Steam-Powered Airplane

(YouTube Link)


The Tesla Air 2000 was a biplane built in 1933 by William Besler and Nathan C. Price. It was powered by a steam boiler that was so quiet that spectators on the ground could hear the pilot calling to them. From the video notes:

The advantages of the "Besler System" that were claimed at the time included the elimination of audible noise and destructive vibration; greater efficiency at low engine speeds and also at high altitudes where lower air temperatures assisted condensation; reduced likelihood of engine failure; reduced maintenance costs; reduced fuel costs, since fuel oil was used in place of petrol; reduced fire hazard since the fuel was less volatile and operating temperatures were lower; and a lack of need for radio shielding.

For capacities in excess of 1000 horse power a turbine captures the energy released by the expansion of steam more efficiently than a piston. Thus, the steam reciprocating engine turned out to be unsuitable for scaling up to the needs of large aircraft


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just browsed onto the site and was enthralled.
I am rebuilding a reliant scimitar and would dealy ylike to put an engine like the bessemer under the bonnet, any info would be much appreciated.
regards, jim B.
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@ Michael W. The range of the Besler modified Travel Air 2000 plane was estimated at 400 miles and it did actually have a condenser. Typically the Doble steam cars from which the engine was taken could manage 1500 miles on 24 gallons of water. The Besler-Doble steam engine gave out 150 hp at 1,650 rpm and weighed 480 lbs. It was a 2-cyliner air-cooled Vee of 3 in (High Pressure) and 5.25 in (Low Pressure) bore, and a 3 in stroke. Steam pressure was 1200 psi.

The 1927 Travel Air 2000 model had a range of 500 miles. Its Curtiss OXX-6 engine gave out 100 hp at 1,400 rpm and weighed 401 lbs. It was a 8-cylinder water-cooled Vee of 4.5 in bore, and a 5 in stroke. Compression ratio was 4.92:1 or about 72-86 psi.

However the steam engine used was not designed for a plane and was a standard car engine, also no attempt at lightening it was made. It was expected that performance would've improved with the use of lighter aircraft materials. So really there wasn't that much of a difference in performance and I certainly wouldn't say that plane was impractical.
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Nice, I stumbled here. I must admit that I am a bit of a steam nut also.Though we knew of the Besler plane I haven't seen this and I do not think my brother has either. Great detail of the engine, better than any pictures I have seen before. Great post, Thanks.
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