Pratt & Whitney R-2800

The design of the R-2800 engine started in March 1937 following on from the successful smaller Wasp engine, with the first test flight in July 1939. There were many engineering challenges to develop this twin-row engine—vibration between the front and rear row of cylinders required a complex vibration damper system. Manufacture started in 1939 by Pratt and Whitney later assisted by Ford and Chevrolet.

The successful line of R-2800 engines powered many wartime aircraft, such as the F4U Corsair, Republic Thunderbolt, Grumman Hellcat, Douglas A-26, and the Curtis C-46. When fuel with higher performance numbers became available the engine was redesigned to make use of the higher power output. This engine, known as the ‘C’ series, featured forged cylinder heads, allowing higher power settings to be used. Production of this engine started in 1943. These engines crossed the long-sought line of producing one horsepower for every pound of weight. Over 125,000 engines were built.

This engine differed from P&W’s previous designs in that it had a solid master rod and a split crankshaft manufactured from three steel forgings. Mounted at each end of the crankshaft were two counterweights that revolved coaxially with it, but at twice the crankshaft speed and in the opposite direction, to eliminate second-order ‘linear’ vibration.

After WW2 this engine was used in a number of commercial aircraft—the Douglas DC-6, Convair 440, and the Canadian-built Canadair CL-215 water bomber.

The Museum's display of this engine includes an example complete with 3-blade propeller and cowlings as fitted to a Convair 440 airliner, plus an example with major components cut away to reveal the internal mechanisms. 

Engine Details: (R-2800 CB16)

Engine Type: 18-cylinder air-cooled radial
Power: 2400 hp (1790 kW) at 2800 RPM
Weight: 2400 pounds (1088 kg)
Cylinders: bore 5 ¾ in (146 mm), stroke 6 in (152 mm)
Displacement: 2804 cu in (46 litres)