Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Return of the Radial Engine: AE80R

For decades radial, reciprocating engines were the standard on aircraft of all sizes. They were relatively compact for the horsepower they produced, and radial engines were very reliable for the technology of the time. Today the radial engine, while still in use, has fallen out of favor. With larger aircraft we have turbine engines and turboprops, smaller aircraft use mostly horizontally opposed reciprocating engines. 

While radial engines were proven reliable and could produce plenty of horsepower, the were some drawbacks that have contributed to their decline. Even while producing a high amount of horse power, the engines were not exactly fuel efficient. Even bigger of an issue is the fact that every radial engine would leak oil, causing a high amount of oil consumption. The joke is that you know when a radial is out of oil because it stops leaking. While the plane is sitting on the ramp, it is not uncommon for some oil to leak into the bottom cylinders, past the piston rings and into the combustion chamber if the engine has not run in the past couple of days. This is known as hydraulic lock, and requires the removal of the bottom spark plugs to drain the oil from the cylinders before the next engine start.

New technology coming to an old design

Austro Engines, which is owned by Diamond Aircraft certainly believes that there is still potential in radial engines. On January 8, 2013 Austro Engines has begun testing the AE80R radial engine. Weighing about 60 pounds (27kg) the engine produces 80 hp. According to the report on Austro's website it has a "no loss lubrication system," (which would certainly solve the problem of oil consumption and vapor lock) and uses a Full-Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system to maximize fuel economy. FADEC is an electronic control system used on larger turbine engines to obtain monitor the fuel flow and obtain a desired exhaust pressure ratio (EPR) and thrust. Information on how this system has been integrated into the AE80R has not been released yet. 

While 80 hp isn't a lot of power, the power to weight ratio is impressive. While we are not likely to see these new radials back on transport aircraft anytime soon, Austro points out the power to weight ratio is ideal for smaller aircraft markets such as light sport aircraft and unmanned aircraft. If the AE80R radial engine proves to be successful, perhaps we could see further technological development and progress made from the radial engine.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tool History; William Bernard

William Bernard was an innovative tool maker and inventor. Mr. Bernard was born in 1848 in Lynchburg, Virginia. After working as a machinist making tools in several east coast areas, he settled in New Haven, Connecticut in 1890 where he would work with, and later purchase his share of the William Schollhorn Manufacturing Company, which was initially founded 1870. Mr. Bernard would go on to career which included more than 100 patented inventions to his credit. At some point, William Schollhorn Company was purchased by Sargent Manufacturing Company, making the Schollhorn Company the hand tool division of Sargent. Rostra Tool purchased the hand tool division of Sargent, and is still the owner today. Rostra proudly acknowledges it's history on their website. Outside of his work, William Bernard was a member of the Episcopal and politically independent.

Mr. William Bernard's most significant innovation is the Bernard Parallel Action Pliers, patent #427220 submitted on May 6, 1890. This parallel action plier was not only a significant invention in itself but would also be the base from which Mr. Bernard would add on many other patents as well. On the plier above, there are 3 additional patent dates. Patent #479113 submitted July 19, 1892 is for the cutter on the side, and patents 848877 (April 2, 1907) and 1064956 (June 17, 1913) are concerning the technology used to make the handles. Perhaps what amazes me the most is that the main design, patented over 120 years ago is still being manufactured today.

William Schollhorn Company History
Sargent Tools (Rostra) still manufactures these pliers to this day
patent #427220
Patent #479113
Patent #848877
Patent #1064956
Bernard, William A. Dec. 13, 2013

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Aviation History; Katherine Stinson

December 11, 1917 aviator Katherine Stinson (1891-1977) made the first nonstop flight from San Diego to San Francisco, CA. At that time the flight, 606 miles, set a new record for distance of a nonstop flight.

In July of 1912 Katherine Stinson became just the forth woman to earn her pilot's license. As a woman, finding an instructor willing to accept her as a student proved a difficult task. She finally convinced  Max Lillie, who was at first hesitant, to accept her as a student.

After completing her certificate, the Stinson family moved to San Antonio, Texas where they opened up an aviation school (the school would close in 1917 when Katherine traveled to Europe with the Red Cross). Katherine, along with sister Marjorie, gave flight instruction at the family school when she was not flying at exhibitions. To this day in San Antonio the family is honored with the Stinson Municipal Airport, and Katherine is honored with Katherine Stinson Middle School.

Katherine Stinson's flying career ended while she serving in Europe as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross towards the end of World War 1. During that time she got sick with tuberculosis. While she would recover, she never did fly again from that point on. Before she was serving with the Red Cross in Europe she was supporting the Red Cross by flying in fundraising tours to benefit the Red Cross during the war.

In addition to her feat mentioned at the top, she was also the first woman to perform a loop, and the first woman authorized as a mail carrier. Eddie Stinson, inspired by his sister, founded the Stinson Aircraft Company in 1920.

A collection of bios of Katherine (and Marjorie) Stinson

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy National Aviation Day!

On August 19, 1871 Orville Wright was born (his brother Wilbur Wright was born April 16, 1867). December 17, 1903 Orville Wright, winning a coin toss between himself and brother Wilbur, became the first man to achieve and sustain powered flight in a heavier than air aircraft. In 1939, president Franklin Roosevelt declared August 19 to be National Aviation Day, honoring Orville Wright's historic accomplishment. This accomplishment changed the world in perhaps more ways than any event that has happened since. Aviation has advanced shipping, commerce, travel, military, etc. in so many ways. People can travel longer distances in shorter amounts of time. Remote areas where we have not been able to build rails or roads have become accessible. This day has been established to celebrate the history and achievements in aviation and among aviators. Even though this day has passed for many years with little acknowledgement, I will continue to blog about remarkable achievements made by aviators in history and in the present.

A short documentary on the first flight at Kitty Hawk.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tools, "Washington Combination Pliers"

"Washington Combination Plier" by National Plier Company, Buffalo NY. Pat'd Nov. 19, 1907.  This combination plier was Christopher Haeberli. The design is a combination tool including a plier, a hammer, a wire cutter, a shear or snips, a screw driver.  

I found an article from an old journal "Metal Industry" (volume 13, March 1915)* that says; "Walter Hayes of the United States Cast Iron Pipe and Foundry Company has added to his many interests a partnership with Chris Haeberli, of the Washington Plating Works… In addition to their electroplating work they intend to manufacture what will be known as the "Washington Combination Pliers," invented by Chris Haeberli… They expect to market their article in the next two weeks."This confirms Christopher Haeberli was the inventor, and suggests the tool was on the market by April, 1915.

The patent date as marked on the tool makes the likely patent# 871585**. However there are a couple of discrepancies between this model and the drawing included with the patent. The drawing with the patent included a slip joint, as well as a rivet hammer on the opposite jaw of the tool.

*Metal Industry, Volume 13 (March, 1915)
A similar plier with a an excerpt from "Hardware Dealers' Magazine" July, 1915 on Flicker

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Aviation: "Flying Pancake"

The Vought V-173 was an amazing and practically forgotten experiment in aviation during World War 2. This experiment was developed and designed by Charles H. Zimmerman, and the prototype was piloted by legendary pilots Boone Guyton and Charles Lindbergh. Rather than conventional wings, the body of the V-173 was a discoidal symmetrical airfoil. The plane was powered by 2 80 horse-power continental engines spinning 2 propellers. Test flights of the V-173. It is likely that test flights (during 1942 to 1943) were reported as UFO sightings.
Zimmerman's accomplished some amazing feats in his design. The V-173 had near vertical take off and landing capabilities (very impressive for a propeller plane) and handled very well at low speeds. The plane was noted for being very difficult to stall. In addition, the structure of the plane turned out to be remarkably strong. The V-173 also successfully demonstrated Zimmerman's idea of in using the propellers to counter the wing-tip vortices.
The proto-type V-173 lead to the development of the Vought XF5U-1, funded by the United States Navy as a fighter plane. While the V-173 was a wood and fabric airframe, the XF5U-1 was as an all metal construction. This promising design, while it tested in taxi, ground runs, and short hops never actually made a true flight. The project was canceled in 1948 as the Navy was replacing fighter propeller-planes with jet aircraft. The only completed XF5U-1 was destroyed by a wrecking ball. The V-173 however survived in storage. Today it belongs to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. According to the Smithsonian website, the V-173 is "not on display at the National Air and Space Museum; it is either on loan or in storage."

Short video clip on the Vought V-173

Gudaitis, Frank. "Charles Zimmerman and his "Skimmer." Flight Journal; April, 2005.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Aviation - 60th anniversary…

On May 2, 1952 the de Havilland Comet took off from London with the final destination of Johannesburg, South Africa (though not a non-stop trip). This was the first passenger flight in a commercial airliner, powered only by turbine engines. Here is a short documentary that was made during the historic flight itself. Because it was filmed during the historic flight, it tells the story better than I can and offers a valuable historical perspective during that time.