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Airplane engines demystified

PilotWorkshops' new "Airplane Engines" manual demystifies engines, dispels myths, and descrbes exactly what happens under the cowl from start to shutdown. Photo courtesy of PilotWorkshops.

Carburetors? Magnetos? Shock cooling? Even those who come to general aviation with vast mechanical knowledge in other areas get tripped up by these antiquated items and the alphabet stew of acronyms we use to describe them.

In Airplane Engines, Jeff Van West of PilotWorkshops, an AOPA premier partner, does a heroic job of demystifying the engines we rely on, dispelling myths, and describing exactly what happens under the cowl from start to shut down. And the best part is that he does so in plain, matter-of-fact, non-gearhead language that nontechnical readers will appreciate.

Airplane Engines also includes practical, step-by-step instructions for hot starting big-bore, fuel-injected Continental and Lycoming engines that actually work. I used Van West’s hot-start technique on a recent multiday trip in an airplane with a notoriously cantankerous Continental IO-550, and my batting average for successful starts was the best it’s ever been. Those tips alone are worth the price of the manual.

Van West also addresses controversial topics like leaning during full-power climbs, lean-of-peak engine operations, shock cooling, multi-grade engine oil, and after-market additives—and he does so concisely with facts and data, not opinions or anecdotes.

Today’s graphical engine monitors, color borescopes, and oil analysis provide pilots with more information than ever about the status of aircraft engines. Van West shows us how to interpret that information and use it to fly more efficiently and diagnose and fix problems before they become critical.

Pilots follow checklists to start engines and prepare them for flight, and we memorize the steps to take if and when they behave abnormally or fail in flight. Van West does a valuable service for fellow pilots by explaining the “why” behind each of those actions. In doing so, he provides insights that to allow us to fly with greater knowledge, better understanding, more confidence, and broader margins of safety.

The manual sells for $49 and comes with a digital PDF. For more details, to see samples, or to order the book, visit PilotWorkshops’ website.

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