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A History of Aeronautics by Marsh and Vivian

Working on a common crankshaft


The

light weight of the Wright brothers' engine did not necessitate a high number of revolutions per minute to get the requisite power; the speed was only 1,300 revolutions per minute, which, with a piston stroke of 3.94 inches, was quite moderate. Four cylinders were used, the cylinder diameter being 4.42 inches; the engine was of the vertical type, arranged to drive two propellers at a rate of about 350 revolutions per minute, gearing being accomplished by means of chain drive from crank-shaft end to propeller spindle.

The methods adopted by the Wrights for obtaining a light-weight engine were of considerable interest, in view of the fact that the honour of first achieving flight by means of the driven plane belongs to them--unless Ader actually flew as he claimed. The cylinders of this first Wright engine were separate castings of steel, and only the barrels were jacketed, this being done by fixing loose, thin aluminium covers round the outside of each cylinder. The combustion head and valve pockets were cast together with the cylinder barrel, and were not water cooled. The inlet valves were of the automatic type, arranged on the tops of the cylinders, while the exhaust valves were also overhead, operated by rockers and push-rods. The pistons and piston rings were of the ordinary type, made of cast-iron, and the connecting rods were circular in form, with a hole drilled down the middle of each to reduce the weight.

Necessity

for increasing power and ever lighter weight in relation to the power produced has led to the evolution of a number of different designs of internal combustion engines. It was quickly realised that increasing the number of cylinders on an engine was a better way of getting more power than that of increasing the cylinder diameter, as the greater number of cylinders gives better torque-even turning effect--as well as keeping down the weight--this latter because the bigger cylinders must be more stoutly constructed than the small sizes; this fact has led to the construction of engines having as many as eighteen cylinders, arranged in three parallel rows in order to keep the length of crankshaft within reasonable limits. The aero engine of to-day may, roughly, be divided into four classes: these are the V type, in which two rows of cylinders are set parallel at a certain angle to each other; the radial type, which consists of cylinders arranged radially and remaining stationary while the crankshaft revolves; the rotary, where the cylinders are disposed round a common centre and revolve round a stationary shaft, and the vertical type, of four or six cylinders--seldom more than this--arranged in one row. A modification of the V type is the eighteen-cylindered engine--the Sunbeam is one of the best examples--in which three rows of cylinders are set parallel to each other, working on a common crankshaft. The development these four types started with that of the vertical--the simplest of all; the V, radial, and rotary types came after the vertical, in the order given.


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