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Lycoming

From Academic Kids

Lycoming is a major aircraft engine company, known primarily for their smaller general aviation engines. The company was owned by Errett Lobban Cord for much of its history, part of his AVCO group and known as AVCO Lycoming. It was later purchased by Textron in 1986, and is now properly known as Textron Lycoming.

Lycoming first set up business in 1916 in Williamsport, Pa (in Lycoming County) as a sewing machine manufacturer, and soon branched out into bicycle manufacturing as well. Through the early post-WWI era they increasingly focused on automobile engines, and at one time became a major supplier for Auburn, which produced the Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg lines. Eventually they became their major supplier, and in 1929 Errett Lobban Cord bought Lycoming, placing it under his Auburn Manufacturing umbrella group. Also in 1929 Lycoming produced their first aviation engine, the radial R-680. This was a fairly successful design, and was used widely in light aircraft, including Cord's Travel Air's.

Through the 1930s Lycoming made a number of efforts to break into the "big league" with high-power engine designs. The 1200 hp O-1230 Hyper Engine was their attempt to produce a hyper engine, an aviation engine that could produce one horsepower per cubic inch (46 kW/L) of engine displacement. The hyper engine concept was a psychological target for engine designers in the 1930s; in order to make really long-distance flights routine, an engine of this sort of power-to-weight ratio would be needed to lift the required fuel and still have power left over to lift the cargo. However the O-1230 was not a success, and their US$500,000 (over US$6 million in year 2000) was not recouped. Another attempt was made to rescue the design by stacking two O-1230's to make the 2300 hp (1,700 kW) H engine H-2470, but the only design to use it, the P-54, never entered production.

Not to be stopped by the O-1230's failure, they turned to an even larger design, the R-7755, the largest aviation piston engine ever built. However this design ran into problems, and was only ready for use at the very end of World War II, when the aviation world was turning to jet engines for power on future large designs. There was apparently some interest in using it on the B-36 Peacemaker bomber, but the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 was used instead.

In 1939 Cord re-organized all of his aviation holdings into the AVCO group, at which point they became AVCO Lycoming. They also leased a government-owned plant in Stratford, CT and produced Wright radial engines under licence. After the war this plant was converted to produce the T53 turboshaft engine, one of their more successful designs. From this point on the piston and turbine engine lines remained separate, with the piston lines being built in the original Williamsport factories, and turbines in Stratford.

Their most successful post-war products were a series of flat-4 and flat-6 air-cooled general aviation engines. Most famous among these are the O-235 and O-360 fours, and the O-540 six. The vast majority of light aircraft today are powered by a version of these engines, covering everything from the 100 to 360 hp (75 to 270 kW) range. Other engines in the series include the basic O-320 four, O-580 six and O-720 eight, and the advanced TIGO-541 which delivered 450 hp (340 kW) from an engine the same size as the O-540.

In the early 1980s the bottom dropped out of the general aviation market, and Lycoming's piston engine business suddenly disappeared. Attempts were made to move some of the turbine production to Williamsport, but this led to a series of quality control problems and eventually the attempt was adbandoned. Textron purchased the company in 1986

Another attempt to rescue Williamsport was made in an attempt to introduce the "radical" SCORE engine, a Wankel engine originally developed in a partnership between Curtiss-Wright and John Deere. Curtiss-Wright lost interest in the design just as it matured and sold it to Lycoming, who started setting up production lines for what would have been the best general aviation engine in the market. They were guaranteed a startup run by Cessna, also owned by Textron. Just as production was ready to start Cessna announced they were exiting the small-aircraft business, and SCORE was cancelled.

Textron eventually decided that the piston engine market was dead, and that Lycoming should exist only as a "shell", offering parts and service to the huge number of general aviation engines in service. Accordingly they sold off the turbine division to AlliedSignal in 1996, and started selling off the machinery from Williamsport in 1995.

External links

  • Textron Lycoming (http://www.lycoming.textron.com/) - rather basic home page
  • Lycoming engines (http://www.prime-mover.org/Engines/Lycoming/Lyc_Cert_list.html) - an extensive list of every version of Lycoming's general aviation enginesde:Lycoming
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