The aircraft propeller consists of two or more blades and a central hub to which the blades are attached. Each blade of an aircraft propeller is essentially a rotating wing. As a result of their construction, the propeller blades are like airfoils and produce forces that create the thrust to pull, or push, the aircraft through the air. The engine furnishes the power needed to rotate the propeller blades through the air at high speeds, and the propeller transforms the rotary power of the engine into forward thrust.
A cross-section of a typical propeller blade is shown in Figure 4-35. This section or blade element is an airfoil comparable to a cross-section of an aircraft wing. One surface of the blade is cambered or curved, similar to the upper surface of an aircraft wing, while the other surface is flat like the bottom surface of a wing. The chord line is an imaginary line drawn through the blade from its leading edge to its trailing edge. As in a wing, the leading edge is the thick edge of the blade that meets the air as the propeller rotates.
Blade angle, usually measured in degrees, is the angle between the chord of the blade and the plane of rotation and is measured at a specific point along the length of the blade. [Figure 4-36] blade “face,” the chord line is often drawn along the face of the propeller blade. Pitch is not blade angle, but because pitch is largely determined by blade angle, the two terms are often used interchangeably. An increase or decrease in one is usually associated with an increase or decrease in the other.
The pitch of a propeller may be designated in inches. A propeller designated as a “74-48” would be 74 inches in length and have an effective pitch of 48 inches. The pitch is the distance in inches, which the propeller would screw through the air in one revolution if there were no slippage.
When specifying a fixed-pitch propeller for a new type of aircraft, the manufacturer usually selects one with a pitch that operates efficiently at the expected cruising speed of the aircraft. Every fixed-pitch propeller must be a compromise because it can be efficient at only a given combination of airspeed and revolutions per minute (rpm). Pilots cannot change this combination in flight.
When the aircraft is at rest on the ground with the engine operating, or moving slowly at the beginning of takeoff, the propeller efficiency is very low because the propeller is with sufficient speed to permit reach their full efficiency. In this blade is turning through the air at relatively little thrust for the amount it.
Of a propeller, consider first its rotational and forward. As shown by forces in Figure 4-36, each section of downward and forward. The angle wind) strikes the propeller blade is produced by this angle causes the engine side of the propeller blade to pressure, thus creating thrust.
The blade angle is also an excellent method of adjusting the AOA of the propeller. On constant-speed propellers, the blade angle must be adjusted to provide the most efficient AOA at all engine and aircraft speeds. Lift versus drag curves, which are drawn for propellers, as well as wings, indicate that the most efficient AOA is small, varying from +2° to +4°. The actual blade angle necessary to maintain this small AOA varies with the forward speed of the aircraft.
The reason a propeller is “twisted” is that the outer parts of the propeller blades, like all things that turn about a central point, travel faster than the portions near the hub. [Figure 4-38] If the blades had the same geometric pitch throughout their lengths, portions near the hub could have negative AOAs while the propeller tips would be stalled at cruise speed. Twisting or variations in the geometric pitch of the blades permits the propeller to operate with a relatively constant AOA along its length when in cruising flight. Propeller blades are twisted to change the blade angle in proportion to the differences in speed of rotation along the length of the propeller, keeping thrust more nearly equalized along this length.
Usually 1° to 4° provides the most efficient lift/drag ratio, but in flight the propeller AOA of a fixed-pitch propeller varies—normally from 0° to 15°. This variation is caused by changes in the relative airstream, which in turn results from changes in aircraft speed. Thus, propeller AOA is the product of two motions: propeller rotation about its axis and its forward motion.
Propeller automatically keeps the blade maximum efficiency for most conditions ight. During takeoff, when maximum power required, the constant-speed propeller is at blade angle or pitch. The low blade angle small and efficient with respect to the relative wind. At the same time, it allows the propeller to handle a smaller mass of air per revolution. This light load allows the engine to turn at high rpm and to convert the maximum amount of fuel into heat energy in a given time. The high rpm also creates maximum thrust because, although the mass of air handled per revolution is small, the rpm and slipstream velocity are high, and with the low aircraft speed, there is maximum thrust.
After liftoff, as the speed of the aircraft increases, the constant-speed propeller automatically changes to a higher angle (or pitch). Again, the higher blade angle keeps the AOA small and efficient with respect to the relative wind. The higher blade angle increases the mass of air handled per revolution. This decreases the engine rpm, reducing fuel consumption and engine wear, and keeps thrust at a maximum.
After the takeoff climb is established in an aircraft having a controllable-pitch propeller, the pilot reduces the power output of the engine to climb power by first decreasing the manifold pressure and then increasing the blade angle to lower the rpm.
At cruising altitude, when the aircraft is in level flight and less power is required than is used in takeoff or climb, the pilot again reduces engine power by reducing the manifold pressure and then increasing the blade angle to decrease the rpm. Again, this provides a torque requirement to match the reduced engine power. Although the mass of air handled per revolution is greater, it is more than offset by a decrease in slipstream velocity and an increase in airspeed. The AOA is still small because the blade angle has been increased with an increase in airspeed.