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Constant-Speed Propeller Operation 

 

Flying Handbook Menu > Transition to Complex Airplanes > Controllable-Pitch Propeller > Constant-Speed Propeller Operation

The engine is started with the propeller control in the low pitch/high r.p.m. position. This position reducesthe load or drag of the propeller and the result is easier starting and warm-up of the engine. During warm-up, the propeller blade changing mechanism should be operated slowly and smoothly through a full cycle. This is done by moving the propeller control (with the manifold pressure set to produce about 1,600 r.p.m.) to the high pitch/low r.p.m. position, allowing the r.p.m. to stabilize, and then moving the propeller control back to the low pitch takeoff position. This should be done for two reasons: to determine whether the system is operating correctly, and to circulate fresh warm oil through the propeller governor system. It should be remembered that the oil has been trapped in the propeller cylinder since the last time the engine was shut down. There is a certain amount of leakage from the propeller cylinder, and the oil tends to congeal, especially if the outside air temperature is low. Consequently, if the propeller isn’t exercised before takeoff, there is a possibility that the engine may overspeed on takeoff.

An airplane equipped with a constant-speed propeller has better takeoff performance than a similarly powered airplane equipped with a fixed-pitch propeller. This is because with a constant-speed propeller, an airplane can develop its maximum rated horsepower (red line on the tachometer) while motionless. An airplane with a fixedpitch propeller, on the other hand, must accelerate down the runway to increase airspeed and aerodynamically unload the propeller so that r.p.m. and horsepower can steadily build up to their maximum. With a constantspeed propeller, the tachometer reading should come up to within 40 r.p.m. of the red line as soon as full power is applied, and should remain there for the entire takeoff.

Excessive manifold pressure raises the cylinder compression pressure, resulting in high stresses within the engine. Excessive pressure also produces high engine temperatures. A combination of high manifold pressure and low r.p.m. can induce damaging detonation. In order to avoid these situations, the following sequence should be followed when making power changes.

• When increasing power, increase the r.p.m. first, and then the manifold pressure.
• When decreasing power, decrease the manifold pressure first, and then decrease the r.p.m.

It is a fallacy that (in non-turbocharged engines) the manifold pressure in inches of mercury (inches Hg) should never exceed r.p.m. in hundreds for cruise power settings. The cruise power charts in the AFM/POH should be consulted when selecting cruise power settings. Whatever the combinations of r.p.m. and manifold pressure listed in these charts—they have been flight tested and approved by the airframe and powerplant engineers for the respective airframe and engine manufacturer. Therefore, if there are power settings such as 2,100 r.p.m. and 24 inches manifold pressure in the power chart, they are approved for use.

With a constant-speed propeller, a power descent can be made without overspeeding the engine. The system compensates for the increased airspeed of the descent by increasing the propeller blade angles. If the descent is too rapid, or is being made from a high altitude, the maximum blade angle limit of the blades is not sufficient to hold the r.p.m. constant. When this occurs, the r.p.m. is responsive to any change in throttle setting.

Some pilots consider it advisable to set the propeller control for maximum r.p.m. during the approach to have full horsepower available in case of emergency. If the governor is set for this higher r.p.m. early in the approach when the blades have not yet reached their minimum angle stops, the r.p.m. may increase to unsafe limits. However, if the propeller control is not readjusted for the takeoff r.p.m. until the approach is almost completed, the blades will be against, or very near their minimum angle stops and there will be little if any change in r.p.m. In case of emergency, both throttle and propeller controls should be moved to takeoff positions.

Many pilots prefer to feel the airplane respond immediately when they give short bursts of the throttle during approach. By making the approach under a little power and having the propeller control set at or near cruising r.p.m., this result can be obtained.

Although the governor responds quickly to any change in throttle setting, a sudden and large increase in the throttle setting will cause a momentary overspeeding of the engine until the blades become adjusted to absorb the increased power. If an emergency demanding full power should arise during approach, the sudden advancing of the throttle will cause momentary overspeeding of the engine beyond the r.p.m. for which the governor is adjusted. This temporary increase in engine speed acts as an emergency power reserve.

Some important points to remember concerning constant-speed propeller operation are:

• The red line on the tachometer not only indicates maximum allowable r.p.m.; it also indicates the r.p.m. required to obtain the engine’s rated horsepower.
• Amomentary propeller overspeed may occur when the throttle is advanced rapidly for takeoff. This is usually not serious if the rated r.p.m. is not exceeded by 10 percent for more than 3 seconds.
• The green arc on the tachometer indicates the normal operating range. When developing power in this range, the engine drives the propeller. Below the green arc, however, it is usually the windmilling propeller that powers the engine. Prolonged operation below the green arc can be detrimental to the engine.
• On takeoffs from low elevation airports, the manifold pressure in inches of mercury may exceed the r.p.m. This is normal in most cases. The pilot should consult the AFM/POH for limitations.
• All power changes should be made smoothly and slowly to avoid overboosting and/or overspeeding.

Governing Range
Turbocharging
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