In my role as the FT website Editor, it's my job to bring you varied interesting and fun content from around the world of RC aviation. In that vein, I reached out to a company in the UK called Progress Aero Works (P.A.W) who have been manufacturing miniature aero engines for over sixty years. Here's what happened when I visited them.
Upon walking into the small factory building for the first time, you're hit by the smell: grease, oil and heavy machinery synonymous with engineering. It's gritty, it's real. There were machines everywhere; milling machines, drilling machines, CNC machines - you name it. Tony Eifflaender met us at the door to show us around. He is the son of J. G. Eifflaender, the man who started the company after he moved to the United Kingdom from Germany in the 1930s.
A Historic Company
J. G. 'Gig' Eifflaender started building engines after getting into the hobby flying control line models in Belgium and other European Championship events. If you don't know about control line flying, check out when we tried it in 2017, albeit with brushless motors!
Progress Aero Works got started selling aero engines in the 1950s to local model shops such as one in nearby Manchester. The engines became very popular. Since then, the company have developed hundreds of motors all connected back through a common lineage to those early engines that started everything. Today, engines both big and small are distributed worldwide.
The Manufacturing Process
The vast number of tools accumulated over the years allow the workshop to carry out a number of engineering projects, aside from aviation engines, for clients from all over the place. This includes making parts for racing cars.
Many of the machines are British made, but there was also a CNC milling machine built in the USA. The oldest machine in the factory was built before World War 2 and was probably used to make things for the war effort.
All of the component parts of the engine are machined from raw blocks of metal.
Running Some Motors
Next on the itinerary was to start a few of the engines, which was just another daily occurrence for Tony. We got to see a small 1.5cc motor along with a much larger beast which swung a 14x7 prop. On top of this, we got to experience the piercing scream of a small prototype engine designed for competition control line flying. Quite remarkably, this engine can power a race plane up to an eye-watering speed of 100mph! From the image (below) you can see the setup for testing these engines: an extractor fan with a rather ancient looking metal tube sucks the engine fumes out of the workshop to make the atmosphere a little healthier!
Each engine that is sold is run to ensure that everything is just perfect for the customer. On top of this, the engineering works occasionally receive engines back from customers who'd like them to be re-tuned to the factory standards.
Tony used an instrument to measure how fast the small competition engine turned the propeller. The result was a rather impressive 23,000rpm.
Next, we saw a two-cylinder engine. It's quite remarkable that these intricate machines are built from scratch in a small workshop in the corner of some rainy town in the north of England.
This short visit to the Progress Aero Works factory was eye-opening. It's great to see companies like this continuing to manufacture products successfully that are appreciated by people all around the world. I would like to thank Tony and Progress Aero Work for letting us behind the workshop doors and for taking the time to show us around. Also, I would like to thank Philip Tolly for his assistance in capturing the video on this trip. We look forward to bringing you more behind-the-scenes content like this from other interesting aviation companies in the near future.
Article written by James Whomsley
Videography by Philip Tolley