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Wright Aeronautical (Wankel) RC2-60 Rotary Engine


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar room at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Wright Aeronautical (Wankel) RC2-60 Rotary Engine

Collection Item Summary:

German engineer Felix Wankel conceived his rotary engine in 1924 and patented it in 1936. It featured a triangular cam connected to the drive shaft that acted like the pistons in a four-stroke cycle engine. Wankel submitted his designs to the German automobile company NSU. Wankel and NSU built and tested the first rotary in early 1957. The engine saw its greatest success in Mazda automobiles, but has also been used in motorcycles, go-karts, air-conditioner systems, and aircraft.

Wright Aeronautical adapted three RC2-60 automobile engines for flight testing in 1970. The one displayed here was probably the first Wankel engine to power an airplane, a Cessna Cardinal. Another powered a Lockheed Q-Star to demonstrate feasibility, performance, and quiet flight. The third powered a Hughes TH-55 helicopter.

Economic considerations (e.g. fuel burn, emissions) seem to have greatly diminished interest in the Wankel concept more recently.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


Credit Line

Gift of the Paterson Museum

Country of Origin

United States of America



Physical Description

  • Type: Reciprocating, Inverted in-line, rotary, 2 rotors, liquid cooled
  • Power rating: 134-186 kw (180-250 hp) at 5,000 rpm
  • Displacement: 1 L (60 cu in)
  • Bore and Stroke: Not available
  • Weight: 108 kg (237 lb)


PROPULSION-Reciprocating & Rotary

Inventory Number