How Do Piston Aircraft Stay Cool?

Powerplant cooling systems are necessary for preventing the overheating of general aviation aircraft engines. As air must evenly move across all cylinders to effectively keep an engine cool, modern reciprocating aircraft engines utilize pressure cooling systems to minimize  the accumulation of heat by forcing the downflow of cold air. Dividing an engine into two separate parts—a high pressure area above the engine and low pressure area below the engine—pressure cooling in piston powered aircraft involves the use of cowling secured with rigid and flexible baffles to facilitate and promote engine airflow.

While older generations of aircraft once relied on velocity cooling, this method often produced uneven cylinder cooling and unwanted drag from exposed parts. However, to combat these unwanted issues, pressure cooling systems were developed alongside advancements in aircraft engine assemblies, improving overall engine functionality for higher-powered vehicles. Becoming essential for most aircraft during the development of horizontally opposed engines,  the implementation of cowling and baffles simply allow cool air to flow top to bottom within an assembly, later exiting through cowl flaps for ease of filtration.


Making use of symmetrical, circular airfoils encased around the perimeter of an engine, cowling is a removable engine covering used by various aircraft to simultaneously reduce drag while aiding in the process of cooling engine parts. As such, they can reduce drag by up to 60% as a direct result of diminished turbulence passing through free-standing cylinders. Often applied for horizontally opposed engines, cowls are typically designed with tight cowling and are optimal for streamlining airflow.


Located inside the cowling, aviation baffles separate an engine into two chambers and work to aid the circulation of airflow between areas of high and low pressure. Typically crafted from rigid aluminum baffles and flexible baffle seals, baffles allow high pressure airflow to flow vertically from the top chamber to the bottom chamber. Regularly coming with the addition of cowl flaps, these parts assist baffles by modifying and regulating how much airflow is received to an engine. As baffles are often damaged upon installation if applied by an untrained individual, it is important to routinely have them inspected based on manufacturer recommendation. As there are miniature baffles located deep within engine cowling which can easily go unchecked, improper maintenance can severely interrupt airflow, impacting the downflow of cool air, and inevitably resulting in part failure.

When you are in need of aviation components, whether that be cooling fins, engine nacelles, deflectors, aircraft breaks, and more, ASAP NSN Parts is here to streamline and expedite any one of your orders for immediate procurement. Due to our quality control and export compliance, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B certification and accreditation, alongside our NO CHINA sourcing pledge. If you would like to request a quote for your comparisons, you can submit an RFQ form as provided on our website. Upon receipt, a dedicated account manager will quickly review and respond with a personalized solution to your needs in just 15 minutes or less, 24/7x365.  


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