Category Archives: Aircraft Engines

Napier Nomad II rear

Napier Nomad Compound Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

D. Napier & Son (Napier) was a British engineering firm that designed and manufactured aircraft engines since World War I. In 1931, Napier began experimental design work on a sleeve-valve, 24-cylinder, diesel (compression ignition) engine. Designated E101, the engine had a 5.0 in (127 mm) bore, a 4.75 in (121 mm) stroke, and a displacement of 2,238 cu in (36.7 L). While a two-cylinder test engine was built, and possibly a full bank of six cylinders, it is not clear if a complete H-24 E101 was constructed. However, the E101 served as the foundation for the E107, which was converted to spark ignition and became the first of the Sabre engine line. In 1933, Napier acquired licenses to produce the Junkers Jumo 204 and 205 aircraft engines as the Culverin (E102) and Cutlass (E103). Although not commercially successful, the experience with the Junkers engines provided Napier with detailed knowledge of two-stroke, high-powered diesel engines.

Napier Nomad I front

The Napier Nomad I was perhaps the most complex aircraft engine ever built. Of the contra-rotating propellers, the front set was driven by the turbine, and the rear set was driven by the 12-cyinder diesel engine. (Napier image)

In late 1944, the British Ministry of Aircraft Production (later, Ministry of Supply, MoS) issued a specification for an economical 6,000 hp (4,474 kW) aircraft engine to be used in large, long-range aircraft. Harry Ricardo, a prominent engine designer and researcher, suggested that combining a two-stroke diesel with a gas turbine would be the best way to create a powerful, compact, and economical aircraft engine.

Napier took Ricardo’s suggestion and combined it with their diesel engine experience. For the 6,000 hp (4,474 kW) engine, Napier proposed the E124: an H-24 diesel with a displacement of approximately 4,575 cu in (75 L) that incorporated an axial flow recovery turbine. Both of the upper and lower cylinder banks formed an included angle of 150 degrees, while the left and right banks formed an angle of 30 degrees. This spacing was done to accommodate exhaust manifolds in the 30-degree left and right Vees. Single- and twin-cylinder tests had begun, as well as tests on the axial-flow compressor, but Napier felt that such an engine would have a very limited market. The project was halted in 1946.

While the E124 was not built, it laid the foundation for a new engine capable of 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) and designed to achieve the lowest fuel consumption under any operating conditions. The new engine was the E125 Nomad I, and Napier began preliminary design work in 1945, with the MoS giving its support by 1946. In a way, the Nomad I was half of the H-24 engine with a reworked recovery turbine. The Nomad I was a liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed, 12-cylinder, two-stroke, valveless, diesel engine that incorporated a gear-driven, two-speed supercharger and an exhaust-driven turbine that drove a compressor integral with the bottom of the engine. Alone, the compressor could not create the high-level of boost that was desired, so the supercharger was included to reach the design goal.

Napier Nomad I org exhaust rear

Rear view of the Nomad I with its original exhaust manifold illustrates the complexity of the system with its many pipes and flexible joints. The round housing for the supercharger impeller can be seen in front of the turbine. (Napier image)

The engine’s two-piece magnesium-zirconium alloy crankcase was split vertically and held together by 28 through bolts. A cast aluminum, six-cylinder, monobloc cylinder bank was attached to each side of the crankcase via studs. Wet cylinder liners were installed in the cylinder banks and covered with individual cylinder heads made from aluminum. A magnesium-alloy propeller gear reduction housing was secured via studs to the front of the crankcase. The housing also incorporated air intake on each of its lower sides. The intakes led to the compressor, which had an upper housing cast integral with the bottom of the crankcase, and a lower housing that was bolted on to the crankcase. Behind the compressor was a bifurcated air outlet, an oil sump, and the lower supercharger housing—all bolted to the crankcase.

Air entered the inlets on each side of the Nomad I and flowed into the 10-stage (some sources say 11-stage) axial flow compressor, which was the first stage of supercharging. The compressor had a maximum pressure ratio of 5.62 to 1. The air then exited the compressor via the bifurcated duct, which split the air along both sides of the engine and led back to the supercharger. An air to water intercooler (never installed) was positioned on both sides of the engine, between the compressor and the supercharger. After passing through the engine-driven centrifugal supercharger, the air was ducted into two passageways—one each for the left and right cylinder banks. Pressurized at 95.5 psi (6.58 bar) absolute, the air passed through a compartment in each cylinder bank that interfaced with the intake ports for each cylinder.

Air entered the loop-scavenged cylinder via a series of intake ports around the cylinder liner wall that were uncovered by the piston. The cylinder’s compression ratio was 8 to 1. As the piston moved toward the combustion chamber, fuel was injected via an injector located in the center of the cylinder head. The injected fuel was ignited by the heat of compression as the piston moved toward the cylinder head. On its power stroke, the piston uncovered exhaust ports which were situated slightly higher in the cylinder wall than the intake ports. The high level of supercharging ensured that an ample amount of air passed through the cylinder, which also helped cool the piston crown, cylinder wall, and cylinder head.

Napier Nomad I side

The Nomad I’s original (upper) and revised (lower) exhaust system and turbine can be compared in these images. In the lower image, the compressor’s intake can be seen near the front of the engine. The polished duct between the compressor and supercharger is where the intercooler would have been installed. (Napier images)

The exhaust gases and scavenging air flowed from the uncovered exhaust ports in the cylinder liner into manifolds positioned above and below the cylinder bank. The two exhaust manifolds for each cylinder bank merged together at the rear of the engine. Here, fuel could be injected, mixed with the surplus air, and ignited to increase the flow of exhaust gas energy to the turbine to create more engine power (for takeoff). The hot gases then flowed to a primary axial flow turbine at the extreme rear of the engine. The gases powered the primary turbine and then flowed out the exhaust nozzle at the end of the engine, generating some thrust. If more power was being harnessed by injecting fuel into the exhaust, a valve allowed the gases to flow into a secondary axial flow turbine positioned between the engine and the primary turbine. After powering the secondary turbine, the gases flowed into the primary turbine and then out the exhaust nozzle. The turbines were mounted in a tubular frame attached to the rear of the engine.

It should be noted that the description above applies to the second version of the exhaust system that was used by 1951. An earlier, original exhaust system had two manifolds above and below each cylinder bank, with each manifold collecting exhaust from three cylinders. The four manifolds from each cylinder bank joined into pairs at the rear of the engine and then merged into a single pipe. Immediately before the exhaust pipes connected to the primary (rear) turbine, an upper and a lower pipe branched off. The upper pipes of the left and right manifolds and the lower pipes of the left and right manifolds joined together at their respective spots as they fed into the secondary (front) turbine. At this point, extra fuel could be injected and ignited for additional power, as in the previous exhaust system described above. The original exhaust system incorporated around 28 flexible joints and was far more complex than the later system. Undoubtedly, issues with the original system were encountered that led to its replacement.

The exhaust turbines were mounted coaxially to the same shaft. This turbine shaft extended forward to power the compressor and led into the propeller gear reduction housing. The turbine shaft was geared to the front (outer) propeller of a contra-rotating set. The front propeller rotated counterclockwise. The rear (inner) propeller rotated clockwise and was geared to the crankshaft. There was nothing that linked the two propeller sets together, but they could not be run independently of each other. In other words, the piston engine section was needed to power the rear propeller, and the engine’s exhaust gases powered the turbine that was needed to run the front propeller. The turbine could not power itself, and the engine’s exhaust gases could not bypass the turbine.

Napier Nomad I Avro Lincoln install

The Nomad I installed in the nose of the Avro Lincoln test bed. The installation required significant modifications to the aircraft. Note the engine’s intake duct and the reversable-pitch propeller. (Napier image)

The Nomad I’s compressor and turbine were based on those developed for the 1,590 ehp (1,186 kW) Napier Naiad turboprop engine. The six-throw crankshaft of the Nomad I was supported between the left and right crankcase sections by seven main journals. The front of the crankshaft was geared to the propeller and a flexible shaft that extended to the rear of the engine to drive the supercharger impeller. The connecting rods were of the fork-and-blade type. The two-piece pistons had an austenitic stainless steel crown attached to a Y-alloy (aluminum alloy) body. The steel crown was used because of the high temperatures in the cylinder, and the piston was further cooled with oil flowing between the piston body and crown. The center of the crown could reach 1,300° F (700° C) when the engine was running at full power. A camshaft just below each cylinder bank drove three fuel injection dual pumps, and each pump provided the fuel to two cylinders via a single injector in each cylinder. The front of each camshaft also drove a coolant pump. A spark plug positioned just below the injector in each cylinder was used to start the engine. The spark plugs were fired by a magneto driven from the rear of the engine.

Despite its complexity, the Nomad I was designed to be operated by a single lever in the cockpit. The Napier Nomad I had a 6.0 in (152 mm) bore and a 7.375 in (187 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 2,502 cu in (41.0 L) and was rated at 3,080 ehp (2,297 kW) at 2,050 rpm, which was 3,000 shp (2,237 kW) combined with 320 lbf (1.42 kN) of thrust from the turbine. The 3,000 shp (2,237 kW) was combined from 1,450 shp (1,081 kW) from the diesel engine and 1,550 shp (1,156 kW) from the turbine, spinning at 15,600 rpm. For estimated cruising power at 30,250 ft (9,220 m), the diesel engine produced 725 shp (541 kW) at 1,650 rpm and the turbine produced 750 shp (559 kW) at 17,000 rpm, for a combined 1,475 shp (1,100 kW). The Nomad I had a specific fuel consumption (sfc) of 0.36 lb/ehp/hr (219 g/kW/h). The engine was 126.5 in (3.21 m) long, 58.25 in (1.48 m) wide, 49.25 in (1.25 m) tall, and weighed 4,200 lb (1,905 kg).

The design of the Nomad I was laid out by a team led by Ernest Chatterton, Chief Engineer of the Piston Engine Division at Napier. The compressor and turbine sections were tested in 1948. The prototype engine was completed in 1949 and first run in October. After running for a total of 860 hours on the test stand, contra-rotating propellers were installed, and the engine underwent a further 270 hours of tests. In 1950, an Avro Lincoln bomber (serial SX973) that had been loaned to Napier’s Flight Test Department at Luton, England was modified to install the Nomad I in the aircraft’s nose. This conversion entailed a fair amount of work, with everything forward of the cockpit needing to be fabricated. SX973 made its first flight with the Nomad I in 1950. While the aircraft’s four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were retained, they could be shut down in flight and the Lincoln held aloft solely by the Nomad I. The Nomad-Lincoln made its only public appearance at the Society of British Aircraft Constructors flying display at Farnborough in September 1951. Another Nomad I engine was also on display at the show. The Nomad I accumulated 120 hours of flight time in the Lincoln.

Napier Nomad I Avro Lincoln feathered

The Napier Nomad I had enough power to keep the Avro Lincoln aloft with the four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines shut down and feathered. (Napier image)

After a total of approximately 1,250 hours of operation, the Nomad I program was brought to a close in September 1952. The complex engine had proven to be temperamental, although it did exhibit very good fuel economy when it was running correctly. While Nomad I engine tests were underway, an updated and simplified version of the engine had been designed and designated E145 Nomad II. The design of the Nomad II took advantage of lessons learned from the Nomad I and the latest developments of axial compressors.

The Nomad II was designed in 1951, and the program was supervised by Chatterton and A. J. Penn, Napier’s gas turbine chief engineer. Although similar in configuration and possibly sharing some components with the Napier I, the Napier II was a new design. The Napier II retained the horizontally-opposed 12-cylinder layout incorporating a turbine and compressor, but the contra-rotating propellers and mechanically-driven centrifugal supercharger were discarded. The wet cylinder liners of the Nomad I were replaced by dry liners, which were made of chromium-copper alloy with chrome-plated bores. The crankcase was again cast of magnesium-zirconium (RZ-5) alloy.

Napier Nomad I and II geartrain

A simplified comparison of the Nomad I (top) and Nomad II (bottom) power systems. Not shown on the Nomad I was the two-speed supercharger drive. Not shown on the Nomad II was the second quill shaft to the variable-speed coupling. Neither drawing shows the engines’ accessory camshafts.

The improved axial flow compressor had a diameter of 10.88 in (276 mm) and was hung below the engine via four flexible mounts. The compressor had 12 stages, a maximum pressure ratio of 8.25 to 1, and a maximum mass air flow of 13 lb/sec (5.9 kg/sec). Its inlet faced forward to take full advantage of ram air. The pitch of the compressor’s inlet guide vanes automatically adjusted to improve airflow at lower speeds. The first five stages of the compressor used cobalt-steel blades, and the remaining seven stages used aluminum-bronze blades.

The Nomad II’s loop-scavenged system was improved over that of the Nomad I. Air from the compressor was routed forward in a manifold mounted below each cylinder bank. The pressurized air entered the revised cylinder banks and passed through guide vanes to flow into each cylinder via eight intake ports. Two pairs of four ports were positioned in the upper sides (top side of the engine) of the cylinder wall. The specially-designed intake ports directed the flow of air toward the hemispherical combustion chamber, where it circulated back toward the piston and the uncovered exhaust ports. The six exhaust ports consisted of three large ports, each with a smaller port below (toward the piston). The exhaust ports were positioned on the bottom side of the cylinder (lower side of the engine) and closer to the combustion chamber than the intake ports.

Napier Nomad II front

The Napier Nomad II was a simpler engine and was improved in every way compared to the Nomad I. Note the single rotation propeller shaft and simplified exhaust system. The compressor can be seen under the engine. (Napier image)

The exhaust gases were collected in an exhaust manifold mounted below each cylinder bank. The exhaust gases flowed back to a three-stage axial flow turbine mounted at the rear of the engine. The turbine and the compressor were mounted on separate shafts that were coaxially coupled. The turbine shaft was also connected to the crankshaft via an infinitely variable-speed fluid coupling (Beier gear). At low power (under 1,500 rpm), the turbine did not create the power needed to drive the compressor. This resulted in the variable-speed coupling delivering power from the crankshaft to drive the compressor. At high power (above 1,500 rpm), the turbine created more power than what was needed to drive the compressor. The variable-speed coupling fed the extra power back to the engine’s crankshaft. The fluid coupling drive set was mounted to the upper-rear of the engine.

While the cylinders’ compression ratio was 8 to 1, air was fed into the cylinders at 89 psi (6.14 bar) absolute for takeoff, creating an effective compression ratio of 27 to 1. A set of six fuel injection pumps were located above each cylinder bank. The pumps were driven by a camshaft from the front of the engine. The fuel injector in the center of the cylinder head had six orifices: one sprayed toward the piston, and the other five were equally spaced radially around the nozzle and sprayed toward the combustion chamber walls. The fuel was injected into the cylinder at 3,675 psi (253 bar).

Napier Nomad II cutaway

The cutaway view of the Nomad II reveals that the engine was still very complex compared to a conventional piston engine. Note the gearset at the front of the engine that powered the propeller shaft, fuel injection cams (upper), and quill shafts (lower) to the variable-speed coupling. (Napier image)

When the engine was viewed from the rear, the propeller turned counterclockwise. In the reduction gear housing at the front of the engine, the crankshaft drove the propeller shaft via four pinions. Although the exact gear reduction used in the test engines has not been found, a variety of reduction speeds were available: .526, .555, .569, .614, or .660 times crankshaft speed. Each of the lower two pinions were mounted to separate quill shafts that extended back to the rear of the engine and drove (or were driven by) the variable-speed gearset coupled to the turbine shaft. The crankshaft was supported by eight main bearings, with two I-beam connecting rods attached to each crankpin. The connecting rods used slipper-type bearings with two fairly-light straps securing the pair to the crankshaft. Since the engine was a two stroke, there was no downward pull on the connecting rod that required a more robust cap. The small end of the connecting rod that attached to the piston had a slipper-type eccentric bearing. As the connecting rod articulated from top dead center to bottom dead center, the bearing would rock slightly on the piston, opening a small gap for lubrication. This provided the proper oil flow that otherwise would not have occurred with the unidirectional loads of the two-stroke engine.

For starting, two ignition coils and two distributors driven from the front of the engine fired a spark plug in each cylinder. However, some photos appear to show two spark plugs in each cylinder. For installation, the engine was hung by two supports above the front cylinders and two supports above the rear casing.

The Napier Nomad II had the same 6.0 in (152 mm) bore, 7.375 in (187 mm) stroke, and 2,502 cu in (41.0 L) displacement as the Nomad I. The engine initially had a takeoff rating of 3,135 ehp (2,338 kW) at 2,050 rpm, which was 3,046 shp (2,271 kW) combined with 250 lbf (1.11 kN) of thrust from the turbine. As development continued, water injection was added that increased the Nomad II’s takeoff rating to 3,570 ehp (2,662 kW) at 2,050 rpm. This power was a combination of 3,476 shp (2,592 kW) and 230 lbf (1.02 kN) of thrust. At full power, the turbine shaft turned at 18,200 rpm, 8.88 times crankshaft speed. The engine’s maximum continuous rating was 2,488 ehp (1,855 kW) at 1,900 rpm, which was 2,392 shp and 145 lbf (1,855 kW and .64 kN). The Nomad II had a sfc of 0.345 lb/ehp/hr (210 g/kW/h). The engine was 119.25 in (3.03 m) long, 56.25 in (1.43 m) wide, 40 in (1.02 m) tall, and weighed 3,580 lb (1,624 kg).

Napier Nomad II parts

Various components of the Nomad II. Clockwise from the upper left: compressor and compressor housing, parts of the turbine, the Beier variable-speed fluid coupling, two connecting rods, and a piston with its stainless steel crown. (Napier images)

The Nomad II was first run in December 1952 and had accumulated 350 hours by mid-1954. The engine underwent various bench tests and tests with a 13 ft (3.96 m) diameter, constant-speed, reversable-pitch propeller. It was found that running the engine on diesel, kerosene, or jet fuel (wide-cut gasoline) resulted in little difference in power. Some tests indicated that a sfc as low as 0.326 lb/ehp/hr (198 g/kW/h) could be achieved, this being realized at 22,250 ft (6,782 m) with the engine producing 2,027 ehp (1,511 kW) at 1,750 rpm. The Nomad II maintained takeoff power up to 7,750 ft (2,362 m), and a constant boost, power, and sfc could be maintained up to 25,000 ft (7,620 m). At sea level, the turbine developed 2,250 hp (1,678 kW), but 1,840 hp (1,372 kW) was used to power the compressor. The Nomad experienced a two percent drop in power for every 20° F (11° C) increase in air temperature. Since the engine only burned 70 percent of the air passing through the cylinders, the ability to inject and ignite fuel into the exhaust manifold was experimented with, resulting in 4,095 ehp (3,054 kW) for a sfc of .374 lb/hp/hr (227 g/kW/h).

For flight tests, Napier proposed installing Nomad II engines in place of the outer two Rolls-Royce Griffons on an Avro Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft. In October 1952, the MoS loaned the second prototype Shackleton (VW131) to Napier for conversion and subsequent Nomad II flight testing. The aircraft arrived at Napier’s center at Luton on 16 January 1953. Dummy engines were first installed, and vibration tests were conducted in April 1954. The Nomad II installation and cowlings were clean and refined, but flight-cleared engines were slow to arrive. Eventually, two Nomad II engines were installed and some ground runs were made, but the Nomad program was cancelled in April 1955, before the aircraft had flown. While the Nomad II had unparalleled fuel economy for the time and was simpler, lighter, smaller, and more powerful than the Nomad I, there was little demand for the engine. Napier kept all Nomad data for a time, believing that interest in the engine might be rekindled and spark further development, but that was not the case.

Napier Nomad II rear

The 12-stage turbine was mounted in a tube frame behind the engine. The housing above the turbine contained the variable-speed coupling that linked the crankshaft to the turbine shaft. Note the single spark plug (used for starting) in each cylinder. (Napier image)

Before the project was cancelled in 1955, the E173 Nomad III was designed as a continuation of the engine’s development. The Nomad III incorporated fuel injection into the exhaust manifold and an air-to-water aftercooler between the compressor and the cylinders. With these changes, the engine had a wet takeoff rating of 4,500 ehp (3,356 kW) at 2,050 rpm, which was 4,412 shp (3,290 kW) combined with 230 lbf (1.021 kN) of thrust from the turbine. The Nomad III weighed 3,750 lb (1,701 kg), 170 lb (77 kg) more than the Nomad II, but a complete engine was never built.

While the Nomad demonstrated excellent economy and impressive power for its weight, the engine was overshadowed by development of turboprops and turbojets. Money for development was tight, and the Nomad program had cost £5.1 million. In cases like the Avro Shackleton, it was less expensive to use Griffon engines than continue development of the Nomad. For other projects, the turboprop offered greater potential in the long run. While the Nomad engine was designed to cruise around 345 mph (556 km/h), the turbojet offered significantly higher cruise speeds compared to any other type of aircraft engine.

The exact number of Nomad I engines constructed has not been found, but it was at least two. A nicely restored Nomad I engine is preserved and on display at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune Airfield in Scotland. The Nomad I underwent a restoration in 1999, and it was discovered that there were no propeller gears, pistons, or a crankshaft in the engine. This engine may be the Nomad I that was displayed at Farnborough in 1951. Of the six Nomad II engines built, two are preserved and on display—one at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia and the other at the Science Museum at Wroughton, England.

Napier Nomad II prop test

The Nomad II setup for tests with a 13 ft (3.96 m) propeller. Note that two spark plugs appear to be installed in each cylinder. Although not finalized, the top-mounting system made it fairly easy to install or remove the engine. (Napier image)

Sources:
“Napier Nomad Aircraft Diesel Engine” by Herbert Sammons and Ernest Chatterton, SAE Transactions Vol 63 (1955)
“Napier Nomad” by Bill Gunston, Flight (30 April 1954)
“Napier’s Nomad Engine” The Aeroplane (30 April 1954)
“Compound Diesel Engine Design Analyzed” Aviation Week (17 May 1954)
Aircraft Engines of the World 1952 by Paul H. Wilkinson (1952)
Aircraft Engines of the World 1956 by Paul H. Wilkinson (1956)
By Precision Into Power by Alan Vessey (2007)
Turbojet: History and Development 1930–1960 Volume 1 by Antony L. Kay (2007)
Men and Machines by Charles Wilson and William Reader (1958)
Napier Powered by Alan Vessey (1997)
https://www.thegrowler.org.uk/avroshackleton/the-nomad-proposal.htm
http://www.apss.org.uk/projects/completed_projects/nomad/index.htm
http://www.apss.org.uk/projects/completed_projects/nomad/detail/index.htm

IAM M-44 sectional view

IAM M-44 V-12 Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In 1925, the Soviet Air Force (Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily or VVS) approached the TsAGI (Tsentral’nyy Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut, the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute) and requested proposals for a large, heavy bomber. Under the direction of Andrei Nikolayevich Tupolev, the Tupolev OKB (Opytno-Konstruktorskoye Byuro, the Experimental Design Bureau) started design work on the aircraft in 1926, and the government finalized the aircraft’s operational requirements in 1929. The aircraft created from this program was the Tupolev ANT-6, which was given the military designation TB-3.

Tupolev TB-6 6M-44 top

Model of the Tupolev TB-6 6M-44 with its six M-44 engines. Gunner stations are seen outside of the outer engines and in the wing’s trailing edge.

The large, four-engine TB-3 lifted its 137 ft 2 in (41.80 m) wingspan from earth for the first time on 22 December 1930, but plans for even larger and more ambitious aircraft were underway. In October 1929, the Scientific and Technical Committee of the Air Force (Nauchno-tekhnicheskiy komitet upravleniya Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily or NTK UVVS) instructed Tupolev to design bombers capable of carrying a 10-tonne (22,046 lb) and a 25-tonne (55,116 lb) payload. With a 177 ft 2 in (54 m) wingspan, the 10-tonne bomber became the ANT-16, which was given the military designation TB-4. The 25-tonne bomber had a 311 ft 8 in (95 m) wingspan and became the ANT-26, which was given the military designation TB-6. However, this line of developing very large aircraft, the TB-6 in particular, quickly illustrated that there was a lack of powerful engines and that numerous smaller engines were required for the aircraft. The TB-4 required six 800 hp (597 kW) engines, and the TB-6 required twelve 830 hp (619 kW) engines. If an engine with a 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) output could be built, not only could it power these large aircraft, but it would also simplify their construction, maintenance, and control.

Back in 1928, the TsAGI had realized the need for more powerful engines and initiated work on a single-cylinder test engine to precede the design of a large, high-power bomber engine. This test engine was designated M-170; “170” was the anticipated horsepower (127 kW) output of the cylinder. The results were encouraging, and in 1930, the Institute of Aviation Motors (Institut aviatsionnogo motorostroyeniya or IAM) was tasked with the construction of a V-12 engine based on the M-170 cylinder. The 12-cylinder engine was designated M-44, and the single-cylinder test engine was renamed M-170/44.

The design of the M-44 was initiated in February 1931 under the supervision of N. P. Serdyukov. The design progressed rapidly and was completed in May. The M-44 was a four-stroke, water-cooled, 60-degree V-12. Based on a sectional drawing, the crankcase was split horizontally with main bearing caps for the crankshaft machined integral into the lower half of the case. The main bearings were secured by long bolts that passed through the lower crankcase half and screwed into the upper half. The crankshaft accommodated side-by-side connecting rods with flat-top aluminum pistons.

IAM M-44 sectional view

Sectional drawing of the IAM M-44 reveals some of the engine’s inner workings. The design was fairly conventional, just extremely large. Unfortunately, no images or other drawings of the engine have been found.

The individual steel cylinders were secured to the crankcase via hold down studs. A steel water jacket surrounded the cylinder barrel. The cylinder had a flat-roof combustion chamber, and four spark plugs were positioned horizontally at its top, just below the valves. Two spark plugs were on the outer side of the cylinder and the other two on the Vee side. Each cylinder bank was capped by a monobloc cylinder head with dual overhead camshafts. One camshaft operated the two intake valves for each cylinder, and the other camshaft operated the two exhaust valves for each cylinder. An intake manifold was attached to the Vee side of the cylinder head, and individual exhaust stacks were attached to the outer side of the cylinder head.

The normally aspirated M-44 had a compression ratio of 6 to 1 (some sources state 5 to 1). A propeller gear reduction (most likely using spur gears) was incorporated onto the front of the engine. The IAM M-44 had an 8.74 in (222 mm) bore and a 11.26 in (286 mm) stroke. Each cylinder displaced 675.6 cu in (11.07 L), and the engine’s total displacement was 8,107 cu in (132.9 L). The M-44 was the largest V-12 aircraft engine ever built. The engine produced 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) for takeoff and 1,700 hp (1,268 kW) for continuous operation. Some sources indicate that 2,400 hp (1,790 kW) was expected out of the engine after it was fully developed. The M-44 was approximately 118 in (3.00 m) long, 46 in (1.16 m) wide, and 65 in (1.66 m) tall. The engine weighed around 3,858 lb (1,750 kg).

With development of the 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) M-44 engine underway, studies were started to incorporate the engine into the ANT-16 (TB-4) and ANT-26 (TB-6) aircraft designs. Proposals to re-engine the ANT-16 with four M-44s were quickly abandoned so that work could focus on using six M-44 engines to power the ANT-26. This version of the aircraft is often cited as TB-6 6M-44. The ANT-26 design was ordered in July 1932, with construction starting soon after. Delivery of the ANT-26 prototype was expected in December 1935. Some sources state that an even larger, 30-tonne (66,139 lb) bomber with a 656 ft (200 m) wingspan and powered by eight M-44 engines was conceived, but it appears this aircraft never progressed beyond the rough design phase.

The Tupolev TB-6 6M-44 had two engines installed in each wing and two engines positioned back-to-back and mounted above the aircraft’s fuselage. The aircraft had a 311 ft 8 in (95 m) wingspan and was 127 ft 11 in (39 m) long. The TB-6 6M-44’s top speed was 155 mph (250 km/h), and it had a ceiling of 22,966 ft (7,000 m). The aircraft had a maximum bomb load of 48,502 lb (22,000 kg) and could carry a 33,069 lb (15,000 kg) bomb load 2,051 miles (3,300 km). Its maximum range was 2,983 miles (4,800 km).

Tupolev TB-6 6M-44 side

This rear view of the TB-6 6M-44 illustrates the tandem engines mounted above the fuselage.

The construction of three M-44 prototypes was planned, but the first engine was delayed by continued trials of the M-170/44 test engine, which was given a higher priority. The manufacture of the first M-44 engine began in early 1933, and the engine was first run later that year. The second engine was built and run in 1934. Plans to build the third M-44 engine were suspended on account of issues with the first two engines. The M-44 test engines had trouble producing the desired power and suffered from reliability issues. It became clear that the engine was not going to be successful, and the program was cancelled in 1934.

A supercharged version of the engine, known as the M-44H, had undergone preliminary design work in 1932. However, performance specifications for this engine have not been found, and it is doubtful that detailed design work was completed. In 1935, a decision was made to build the third M-44 engine, modified for marine use. This engine was designated GM-44 and incorporated a reversing gearbox. The GM-44 produced 1,870 hp (1,394 kW), but it was no more reliable than the M-44 aircraft engine. The GM-44 engine was cancelled in 1936.

With the M-44 engine program dead, the ANT-26 design reverted back to using 12 engines (1,200 hp / 895 kW Mikulin M-34FRN). However, studies concluded that the multitude of engines created additional drag that impacted the aircraft’s performance, and the engines added so much complexity that the ANT-26 would be difficult to fly and very difficult to maintain. Simply put, the giant aircraft was impractical, and it was subsequently cancelled in July 1934. A transport/commercial version of the aircraft, designated ANT-28, was also cancelled. The ANT-26’s airframe was 75 percent complete at the time of cancellation.

Tupolev TB-6 12M-34FRN

With the M-44 cancelled, the 12-engine TB-6 12M-34FRN was designed to preserve the aircraft’s capabilities with reliable engines. However, one would question the practicality of such an aircraft. Note the set of tandem engines that was placed above each wing.

Sources:
Russian Piston Aero Engines by Vladimir Kotelnikov (2005)
Самолеты- гиганты СССР by Vladimir Kotelnikov (2009)
Unflown Wings by Yefim Gordon and Sergey Komissarov (2013)
OKB Tupolev by Yefim Gordon and Vladimir Rigmant (2005)

Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 front

Isotta Fraschini W-18 Aircraft and Marine Engines

By William Pearce

In late 1924, the Italian firm Isotta Fraschini responded to a Ministero dell’Aeronautica (Italian Air Ministry) request for a 500 hp (373 kW) aircraft engine by designing the liquid-cooled, V-12 Asso 500. Designed by Giustino Cattaneo, the Asso 500 proved successful and was used by Cattaneo as the basis for a line of Asso (Ace) engines developed in 1927. Ranging from a 250 hp (186 kW) inline-six to a 750 hp (559 kW) W-18, the initial Asso engines shared common designs and common parts wherever possible.

Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 front

The direct drive Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 was the first in a series of 18-cylinder engines that would ultimately be switched to marine use and stay in some form of production for over 90 years.

The Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 W-18 engine consisted of three six-cylinder banks mounted to a two-piece crankcase. The center cylinder bank was in the vertical position, and the two other cylinder banks were spaced at 40 degrees from the center bank. The cylinder bank spacing reduced the 18-cylinder engine’s frontal area to just slightly more than a V-12.

The Asso 750’s crankcase was split horizontally at the crankshaft and was cast from Elektron, a magnesium alloy. A shallow pan covered the bottom of the crankcase. The six-throw crankshaft was supported by eight main bearings. On each crankshaft throw was a master rod that serviced the center cylinder bank. Articulating rods for the other two cylinder banks were mounted on each side of the master rod. A double row ball bearing acted as a thrust bearing on the propeller shaft and enabled the engine to be installed as either a pusher or tractor.

The individual cylinders were forged from carbon steel and had a steel water jacket that was welded on. The cylinders had a closed top with openings for the valves. The monobloc cylinder head was mounted to the top of the cylinders, with one cylinder head serving each bank of cylinders. The cylinder compression ratio was 5.7 to 1. The cylinder head was made from cast aluminum and held the two intake and two exhaust valves for each cylinder. The valves were actuated by dual overhead camshafts, with one camshaft controlling the intake valves and the other camshaft controlling the exhaust valves (except for the center bank). A single lobe on the camshaft acted on a rocker and opened the two corresponding valves for that cylinder. The camshafts for each cylinder bank were driven at the rear of the cylinder head. One camshaft of the cylinder bank was driven via beveled gears by a vertical drive shaft, and the second camshaft was geared to the other driven camshaft. The valve cover casting was made from Elektron.

Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 RC35 crankcase

The cylinder row, upper crankcase, and cylinder head (inverted) of an Asso 750 RC35 with gear reduction. The direct drive Asso 750 was similar except for the shape of the front (right side) of the crankcase. Note the closed top cylinders. The small holes between the studs in the cylinder top were water passageways that communicated with ports on the cylinder head.

Three carburetors were mounted to the outer side of each outer cylinder bank. The intake and exhaust ports of the outer cylinder banks were on the same side. The intake and exhaust ports of the center cylinder bank were rather unusual. When viewed from the rear, the exhaust ports for the rear three cylinders of the center bank were on the right, and the intake ports were on the left. The front three cylinders were the opposite, with their exhaust ports on the left and their intake ports on the right. This configuration gave the cylinders for the center bank crossflow heads, but it also meant that each camshaft controlled half of the intake valves and half of the exhaust valves. A manifold attached to the inner side of the left cylinder bank collected the air/fuel mixture that had flowed through passageways in the left cylinder head and delivered the charge to the rear three cylinders of the center bank. The right cylinder bank had the same provisions but delivered the mixture to the front three cylinders of the center bank. Presumably, the 40-degree cylinder bank angle did not allow enough room to accommodate carburetors for the middle cylinder bank.

The two spark plugs in each cylinder were fired by two magnetos positioned at the rear of the engine and driven by the camshaft drive. From the rear of the engine, the firing order was 1 Left, 6 Center, 1 Right, 5L, 2C, 5R, 3L, 4C, 3R, 6L, 1C, 6R, 2L, 5C, 2R, 4L, 3C, and 4R. A water pump positioned below the magnetos circulated water into a manifold along the base of each cylinder bank. The manifold distributed water into the water jacket for each individual cylinder. The water flowed up through the water jacket and into the cylinder head. Another manifold took the water from each cylinder head to the radiator for cooling. Starting the Asso 750 was achieved with an air starter.

Motore Isotta Fraschini Asso 750

Two views of the direct drive Asso 750 displayed at the Museo nazionale della scienza e della tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci in Milan. Note the three exhaust stacks visible on the center cylinder bank. The front image of the engine illustrates the lack of space between the cylinder banks, which were set at 40 degrees. (Alessandro Nassiri images via Wikimedia Commons)

The Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 had a bore of 5.51 in (140 mm), a stroke of 6.69 in (170 mm), and a total displacement of 2,875 cu in (47.1 L). The original, direct drive Asso 750 produced 750 hp (599 kW) at 1,600 rpm, and weighed 1,279 lb (580 kg). An improved version of the Asso 750 was soon built that produced 830 hp (619 kW) at 1,700 rpm and 900 hp (671 kW) at 1,900 rpm. This engine weighed 1,389 lb (630 kg). The direct drive Asso 750 was 81 in (2.06 m) long, 40 in (1.02 m) wide, and 42 in (1.07 m) tall.

A version of the Asso 750 with a spur gear reduction for the propeller was developed and was sometimes referred to as the Asso 850 R. Available gear reductions were .667 and .581, and the gear reduction resulted in the crankshaft having only seven main bearings. The Asso 850 R produced 850 hp (634 kW) at 1,950 rpm, and weighed 1,455 lb (660 kg). This engine was also further refined and given the more permanent designation of Asso 750 R. The 750 R had a .658 gear reduction. The engine produced 850 hp (634 kW) at 1,800 rpm and 930 hp (694 kW) at 1,900 rpm. The Asso 750 R was 83 in (2.12 m) long and weighed 1,603 lb (727 kg).

Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 rc35 front

Front view of the Asso 750 RC35. The gear reduction required new upper and lower crankcase halves and a new crankshaft, but the other components were interchangeable with the direct drive engine.

Around 1933 the Asso 750 R engine was updated to incorporate a supercharger. The new engine was designated Asso 750 RC35. The “R” in the engine’s designation meant that it had gear reduction (Riduttore de giri); the “C” meant that it was supercharged (Compressore); and the “35” stood for the engine’s critical altitude in hectometers (as in 3,500 meters). The engine’s water pump was moved to a new mount that extended below the oil pan. The supercharger was mounted between the water pump and the magnetos, which were moved to a slightly higher location. The supercharger was meant to maintain sea level power up to a higher altitude, and it provided .29 psi (.02 bar) of boost up to 11,483 ft (3,500 m). The Asso 750 RC35 produced 870 hp (649 kW) at 1,850 rpm at 11,483 ft (3,500 m). The engine was 87 in (2.20 m) long, 41 in (1.03 m) wide, 48 in (1.21 m) tall, and weighed 1,724 lb (782 kg).

In 1928, Isotta Fraschini designed a larger, more powerful engine that had both its bore and stroke increased by .39 in (10 mm) over that of the Asso 750. The larger engine was developed especially for the Macchi M.67 Schneider Trophy racer. The M.67’s engine was initially designated Asso 750 M (for Macchi) but was also commonly referred to as the Asso 2-800. The “2” designation was most likely applied because the engine was a “second generation” and differed greatly from the original Asso 750 design.

Isotta Fraschini Asso 750 rc35 rear

The single-speed supercharger on the Asso 750 RC35 is illustrated in this rear view. Note the relocated and new mounting point for the water pump. The supercharger forced-fed air to the engine’s six carburetors.

The Asso 2-800 had a bore of 5.91 in (150 mm), a stroke of 7.09 in (180 mm), and a total displacement of 3,434 cu in (57.3 L). The engine used new crossflow cylinder heads and a new crankcase. The cylinder heads had intake ports on one side and exhaust ports on the other. Air intakes for the engine were positioned behind the M.67’s spinner, with one intake on the left side for the left cylinder bank and two intakes on the right side for the center and right cylinder banks. Ducts delivered the air to special carburetors positioned between the cylinder banks. The modified engine also had a higher compression ratio and used special fuels. Under perfect conditions, the special Asso 2-800 engine produced up to 1,800 hp (1,342 kW), but it was rarely able to achieve that output. An output of 1,400 hp (1,044 kW) was more typical and still impressive. At speed, the Asso 2-800 in the M.67 reportedly made a roar like no other engine.

Isotta Fraschini made a commercial version of the larger engine, designated Asso 1000. With the same bore, stroke, and displacement as the Asso 2-800, the Asso 1000 is often cited as the engine powering the M.67. However, the Asso 1000 retained the same configuration and architecture as the Asso 750, except the Asso 1000 had a compression ratio of 5.3 to 1. Development of the Asso 1000 trailed slightly behind that of the Asso 750.

The direct drive Isotta Fraschini Asso 1000 produced 1,000 hp (746 kW) at 1,600 rpm and 1,100 hp (820 kW) at 1,800 rpm. The engine was 86 in (2.19 m) long, 42 in (1.06 m) wide, and 44 in (1.12 m) tall. The Asso 1000 weighed 1,764 lb (800 kg). Like with the original Asso 750, a gear reduction version was designed. This engine was sometimes designated as the Asso 1200 R. The gear reduction speeds available were .667 and .581. The Asso 1200 R produced 1,200 hp (895 kW) at 1,950 rpm and weighed 2,116 lb (960 kg).

Isotta Fraschini Asso 1000

The Isotta Fraschini Asso 1000 was very similar to the Asso 750. Note the intake manifolds between the cylinder banks, each taking the air/fuel mixture from one of the outer banks and feeding half of the center bank.

The Asso 750 and Asso 1000 engines were used in a variety of aircraft, but most of the aircraft were either prototypes or had a low production count. For the Asso 750, its most famous applications were the single engine Caproni Ca.111 reconnaissance aircraft (over 150 built) and the twin engine Savoia-Marchetti S.55 double-hulled flying boat. Over 200 S.55s were built, but only the S.55X variant was powered by the Asso 750. Twenty-five S.55X aircraft were built, and in 1933, 24 S.55X aircraft made a historic formation flight from Orbetello, Italy to Chicago, Illinois. The Asso 750 powered many aircraft to numerous payload and distance records. Six direct-drive Asso 1000 engines were used to power the Caproni Ca.90 bomber, which was the world’s largest landplane when it first flew in October 1929. The Ca.90 set six payload records on 22 February 1930.

Although not a complete success in aircraft, the Asso 1000 found its way into marine use as the Isotta Fraschini ASM 180, 181, 183 and 184 engines. ASM was originally written as “As M” and stood for Asso Marini (Ace Marine). The marine engines had water-cooled exhaust pipes and a reversing gearbox coupled to the propeller shaft. The Isotta Fraschini marine engines were used in torpedo boats before, during, and after World War II by Italy, Sweden, and Britain.

Isotta Fraschini ASM 184

The Isotta Fraschini ASM 184 engine with its large, water-cooled exhaust manifolds and drive gearbox. Note that the center bank only has its rear (left) cylinders feeding into the visible exhaust manifold. One of the two centrifugal superchargers can be seen at the rear of the engine. The engine is on display at the Museo Nicolis in Villafranca di Verona. (Stefano Pasini image)

The ASM 180 and 181 were developed around 1933, and produced 900 hp (671 kW) at 1,800 rpm. Refinement of the ASM 181 led to the ASM 183, which produced 1,150 hp (858 kW) at 2,000 rpm. Development of the ASM 184 started around 1940; it was a version of the ASM 183 that featured twin centrifugal superchargers mounted to the rear of the engine. The ASM 184 engine produced 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) at 2,000 rpm. Around 1950, production of the ASM 184 was continued by Costruzione Revisione Motori (CRM) as the CRM 184. In the mid-1950s, the engine was modified with fuel injection into the supercharger compressors and became the CRM 185. The CRM 185 produced 1,800 hp (1,342 kW) at 2,200 rpm.

CRM continued development of the W-18 platform and created a diesel version of the engine. Designated 18 D, the engine retained the same bore, stroke, and basic configuration as the Asso 1000 and earlier ASM engines. However, the 18 D was made of cast iron, had revised cylinder heads, and had a compression ratio of 14 to 1. The revised cylinder head was much taller and incorporated extra space between the valve springs and the valve heads. The valve stems were elongated, and a pre-combustion chamber was positioned between the valve stems and occupied the extra space in the head. Some versions of the engine have a fuel injection pump consisting of three six-cylinder distributors driven from the rear of the engine, while other versions have a common rail fuel system.

CRM 18 D engines

Four CRM 18 D engines, which can trace their heritage back to the Asso 1000. The three engines on the left use mechanical fuel injection with three distribution pumps. The engine on the right has a common fuel rail. Note the three turbochargers at the front of each engine. (CRM Motori image)

The exhaust gases for each bank were collected and fed through a turbocharger at the front of the engine (some models had just two turbochargers). Pressurized air from the turbochargers passed through an aftercooler and was then fed into two induction manifolds. Each of the manifolds had three outlets. The front and rear outlets were connected to the outer cylinder bank, and the middle outlet was connected to the center bank. For the center bank, induction air for the rear three cylinders was provided by the left manifold, and the front three cylinder received their air from the right manifold.

Various versions of the 18 D were designed, the most powerful being the 18 D BR3-B. The BR3-B had a maximum output of 2,367 hp (1,765 kW) at 2,300 rpm and a continuous output of 2,052 hp (1,530 kW) at 2,180 rpm. The engine had a specific fuel consumption of .365 lb/hp/hr (222 g/kW/h). The BR3-B was 96 in (2.45 m) long, 54 in (1.37 m) wide, 57 in (1.44 m) tall, and weighed 4,740 lb (2,150 kg) without the drive gearbox. CRM, now known as CRM Motori Marini, continues to market 18 D engines.

Isotta Fraschini Asso L180

Other than having a W-18 layout, the Isotta Fraschini L.180 did not share much in common with the Asso 750 or 1000. However, the two-outlet supercharger suggests a similar induction system to the earlier engines. Note the gear reduction’s hollow propeller shaft and the mounts for a cannon atop the engine.

In the late 1930s, Isotta Fraschini revived the W-18 layout with an entirely new aircraft engine known as the Asso L.180 (or military designation L.180 IRCC45). The Asso L.180 was an inverted W-18 (sometimes referred to as an M-18) that featured supercharging and a propeller gear reduction. The engine’s layout and construction were similar to that of the earlier W-18 engines. One source states the cylinder banks were spaced at 45 degrees. With nine power pulses for each crankshaft revolution, this is off from the ideal of having cylinders fire at 40-degree intervals (like the earlier W-18 engines) and may be a misprint. The crankshaft was supported by seven main bearings in a one-piece aluminum crankcase. The spur gear reduction turned at .66 crankshaft speed and had a hollow propeller shaft to allow an engine-mounted cannon to fire through the propeller hub. The single-speed supercharger turned at 10 times crankshaft speed.

The Isotta Fraschini L.180 had a 5.75 in (146 mm) bore and a 6.30 in (160 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 2,942 cu in (48.2 L) and had a compression ratio of 6.4 to 1. The L.180 had a takeoff rating of 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) at 2,360 rpm, a maximum output of 1,690 hp (1,260 kW) at 2,475 rpm at 14,764 ft (4,500 m), and a cruising output of 1,000 hp (746 kW) at 1,900 rpm at 14,764 ft (4,500 m). It is doubtful that the L.180 proceeded much beyond the mockup phase.

A number of Isotta Fraschini aircraft and marine engines are preserved in various museums and private collections. Some marine engines are still in operation, and the German tractor pulling group Team Twister uses a modified Isotta Fraschini W-18 engine in its Dabelju tractor.

Dabelju IF W-18 57L

The modified Isotta Fraschini W-18 in Team Twister’s Dabelju. The engine’s heads have been modified to have individual intake and exhaust ports. These crossflow heads are similar in concept to the heads used on the Macchi M.67’s engine. (screenshot of Johannes Meuleners Youtube video)

Sources:
Isotta Fraschini Aviation (undated catalog, circa 1930)
Isotta Fraschini Aviation (1929)
Isotta Fraschini Aviazione (undated catalog, circa 1931)
Istruzioni per l’uso del motore Isotta-Fraschini Tipo Asso 750 (1931)
Istruzioni per l’uso del motore Isotta-Fraschini Tipo Asso 750 R (1934)
Istruzioni per l’uso del motore Isotta-Fraschini Tipo Asso 750 RC 35 (1936)
Istruzioni per l’uso del motore Isotta-Fraschini Tipo Asso 1000 (1929)
Aeronuatica Militare Museo Storico Catalogo Motori by Oscar Marchi (1980)
Aircraft Engines of the World 1941 by Paul H. Wilkinson (1941)
Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1931 by C. G. Grey (1931)
https://www.t38.se/marinens-motortyper-i-mtb/
http://www.crmmotori.it/interna.asp?tema=16

daimler-mercedes d vi back

Daimler-Mercedes D VI W-18 Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

By 1915, the Germans had begun to experiment with very large aircraft known as Riesenflugzeug (giant aircraft). These aircraft had been developed from the G-class bombers and are often referred to as R-planes. In 1916, the potential of such an aircraft to carry heavy bombloads into enemy territory was recognized, and the deficiencies of airships that had been developed to serve in that same role was apparent. Efforts were undertaken to increase R-plane production and withdraw airships from long-range bomber missions.

mercedes d.vi (2)

The preserved Daimler-Mercedes D VI W-18 engine. The individual cylinders on each bank were linked by a common overhead camshaft housing. Note the water-jacketed copper intake manifolds. (Evžen Všetečka image via www.aircraftengine.cz)

To promote the development of larger and more capable R-planes, larger and more powerful aircraft engines were needed. As early as 1915, the Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen or Inspectorate of Flying Troops) had encouraged various German engine manufacturers to develop large aircraft engines capable of 500 hp (375 kW). These engines were known as Class VI engines and would be used to power R-planes. Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (Daimler) was one of the companies that worked to build a large Class VI aircraft engine.

Daimler’s design was known as the D VI, but it is also referred to as the Mercedes D VI or Daimler-Mercedes D VI. Daimler often used the Mercedes name for many of its products. The D VI engine utilized the basic cylinder from the 180 hp (134 kW) Daimler-Mercedes D IIIa engine and incorporated features from the 260 hp (194 kW) D IVa engine. Both of those engines were six-cylinder inlines. However, the D VI had three rows of six-cylinders, creating a W-18 engine. The center cylinder row was vertical, and the left and right rows were angled 40 degrees from the center row.

mercedes d.vi (3)

Front view of the D VI illustrates the water pump mounted directly in front of the center cylinder bank. Note the direct drive crankshaft. (Evžen Všetečka image via www.aircraftengine.cz)

The D VI engine used individual steel cylinders with one intake and one exhaust valve. The valves of each cylinder row were actuated by a single overhead camshaft driven from the rear of the engine via a vertical shaft. The camshaft acted upon rocker arms that protruded from the camshaft housing above each cylinder to the exposed cylinder valves. A water jacket made of pressed steel was welded to the cylinder. Each piston was made of a forged-steel head screwed and welded onto a cast iron skirt. The cylinder’s compression ratio was 4.7 to 1.

Each cylinder was attached to the two-piece steel crankcase via four studs. Most likely, the studs for the center cylinder row extended into the bottom half of the crankcase and helped secure the two crankcase halves. The crankshaft was supported by seven main bearings and was connected directly to the propeller. A water pump was driven by the crankshaft at the front of the engine. At the rear of the engine, a vertical shaft extending from the crankshaft drove a magneto for each cylinder bank and an oil pump. Each of the cylinders had two spark plugs.

Induction air was drawn into an air chamber inside the crankcase where it was warmed. The air then passed through two water-jacketed pipes cast integral with the lower crankcase half at the rear of the engine. The two pipes split into three inline carburetors, each feeding one cylinder bank via an intake manifold. The intake manifold was made of copper and was water-jacketed. The left cylinder bank had its intake manifold positioned on the right side. The center and right cylinder banks had their intake manifolds positioned on the left side. The exhaust was expelled from each cylinder via an individual stack on the side opposite the intake.

daimler-mercedes d vi back

Rear view of the D VI shows the engine’s induction stemming from the lower crankcase housing and feeding into the three carburetors.

The D VI had a 5.51 in (140 mm) bore and a 6.30 in (160 mm) stroke. The engine’s total displacement was 2,705 cu in (44.3 L). The D VI produced 513 hp (382 kW) at 1,440 rpm for takeoff and had a maximum continuous output of 493 hp (368 kW) at 1,400 rpm. Specific fuel consumption was .477 lb/hp/hr (290 g/kW/h). The engine weighed 1,636 lb (742 kg).

The Daimler D VI engine was first run in 1916. However, development of the D IIIa and D IVa engines took priority, causing the D VI to lag behind. The D VI passed a certification test in December 1918, but World War I was over by that time, and such and engine was no longer needed. Military restrictions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles most likely influenced the abandonment of the D VI engine, and no further work was undertaken.

The sole surviving D VI engine has been preserved and is on display at the Flugausstellung L.+ P. Junior museum in Hermeskeil, Germany.

mercedes d.vi (1)

The D VI engine had mounts cast integral with the upper crankcase, but the engine was never installed in any aircraft. Note the pedestal pads onto which the cylinders were mounted. (Evžen Všetečka image via www.aircraftengine.cz)

Sources:
Flugmotoren und Strahltriebwerke by Kyrill von Gersdorff, et. al. (2007)
Report on the 180 H.P. Mercedes Aero Engine by the Ministry of Munitions Technical Department—Aircraft Production (March 1918)
Report on the 260-H.P. Mercedes Aero Engine by the Technical Information Section of the Air Board (July 1917)
http://www.aircraftengine.cz/Hermeskeil/

Thomas X-8 engine

Thomas / Leyland X-8 Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

John Godfrey Parry Thomas was a British engineer and was widely known as Parry Thomas. During World War I, Thomas was a member of the Munitions Invention Board and was brought on as the chief engineer at Leyland Motors in 1917 to help the firm develop an aircraft engine.

Allan Ferguson had been working at Leyland on the design of the aircraft engine. The engine Ferguson had designed was a 450 hp (336 kW), water-cooled W-18 with banks set at 40 degrees. Each bank consisted of two three-cylinder blocks, and there were plans to make a W-9 engine with just three banks of three cylinders. Long pushrods extended from camshafts in the crankcase between the cylinder banks to the top of the cylinders to actuate the overhead valves. Thomas felt that the W-18 engine would not be successful and proposed his own design, which won the approval of Leyland management.

Thomas X-8 engine

The Thomas (Leyland) X-8 engine was made from aluminum and had many interesting features. At the rear of the engine, the handle is attached to a dynamo for starting. Just above the dynamo is the crankshaft-driven water pump. The engine’s carburetors are mounted on either side of the water pump. Note the integral passageways leading from the carburetor to the cylinders. The oil sump tank is positioned in the lower engine Vee.

Assisted by Fred Sumner and Reid Railton, Thomas’ engine design was an X-8 with cylinder banks spaced at 90 degrees. Each cylinder bank consisted of two paired cylinders. The cylinder banks were cast integral with the aluminum crankcase, and nickel-chrome cylinder wet liners were heat-shrunk into the cylinder banks. An aluminum cylinder head was attached to each cylinder bank via eight bolts. A propeller gear reduction was incorporated into the engine. The gear reduction used bevel gears and reduced the propeller speed to .50 times crankshaft speed. The gear reduction kept the propeller position in line with the crankshaft.

A single overhead camshaft operated the two intake and two exhaust valves for each cylinder. The camshaft was driven via a vertical shaft at the rear of the engine. The valves were closed by leaf springs. Via adjustable screws, one end of a leaf spring was attached to an intake valve while the other end of the spring was attached to an exhaust valve. The springs were allowed to articulate at their mounting point so that as one valve was opened, additional tension was applied to the closed valve for an even tighter seal.

Two carburetors were positioned at the rear of the engine, with each carburetor providing the air/fuel mixture for one side of the engine. Each carburetor was mounted to an integral intake passageway in the crankcase, with four individual ducts branching off from the passageway. Each duct connected one cylinder to the intake passageway. Exhaust was expelled from the upper and lower engine Vees. Each cylinder had two spark plugs fired by either a magneto or battery ignition.

A water pump driven at the rear of the engine by the crankshaft circulated water through the engine at around 48 gpm (182 L). The coolant flowed into the cylinder banks and around the exhaust ports to keep the exhaust valves cool. A pipe system enabled water to flow through the hollow crankshaft at 10 gpm (36 L), cooling the three main bearings and two connecting rod bearings. The water also cooled the oil that flowed through the crankshaft and to the bearings. To further cool the oil, the water and oil flowed into the propeller gear reduction, where the oil passed along the finned outer side of the water-cooled propeller shaft.

Thomas leaf spring valves

While not of the X-8 engine, this drawing does depict the leaf spring valves, similar to the setup used in the X-8 engine. The leaf spring (5) held the valves (3 and 4) closed. Lobes (11) on the camshaft (12) acted on the rockers (9 and 10) to open the valves. The leaf spring mount (8) could move up and down to add tension on the closed valve for a tighter seal. (GB patent 216,607, granted 5 June 1924)

Attached to each of the crankshaft’s two crankpins was a master connecting rod, and three articulated rods were attached to each master rod. The crankshaft had both of its crankpins inline, which meant that the pistons for one cylinder bank would both be at top dead center at the same time. One source states that the crankpins were in the same phase, meaning the two cylinders of the same bank would be on the same stroke, essentially making the X-8 engine operate like two synchronized X-4 engines. This was reportedly done to prevent any rocking motion created by the front X-4 firing followed by a rear X-4-cylinder firing 90 degrees later. However, a different source says the cylinders were phased 360 degrees apart, which would make more sense. While the pistons of one cylinder bank were both at top dead center, one cylinder was starting the intake stroke while the other was starting the power stroke. The 360-degree phasing would create a rather smooth firing order, such as bank 1 front cylinder (1F), bank 2 rear cylinder (2R), 3F, 4R, 1R, 2F, 3R, and 4F. However, the engine’s true firing order is not known.

A dry-sump lubrication system was used. Oil from the engine was collected in a one gallon (4.5 L) tank mounted in the lower engine Vee. The oil was then returned to a main oil tank of approximately eight gallons (32 L) installed in the aircraft. For starting, the X-8 engine used an electric starter motor or a hand-cranked dynamo. The engine incorporated an interrupter gear for firing guns through the propeller arc.

The X-8 engine had a 6.0 in (152 mm) bore and a 4.5 in (114 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 1,018 cu in (16.7 L) and produced 300 hp (224 kW) at 2,500 rpm and 10,000 ft (3,048 m). Maximum engine speed was around 3,500 rpm. The X-8 engine weighed around 500 lb (227 kg). For the time, 500 lb (227 kg) was remarkably light for a 300 hp (224 kW) engine. The X-8 was noted as being very compact, but a list of engine dimensions has not been found.

Thomas X-8 drawing

Patent drawing of the X-8’s crankshaft with its inline crankpins. The water pump (4) housed the crankshaft-driven impeller (9). Water was pumped through an inlet (11), through a passageway (10), and into the pipe built-up in the hollow crankshaft. The water then flowed through the propeller shaft (36) to cool oil in an adjacent passageway (45).

The design of the Thomas X-8 was completed in December 1917 and submitted to the Air Ministry. Thomas initiated an extensive part-testing program that resulted in the creation of numerous test fixtures. In conjunction with the test-fixtures, A single-cylinder test engine was built and tested in 1918. The single-cylinder produced 37 hp (28 kW) at 2,500 rpm and 53 hp (40 kW) at 3,700 rpm. These outputs equated to 296 hp (221 kW) and 424 hp (316 kW) respectively for the complete eight-cylinder engine. However, the piston in the single-cylinder engine failed after five minutes of running between 3,500 and 3,700 rpm.

A complete X-8 engine was built and run for the first time in August 1918. Compression ratios of 5.8 and 6.3 were used on the single-cylinder engine, but the compression ratio of the complete engine has not been found. Reportedly, the engine was hastily assembled because government inspectors wanted the test two weeks earlier than planned. The X-8 engine’s lightly-built crankcase deformed and closed in the crankshaft bearing clearance, resulting in the engine seizing after a few hours of running.

With the end of World War I on 11 November 1918, further work on the Thomas X-8 engine was abandoned. A number of features from the aircraft engine were later used on the Leyland automotive straight-eight engine developed in 1920. Thomas went on to become a legend at the Brooklands Raceway, campaign one of the first aero-engined Land Speed Record (LSR) monster cars, and set a flying-mile (1.6 km) LSR of 170.624 mph (274.593 km/h) on 28 April 1926. Thomas tragically died in a crash attempting another LSR on 3 March 1927. His death marked the first time a driver was killed while in direct pursuit of a LSR.

Parry Thomas at Brooklands Getty

Thomas behind the wheel of his Leyland-Thomas racer at Brooklands on 4 October 1926. (Getty image)

Sources:
“AIR: Parry Thomas’s Aero-Engine” by William Boddy, Motor Sport (February 1995)
“The Life Story of Parry-Thomas” by Fred Sumner, Motor Sport (November 1941)
“Internal Combustion Engine,” US patent 1,346,280 by John Godfrey Parry Thomas (granted 13 July 1920)
Reid Railton: Man of Speed by Karl Ludvigsen (2018)
Parry Thomas by Hugh Tours (1959)