How To Start A Reciprocating Aircraft Engine (X)

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Pablo Edronkin

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No matter what kind of engine you are attempting to start, if it becomes saturated with fuel and it chokes (i.e. in a carburetted aircraft engine, if fuel starts to drop down), stop and wait until the excess fuel drains out completely. You can help yourself by disconnecting the magneto key and by turning then the propeller in the direction contrary to its normal movement. In this fashion you will be able to pump some of the excess fuel back to the line.

Once the engine has started, follow the instructions given by the manuals on how to handle the aircraft. Normally this means letting the engine warm up a bit, until oil pressure and temperature attain normal values (what is sometimes refereed to as "the green arc"). You should not accelerate or force it in any way until these values are reached because you could damage the engine or a the very least, accelerate its wear.


The mixture control lever (the red one, in the middle) in its FULL RICH position.
The mixture control lever (the red one, in the middle) in its FULL RICH position.

But if you leave it running at idle power for too long, an aeronautical, reciprocating engine may also develop problems. One is overheating, because these power plants are for the most part, air-cooled. So, if the airplane is kept sitting down with the engine running for more than approximately ten minutes, you will indeed achieve normal oil pressure and temperature, but the engine will overheat soon afterwards.


A fully rich mixture is used while flying like in this picture, below 3.000 feet ASL.
A fully rich mixture is used while flying like in this picture, below 3.000 feet ASL.

The other problem that may appear is that sparkplugs will accumulate carbon and you may soon face symptoms similar to a magneto malfunction. This happens because the fuel mixture, quite rich usually under such circumstances, leaves a lot of carbonised additives clogging around the plugs. If you can, you should move the mixture a little bit backwards in order not to let the engine run with full rich mixture all the time. If you don't have a mixture control lever with a little practice you can achieve a similar effect by partially closing your main fuel valve once the engine is running; that will effectively change the mixture.

Indeed, don't forget to put the mixture control again in the full rich position or your fuel valve in full open before entering the runway in use for takeoff.



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