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Aviation Learning Center Document Engine Operation for Pilots - P-8740-13
Author: Teledyne Continental and AVCO Lycoming Date: unknown
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Safe Engine Operations
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Proper Preflight

  • Use the correct amount and grade of aviation gasoline. Never use auto gas or jet fuel in aircraft piston engines.

  • Use the correct grade and amount of oil in your engine. Generally, engines use SAE 50 above 40 degrees Fahrenheit; and SAE 30 or 10W30 below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • In cold weather make sure that the engine oil is sufficiently warm before starting the engine. Below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, use a heated hangar or preheat.

  • Drain the fuel sumps to assure there is no water or foreign matter in the fuel system.

  • Make certain cooling air inlets are open and free of foreign objects (bird's nests, etc.)

  • Ensure that the oil cap and dipstick are properly secured. Check for obvious oil and fuel leaks.

Starting and Warm-Up

In normal and hot weather:

  • Little or no priming is necessary.
  • Make runups thorough, but as brief as possible. To minimize spark plug fouling, idle engine at 1000 to 1200 rpm.
  • Avoid overheating by keeping ground operations to a minimum. Park and complete runup into the wind.
  • Cowl flaps should be open for all ground operations.

In cold weather:

  • Make sure magnetos and master switch are "off," then rotate propeller by hand about six revolutions before attempting to start engine.
  • Prime engine as recommended in the Pilot's Operating Handbook. Avoid over priming.
  • Oil pressure should be in the green arc range within 60 seconds. If it is not, shut down and investigate.
  • Operate engine at 1000 rpm until oil pressure is in the green arc range and steady. Fluctuating oil pressure means that cavitation is occurring. Shut down and use additional preheat.
  • If equipped with a constant speed propeller, cycle it several times to fill the propeller hub with warm oil. (Refer to your Pilot's Operating Handbook for specifics.)

Take-off and Climb

  • Follow your checklist.
  • Use full throttle (with few exceptions).
  • Mixture full rich, except at high density altitude airports where you should lean as appropriate. (Refer to your Pilot's Operating Handbook for specifics.)
  • Use 75 percent power for climb.
  • Climb at higher than normal airspeeds on hot days to improve engine cooling.
  • Lean the mixture during climb to the specified fuel flow or for smooth operation above a density altitude of 5000 feet.


  • Set 65 to 75 percent power for best performance.
  • Set 55 percent power for best economy and range.
  • Lean the engine in accordance with the instructions in the Pilot's Operating Handbook for your specific aircraft.

Descent and Landing

  • Avoid overcooling. Maintain sufficient power to keep engine temperatures in the green arc range.
  • Gradually enrichen the mixture for smooth engine operations as you descend.
  • Keep cowl flaps closed.
  • Set mixture to full rich before landing, unless you are landing at a high density altitude airport. For operation into and out of high altitude airports, consult the Pilot's Operating Handbook for your specific aircraft.

Use of Carburetor Heat

  • Carburetor heat should be used whenever atmospheric conditions indicate that icing is a possibility, and when the engine is operated at or below 75 percent power.
  • When using carburetor heat, always use full heat.
  • After applying carburetor heat, lean the mixture for smooth operation. The warm intake air is less dense, and produces a richer mixture.


  • Follow the Pilot's Operating Handbook procedures for your specific aircraft, and "know'em cold."
  • Comply with all engine and airframe manufacturer service bulletins, letters, etc.
  • Use your checklist.
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