Hello! Welcome back to this third and final installment in our “History of the Turbocharger” Series. If you haven’t already, you can read the previous installments by clicking the links below:
Now, let’s see how the turbocharger went from an ace-in-the-hole for aircraft engines during World War II, to the go-to way to crank out horsepower in small engines.
Up until World War II, turbochargers were not a common sight in cars, and certainly not the most popular option for adding forced induction to an engine. Even following the war, some of the most notable post-war aircraft relied on piston engines as opposed to the modern turbojet engine, did not use turbochargers. Most R&D efforts for military aircraft propulsion was moving away from piston engines, and where piston engines were being used, they didn’t have turbos.
Take, for example, the Corvair B36. This behemoth of an airplane was adopted by the US Air Force for a short period of time after the war, but before the much more famous B52 Stratofortress was adopted. This gargantuan plane made use of a Pratt and Whitney radial engine similar to (although much larger than) the engines used in other US warplanes during World War II. Much like the other engines used by warplanes, these engines were typically not turbocharged, instead used geared superchargers to force more air into the 6(!) propeller engines.
From the get-go, this engine was quite dated, as the piston engines were maintenance heavy, and the unusual engine and propeller configuration gave the plane reliability issues. Additionally, the Peacemaker was retrofitted with 4 jet engines for use in takeoff as well as speed over a target to reduce the likelihood of being struck by enemy fire. It wasn’t long however, before the turbojet-powered B52 we all know and love was adopted. The B36 was more or less forgotten as a massive placeholder for the US Air Force for a short time following World War II. Read More