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Encyclopedia > Gnome et Rhône
Le Rhône 9C

Gnome et Rhône was a major French aircraft engine manufacturer. Between 1914 and 1918 they produced 25,000 of their 9-cylinder Delta and Le Rhône 110hp rotary designs, while another 75,000 were produced by various licensees, powering the majority of aircraft in the first half of the war on both sides of the conflict. In the post-war era they started a new design series originally based on the Bristol Jupiter, but evolving into the excellent 1,000hp-class Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major radial, which was likewise licensed and used around the world during World War II. They were nationalized as a part of snecma in 1949, but the brand lived on for a time as the manufacturer of motorcycles. The term aircraft engine, for the purposes of this article, refers to aircraft reciprocating, or rotary, internal combustion engines as opposed to jet engines or turboprops. ... For articles on non-piston rotary combustion engines, see also: Wankel engine Quasiturbine The rotary engine was a common type of internal combustion aircraft engine in the early years of the 20th century. ... Bristol Jupiter engine The Jupiter was a 9 cylinder one_row radial aircraft engine designed during World War I by Roy Fedden of Cosmos Engineering. ... Radial engine of a biplane. ... Mushroom cloud from the nuclear explosion over Nagasaki rising 18 km into the air. ... Société Nationale dÉtude et de Construction de Moteurs dAviation or SNÉCMA is one of the worlds leading aerospace corporations, specialized in propulsion, equipment and associated services. ... A motorcycle (or motorbike) is a two-wheeled vehicle powered by an engine. ...


World War I

In 1900 the 26-year old French engineer Louis Seguin bought a license for the Gnom gas engine from the German firm Motorenfabrik Oberursel. Sold under the French translation, the Gnome was a single-cylinder stationary engine of about 4hp that ran on kerosene (known in Germany as parafin) intended to be used in industrial applications. Motorenfabrik Oberursel A.G. was a German manufacturer of automobile, locomotive and aircraft engines. ... Kerosene, gas oil, paraffin (not the waxy solid of that name) is a colorless flammable hydrocarbon liquid. ...

On June 6, 1905 he and his brother Laurent formed the Société Des Moteurs Gnôme (the Gnome motor company) to produce automobile engines. They soon started development of one of the first purpose-designed aircraft engines, which emerged in the spring of 1909 as the 7-cylinder rotary Gnome Omega, delivering 50hp from 75kg. More than 1,700 of these engines would be built in France, along with license-built models in Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, the United States and Russia. The Gnome powered Henry Farman's Voisin to take the world records for distance and endurance, as well as powering the first aircraft to break 100km/h, and powered France to become the leading country in aviation.

All of the Gnome's were known for their unique solutions to getting fuel to the top of the piston without using piping. Early models used two valves, one in the cylinder head and a second embedded in the piston itself, couterweighted to open at the end of the stroke. Without any springs or pushrods, the valve would pop open on the downstroke, allowing fuel to be drawn into the cylinder from the crankcase area. In order to improve reliability and maintance, later models used the Monosoupape (single-valve) system instead, using a single exhaust valve at the top of the cylinder and using a series of ports to allow the fuel mixture into the cylinder when the piston dropped far enough.

The basic Gnome design was then delivered in a series of larger engines. The Gnome Lambda of 1911 was a larger 80hp version of the Omega, followed by the 9-cylinder Gnome Delta of 110hp in 1914. Gnome also tried their hand at a 14-cylinder two-row version, the Lambda-Lambda of 160hp, but this saw little use. To deliver more power with the advent of high-power inline engines late in the war, a completely new 9-cylinder design was delivered in 1918 as the Type-N, delivering 160hp. This design saw use on the little known but excellent Nieuport 28. An inline engine is an internal-combustion engine with cylinders aligned in one or several row. ...

Another French engineer, Louis Verdet, designed his own small rotary engine in 1910 which did not see much use. In 1912 he delivered a larger 7-cylinder design, the 7C, which developed 70hp from 90kg. This proved much more popular and he formed Société des Moteurs Le Rhône later that year. He soon followed the 7C with the larger Le Rhône 9C, a 9-cylinder design delivering 80hp. Compared to the Gnome's, the Le Rhône was considerably more "conventional", using copper pipes to bring the fuel to the top of the engine, along with intake and exhaust valves. Like Gnome, the Le Rhône designs were widely licensed, in this case the 9C was produced in Germany, Austria, Great Britain and Sweden.

After several years of fierce competition, Gnome and Le Rhône finally decided to merge. Negotiations started in 1914, and on January 12, 1915, Gnome bought out Le Rhône to form Société des Moteurs Gnome et Rhône. Developments of the 9C continued to be their primary product, improving in power to about 110hp in the 9J by the end of the war. The 9-series was the primary engine for most early-war designs, both in French and English service, as well as in Germany where, perhaps somewhat ironically, Oberursel had taken out a license just before the war.


With the end of the war the company rapidly diversified, using their factories to produce chassis and engines for the Rolland Pilain and Ricard-Pictet cars, along with Ansaldo diesel engines, refrigerators, sewing machines and even jackhammers. In 1920 they also introduced their first motorcycle, simply known as the Gnome et Rhône 500cc. Various models were produced up to the early 1950s, typically advertized as simply "Gnome Rhone" with no accents.

By 1920 their rotary engines were no longer competitive, and they had no new designs of their own. In 1921 they took out a license for the Bristol Jupiter, which was in the process of becoming the Gnome of its era. In 1922, Paul-Louis Weiller, a WWI ace, took over the company and decided to focus it on aircraft engines once again. Their Jupiter designs, the 9A, were soon selling very well. In 1926 they took out a license for the smaller 5-cylinder Bristol Titan, while Bristol licensed the Farman-style reduction gearing used by Gnome. Bristol Jupiter engine The Jupiter was a 9 cylinder one_row radial aircraft engine designed during World War I by Roy Fedden of Cosmos Engineering. ...

Not satisfied to simply produce Bristol designs under license, Gnome started a major design effort based around the mechanicals of the Titan. The results were introduced in 1927 as the K-series, spanning the 260hp Gnome-Rhône 5K Titan, the 7-cylinder 370hp version, the Gnome-Rhône 7K Titan Major, and the 9-cylinder 550hp Gnome-Rhône 9K Mistral. All of these engines were delivered in a variety of improved versions, named with a three letter code; the first letter was the series number (a through f for instance), the second a r or l depending on which direction the engine turned, and the thrid indicating the charging system. With the introduction of the K-series, Gnome ended royalty payments to Bristol. By 1930 they had delivered 6,000 Jupiters, Mistrals and Titans, making them the largest engine company in France.

But the 550hp Mistral was no longer nearly enough power for the rapidly evolving industry. To serve the needs for higher power, Gnome once again turned to the two-row solution using two banks of 7-cylinders, delivering the 625hp Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major in 1929. The new engine was an instant hit. By 1933 the 14Kfrs had improved the power to 1,025hp through better supercharging (along with similar improvements in the Mistral, now at 770hp), and the engine was once again being licensed around the world. A supercharger (sometimes called a blower), a positive displacement or centrifugal pump, is a gas compressor used to pump air into the cylinders of an internal combustion engine. ...

Leaving the idea of having many engines in a single "K-series", Gnome continued work with the basic mechanical design to produce the 18-cylinder two-row Gnome-Rhône 18L of 1400 hp. Its power-to-weight ratio was not very good and work on the design was eventually stopped in 1939. A smaller engine, the Gnome-Rhône 14M Mars would be introduced to replace the earlier K-series Mistral, notable primarily for it's extremely compact frontal area, giving by far the most power for size of any engine of the era. Power-to-weight ratio is a measure commonly used when comparing various vehicles (or engines), including automobiles, motorcycles and aircraft. ...

In 1936 the 14K-series was replaced by the Gnome-Rhône 14N delivering 1,100hp from a slightly heavier engine that nevertheless had a much better power-to-weight ratio. Starting with the N they introduced a new naming scheme, replacing the earlier model letters with numbers, delivering the engine in versions that turned left with even numbers and right with odd. The original 14N-0/1 was run through a number of versions, the 14N-10/11 seeing use on the Block MB.210 bomber, and the 14N-25 being widely used in France's only radial-powered fighter, the Bloch MB.152, and the 14N-49 intended for the updated MB.152, the MB.155 which did not see action. The N-series finally ended with the 14N-50/51, which delivered 1,210hp for takeoff. The 14N was not as widely licensed, as the war was approaching and the French govornment was becoming increasingly wary of licensing designs to potential enemies. Power-to-weight ratio is a measure commonly used when comparing various vehicles (or engines), including automobiles, motorcycles and aircraft. ... The Bloch MB-150 was a French low-wing, all metal monoplane fighter aircraft with retractable landing gear and closed cockpit developed by Societé des Avions Marcel Bloch as a contendor in the 1934 French air ministry competition for a new fighter design. ...

The 14N-series was itself replaced by the ultimate pre-war evolution of the line, the Gnome-Rhône 14R. The first versions introduced in 1939, the 14R-4/5, produced 1,291hp for takeoff and was only slightly heavier than the 14N. By 1940 the improved 14R-8/9 was delivering 1,578hp by increasing RPM from 2,400 to 2,600. Although this was a good figure for the era, British and German design had already passed this mark, and would soon be pressing on 2,000hp.

With the fall of France in 1940, Gnome et Rhône was ordered to produce the BMW 801 under license, while the 14M saw limited use on some German designs. The company became infamous for slow production, building only 8,500 engines by May 1944, when the Germans had been estimating 25,000. That month a massive US air raid completely destroyed the original Gennevilliers factories. With the end of the war, the company was in no condition to continue in the aero-engine business, although the picked up small contracts to produce M4 Sherman tanks for the French army. In order to save what was left, the company was nationalized on May 29, 1945, creating the Société Nationale d'Etude et de Construction de Moteurs d'Aviation, or snecma. In snecma the company would again start production of the 14N, 14R and the new 14U. The BMW 801 was a powerful German air-cooled radial aircraft engine built by BMW and used in a number of German military aircraft of World War II. The engine’s cylinders were in two rows of seven cylinders each, the bore and stroke were both 156 mm, giving a... General characteristics Length 5. ... Société Nationale dÉtude et de Construction de Moteurs dAviation or SNÉCMA is one of the worlds leading aerospace corporations, specialized in propulsion, equipment and associated services. ...

Licensed versions and developments

The 14K was one of the most popular engines of its era, widely licensed and used around the world. In particular it was used in Poland and Romania, where it powered a number of Polish designed PZL fighters before finally becoming the main engine of the little-known but interesting IAR 80 fighter. PZL is an abbreviation name used by three Polish aerospace manufacturers. ... The IAR 80 was a Romanian World War II fighter aircraft, one of the few fighters from a smaller player in the conflict that proved to be as good as the enemy planes it faced. ...

Issota Fraschini and Piaggio of Italy both took out licenses, the former producing the K.14, the later the P.XI. These were used on a number of designs in the pre-war period, many of which were exported. This led to Manfred Weiss taking out a license in Hungary, producing it as the WM K-14 in order to power their versions of the Reggianni Re 2000 fighter. Piaggio is a company based in Italy that produces automobiles, motorcycles and scooters, such as: APE 3-wheel submicro pickups. ...

A particularly important licensee was Nakajima, who produced it as the Sakae. The Sakae was one of the most popular Japanese engines, powering the Mitsubishi Zero fighter as well as other designs. Categories: Stub | Japanese aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engine manufacturers ... Categories: Stub | Aircraft piston engines ... Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero Model 21 (cowling removed) The Mitsubishi A6M was a light-weight carrier-based fighter aircraft employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1940 to 1945. ...

The British firm Alvis had licensed the 14K and 18L, but neither entered production before the war ended. Nevertheless Alvis pressed ahead with development, relasing the 9-cylinder Alvis 501 Leonides and later the 14-cylinder Alvis 701 Leonides Major. In Norse mythology, Alvis (all-wise) was a dwarf. ...


World War I

  • Gnome Omega
  • Gnome Lambda
  • Gnome Delta
  • Gnome Lambda-Lambda
  • Le Rhône 9C
  • Le Rhône 9J - referred to widely as "the 110hp Le Rhône"
  • Gnome 9N Monosoupaupe


  • Gnome-Rhône 9A Jupiter
  • Gnome-Rhône 5K Titan
  • Gnome-Rhône 7K Titan Major
  • Gnome-Rhône 9K Mistral
  • Gnome-Rhône 14K Mistral Major
  • Gnome-Rhône 18L
  • Gnome-Rhône 14M Mars
  • Gnome-Rhone 14N
  • Gnome-Rhône 14R


  • A History of Aircraft Piston Engines, Herschel Smith, Sunflower University Press, 1981

External links

  • Gnome (http://www.keveney.com/gnome.html)
- includes an animation of the Gnome valve system

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers This list of aircraft is sorted alphabetically, beginning with the name of the manufacturer (or, in certain cases, designer). ... This is a list of aircraft manufacturers (in alphabetic order). ... List of aircraft engines: Piston engines Allison V-1710 Armstrong-Siddeley Puma Armstrong-Siddeley Nimbus BMW 801 Bristol Aquila Bristol Centaurus Bristol Hercules Bristol Jupiter Bristol Pegasus Bristol Perseus Bristol Phoenix Bristol Taurus Continental O-200 Daimler-Benz DB 601 De Havilland Cirrus De Havilland Gipsy De Havilland Gipsy Major... -1...

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation This is a list of airlines in operation. ... This is a list of Air Forces, sorted alphabetically by country. ... This is a list of aircraft weapons, past and present. ... Below is a list of (links to pages on) missiles, sorted alphabetically by country of origin. ... This is a timeline of aviation history. ...



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