Farman 18T engine

Farman 18T 18-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

The rules of the Schneider Trophy Contest stated that any country that won the contest three consecutive times would retain permanent possession of the trophy. By 1930, Britain had two consecutive victories and were favored to win the next contest scheduled for September 1931. Frenchman Jacques P. Schneider had started the contest, and France won the first competition held in 1913. The possibility of losing the contest forever spurred France to action, and the STIAé (service technique et industriel de l’aéronautique, or the Technical and Industrial Service of Aeronautics) ordered at least five aircraft types and three different engines for the 1931 contest. One of the engines ordered was the Farman 18T.

Farman 18T engine

The Farman 18T was specifically designed for installation in the Bernard flying boat. The unusual 18-cylinder engine had no other known applications.

Avions Farman (Farman) was founded in 1908 by brothers Richard, Henri, and Maurice. In October 1917, the company moved to produce engines built under license to support the war effort. The first of these engines was built in mid-1918, and production stopped after World War I. In 1922, Farman started to design their own line of engines under the direction of Charles-Raymond Waseige.

The Farman 18T was designed by Waseige and had an unusual layout. The water-cooled engine had three cylinder banks, each with six cylinders. The left and right cylinder banks were horizontally opposed, with a 180-degree flat angle across the engine’s top side. The lower cylinder extended below the crankcase and was perpendicular to the other cylinder banks. This configuration gave the 18-cylinder engine a T shape.

The engine used a two-piece cast aluminum crankcase that was split vertically. Steel cylinder liners were installed in the cast aluminum, monobloc cylinder banks that were bolted to the crankcase. The four valves of each cylinder were actuated via pairs of rockers by a single overhead camshaft. Each camshaft was driven by a vertical shaft at the rear of the engine.

The 18T used aluminum pistons and had a compression ratio of 6.0 to 1, although some sources say 8.5 to 1. The connecting rods consisted of a master rod for the lower cylinder bank and two articulated rods for the left and right cylinder banks. Each cylinder had two spark plugs, one installed in each side of the cylinder bank. The spark plugs were fired by magnetos driven from the rear of the engine. A nose case at the front of the engine contained the Farman-style bevel propeller reduction gear that turned the propeller at .384 crankshaft speed.

Farman 18T Paris Air Show 1932

The 18T (lower left) was proudly displayed as part of the Farman exhibit at the Salon de l’Aéronautique in November 1932. The other Farman engines are a 350 hp (261 kW) 12G (middle) and a 420 hp (313 kW) 12B (right).

For induction, air passed through carburetors at the rear of the engine and into a centrifugal supercharger that provided approximately 4.4 lb (.3 bar) of boost. The air/fuel mixture flowed from the supercharger into an intake manifold for each cylinder bank. The intake manifolds ran along the bottom of the cylinder bank for the left and right banks and along the right side (when viewed from the non-propeller end) of the lower cylinder bank. The exhaust ports were on the opposite side of the cylinder head from the intake.

The 18T had a 4.72 in (120 mm) bore and stroke. The engine displaced 1,491 cu in (24.4 L) and produced a maximum of 1,480 hp (1,104 kW) at 3,700 rpm. The 18T was rated at 1,200 hp (895 kW) at 3,400 rpm for continuous output. The engine was 65.98 in (1.68 m) long, 44.65 in (1.13 m) wide, 32.56 (.83 m) tall, and weighed 1,069 lb (485 kg).

Two Farman 18T engines were ordered under Contract (Marché) 289/0 (some sources state Marché 269/0) issued in 1930 and valued at 3,583,000 Ғ. The two engines were to power a flying boat built by the Société des avions Bernard (Bernard Aircraft Company). An official designation for the flying boat has not been found, and it was not among the known aircraft ordered for the 1931 Schneider Contest. There is some speculation that a lack of funds prevented the aircraft from being ordered for the 1931 race, but it would be ordered in time for the 1933 race.

Farman 18T Paris Air Show 1932 display

The display at the air show in Paris announced the 18T’s 1,200 hp (895 kW) continuous rating. Note that the supercharger housing extended above the crankcase, which was otherwise the engine’s highest point.

The design of the Bernard flying boat was led by Roger Robert and developed in coordination with the 18T engine. The all-metal aircraft had a low, two-step hull with sponsons protruding from the sides, just behind the cockpit. A long pylon above the cockpit extended along the aircraft’s spine, and the pylon supported the engine nacelle and wings. The engines were installed back-to-back in the middle of the nacelle. The engines’ lower cylinder banks extended into the pylon, and the left and right cylinder banks extended into the cantilever wings, which were mounted to the sides of the nacelle. Surface radiators for engine cooling covered the sides of the pylon, and extension shafts connected the propellers to the engines. The aircraft had a 36 ft 1 in (11.0 m) wingspan and was 35 ft 5 in (10.8 m) long. The engine nacelle was 17 ft 1 in (5.21 m) long. A 12.5 to 1 scale model of the flying boat was tested at the Laboratoire Aérodynamique Eiffel (Eiffel Aerodynamics Laboratory) in Auteuil (near Paris), France.

The 18T engines were bench tested in 1931, but the most power achieved was only 1,350 hp (1,007 kW). While further development was possible, at the time, the chance of France fielding a contestant in the 1931 Schneider Contest was virtually non-existent. The chances of the Bernard flying-boat being built were even worse. Although the aircraft had an estimated top speed of over 435 mph (700 km/h), and a detailed study was submitted to the Service Technique (Technical Service), the flying boat was seen as too radical and was never ordered. The limited funds were needed for the more conventional racers.

The Supermarine S.6B went on to win the 1931 Schneider Contest, giving the British permanent possession of the trophy. The 18T was marketed in 1932 and displayed at the Paris Salon de l’Aéronautique (Air Show) in November. However, there was little commercial interest in the 18T, and the project was brought to a close without the engine ever being flown; most likely, full testing was never completed.

Bernard - Farman 18T Schneider 3-view

Powered by two 18T engines, the Bernard flying boat racer had an estimated top speed of over 435 mph (700 km/h). This speed was substantially faster than the Supermarine S.6B that won the 1931 Schneider race at 340.08 mph (547.31 km/h) and went on to set an absolute speed record at 407.5 mph (655.8 km/h). However, the estimated specifications of unconventional aircraft often fall short of what is actually achieved.

Sources:
Aerosphere 1939 by Glenn D. Angle (1940)
Les Moteurs a Pistons Aeronautiques Francais Tome 1 by Alfred Bodemer and Robert Laugier (1987)
Schneider Trophy Seaplanes and Flying Boats by Ralph Pegram (2012)
Les Avions Bernard by Jean Liron (1990)
Les Avions Farman by Jean Liron (1984)

2 thoughts on “Farman 18T 18-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

  1. jsm1937

    Dear Bill,
    This is another great article on a little-known engine manufacturer. There is an additional reference on Farman engines from the French historian Gérard Hartmann, “Les moteurs et compresseurs Farman”, (http://www.hydroretro.net/etudegh/moteursfarman.pdf). He follows the design and development of many Farman engines, especially W-engines and also superchargers. The Farman engines were produced in very small numbers at astronomical prices, but Farman had developed at the same time very reliable epicyclical gearing units for propeller drives that were sold to many other engine manufacturers, Hartmann lists them. Farman mechanical and turbo superchargers, developed jointly with Rateau were quite successful even before WW2. But essentially Farman’s research program was lost after the nationalization of the French industry in 1936/37, as the responsible engineers all quit.
    Farman also made handsome luxury cars from 1921-1932, using half of their v-12 engines, not a V-6 but a large six-in-line, adding to the list of aero manufacturers that also,produced cars

    Sergio Montes

    Reply

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