December 2009 Issue
Composite Props: Light and Durable
Composites are available for many (but not all) airframe/engine combinations. They’re worth considering if you need a replacement prop.
Composite materials are not news in general aviation applications. Their traditional advantages—less weight, often-greater strength and relative ease in forming complex shapes—are well-known. Those characteristics, coupled with reduced need for skilled labor to, say, build a wing or fuselage when compared to traditional manufacturing methods make them ideal for aviation applications. And, thanks to Cirrus, Diamond and Lancair/Columbia, along with hordes of experimental designers and LSA manufacturers, it’s the exception these days for a new aircraft design to be constructed entirely from metal. While it’s not likely we’ll see a non-metallic propeller hub anytime soon, composite prop blades are readily available right now for many engine/airframe combinations and have been for a few years. Both Hartzell and MT Propellers offer composite blades for constant-speed models—MT also offers fixed- and controllable-pitch props—and Sensenich markets a line of ground-adjustable non-metal props for LSAs and experimentals. But, we’ve been using metal and wood to build props for years: Why go with a composite prop? What benefits do composites offer when made into a propeller and how do the offerings from these three companies differ? How do they compare to wood or metal props, and can you save any money over the long haul by going composite?
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