|Lycoming XR-7755-3 at the Smithsonian Institution Note the magnetos and distributors on the forward ends of the cylinder bank and camshafts (painted grey).|
The Lycoming XR-7755 was the largest piston-driven aircraft engine ever produced, with 36 cylinders totaling about 7,750 in³ (127 L) of displacement and a power output of 5,000 horsepower (3,700 kilowatts). It was originally intended to be used in the "European bomber" that eventually emerged as the Convair B-36. Only two examples were built before the project was terminated in 1946.
Lycoming had not been successful in designing a high-power engine. They had started with an attempt to make a hyper engine that led to the 1,200 hp (890 kW) O-1230; by the time the engine was ready, however, new aircraft designs were all calling for more power. They tried again by "twinning" the engine to produce the H block H-2470, which saw some interest in the Vultee XP-54 "Swoose Goose" project. Work on the H-2470 ended when the XP-54 was cancelled.
In one final attempt, Lycoming decided to go all out and build the largest engine in the world. They put together a team under the direction of VP of Engineering Clarence Wiegman at their main Williamsport factory in the summer of 1943 and started work.
The resulting design used 9 banks of 4 cylinders each, arranged around a central crankshaft with each cylinder bank at a 40° angle to each adjacent bank, to form a four-row radial engine. Unlike most multi-row radials, which "spiral" the cylinders to allow cooling air to reach them, the R-7755 was water-cooled, and so each of the cylinder heads in a cylinder bank were in-line within a cooling jacket. Contrast this with the German 24-cylinder Junkers Jumo 222, which looked similar from the outside, as both engines used banks of four cylinders each, but ran on a V-style cycle instead of a radial — somewhat as if it was a trio of V8 engines on a common crankcase — giving it six banks of cylinders at a 60º angle from each adjacent bank, with four cylinders per bank. The XR-7755 was 10 ft (3 m) long, 5 ft (1.5 m) in diameter, and weighed 6,050 lb (2,740 kg). At full power it was to produce 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) at 2,600 rpm, maintaining that with a turbocharger to a critical altitude that was apparently never published.
Each cylinder bank had a single overhead cam actuating the poppet valves. The camshaft included two sets of cams, one for full takeoff power, and another for economical cruise. The pilot could select between the two settings, which would shift the camshaft along its axis to bring the other set of cams over the valve stems. Interestingly, the design mounted some of the accessories on the "front side" of the camshafts, namely two magnetos and four distributors. The seventh camshaft was not used in this fashion, its location on the front of the engine was used to feed oil to the propeller reduction gearing.
The original XR-7755-1 design drove a single propeller, but even on the largest aircraft the propeller needed to absorb the power would have been ridiculously large. This led to a minor redesign that produced the XR-7755-3, using a new propeller gearing system driving a set of coaxial shafts to power a set of contra-rotating propellers. The propeller reduction gearing also had two speed settings to allow for a greater range of operating power than adjustable props alone could deliver. Another minor modification resulted in the XR-7755-5, the only change being the replacement of carburetors with a new fuel injection system.
The engine first started testing at 5,000 hp (3,700 kW) in 1944 with the XR-7755-3. A second example was provided, as planned, to the United States Army Air Forces at Wright Field in 1946. However, by this time the Air Force had lost interest in new piston designs due to the introduction of jet engines. The original test engine was later delivered to the Smithsonian Institution, where it was recently restored.
Data from
- Type: 36-cylinder turbosupercharged liquid-cooled "star" (9 banks at 40º angles, 4 cylinders in each bank) aircraft piston engine
- Bore: 6 3⁄8 in (161.9 mm)
- Stroke: 6 3⁄4 in (171.4 mm)
- Displacement: 7,756.3 in3 (127.1 L)
- Length: 120 in (3,050 mm)
- Diameter: 60 in (1,525 mm)
- Dry weight: 6,050 lb (2,745 kg)
- Valvetrain: Single overhead camshaft with separate cams for takeoff and economical cruise (Variable valve timing)
- Cooling system: Liquid-cooled
- Power output:
- 5,000 hp (3,730 kW) at 2,600 rpm takeoff
- 4,000 hp (2,985 kW) at 2,300 rpm cruise
- Specific power: 0.64 hp/in³ (29.3 kW/L)
- Specific fuel consumption:
- 0.70 lb/(hp·h) (0.43 kg/(kW·h)) at takeoff power
- 0.485 lb/(hp·h) (0.29 kg/(kW·h)) at 70% power
- 0.37 lb/(hp·h) (0.22 kg/(kW·h)) at minimum cruise power
- Power-to-weight ratio: 0.82 hp/lb (1.36 kW/kg)
- Armstrong Siddeley Hyena
- Armstrong Siddeley Deerhound
- Dobrynin VD-4K
- Wright R-2160 Tornado
- Junkers Jumo 222
- BMW 803
- Correspondence with Kimble D. McCutcheon of the Aircraft Engine Historical Society, who provided original specifications sheets, the image used above, as well as valuable comments.
- A History of Aircraft Piston Engines, Herschel Smith, Sunflower University Press, 1986
- - This source contains a number of mis-translated metric figures
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lycoming XR-7755.|
- Lycoming XR-7755 at Aviationhistory.com
- Letter to the Editor on the XR-7755 at GeneralAviationNews.com
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