • The climb propeller has a lower pitch, therefore less drag. Less drag results in higher r.p.m. and more horsepower capability, which increases performance during takeoffs and climbs, but decreases performance during cruising flight.
  • The cruise propeller has a higher pitch, therefore more drag. More drag results in lower r.p.m. and less horsepower capability, which decreases performance during takeoffs and climbs, but increases efficiency during cruising flight.

The propeller is usually mounted on a shaft, which may be an extension of the engine crankshaft. In this case, the r.p.m. of the propeller would be the same as the crankshaft r.p.m. On some engines, the propeller is mounted on a shaft geared to the engine crankshaft. In this type, the r.p.m. of the propeller is different than that of the engine. In a fixed-pitch propeller, the tachometer is the indicator of engine power.

A tachometer is calibrated in hundreds of r.p.m., and gives a direct indication of the engine and propeller r.p.m. The instrument is color-coded, with a green arc denoting the maximum continuous operating r.p.m. Some tachometers have additional marking to reflect engine and/or propeller limitations. Therefore, the manufacturer's recommendations should be used as a reference to clarify any misunderstanding of tachometer marking.

The revolutions per minute are regulated by the throttle, which controls the fuel/air flow to the engine. At a given altitude, the higher the tachometer reading, the higher the power output of the engine. When operating altitude increases, the tachometer may not show correct power output of the engine. For example, 2,300 r.p.m. at 5,000 feet produce less horsepower than 2,300 r.p.m. at sea level. The reason for this is that power output depends on air density. Air density decreases as altitude increases. Therefore, a decrease in air density (higher density altitude) decreases the power output of the engine. As altitude changes, the position of the throttle must be changed to maintain the same r.p.m. As altitude is increased, the throttle must be opened further to indicate the same r.p.m. as at a lower altitude.