Besler Steam Engine, Reproduction


Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

Besler Steam Engine Replica

This is a replica of the only steam engine to power a full-size aircraft in flight. On April 12, 1933 at Oakland, California, William J. Besler made the first flight with his Besler steam engine installed in a Travel Air 2000 aircraft. The engine was a two-cylinder V-type engine that generated 150 hp. The engine weighed 180 lb and the boilers and condensers weighed an additional 300 lb (3.2 lb/hp).

The engine was quiet and could be reversed instantly both in flight and on the ground to steepen landing approaches and shorten the landing run after touchdown. Because the steam engine was heavier, less efficient, and more complex than conventional internal combustion engines, it could not compete with them and thus was never put into production.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Credit Line

Transferred from the U.S. Navy


  • AluminumSteelCopper AlloyNatural FabricRubberGlassPaint
  • Chrome Plating
  • Plastic
  • Anodized Aluminum
  • Ceramic
  • Cadmium Plating
  • Adhesive


Storage: 162.6 × 86.7 × 146.1cm (64 × 34 1/8 × 57 1/2 in.)

Country of Origin

United States of America


Circa 1933

Physical Description

  • Type: Reciprocating, two-cylinder compound double acting, V-type, steam engine, reproduction
  • Power rating: 112 kW (150 hp) at 1,625 rpm, 1,200 psi boiler pressure
  • Displacement: 1.41 L (86.1 cu in)
  • Bore and Stroke: 76.2 mm (3 in.) x 76.2 mm (3 in.) high-pressure cylinder, 133 mm (5.25 in.) x 76.2 mm (3 in.) low pressure cylinder
  • Weight: 82 kg (180 lb) engine, 136 kg (300 lb) boilers and condensers


PROPULSION-Reciprocating & Rotary

Inventory Number