Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, contests and more!
Start Your Free Trial

8 Light Plane Engines That Changed Aviation

Each one of these aircraft engines represented a break from orthodoxy, and each had a big impact on the world of personal flying.

A Lycoming IO-540, six-cylinder opposed light plane engine
A Lycoming IO-540, six-cylinder opposed light plane engine, one of two models that seeded the development of modern high-performance aircraft. Photo via Creative Commons

Like it or not, the fortunes of aviation, including light, personal flying, are linked to the technologies that provide the motive force for our gravity-defying feats. It’s nothing new. Finding suitable propulsion was arguably the Wright brothers’ biggest obstacle leading up to, and even long after, their Kitty Hawk adventure. The one specialist they had on retainer was none other than internal combustion engine pioneer Charlie Taylor. Taylor’s first aircraft engine, built to order for the Wright Flyer, weighed 160 pounds and produced 12 horsepower, a tremendous power-to-weight ratio at the time. While it seemed revolutionary then, aircraft engines would get unimaginably more capable over the next few decades as new technologies leap-frogged the old and helped drive aircraft performance and design to (literally) new heights. 

Here are seven engines—and one motor—that changed the game. 


Save Your Favorites

Save This Article