Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone

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R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone
Wright R-3350
TypeRadial engine
National originUnited States
ManufacturerWright Aeronautical
First runMay 1937
Major applicationsBoeing B-29 Superfortress
Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Lockheed Constellation
Douglas DC-7
Lockheed P-2 Neptune
Developed fromWright R-1820
 
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R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone
Wright R-3350
TypeRadial engine
National originUnited States
ManufacturerWright Aeronautical
First runMay 1937
Major applicationsBoeing B-29 Superfortress
Douglas A-1 Skyraider
Lockheed Constellation
Douglas DC-7
Lockheed P-2 Neptune
Developed fromWright R-1820

The Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone was one of the most powerful radial aircraft engines produced in the United States. It was a twin row, supercharged, air-cooled, radial engine with 18 cylinders. Power ranged from 2,200 to over 3,700 hp (1,640 to 2,760 kW), depending on the model. First developed prior to World War II, the R-3350's design required a long time to mature before finally being used to power the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. After the war, the engine had matured sufficiently to become a major civilian airliner design, notably in its Turbo-Compound forms. The engine is now commonly used on Hawker Sea Fury and Grumman F8F Bearcat Unlimited Class Racers at the Reno Air Races.

Contents

Design and development

In 1927, Wright Aeronautical introduced its famous "Cyclone" engine, which powered a number of designs in the 1930s. After merging with Curtiss to become Curtiss-Wright in 1929, an effort was started to redesign the engine to the 1,000 hp (750 kW) class. The new Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9 first ran successfully in 1935, and would become one of the most used aircraft engines in the 1930s and World War II, powering all examples (the -D through -G models) of the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress Allied heavy bomber aircraft to serve in the war, each powerplant assisted by a General Electric-designed turbocharger for maximum power output at high altitudes.

At about the same time Pratt & Whitney had started a development of their equally famous Wasp design into a larger and much more powerful two-row design that would easily compete with this larger Cyclone. In 1935 Wright decided to follow P&W's lead, and started to develop much larger engines based on the mechanicals of the Cyclone. The result were two designs with a somewhat shorter stroke, a 14 cylinder design that would evolve into the Wright R-2600, and a much larger 18 cylinder design that became the R-3350. An even larger 2-row 22 cylinder version, the R-4090, was experimented with as a competitor to the P&W R-4360 but was not produced.

The first R-3350 was run in May 1937. Continued development was slow, both due to the complex nature of the engine, as well as the R-2600 receiving considerably more attention. The R-3350 didn't fly until 1941, after the prototype Douglas XB-19 had been re-designed from the Allison V-3420 to the R-3350.

Things changed dramatically in 1940 with the introduction of a new contract by the USAAC to develop a long-range bomber capable of flying from the US to Germany with a 2,000 lb (900 kg) bomb load. Although smaller than the Bomber D designs that led to the B-19, the new designs required roughly the same amount of power. When preliminary designs were returned in the summer of 1940, three of the four designs were based on the R-3350. Suddenly the engine was seen as the future of Army aviation, and serious efforts to get the design into production started.

Wright R-3350 Turbo-Compound radial engine. Two exhaust recovery turbines shown outside impellor casing area (top (silver) and lower (red blading)) that are geared to the crankshaft.

By 1943 the ultimate development of the new bomber program, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, was flying. However the engines remained temperamental, and showed an alarming tendency of the rear cylinders to overheat, partially due to minimal clearance between the cylinder baffles and the cowl. A number of changes were introduced into the aircraft production line in order to provide more cooling at low speeds, with the aircraft rushed into operational use in the Pacific in 1944. This proved unwise, as the early B-29 tactics of maximum weights combined with high temperature airfields produced overheating problems that were not completely solved, and the engines had a tendency to swallow their own valves. Because of a high magnesium content in the crankcase alloy, the resulting engine fires were often so intense the main spar could burn through in seconds, resulting in catastrophic wing failure.[1]

Early versions of the R-3350 were equipped with carburetors, though the poorly designed elbow entrance to the supercharger led to serious problems with inconsistent fuel/air distribution. Near the end of World War II, the system was changed to use direct injection where fuel was injected directly into the combustion chamber. This change improved engine reliability. After the war the engine was redesigned, and became a favorite for large aircraft, notably the Lockheed Constellation and Douglas DC-7.

Following the war, to better serve the civilian market, the Turbo-Compound[2] system was developed to deliver better fuel efficiency and thus economy. In these versions, three power recovery turbines (PRT) were inserted into the exhaust piping of each group of six cylinders and geared to the engine crankshaft by fluid couplings to deliver more power. The PRTs recovered about 20 percent of the exhaust energy (around 450 hp) that would have otherwise been wasted, but reduced engine reliability. The fuel burn for the PRT equipped aircraft was nearly the same as the older Pratt and Whitney R-2800, while producing more horsepower.[3] Many aircraft mechanics of the day, nicknamed them "Parts Recovery Turbines" (and worse).[citation needed]

By this point, reliability had improved with the mean time between overhauls at 3,500 hours and specific fuel consumption in the order of 0.4 lb/hp/hour (243 g/kWh, giving it a 34% fuel efficiency). Engines still in use are now limited to 52 inches of mercury (1,800 hPa) manifold pressure, being 2,880 hp with 100/130 octane fuel (or 100LL) instead of the 59.5 inHg (2,010 hPa) and 3,400 HP possible with 115/145, or better, octane fuels, which are no longer available.

Several of the air racers at the Reno Air Races are powered by R-3350s. Modifications on one, Rare Bear, include a nose case designed for a slow-turning prop, taken from a R-3350 used on the Lockheed L-1649 Starliner, mated to the power section (crankcase, crank, pistons, and cylinders) taken from a R-3350 used on the Douglas DC-7. The supercharger is taken from a R-3350 used on the Lockheed EC-121 and the engine is fitted with Nitrous Oxide injection. Normal rated power of a stock R-3350 is 2,800 horsepower at 2,600 rpm and 45 inches of manifold pressure. With these modifications, Rare Bear's engine produces 4,000 horsepower at 3,200 rpm and 80 inches of manifold pressure and 4,500 horsepower with Nitrous Oxide injection.[4]

Variants

Applications

Wright R-3350 Turbo-Compound radial engine fitted at the Number Four position on the starboard wing of a Lockheed Super Constellation

Specifications (R-3350-C18-BA)

A Wright R-3350 radial engine, showing, R to L, propeller shaft, reduction gearcase, magneto (silver) with wiring, two cylinders (rear with connecting rod), impellor casing (and induction pipe outlets) and injection carburetor (black); separate accessory gearbox at extreme left

Data from Jane's.[5]

General characteristics

Components

Performance

See also

Related development

Comparable engines
Related lists

References

Notes

  1. ^ "B-29." fighter-planes.com. Retrieved: 15 September 2011.
  2. ^ Gunston 2006, p. 247.
  3. ^ "The Wright R-3350 Turbo-Compound Engine". Sport Aviation: 20. April 2012. 
  4. ^ Air & Space/Smithsonian The Bear is Back Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  5. ^ Jane's 1998, p. 318

Bibliography

  • Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines, 5th Edition. Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing Limited, 2006. ISBN 0-7509-4479-X.
  • Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London. Studio Editions Ltd, 1998. ISBN 0-517-67964-7.

External links