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Thread: First post / Prop sizing questions

  1. #1

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    First post / Prop sizing questions

    Hello all, first post here. I made an account because I have a couple of questions regarding experimental aircraft and modern automotive engines. To frame the question, I feel I should walk you through how I arrived at the question. I have recently become interested in aviation as a hobby and with all new hobbies I have been attempting to absorb as much information as possible. I discovered experimental aircraft after looking at what is required to maintain a certified aircraft. Since I am a mechanical engineer and a hobby mechanic/fabricator and don’t trust even my automotive maintenance and repair to anyone other than myself the fact that there are no restrictions to owners performing maintenance functions on the airplanes in this category seems like a huge plus. While doing more research I discovered that having an aircraft engine overhauled can cost upwards of 30 thousand dollars. I thought that sounds ridiculous considering how old and simplistic the technology seems. This is especially true when you consider that a brand-new gm long block is only $5000 dollars. This got me to the point I was thinking about the possibility of putting LS power into an experimental aircraft. After some research I found the Murphy Moose that has the naturally aspirated LS engine. Due to the higher revs of the automotive engine they used a 2:1 step down gear case to run the prop at the correct RPM.

    This finally brings me to my question. From my understanding prop size is determined or rather limited by the speed of the tip. From my research the prop tip must stay under 0.85 of Mach 1. For example, if the given engine develops peak power at 2700 RPM then the diameter of the prop would be at the largest 80” which would result in a prop tip speed of 287 m/s. If all the above is true then why mess around with a 2:1 step down gear case? Just go direct 1:1 and properly size the prop. For an RPM of 4500 the prop diameter would be 48” to have the same 287 m/s speed as the previous example. Is there any issue with reducing the prop size by this much? I would assume that you would need at least 3 blades potentially more to utilize the full power of the engine at WOT, but I cant see that presenting any issues. Is there something that I am missing? The idea of replacing an engine with a brand-new crate engine for $5k as opposed to $30k would lower the cost of flying per hour quite tremendously at least 13 dollars an hour and not needing to buy and maintain the reduction drive would be a huge win as well.

  2. #2

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    A homebuilder can overhaul a used but repairable aircraft engine for perhaps $5000.
    The aircraft engine is engineered for the stress of turning a prop, and at an efficient diameter and rpm.

  3. #3
    Dana's Avatar
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    For low to moderate speed aircraft, larger propeller turning slower is more efficient than a smaller propeller turning fast.

  4. #4
    SOLIDWORKS Support Volunteer Jeffrey Meyer's Avatar
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    Prop efficiency is inversely proportional to prop diameter. As the saying goes "keep it as long as possible as long as possible". So theoretically the most efficient prop for a given airspeed and thrust (read "power") is a single bladed prop. However, that being somewhat difficult to implement probably the best compromise from the efficiency point of view would be a two-bladed prop.

  5. #5

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    Okay, lemme have a stab at short vs. long on props (y'all feel free to correct me!):

    First off, the inner two or so feet right behind the prop is airplane, what with that pesky fuselage and everything. Not a lot of efficiency there.

    Second, we're looking for thrust. A smaller prop just doesn't have the same surface area as a large prop, so even if it's moving half as fast, the longer prop is going to make more.

    Third, we want "clean" air for that blade. A small prop going fast is going to catch disrupted air from the other blade.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  6. #6
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    Don’t want to sound like the curmudgeon of the group but you really need to ask yourself why don’t you see a lot of automotive big block engine installations in the EAB world. It can and has been done but has it’s challenges.
    Dave Shaw
    EAA 67180 Lifetime
    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

  7. #7
    Sam Buchanan's Avatar
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    Some reasons why there are few auto engine based aircraft:

    Scarcity of reliable gearboxes

    Cooling

    Cowling

    Weight

    Lack of insurance

    These are significant hurdles that have to be jumped and aren’t fully appreciated by those with limited aviation experience.
    Sam Buchanan
    The RV Journal RV-6 build log
    Fokker D.VII semi-replica build log

  8. #8

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    Excepting the VW. Loads of VW engines (and variants based on VW blocks) flying around.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

  9. #9
    SOLIDWORKS Support Volunteer Jeffrey Meyer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Giger View Post
    Excepting the VW. Loads of VW engines (and variants based on VW blocks) flying around.
    Words of wisdom, with the emphasis on "Excepting". The VW is truly an exception.
    Automotive engines are engineered for automobiles, and aircraft engines are engineered for airplanes, with completely different design criteria. Most (if not all) automobiles have gearboxes, while most aircraft do not. Automobiles run at an average throttle duty cycle of about 20% while the average duty cycle on aircraft is probably 75%. Automobile engine MTBO is probably about 30,000 hours - Aircraft engine MTBO is an order of magnitude less. If a car engine suddenly stops working the solution is a cell-phone call. If an aircraft engine stops working the solution is a chapter in a television series.
    It's a bit like a washing machine that can also send and receive faxes - it won't be the best washing machine, but it also won't be the best fax machine, and if one of the functions stops working it becomes a major drag on the other.
    So, if you can live with that, go for it - I'm looking forward to seeing your restored VW beetle with a Lycoming engine, or your homebuilt Piper cub with a 150 HP water-cooled motorcycle engine.

  10. #10
    Airmutt's Avatar
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    Y’all need to reread the OP. An LS engine installation in a Murphy Moose. We’re not talking about VW or Corsair installations here. Strapping a big block Chevy on a Moose puts him in the 0.01% category of the EAB world.
    If he chooses to go down this path he needs to be fully aware of just how difficult a project he is taking on. Really need to ask yourself if you have the time, resources, finances, skills and determination to take on such a project.
    Last edited by Airmutt; 02-23-2021 at 08:21 AM. Reason: Inadvertent posting
    Dave Shaw
    EAA 67180 Lifetime
    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

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