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Posted by David Reed on 02/24/2020

P&W R2800

    The Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company was created in 1925 by the Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool Company of Hartford CT to develop an air-cooled aircraft engine. Their first engine was the 425 hp R1340 Wasp, a nine cylinder engine that powered a wide variety of aircraft including the Boeing 247 and the Ford Tri-Motor. Next was the Wasp Junior, an R985 that powered smaller aircraft like the Beech 18. Next came the R1830 Double Wasp which powered the DC3/C47. Pratt & Whitney had the money and the skilled talent to build the world's most reliable engines, and aircraft manufacturers purchased them by the thousands. In 1937 they developed an improved Double Wasp, the 18-cylinder R2800 engine. It started out as a 2000 hp powerplant, and grew to as much as 2800 hp. It powered the Navy's best fighters in WW2 including the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair and the Army's P-47, B-26 and A-26. It quickly developed a reputation for relability and was a natural choice for the post-war DC-6 and Convair 240 airliners. Many variations were built, and the C model was a complete redesign of the original with many unique updates. The DC-6 used the R2800-CB16 C-model, making 2400 hp. While Douglas built a rock-solid airframe, Pratt & Whitney provided the reliable powerplants that made the DC6 the most economical piston engine airliner ever built. Over 125,000 R2800's were built. Starting the Double Wasp was like playing a piano, with three fingers and a thumb of one hand manipulating the boost pump switch, starter motor, primer and safety switch while the other hand worked the throttle and mixture controls. In flight, you spent a lot of time managing the engines, keeping them working perfectly as they were designed to be. One pilot said,  “The R-2800 days were the highlight of my career, in a sense. That’s when flying was fun, and there was a whole lot to engine management—a whole lot. You’d spend hours sitting at the feet of the masters, who understood how to keep these things running, how to get them started and shut down. You might find a cryptic note here and there about operating technique or how to effectively reduce fuel flow, but you couldn’t learn by reading about it, you learned by watching somebody do it, and you passed it on to somebody else.”  

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