March 30, 2017

See How Your Cylinders Can Get You More Speed

Are you a pilot with a desire to fly faster who spends a lot of time and money on improvements – yet are unsure if it is really making the difference you expect? Owner/pilot Peter Balmer knew that the changes he was making to is airplane would help to fly faster, but exactly how much wasn’t crystal clear.

In 2016, he flew his Swiss Thunder kit-built, experimental airplane in the Reno Air Races. This was his second year as a pilot in the Races and he felt the competitive edge rising in him. The 600 cubic inch, V12 Falconer engine Thunder Mustang flew an average of 318 mph. If he wants to be a top contender, the plane needs to fly 400+ mph.

Peter consulted with 51Aero’s Fred Roscher on ways to achieve this speed increase. Together they decided to install a TECAT WISER torque sensor to measure horsepower directly on the plane. With a baseline horsepower number, improvements could be measured and verified for effectiveness. Being able to measure real-time horsepower in a single-engine, piston plane is NEW to general aviation. Visions of them tweaking the airplane in the sky to get better performance popped into their heads. Could they get over 1000 HP out of the engine?

Fred integrated the TECAT WISER torque sensor into the existing 51Aero’s Flight Data Recording and Analysis System on Swiss Thunder. Test flights were conducted at Reno Stead airport in February 2017.

The original engine dynamometer testing off-the-airplane indicated an output of 558 HP at 25” manifold pressure and 4600 RPM. Measurements from the February 2017 flight test using the TECAT torque sensor and 51Aero’s Flight-N-Sight analysis software show an on-aircraft engine output of 541 HP. Pretty close to the dyno reading! Now that Swiss Thunder has a performance baseline, Peter can look for inconsistencies or unexpected changes over time to give him a jump start at keeping the engine healthy – in addition to validating modifications.

What else can Fred tell from this new torque data? The Flight-N-Sight analysis screen gives you a glimpse into the individual combustion processes! Mechanics and pilots have not been able to view this information until now. Fred and Peter looked at the data to see if the engine was really “balanced” in power output per cylinder. Observing the uneven sine waveform, they could see a big difference across the cylinders. If they can optimize Swiss Thunder’s cylinders, a possible gain of 50-60 more HP could be achieved, translating into a 15-20 mph increase in speed on the race course. Now they have a visible key metric to guide plane improvements.

While optimizing the cylinders alone won’t get Peter to his speed goal, the analysis of torque data has just begun at 51Aero. It’s March 2017 with enough time to realize the possibilities of enhancing Swiss Thunder’s performance before the September races.

More Horsepower = More Speed
Torque data is confidence in the hands of resourceful pilots

If you want access to view your actual cylinder performance and real-time horsepower, I encourage you to reach out to us.

Click here to schedule a free demo where we can discuss customizing a 51Aero Flight Data Recording and Telemetry System to your specific needs.