The following article is a description of the process by which I made a new cowling for my Formula One racer Wasabi in 2009. I race my airplane at the Reno Championship Air Races in Reno Nevada
. These are pylon races which are races which involve 8 airplanes racing around telephone poles in the desert at altitudes as low as 30 feet. The formula class is a very affordable class for people interested in racing airplanes and it is also very restrictive (which helps to keep the cost down). As a result very little can be done to the engine in particular to increase the speeds on the course. This project took approximately three months to complete with two people working on it nights and weekends. The cost is less than 10 thousand dollars.
The cowling of an experimental aircraft has two primary jobs. Fair the engine into the fuselage and provide a cooling opening that cools the engine. In the case of the carbon fiber cowling I built for my formula racer Wasabi
for the 2009 air races I hoped to make the cowling better at both of these jobs.
Fair the engine into the fuselage. fundamentally the cowling takes the conical shape of the spinner and continues it around the engine and back to the shape of the fuselage at the firewall. The cowling that I had run in 2008 was all aluminum and was therefore pretty boxy. By using composites I planned to be able to incorporate more curvy shapes that would result in less drag.
Provide cooling air to the engine. The aluminum cowling that I ran in 2008 provided too much cooling air, over cooling my cylinders to the low 200sF. By closing the inlets on this new cowling I hoped to limit the cooling air and by doing so reduce the overall drag of the installation.
I am going to mostly focus on the handforming of shapes for making composite parts rather than the technical aspects of particular design choices (it is for racing afterall). The act of handforming composite plugs is quickly becoming old world as a sanding block is replaced with a CNC mill. In the case of this particular project in order to CAD model the cowl I would have neeed a model of the engine which I don't have. So I took advantage of the opportunity as a chance to learn a bit more of the art of hand forming.
Attached below is an air to air picture of the original cowling that we were hoping to improve upon.