Wright (Wankel) RC2-60 Rotary

Wright (Wankel) RC2-60 Rotary aircraft engine at the New England Air Museum


Type:   Reciprocating, Inverted in-line, liquid-cooled, 2-rotor rotary
Displacement:   60 cu. in.
Weight:   237 lbs.
Power Output:   185 hp
NEAM Id:   24
Location:   Civil Hangar

Felix Wankel patented this innovative internal compustion engine in Germany in 1936. The engine rotates a triangular shpae to accomplish the sequence of intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. The rotor moves off center to compress the fuel-air mixture. The resultant high pressue gas from the combustion step pushes on the triangular rotor providing power to the shaft. This smooth running engine found applications in automobiles with Mazda, motorcycles, go-karts and air-conditioning systems.

Wright Aeronautical adapted three RC2-60 automobile engines for flight testing in 1970. The one displayed here was probably the first Wankel engine to power an airplane, a Cessna Cardinal. Another powered a Lockheed Q-Star to demonstrate feasibility, performance, and quiet flight. The third powered a Hughes TH-55 helicopter.

Unfortunately, economic considerations, such as fuel burn and emissions, have lessened the interest in the unique Wankel design concept.

In the display is a cut-away engine to show the Wankel rotary operation.

Source: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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