DESIGN AND ENGINEERING

Aircraft Engine Oils: Realizing Their Importance in Aircraft

Anusree Bhattacharya | January 7, 2022

Airplane travel is one of the most convenient means of transportation. Consequently, air travel is growing, and aircraft need to be more efficient. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the aviation industry appears to be committed to ensuring a sustainable airflight future. So, for this, aircraft need to be more efficient in production costs and fuel consumption.

An aircraft design depends on three of the most critical aspects. The first is the factor of reliability. Aviation is the only industry where it is impossible to overlook, rectify, or investigate a failed flight mechanism on the spot. The second factor is the need to minimize the weight and volume of its components to withstand load and fluctuating temperatures. And, the third factor is that it shows extreme concern from an environmental perspective. Temperatures on the ground can reach 60 °C and even -80 °C in the stratosphere, with supersonic aircraft reaching temperatures of over 200 °C.

As a result of these factors, the aircraft lubrication system and its requirements are critical. From an economic perspective, servicing and maintenance are a significant part of airlines' expenses after the purchase. In addition, the replacement of parts can cause airplanes to remain grounded for an extended period. Such circumstances can lead to a loss of time and money simultaneously.

From a safety aspect, failures at every level should be avoided. Failures like the shutdown of engines or breakage of engine parts can lead to aircraft failures or even crashes. So, by knowing all these issues around air travel, you can easily understand the interest in aircraft engine oil.

An Innovative Lubrication System for Aircraft Engine

Aircraft turbines revolve at up to 18,000 rpm (revolutions per minute). Due to this, internal temperatures can rise compared to the ambient temperature outside. So, aviation engines need an efficient oil-based lubricant to less pollute the environment and sustain long-distance air travel.

Recently, researchers in the EU-funded ELUBSYS project developed a novel way to use specified aircraft engine oil to promote efficiency and reliability. For this, SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) is in high  demand. Moreover, the project's innovative oil production will also help reduce an airline’s operating and maintenance costs. In this way, Europe’s aircraft manufacturers are way ahead in supporting future aircraft engine development.

“Aircraft engine turbines rotate at a very high speed with the help of the classic rubberized oil-seals used in the aircraft engine. The extremes of temperature and friction involved would destroy them. Yet aircraft engines need to stay lubricated.”

- Vincent Thomas of Techspace Aero in Belgium

Apart from this, the piston engine looks promising for the aviation piston engine industry. However, it seems like a piston engine holds an optimistic future in fuel economy. Now, with the inclusion of piston engines, there is more importance to using piston engine oil in the lubrication system for an aircraft engine.

So, how piston engine will be the game-changer for aircraft?


Piston Engine—A Game-Changer in Fuel Economy

Numerous aviation firms are developing a new type of internal combustion engine. Such engines promise a notable boost in fuel economy while also plummeting greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, start-ups like EcoMotors, Achates Power, and Pinnacle Engines are building variations on piston engines with the help of specific piston engine oil.

The engines serve as combustion chambers where fuel is ignited. That makes engines lighter in weight and faster in their operations with greater power density. In this way, piston engines result in less energy waste and thus operate more efficiently.

“The technology is worthwhile. However, it is a completely different concept compared to conventional engines,”

- Dean Tomazic, Vice President of FEV in Auburn.

There are more success stories from the aviation piston engine industry. These stories predict that, indeed, aviation is going through a significant transformation.

Another significant achievement comes from Pinnacle, based in San Carlos, Calif. It is developing a four-stroke, gasoline opposed-piston engine. The company’s founder, Monty Cleeves, invented a sleeve valve that ensures energy is used for propulsion instead of getting wasted after converting into heat.

Functions of the Lubrication System for Aircraft Engine Oils

What are the significant functions of lubricants in aviation oils and engines?

It is the function that realizes the importance of things. Isn’t it? So, to realize the importance of aircraft engine oils, it’s crucial to show the potential of the aircraft lubrication systems.

1 Friction and Wear Reduction

Lubricants reduce friction and wear in an aviation engine. The aircraft lubrication system deals with cooling, sealing, clearing, and fighting corrosion and rust in the engine.

Airplanes that are used seldom need the thorough protection from rust and corrosion that good aviation oils can provide. Also, frequently flying airplanes need lubricants for smooth engine operations and functions to avoid failures.

2 Acts as a Cooling Agent

But it is critical to use good aviation oils as lubricants.  Oil is a heat-transform medium. Thus, a suitable oil should be used so that lubricants can keep the engine cool and smooth.

3 A life Saver of Aircraft Engines

Lubricants help in extending the life span of an aircraft engine. If an aircraft uses  good aviation oil, for example, SAF, biofuels, and more, then there are fewer chances of any engine repairs.  In this case, piston engines are the best fit for aircraft with high demand. Piston engines use highly lubricant piston engine oils, which increase the longevity of aviation engines.

Let’s look at some key takeaways from the market study of aircraft engine oil.

Aircraft Engine Oil: Key Takeaways from its Market Study

  • Commercial planes and business jets will likely witness high aircraft lubricant oil sales.
  • According to IATA, mineral oil demand is expected to rise by 25% by 2030.
  • Bio-based oils will dominate the aviation industry in response to soaring environmental concerns.
  • Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) activities will emerge as crucial parts of aviation to drive the global aviation lubricant market.

Lastly, what’s understood is that aircraft engine oil is the engine's lifeblood. Thus, the engine must function efficiently to encompass the length between overhauls.

Frequently Asked Questions


What does engine oil do in an aircraft?

Engine oil functions as a coolant. Up to 40% of an aircraft’s cooling comes from engine oil. Oil creates a seal between the piston rings, which reduces wear and friction andprovides better compression with increased fuel efficiency.


How is the engine oil lubricated?

Engine oil is lubricated with seals using air, which holds back the oil. Air and oil need to be separated. The air eventually vents out in the form of heat. That is why good oil is necessary for aircraft for lubrication.


What are the essential functions of engine oil?

The essential functions of engine oil are:
  • Minimizes friction and reduce wear
  • Cleans the engine
  • Transfers heat
  • Prevents corrosion
  • Forms a seal
  • Cools the engine parts

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Tailwind Airlines

Tailwind Airlines is a joint Turkish British partnership. It was established to create an efficient, up to date airline to support the continuing air travel growth in the Turkish civil aviation sector.

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