The concept of power involves the previously discussed topic of work, which was a force being applied over a measured distance, but adds one more consideration — time. In other words, how long does it take to accomplish the work. If someone asked the average person if he or she could lift one million pounds 5 feet off the ground, the answer most assuredly would be no. This person would probably assume that he or she is to lift it all at once. What if he or she is given 365 days to lift it, and could lift small amounts of weight at a time? The work involved would be the same, regardless of how long it took to lift the weight, but the power required is different. If the weight is to be lifted in a shorter period of time, it will take more power. The formula for power is as follows:

Power = Force × distance ÷ time

The units for power will be foot-pounds per minute, foot-pounds per second, inch-pounds per minute or second, and possibly mile-pounds per hour. The units depend on how distance and time are measured.

Many years ago there was a desire to compare the power of the newly evolving steam engine to that of horses. People wanted to know how many horses the steam engine was equivalent to. Because of this, the value we currently know as one horsepower (hp) was developed, and it is equal to 550 foot-pounds per second (ft-lb/s). It was found that the average horse could lift a weight of 550 lb, one foot off the ground, in one second. The values we use today, in order to convert power to horsepower, are as follows:

1 hp = 550 ft-lb/s
1 hp = 33,000 ft-lb/min.
1 hp = 375 mile pounds per hour (mi-lb/hr)
1 hp = 746 watts (electricity conversion)

To convert power to horsepower, divide the power by the appropriate conversion based on the units being used.

Example: What power would be needed, and also horsepower, to raise the GE-90 turbofan engine into position to install it on a Boeing 777-300 airplane? The engine weighs 19,000 lb, and it must be lifted 4 ft in 2 minutes.

Power = Force × distance ÷ time
= 19,000 lb × 4 ft ÷ 2 min.
= 38,000 ft-lb/min.
Hp = 38,000 ft-lb/min. ÷ 33,000 ft-lb/min.
Hp = 1.15

The hoist that will be used to raise this engine into position will need to be powered by an electric motor because the average person will not be able to generate 1.15 hp in their arms for the necessary 2 minutes.


Torque is a very interesting concept and occurrence, and it is definitely something that needs to be discussed in conjunction with work and power. Whereas work is described as a force acting through a distance, torque is described as a force acting along a distance. Torque is something that creates twisting and tries to make something rotate.

If we push on an object with a force of 10 lb and it moves 10 inches in a straight line, we have done 100 in-lb of work. By comparison, if we have a wrench 10 inches long that is on a bolt, and we push down on it with a force of 10 lb, a torque of 100 lb-in is applied to the bolt. If the bolt was already tight and did not move as we pushed down on the wrench, the torque of 100 lb-in would still exist. The formula for torque is:

Torque = Force × distance

Even though the formula looks the same as the one for calculating work, recognize that the distance value in this formula is not the linear distance an object moves, but rather the distance along which the force is applied.

Notice that with torque nothing had to move, because the force is being applied along a distance and not through a distance. Notice also that although the units of work and torque appear to be the same, they are not. The units of work were inch-pounds and the units of torque were pound-inches, and that is what differentiates the two.

Torque is very important when thinking about how engines work, both piston engines and gas turbine engines. Both types of engines create torque in advance of being able to create work or power. With a piston engine, a force in pounds pushes down on the top of the piston and tries to make it move. The piston is attached to the connecting rod, which is attached to the crankshaft at an offset. That offset would be like the length of the wrench discussed earlier, and the force acting along that length is what creates torque. [Figure 3-6]

For the cylinder in Figure 3-6, there is a force of 500 lb pushing down on the top of the piston. The connecting rod attaches to the crankshaft at an offset distance of 4 in. The product of the force and the offset distance is the torque, in this case 2,000 lb-in.

In a turbine engine, the turbine blades at the back of the engine extract energy from the high velocity exhaust gases. The energy extracted becomes a force in pounds pushing on the turbine blades, which happen to be a certain number of inches from the center of the shaft they are trying to make rotate. The number of inches from the turbine blades to the center of the shaft would be like the length of the wrench discussed earlier.

Mathematically, there is a relationship between the horsepower of an engine and the torque of an engine. The formula that shows this relationship is as follows:

Torque = Horsepower × 5,252 ÷ rpm

Example: A Cessna 172R has a Lycoming IO-360 engine that creates 180 horsepower at 2,700 rpm. How many pound-feet of torque is the engine producing?

Torque = 180 × 5,252 ÷ 2,700
= 350 lb-ft

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