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Introduction to King Air

Propeller Systems

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Propellers
The King Air utilizes a constant speed, full feathering, and reversing propeller.
Constant Speed
A constant speed propeller maintains a set speed of the propeller (within an operating envelope) by
adjusting the blade angle of the propeller. At high power settings, this allows maximum engine power
to the propellers without exceeding limitations. In the cruise power range it increases efficiency of the
propeller by adjusting the blade angle for most efficient operation at the cruise power setting.
Full Feathering
Blades are rotated to be in line with the relative wind to nearly eliminate the drag associated with a
failed engine. A feathered propeller is considered to be at an extremely high pitch. Springs and
counterweights pull the blades into feather and engine oil boosted by the governor moves the blades to
low pitch. This is a common sense approach since you would only need low pitch if the engine was
running (therefore making oil pressure) and even a completely failed engine should be able to feather
with the springs and counterweights alone.
Reversing
Blades are rotated past a normal low pitch point to the extent that the angle of attack shifts the lift to
the rear of the blade, causing thrust of the prop to reverse directions. This significantly aids in slowing
the aircraft down after landing or during aborted takeoffs. A reversed propeller is considered to be at
an extremely low pitch. Because it is extremely dangerous for a propeller to reverse thrust in flight, the
propeller system incorporates safeties that limit how low of a pitch is allowed by the prop in flight, thus
preventing an extremely low pitch/reverse situation while airborne. These are referred to as low pitch
stops.

Propeller Pitch (Blade Angle) from Low to High

Reverse

Low Pitch/High RPM

High Pitch/Low RPM

Feather

Figure 1: Propeller Blade Pitch

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Method of Operation
Governors
The King Air uses three governors to control and limit propeller speed, the Primary Governor, the
Overspeed Governor, and the Power Turbine Governor (also known as the Fuel Topping Governor). The
following system description uses RPMs for the U21. The C12 system operates identically, but has
different RPM settings.
As previously mentioned, springs and counterweights are the forces that take the blade to feather and
engine oil takes the blades to low pitch. The springs and counterweights that take the prop to feather
are fixed forces that cannot be adjusted in flight. Therefore, the only remaining way to control pitch is
by regulating engine oil to the prop. This is accomplished by the governor. In an underspeed situation
(propeller RPM is below pilot commanded value) the prop needs to be adjusted to a lower pitch in order
to reach a higher RPM. In this situation, the governor would increase oil pressure to the propeller,
taking it to a lower pitch and therefore increasing RPM for that particular engine power setting. In this
instance, the governor is nothing more than an oil valve controlled by engine RPM. This is true for both
the Primary Governor and the Overspeed Governor.
As the name implies, the Primary Governor is the normal means for controlling Propeller RPM. Pilot
inputs adjust the speeder spring which sets the onspeed setting for the governor. The governor then
maintains the appropriate onspeed condition by regulating oil flow to the propeller. While the prop
RPM is adjustable, the setting is limited to 2200 RPM. Any speed above 2200 RPM will cause the
governor to release oil pressure from the propeller, moving the propeller to a higher pitch which will
slow the propeller down.
The Overspeed Governor is physically identical to the Primary Governor, but does not incorporate the
pilot adjustment. Instead, its speeder spring is set to only one value, 2288 RPM (4% greater than
primary governor maximum). If the propeller reaches this speed, the Overspeed Governor will begin
releasing oil pressure from the propeller, moving the propeller to a higher pitch which will slow the
propeller down. During normal operation the Overspeed Governor will not reach this RPM and
therefore is only a backup to the Primary.
If neither the Primary nor the Overspeed Governor are able to slow a propeller that is turning too fast, it
is assumed that the propeller has lost the ability to adjust blade angle or is adjusting blade angle too
slowly. In this situation the only way to slow the propeller is to slow the entire engine down. The only
way to slow the engine down is to decrease fuel flow. This is the purpose of the Power Turbine
Governor, also referred to as the Fuel Topping Governor. In a manner similar to the Overspeed
Governor, the Power Turbine Governor has no pilot adjustment and is set to only one speed. This speed
is higher than the other two governors, 2332 RPM, and is therefore used as the last resort for limiting
prop RPM. Unlike the other two governors, the Power Turbine Governor has no control of the propeller
blade angle. Instead, when the Governor senses an overspeed condition (greater than 2332 RPM) it
decreases fuel flow to the engine, decreasing engine speed, thus decreasing Propeller speed. This

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governor additionally limits reversing RPM to 2040 to prevent exceeding limits in that mode of
operation.
Low Pitch Stops
As previously mentioned, it would be extremely dangerous for a propeller to reverse in flight. Since
reverse is technically an extremely low pitch, the devices used to prevent reverse in flight are called low
pitch stops. The U21 (BE90) with -20 engines incorporates two low pitch stops, the primary and the
secondary. The U21 with -28 engines and the C12 (BE 200) only incorporate one low pitch stop which is
identical to the U21s Primary Low Pitch Stop.
Primary Low Pitch Stop
The primary low pitch stop uses a mechanical linkage that connects the propeller to the governor. The
linkage is adjusted so that when the prop reaches the low pitch limit (15 degrees) a valve closes which
blocks oil flow to the propeller. Without the oil flow the prop no longer has the oil pressure driving it to
a lower pitch thus stopping further movement of the propeller. At this point, since the propeller can no
longer move to a lower pitch, it begins to act like a fixed pitch prop, and selected RPM is not governed
(non-governing range). This is evidenced in the cockpit by an RPM lower than the pilot has selected
because the governor is in an underspeed condition and attempting to compensate by driving the blades
to a lower pitch, which it cannot do because the Primary Low Pitch Stop is restricting the oil flow.
Secondary Low Pitch Stop (U21 with -20 engines only)
The secondary low pitch stop performs the same function as the Primary, namely blocking oil to the
propeller, but does so electrically rather than mechanically. At the preset low pitch limit (12 degrees) an
electrical switch senses the propeller blade angle and closes an electric oil valve preventing oil pressure
from reaching the propeller. Springs and counterweights then take the prop slowly back to a higher
pitch. Once the springs and counterweights take the propeller off the Secondary Low Pitch Stop, the
electric switch opens allowing oil pressure back to the prop taking it back to a low pitch, and the cycle
continues. In this manner, the Secondary Low Pitch Stop cycles and thus the warning light may also
cycle in a few aircraft.
Reduction Gear Box
The Power Turbine of the engine is turning at approximately 33000 RPM. Obviously the propeller
cannot turn this fast. Efficiency aside, the tip of the propeller cannot exceed the speed of sound. With a
93 inch prop, such as on the U21, this would be roughly 2750 RPM. Now take into account calculations
to maximize efficiency, and Beechcraft determined the U21 prop should turn no greater than 2200 RPM.
To achieve this, the Power Turbine RPM must be reduced 15 times. This is accomplished with two
stages of gears.

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Propeller System Tests
There are a few checks that can be performed on the King Air to ensure the propeller systems are
working properly. The following components can be checked prior to flight:

Primary Governor
Overspeed Governor
Autofeather
Secondary Low Pitch Stop

Primary Governor Test


With the Propeller Levers full forward, the Power Levers are advanced to increase prop speed to 1900
RPM. Because the Propeller lever is full forward, it is selecting 2200 RPM (2000 RPM in the C12) the
propeller governor is in an underspeed condition commanding the propellers to the lowest possible
pitch and therefore the propellers are at the low pitch stop. At this point they are acting like a fixed
pitch prop, increasing RPM with increase in engine speed. Once the power lever is far enough forward
to reach 1900 Prop RPM, the Propeller lever is then pulled back toward the feather position. Since the
propeller lever is what controls selected RPM, at some point the selected RPM will equal the actual
RPM, 1900 RPM, and the Primary Governor will be in an onspeed condition. Further aft movement of
the Propeller Lever will select a lower RPM and put the Primary Governor in an overspeed condition.
The governor will then command a higher pitch to reduce propeller speed. The propeller will move off
of the low pitch stop and propeller RPM will decrease indicating the Primary Governor is working
properly.
Overspeed Governor Test
The Overspeed Governor is set to an RPM value that is 4% above the Primary Governor. As such, there
is no way to know if it is operable during normal operations because the Primary Governor will always
be controlling. Beechcraft therefore incorporated a system for testing the Overspeed Governor that
artificially lowers the RPM value of the Overspeed Governor to approximately 2000 RPM. The test is
conducted by setting the Prop Levers full forward (thus commanding 2200 RPM from the Primary
Governor) and ensuring the Power Levers are far enough back so that the Prop RPM is below 1900 RPM.
These two actions will ensure that the Primary Governor is not governing during the test. While holding
the prop test switches up to the PROP GOV TEST position, increase the power and notice where the
Prop RPM stabilizes. If it stabilizes at the Overspeed Governor test RPM of 2000 RPM, then the governor
is working properly. If the RPM exceeds this and stops at 2200 RPM, the Overspeed Governor is not
working and the Primary Governor is governing instead. Once 2000 RPM is reached, continue to apply a
small amount of power to make sure the Overspeed Governor does indeed govern at 2000 RPM. This
will be evidenced by an increase in torque while the Prop RPM remains the same. Now release the test
switch, and the Overspeed Governor should be reset to 2288 which means it will stop governing at 2000
RPM, causing the Prop to increase speed.
Secondary Low Pitch Stop Test (U21 with -20 engines only)

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In order to allow for reversing operations on the ground, both the Primary and Secondary Low Pitch
Stops are normally disabled when the power levers are lifted over the gate toward the reverse position.
The Secondary Idle Stop Test position of the Prop Test Switch artificially forces the Secondary Low Pitch
Stop system to remain active when the power levers are lifted over the gate toward reverse. With the
Primary Stop disabled by the normal operation of the Power Levers, the Secondary Low Pitch Stop has a
chance to limit pitch.
The actual test is conducted with the Condition Levers at High Idle, the Prop Levers full forward, and the
Power Levers at idle. In this condition, the prop blade angle is being limited by the Primary Low Pitch
Stop. Make a note of the Prop RPM. Now the Prop Test Switch is held in the Secondary Idle Test
position and the Power Levers are lifted over the gate, disabling the Primary Low Pitch Stop. As the
Power Lever is pulled toward reverse, the prop blade angle will decrease, as noted by an increase in
Prop RPM. The prop blade angle will eventually reach the Secondary Low Pitch Stop which is being
artificially forced into working by the test switches. At this point the RPM will once again stabilize as the
pitch is held steady by the Secondary Low Pitch Stop. Note this RPM and compare it to the RPM of the
Primary Low Pitch Stop. The Secondary should be about 210 RPM higher than the primary. This
corresponds to the 3 degrees difference in blade angle between the two stops and indicates the system
is working properly.

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REVISION: 1