When thinking about an aircraft engine, we are often familiar with some of the basic components. We know of the combustion chamber, cylinders, and other various engine parts. Not often though are people aware of what houses all these parts together. The aircraft crankcase is the “house” or “body” of the engine, holding all the various engine parts that work together to provide flight. Beyond housing parts, the crankcase also contains the engine oil lubrication system containing lubrication assembly parts that keeps components clean and cool, and attaches the powerplant to the aircraft.
Aircraft engine crankcase components, like many other aircraft components, need to be strong but light. Aluminum is a useful metal that can be melted, molded, and cooled to produce the crankcase. Aluminum provides a great strength to weight ratio that can withstand the centrifugal and propeller forces that are enacted upon it. Within the molded crankcase, there are multiple attachment points and decks where various aircraft engine components can be installed to. Crankcases are also created in halves that can be bolted together near the crankshaft, also adding more integrity to the piece as a whole.
Precision in design and manufacturing of a crankcase is extremely important. Even ensuring that each piston travel to the cylinders is exactly the same is critical for equal compression ratios. Installation of parts and placement of the crankcase itself can affect the various stresses it endures, possibly causing unneeded wear and tear if there is misalignment.
Crankcases have been a staple of many aircraft since the dawn of flight. Even the Wright brothers utilized a crankcase to house their aircraft engine parts. Similar to modern renditions, the Wright brothers’ crankcase held bays for cylinders, bearings and brackets for the crankshaft, and a carburetor floor. Since their early counterparts, modern crankcases have come a long way in their precision and housing abilities as new design and precision allows for longer life and stability of the engine. Even today, the body of an engine remains an integral part of aircraft.
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