The Iconic Single Engine Planes
Since the Wright brothers’ first flight back in 1903 to the neck breaking 242 knots or 279 miles per hour Mooney Acclaim models, single-engine planes have been known and loved for their adaptability to terrain, not forgetting how cheap it may be to buy one for your kids. Countries utilized a wide range of these planes during the World Wars which came to be feared fighters and bombers responsible for destruction worth billions. Though these could only fly to about 300 miles, advances in-flight technology and avionics have produced planes that fly up to around 900 miles.
Fuel is the most important factor in determining the flying range of any plane. The amount of fuel an airplane carries is dependent on many factors such as flight phase, engine size, the weight of cargo, and the condition of the plane. An advantage of a single engine plane is their small size motors which compared to multi-engine airplanes, consume much less fuel at any given phase. The main limitation is small-sized fuel tanks that hold a very limited amount of gas. A Cessna 172R for example can hold only up to 56 gallons while burning about 8.6 gallons per hour, allowing it to fly an impressive 800 miles after which it is highly recommended you land for your good health’s sake.
Engine size also influences how far an airplane will fly, as it directly determines the fuel consumption. Small engines that put out about 65 horsepower burn around 3 gallons per hour, whereas engines with more than 400 horsepower will burn up to an impressive 20 gallons in cruise mode. Although such a plane will fly for a shorter time, it is much faster and covers a large distance in a short time span. Heavier engines require more power to move therefore burn more fuel to power the plane, consuming most at take off. As much as engine weight matters so does the cargo or passenger weight.
This is why it is important to know the maximum weight your plane can carry while performing at an optimal rate. For your small plane to fly further, weight reduction is the solution you are looking for. According to Wikipedia, a 1 percent reduction in weight results in a fuel consumption reduction of about 0.8 percent. As much as carrying extra fuel sounds like the wiser thing to do, bear in mind that fuel consumption will be increased due to the increase in weight.
Air density decreases with increased altitude, lowering the drag forces acting on a plane as it moves, making aircraft more fuel efficient when flying at higher altitudes. The higher you fly, the lower air pressure and temperatures get, causing a reduction in an aircraft’s maximum thrust. Differences in air density caused by the lowered temperatures result in pressure changes. Lift is created by a plane’s wings during take off, so more speed is required for that to happen in areas with thin air. At higher altitudes, the aircraft’s engine and propellers overcome lesser drag when spinning, so much less fuel is spent during take off or at cruise speeds.
Countless wing configurations have been tried and tested on aircraft by flight engineers. These act as airfoils that create lift as a plane moves through the air, hence play a major part in determining aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. A change in wing shape or angle can determine operating speeds, stability, and balance as aircraft fly. Wings may be attached at the bottom of the fuselage, middle, or the top as in the Cessna 172. They may be attached perpendicular to a fuselage’s horizontal plane or angled either up or down. In most old aircraft designs, external wires or struts are used to provide additional support while carrying both the aerodynamic and landing loads.
These steel supports add significant weight to an airplane, not forgetting increased aerodynamic drag which negatively affecting fuel efficiency. In fact, older models were equipped with wings made out of wood covered with fabric, weighing almost double or triple that of modern designs. Small aircraft come in three major wing variations, rectangular, tapered, or elliptical, with the latter being the most aerodynamically efficient because elliptical spanwise lift distribution creates the least amount of drag. This property alone will allow such a plane to cut through the air much faster than planes with rectangular wings.