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Posted by David Reed on 05/24/2020

P&W R4360 Wasp Major

The Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major was an American 28-cylinder four-row radial piston aircraft engine. Designed and built during World War II, it was the largest piston engine to be mass-produced in the United States. It was the last of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp family, and the culmination of its maker's piston engine technology.

New aircraft designs at the end of World War II included larger commercial aircraft, larger bombers, larger everything. The R4360 was designed specifically for the C97/Stratocruiser, C-119, B-50 and B-36, maximizing the growth potential of the piston engine,. 

On paper it seemed like absolute perfection, but in real life it was, problematic (mechanics, stop laughing). Heating was a big problem, requiring cowl flaps so big they were a real detrement to performance. The supercharger was geared up to 6:1, while the wide-span propellers were geared down to 0.375:1. Two cylinders were as big as your car's V8. In addition to the supercharger, there were two turborchargers. It took a lot of work to make 3500 hp!

The maintenance was as complex as the design and extended down time resulted. There were lots of ideas on how to fix it, but one thing everyone agreed on- the engine just wasn't reliable. Enter the jet. Orders for Stratocruisers stopped while orders for the Stratojet poured in. The Boeing design 377 was just too large for smaller airlines, so you would think they went directly to freighters. Well, cargo airlines live on a razor-edge budget, and expensive operating costs could not be overcome by limited freight income. So, most Stratocruisers went to the desert or jungle, homes for poisonious snakes and the like, until they were broken down and reborn into something else. Everyone hold up your aluminum beer can- this one's for you, Mr. Wasp Major.

 

 


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