For aircraft jet propulsion there are in general four major distinct designs: the turbojet, turbofan (or bypass engine), turboprop and turboshaft. This post will address the layout and design of the common engines used in modern aircraft, and explain how their characteristics make each engine applicable for a specific task.




In general each engine is made up of four essential components: the compressor, combustor, turbine and nozzle as shown in the figure below. The compressor raises the pressure of the incoming air before combustion, and the turbine, which extracts work from the hot pressurised combustion products, are at the heart of the engine. The role of the power turbine is not to provide thrust but to drive the compressor. The hot pressurised combustion products are expanded through a nozzle to produce thrust. In some military turbojet engines the exhaust velocity and therefore the thrust may be increased by “afterburning” in the exhaust duct.

The basic idea of the turbojet engine is simple. Air taken in from an opening in the front of the engine is compressed to 3 to 12 times its original pressure in the compressor. Fuel is added to the air and burned in a combustion chamber to raise the temperature of the fluid mixture to about 1,100 F to 1,300 F. The resulting hot air is passed through a turbine, which drives the compressor.

If the turbine and compressor are efficient, the pressure at the turbine discharge will be nearly twice the atmosheric pressure, and this excess pressure is sent to the nozzle to produce a high-velocity stream of gas which produces a thrust. Substantial increases in thrust can be obtained by employing an afterburner. It is a second combustion chamber positioned after the turbine and before the nozzle. The afterburner increases the temperature of the gas ahead of the nozzle. The result of this increase in temperature is an increase of about 40 percent in thrust at takeoff and a much larger percentage at high speeds once the plane is in the air.

The turbojet engine is a reaction engine. In a reaction engine, expanding gases push hard against the front of the engine. The turbojet sucks in air and compresses or squeezes it. The gases flow through the turbine and make it spin. These gases bounce back and shoot out of the rear of the exhaust, pushing the plane forward.



A turboprop engine is a jet engine attached to a propeller. The turbine at the back is turned by the hot gases, and this turns a shaft that drives the propellor. Some small airliners and transport aircraft are powered by turboprops.

Like the turbojet, the turboprop engine consists of a compressor, combustion chamber, and turbine, the air and gas pressure is used to run the turbine, which then creates power to drive the compressor. Compared with a turbojet engine, the turboprop has better propulsion efficiency at flight speeds below about 500 miles per hour but produces lesser thrust. Modern turboprop engines are equipped with propellers that have a smaller diameter but a larger number of blades for efficient operation at much higher flight speeds. To accommodate the higher flight speeds, the blades are scimitar-shaped with swept-back leading edges at the blade tips. Engines featuring such propellers are called propfans.



A turbofan engine has a large fan at the front, which sucks in air. Most of the air flows around the outside of the engine, making it quieter and giving more thrust at low speeds. Most of today’s airliners are powered by turbofans. In a turbojet, all the air entering the intake passes through the gas generator, which is composed of the compressor, combustion chamber, and turbine. In a turbofan engine, only a portion of the incoming air goes into the combustion chamber.

The remainder passes through a fan, or low-pressure compressor, and is ejected directly as a “cold” jet or mixed with the gas-generator exhaust to produce a “hot” jet. The objective of this sort of bypass system is to increase thrust without increasing fuel consumption. It achieves this by increasing the total air-mass flow and reducing the velocity within the same total energy supply.



This is another form of gas-turbine engine that operates much like a turboprop system. It does not drive a propellor. Instead, it provides power for a helicopter rotor. The turboshaft engine is designed so that the speed of the helicopter rotor is independent of the rotating speed of the gas generator. This permits the rotor speed to be kept constant even when the speed of the generator is varied to modulate the amount of power produced.


Other forms of jet engines include ramjets, pump jets and pulse jets

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