Reciprocating Engine Lubrication Systems

in Lubrication and Cooling Systems

Aircraft reciprocating engine pressure lubrication systems can be divided into two basic classifications: wet sump and dry sump. The main difference is that the wet sump system stores oil in a reservoir inside the engine. After the oil is circulated through the engine, it is returned to this crankcase based reservoir. A dry sump engine pumps the oil from the engine’s crankcase to an external tank that stores the oil. The dry sump system uses a scavenge pump, some external tubing, and an external tank to store the oil.

Other than this difference, the systems use similar types of components. Because the dry sump system contains all the components of the wet sump system, the dry sump system is explained as an example system.

Combination Splash and Pressure Lubrication

The lubricating oil is distributed to the various moving parts of a typical internal combustion engine by one of the three following methods: pressure, splash, or a combination of pressure and splash.

The pressure lubrication system is the principal method of lubricating aircraft engines. Splash lubrication may be used in addition to pressure lubrication on aircraft engines, but it is never used by itself; aircraft-engine lubrication systems are always either the pressure type or the combination pressure and splash type, usually the latter.

The advantages of pressure lubrication are:

  1. Positive introduction of oil to the bearings.
  2. Cooling effect caused by the large quantities of oil that can be pumped, or circulated, through a bearing.
  3. Satisfactory lubrication in various attitudes of flight.

Lubrication System Requirements

The lubrication system of the engine must be designed and constructed so that it functions properly within all flight attitudes and atmospheric conditions that the aircraft is expected to operate. In wet sump engines, this requirement must be met when only half of the maximum lubricant supply is in the engine. The lubrication system of the engine must be designed and constructed to allow installing a means of cooling the lubricant. The crankcase must also be vented to the atmosphere to preclude leakage of oil from excessive pressure.