Fixed Pitch and Other Propeller Types

When you first begin training to become a pilot, the amount of technical information and jargon can become overwhelming. You need to learn the principles affecting lift, the variety of regulations governing what altitudes you can fly at, and you need to get the answer to questions like where to go for fixed pitch propeller repair and other necessary maintenance.

While the amount of information may seem daunting at first, once the basic principles are understood, you can apply them to different types of aircraft and different types of flight.

One vital factor in deciding what sort of certification to gain is knowing what kind of plane you wish to fly using what type of propeller. There are several factors to be considered, including:

  • Will you be flying a single or multiple-engine aircraft?
  • Is there likely to be bad weather where you will be flying?
  • What is your budget?
  • How much automation do you want to have vs. hands-on control during all aspects of flight?

All of the above questions influence the choice of propeller to look for on your aircraft. The propeller impacts all areas of flight.

Pilots may choose to have the most state of the art propeller, which helps to automate more of the flying experience, or they may want to have more control for a more classic flying experience.

Read on to learn more about the different types of propellers available and which type is best suited for every kind of flying conditions. Contact Stockton Propeller for all your propeller repair and maintenance needs.

Fixed Pitch Propellers

A fixed pitch is the simplest type of propeller. It is linked mechanically to the engine, and many of the simpler, light aircraft use it. This simplicity makes these planes easier to fly in some sense as engine speed is directly linked to propeller speed.

Some limitations may apply to the use of this propeller.

The propeller’s angle is set in one position and remains in that position for the entire flight. This fixed position means that the propeller angle is the best estimate and compromise of positions for takeoff, landing, and flight. At times, however, this results in the engine not running at its most efficient.

closeup of a worn propeller on an old airplane

Fixed Pitch Propeller Repair

Fixed pitch propellers can run into occasional problems. One of those is vibration, which can take a toll not only on the aircraft but upon the passengers riding in the plane. This vibration can cause excessive noise as well as resulting in needed maintenance or repair.

If you need fixed pitch propeller repair, Stockton Propeller is a full-service facility in Northern California. We have the skills to maintain and repair a wide range of propeller brands. We also have experts in blade reconditioning and can ensure that your propeller is running at its best.

Variable Pitch Propellers

Unlike their fixed-pitch counterparts, variable pitch propellers can alter the propeller’s angle to suit the different flying situations. Varying the propeller’s angle means that the propeller is in the best position for takeoff, flight, or landing, as is needed.

One of the useful features of most variable pitch propellers is that they can use feathering in case of an emergency. When feathering is in use, the propellers turn parallel to the way the air is flowing. The turning stops the rotation of the propellers.

When a variable pitch propeller uses feathering, the goal is to add to the distance the plane can fly. In single-engine planes in an emergency where that engine has shut down, this may increase gliding distance. In a plane where one of several engines has shut down, this will decrease the effect of drag on the propeller and allow the other engines to take over more completely.

One of the simplest forms of variable pitch propeller is a two-speed version where there is one setting for takeoff and one for cruising. A more complex design is the “constant speed unit,” which works by self-governing the pitch angle rather than selection by the pilot.

close up of silver small plane propeller

Constant Speed Propellers

An improvement on the variable pitch propeller’s constant speed unit is the constant speed propeller. This innovation works to maximize the effectiveness of the engine. It functions to keep the engine at a continuous speed no matter what combination of factors is in play.

The pitch of the propeller adjusts according to the engine’s speed. When taking off or flying, the engine adjusts to meet the needs of the aircraft to maintain the required lift and thrust. The pilot can set a particular speed of engine rotation, and the governor acts to control the propeller’s pitch to preserve this instruction.

Reverse Pitch Propellers

Some variable pitch propellers are so advanced that they use what is known as negative blade pitch, or reverse thrust. These propellers can change their angle so that they can slow down the aircraft.

Changing the propellers’ angle to reverse the thrust is particularly important when landing on runways that are short or experiencing bad weather conditions, such as rain or ice.

The reverse pitch of the propellers, in effect, pushes against the forward momentum of the plane to shorten the length of taxiing. Some propellers can allow the plane to back up, like floatplanes on water.

Pilot leaning out towards the back of a small prop plane giving a thumbs up sign

Propeller Maintenance and Repair

Care of your plane’s components before any issues arise is vital to you and your passengers’ safety. Proper maintenance of all parts of your plane is crucial to its long term safety and longevity.

The propeller is no exception. Regardless of propeller type, maintenance should be performed on a regular basis, and some procedures require a professional shop to complete those tasks.

Stockton Propeller is a full-service propeller overhaul and maintenance facility with the required equipment and expertise to perform

  • both static and dynamic balancing,
  • metal repair and refinishing,
  • NDT testing, and
  • on-site etch and alodine surface prep.

Contact Stockton Propeller today to schedule an appointment, request a free quote, or discuss your specific propeller needs.


Airplane Propeller Repair or Maintenance – Which One Saves More?

When it comes to our airplanes, the most often overlooked item is the propeller. That one overlooked item can lead to a costly airplane propeller repair bill. Don’t wait until your propeller breaks. A good preventative maintenance plan can prevent expensive repairs and help you avoid being stranded at an inconvenient time. Stockton Propeller specializes in propellers, and we’re here to take care of all your propeller maintenance and repair needs.

Experiencing a component failure in flight can cost a pilot much more than just money. That’s why propeller maintenance is an essential part of any aircraft maintenance program. Contact Stockton Propeller now and let us show you how we can protect and care for your plane’s propeller.

Your plane’s propeller blade tips can travel at speeds that exceed 500 miles per hour. Your propeller will endure somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 25 tons of centrifugal force, trying to rip it apart. Propellers are bending and flexing, while at the same time contending with the vibration and power pulses of the engine.

Airplane Propeller Repair or Maintenance

Propellers cost thousands of dollars. It only makes sense that we take care of them. By following a few simple steps regarding your airplane’s propeller preventative maintenance, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement.

Damage to your propeller can come from sand, rain, or small rocks. These can cause wear, or leave dings that may seem trivial now, but can become a big problem over time. These nicks and dings can lead to areas of stress, allowing cracks or corrosion to occur.

When compounded, all of these factors can cause your propeller to become imbalanced, causing excessive vibration, and aircraft component fatigue. If this scenario occurs, you now have much more than an airplane propeller repair.

Preflight inspection being performed by technician

Propeller Basics

One of the most basic propeller precautions is to never push or pull the plane by the propeller. Propellers are durable by the nature of the design and materials; however, it is never a good idea to put extra torque on the hub.

Putting additional strain on the propeller blades can push them out of alignment or cause them to malfunction. It doesn’t take much to cause damage to the propeller.

One possible result of pushing or pulling on the propeller to move the plane is that the propeller could bend. When a propeller is bent, even slightly, that can cause the propeller to be out-of-track.

When a propeller is out-of-track, it can cause additional stress and vibration to the aircraft, not to mention the engine. A myriad of problems can result from an out-of-track propeller. Under no circumstances should you try to straighten a bent propeller yourself.

Choosing to move your airplane by the propeller can lead to some expensive damage. Don’t risk the integrity of your propeller or cause some unnecessary repair expenses. Use a tow bar whenever you need to move your plane.

If you suspect or discover that you have a bent propeller, we are here for you. Stockton Propeller has the experience, knowledge, and equipment to repair a bent propeller.

Mechanic inspecting airplane engine

Pre-flight Inspection

Routine maintenance of the propeller starts with a visual inspection. Make sure you clear away any rocks or debris in the area around the propeller. An idling propeller can vacuum up almost anything from about 4 to 6 feet in front of it. A visual inspection should be a part of every pre-flight routine.

One of the best tools for detecting anomalies on your propeller is your hands. Look and feel for nicks, dents, and feel the overall smoothness of the propeller’s surface.

Run your fingers gently over the leading edges of every propeller blade. Look for cracks, raw scratches, and dents that are big enough to deform the metal around them. Look for dings that exceed one-thirty seconds of an inch.

Missing hardware, broken seals, and loose blades or spinners are all causes for concern. You should address these issues before the next flight. Make a note and schedule a repair as soon as possible.

Regularly Clean Propellers

One easily overlooked aspect of propeller maintenance is simply washing your propeller. Propellers pick up an assortment of contaminants. Dead insects, pollutants, and dirt are some of the things that accumulate on a propeller during flight.

It’s simply unavoidable; it’s going to happen. When contaminants of this nature accumulate on the propeller, it can diminish your propeller’s performance.

That’s why you must wash your propeller regularly. You can remove dirt and debris from your propeller with a simple solution of soap and water.

Wash each propeller blade while it is in the down position. Take care to avoid liquids getting into the propeller hub, which could potentially damage the seals.

Maintain Propellers’ Paint Job

You should always paint your propellers as a safety measure to ensure the propeller’s visibility, particularly while they’re in motion. Regular inspection and maintenance of the propeller’s paint job are critical. Maintain them with periodic touch-ups and repaints.

Technician in Tyvek and respirator painting aircraftPainting your propeller should be part of every airplane’s maintenance schedule. It’s important to remember to avoid any paintwork or a style that could potentially reduce the visibility of the spinning propeller. If you’re not sure when it’s time to repaint, one good way to remember is to have it done at the same time as your propeller’s midlife inspection.

Airplane Propeller Repair or Maintenance – The Answer is Clear

By now it should be obvious that propeller maintenance is not an option. There are many tasks that every owner should perform regularly. Be advised that this is by no means a complete list of maintenance items.

Proper propeller maintenance can and will extend the life of your propeller. Not only is regular maintenance a safety measure, but a cost-saving measure as well.

Some maintenance procedures require a professional shop and equipment to perform the job correctly. Contact Stockton Propeller now to schedule an appointment. Whether it’s preventative maintenance or repair, you can trust your propeller to Stockton Propeller.