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Of the total ram airflow approaching the airborne engine nacelle, anywhere between 15% and 30% enters the cowling to cool the engine. Meanwhile, the remaining air flows over the exterior of the cowling; thus, the shape of the coil must be designed so that air can smoothly flow over with a minimum loss of energy. In many radial or horizontally-opposed engines, cowlings are specially-designed to operate according to specific installations. Nonetheless, all cooling systems are manufactured to operate in the same manner.
In a differential air cooling system, the engine cowl is composed of two sections that are locked together when installed. The cowl panels are usually made of sheet aluminum or composite materials, each of which will have a smooth external surface to enable undisturbed airflow over the cowl. The internal construction, on the other hand, is designed to give support to the panel and provide receptacles for the toggle latches, cowl support, and engine air seal.
Generally, an air seal is made of a rubber material that is bolted to a metal rib riveted to the cowl panel. As the name implies, it seals the air in the engine section, so that air cannot escape along the inner surface of the panel without circulating around the cylinders first. Keep in mind that the engine air seal must be utilized on engines that feature a complete cylinder baffling system that blankets the cylinder heads. Its main purpose is to force the air to circulate around and through the baffle system.
Due to the important role of an engine cowling, it is critical to have a regular maintenance program in place to ensure that it remains in pristine condition. The first step involves inspecting the cowl panels during each regular engine and aircraft inspection. Removing the cowling for maintenance offers maintenance crews an opportunity for more frequent inspection of the cowling.
The cowling panels should be inspected for scratches, dents, and tears. These forms of damage can weaken the panel structure, increase drag by disrupting airflow, and contribute to the start of corrosion. Moreover, cowling panel latches should be examined for pulled rivets and loose or damaged handles. Additionally, the internal construction of the panel must be checked to ensure that the reinforcing ribs are not cracked and that the air seal is not damaged.
The cowl flap hinges, if featured, and cowl flap hinge bondings should also be assessed to ensure that they are mounted securely and do not have any breaks or cracks. Typically, these inspections consist of visual checks and should be carried out regularly to keep your engine cowling serviceable, so that it can cool your engine efficiently. Keep in mind that a cowl is designed in removable sections, with the number varying based on the aircraft make and model.
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