“Lucky Penny”

I recently learned that there is a tradition of placing a penny in the drain cover of Pratt & Whitney radial engines, a practice started back in the 1930′s. As traditions and myths go nobody really knows why or exactly when the practice started but it is still done to this day.

Interestingly enough, the drain cover is the perfect size for a penny to fit into, but that is just by coincidence and not by design. Why would anyone place a penny there at all? Perhaps simply to date the time of overhaul or just for good luck but at any rate some of the drain covers are hard to see, especially in the R-985′s (you have to look under the bottom front of the engine).
I decided to see for myself if this tradition is really true so yesterday when I was at the airport I saw a fellow working on his Ag Cat and I decided to take a look to see if there was a penny in his drain cover. His engine didn’t have one but he pointed to a freshly overhauled engine in the back of the hangar which did. Just to make sure that indeed a penny would fit in the cover I placed one there and sure enough it fit! It was a tight fit, and not easy to remove, but I can say that the myth is “confirmed”. I wonder how many other engines out there have pennies on them?……