Ev, this one’s for you!

We gotta get rid of those turbines, they’re ruining aviation and our hearing…

A turbine is too simple minded, it has no mystery. The air travels through it in a straight line and doesn’t pick up any of the pungent fragrance of engine oil or pilot sweat.

Anybody can start a turbine. You just need to move a switch from “OFF” to “START” and then remember to move it back to “ON” after a while. My PC is harder to start.

Cranking a round engine requires skill, finesse and style. You have to seduce it into starting. It’s like waking up a horny mistress. On some planes, the pilots aren’t even allowed to do it…

Turbines start by whining for a while, then give a lady-like poof and start whining a little louder.

Round engines give a satisfying rattle-rattle, click-click, BANG, more rattles, another BANG, a big macho FART or two, more clicks, a lot more smoke and finally a serious low pitched roar. We like that. It’s a GUY thing…

When you start a round engine, your mind is engaged and you can concentrate on the flight ahead Starting a turbine is like flicking on a ceiling fan: Useful, but, hardly exciting.

When you have started his round engine successfully your Mechanic looks up at you like he’d let you kiss his girl, too!

Turbines don’t break or catch fire often enough, which leads to aircrew boredom, complacency and inattention. A round engine at speed looks and sounds like it’s going to blow any minute. This helps concentrate the mind!

Turbines don’t have enough control levers or gauges to keep a pilot’s attention. There’s nothing to fiddle with during long flights.

Turbines smell like a Boy Scout camp full of Coleman Lamps. Round engines smell like God intended machines to smell.

Pass this on to an old guy (or his son, or anyone who flew them, ever) in remembrance of ALL those who know the meaning of BMEP.

I learned about Radials as a young sailor, starting S-2F and EC-121s. And yes, you did develop a feel for them or you blew them up… 

You learned how to count blades, which engines on which acft were hard starters, which ones were easy, which ones liked to give you a stack fire, etc…



  1. You are so old fashioned, but really understand why the good stuff is warming to the blood and the memories in your mind.

  2. Earl, that’s one of the things I get paid for, is to remember the OLD ways of doing things… Its amazing how much technology lets people forget how to do things. And some things, like starting a radial engine are more art than science!

  3. My Flight Instructor was always fond of saying “REAL airplanes have round motors and two wings”. Every time I watch the original “Flight of the Phoenix” and see them try and kick that big ol P&W to life with the Coffman starter I get shivers.

  4. Dr jim- Your instructor was right 🙂 Or at least I think so… We had an old man who owned the airport that loved to teach kids to fly- We were 16 years old, learning twin engine flying in a DC-3!!! About once a month he would load up 5-6 of us and do a round robin to airports in East Texas, the rule was you got one takeoff and one landing per flight. He never charged us, saying it was payback for what he had survived… He’d flown in WWI and WWII.

  5. The gentleman that taught me was a friend of my Dad’s. He was qualified for both fixed and rotary winged aircraft, and when he saw how fascinated I was with flying, gave me my first “airplane ride” in a Bell 47-G. I was about 7 or 8 at the time, and kept checking my seatbelt because I was afraid I was going to fall out of that big bubble canopy! When I got older, he used to let me ride along when he did pipeline and powerline inspections. I’ve probably got 100 hours in a 47-G! Later, he taught me to fly, and never charged me. If I paid for the rental, and bought the gas, he was more than happy to teach me for free. I just can’t imagine anything like that happening these days, with the lawyers and all.

  6. I’m not a pilot – in this life. And I must have done something particularly bad in the previous one to be so deprived. Can’t think of any other reason for having such a lust for round engines now.
    Thanks for feeding my craving.

  7. I flew a Cessna 195 once. Does that count? A friend bought it as Air Force surplus. He kept it in AF 1950s colors, bare aluminum with orange rudder and wing-tips as I recall. Complete redo on the interior though.

  8. Dr Jim- agree on the lawyers…dammit…

    Jeg- Glad I could help! 🙂

    Crucis- Was that an L-126? If so, it had a 300hp Jacobs radial, so it definitely qualifies! I remember one of my friends who was an ADR talking about Shaky Jakes and how badly they leaked!

    Fuzzy- Agreed! When that T-28 came over, ALL of us stopped and watched!

  9. It may have been an L-126. There were two Cessnas, the 190 and 195. Both were near alike. The AF both some of both although mostly the 195 version.

    I keep thinking this one was a 195, but it wasn’t 300hp, only around 250hp unless memory fails me. The one thing I remember was that on landing,the tail just kept flying and would float unless you forcefully planted it on the runway. Made for great short-field takeoffs, though.

  10. Crucis- Sounds like “somebody” was up on the brake pedals a little bit… LOL All taildraggers have a tendancy to float the tail, but the last thing you wanted to do was tap the brakes!

    Drjim- Yes it is! Thanks! I don’t know much about them, so that was a learning experience!

  11. Great post. I never thought much about props before.

    Is a stack fire like a hang fire? As in a cartridge start on an F-4 Phantom, when the cartridge did not fire, or it took about 30 seconds before it did fire?

  12. IIRC, a “Stack Fire” is a fire in one of the exhaust stacks, usually caused by an accumulation of unburned fuel in that particular cylinder. Some engines had separate exhaust stacks (Like on the Spirit of St. Louis), and some had them all tied into a big circular manifold with one or two outlets, like on a T28 Trojan.
    If I’m wrong, I’m sure OldNFO will correct me!

  13. ADM/Drjim- You are correct, a stack fire was out of the exhaust stacks. Some like the T-28 had all the stacks come into a single manifold; others, like the Connie, had shorties or individual stacks off each cylinder (pretty at night). The other problem was a burp back through the carbs, then you kept cranking to try to suck the fire back down into the cylinder- Otherwise, you were calling for the firetruck!

  14. Yep, when I was racing we’d crank the engine to suck it back down the carb if we had a backfire. Especially useful to know when firing a new engine for the first time when the timing might not be correct. I had a friend who always kept a shop towel in his back poket to toss over the carb if it spit back.

  15. Drjim- That works good, as long as the rag doesn’t have gas on it… sigh… NOT one of my better moves!

  16. Uhhhh…yeaah. POOF! The only time I ever saw it do something Really Bad(tm) was one time he used it to snuff some fire in an engine with Weber 48IDA catbs on it. Those have pretty big throttle bores, and it sucked the rag *into* the engine. Bent the intake valves on that cylinder, so the heads had to come off.
    The customer was NOT happy!

  17. For truly “Oldtimer Mustang” experience, visit my photo album tribute to these two early Naval Aviation former enlisted ratings who served in air squadrons of pre-World War Two LANGLEY (CV-1), LEXINGTON (CV-2), SARATOGA (CV-3):

    (Now deceased) ‘Navy Centenarian Sailor’, 103 year old, former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Radioman (ACRM, Combat Aircrewman), later wartime commissioned Chief Warrant Officer (Navy Technical Observer, Radio Electronics, Aviation; precursor NFO) Julio ‘Jay’ Ereneta, U. S. Navy (Ret.), thirty year career veteran of World War One and World War Two. First flew aircrewman in August 1922. Flew rearseat Radioman/Gunner (1920s/1930s) in the tactical air squadrons of the Navy’s first aircraft carriers, USS LANGLEY (CV-1) and USS LEXINGTON (CV-2).

    AND his shipmate,

    Remember Pearl Harbor — Keep America Alert!

    America’s oldest living Medal of Honor recipient, living his 100th year is former enlisted Chief Petty Officer, Aviation Chief Ordnanceman (ACOM), later wartime commissioned Lieutenant John W. Finn, U. S. Navy (Ret.). He is also the last surviving Medal of Honor, “The Day of Infamy”, Japanese Attack on the Hawaiian Islands, Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, 7 December 1941.

    San Diego, California

  18. I’ve read a few good stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much attempt you put to make this type of fantastic informative website.

    Also visit my homepage; visit the official web site