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.

Display Status

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

Object Details
Date Circa 1933 Country of Origin United States of America Type PROPULSION-Reciprocating & Rotary Manufacturer Besler Brothers (Emeryville, California)
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 Dimensions Storage: 162.6 × 86.7 × 146.1cm (64 × 34 1/8 × 57 1/2 in.)
Materials AluminumSteelCopper AlloyNatural FabricRubberGlassPaint
Chrome Plating
Anodized Aluminum
Cadmium Plating
Inventory Number A19650253000 Credit Line Transferred from the U.S. Navy Data Source National Air and Space Museum Restrictions & Rights Usage conditions apply
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