Packard DR-980


Packard DR-980 USAF.jpg
A preserved Packard DR-980 on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
Type Air-cooled Diesel radial engine
Manufacturer Packard
First run 1928
Number built c. 100

The Packard DR-980 is an American nine-cylinder air-cooled aircraft Diesel engine first certificated in 1930. The engine was unpopular despite its economy and reliability due to the unpleasant nature of its diesel exhaust fumes and considerable vibration when running; approximately 100 were built.[1]

Design and development

Designed by Captain Lionel Woolson and Professor Hermann Dorner, the DR-980 made the first cross-country flight with a Diesel-powered aircraft in the United States when Woolson flew from Detroit to Langley Field in 1929, a distance of 700 miles (1,126 km) with a flight time of 6 hours and 40 minutes. On a later flight in a Stinson Detroiter from Detroit to Miami, the new engine showed its economy, the cost for fuel consumption being less than one cent a mile.[2] This aircraft (complete with its engine) is preserved at the Golden Wings Flying Museum.[3]

In 1930, the DR-980 passed its 50-hour certification test with a continuous rating of 225 hp (168 kW) at 1,950 rpm. Production of the DR-980 ceased following the death of Captain Woolson in an aviation accident in April 1930; his legacy was the award of the Collier Trophy in 1931 to the Packard Motor Car Company for its work with this type of engine.[4]

One recognizable feature of later DR-980s was the oil cooler, a spiral of metal tubing placed around the propeller shaft.

Endurance record

On 28 May 1931, a Bellanca CH-300 fitted with a DR-980, piloted by Walter Edwin Lees and Frederic Brossy, set a record for staying aloft for 84 hours and 32 minutes without being refueled.[2] This record was not broken until 55 years later by the Rutan Voyager.[5]

Radiophone Communications Record

On 3 June 1929 the first two-way, radiophone communication took place over the skies of the Packard Proving Grounds in Utica, (now Shelby Township, Michigan). Heretofore, gasoline powered aircraft caused too much electromagnetic interference for the weak voice signal to be heard over the static. Only a strong Morse code signal could be heard. As diesel engines neither have spark plugs, nor spark plug wiring the EM static was greatly reduced and allowed voice communication to be used. The two-way ground to plane voice communication was witnessed by the U.S. Department of Commerce.[6]


Engines on display

Specifications (DR-980)

Data from Aircraft Engine Historical Society[8]

General characteristics



See also

Comparable engines

Related lists



  1. ^ Gunston 1989, p.109.
  2. ^ a b Aircraft Engine Historical Society – Diesels Archived 2012-02-12 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 30 January 2009
  3. ^ Golden Wings Flying Museum Retrieved: 30 January 2009
  4. ^ National Aeronautic Association – Collier Trophy winners Retrieved: 29 December 2018
  5. ^ Aviation Chronology Retrieved: 7 February 2009
  6. ^ Publication: May 1930 QST
  7. ^ National Museum of the United States Air Force – Packard DR-980 fact sheet Retrieved: 16 July 2017
  8. ^ Aircraft Engine Historical Society – Packard Archived 2015-03-25 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 30 January 2009


  • Gunston, Bill. World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines. Cambridge, England. Patrick Stephens Limited, 1989. ISBN 1-85260-163-9
  • Aircraft Engine Historical Society – Packard Engines
  • Aircraft Engine Historical Society – Development of the Diesel Aircraft Engine

External links

  • National Museum of the USAF – DR-980 factsheet