‘Cost effective’, ‘reliable’, and ‘efficient’— all words we love to hear about an engine, and ones that aptly describe the turboprop design. Not to be confused with turbofan and turbojet aircrafts, a turboprop powered aircraft enters a class all on its own.?
With an ingenious compact design, a plane equipped with a turboprop engine can land and take off more efficiently than a majority of lighter jets. Perhaps the most warm and fuzzy quality about the turboprop engine— its ability to run off of affordable Jet-A fuel. With fuel prices rising 38% in the last year alone, the cost-effective turboprop engine has gained popularity. At low to mid altitude, these engines allow aircraft to burn less fuel per passenger than both turbofan and turbojet powered birds.
So, how exactly does the mechanism manage these feats? The basic design concepts follow this formula: air is compressed, combusted, and converted resourcefully in a snake like design. While the combustion and turbine systems generally work the same as turbofan and turbojet engines, a few unique specs allow the turboprop to achieve its superior efficiency.
This engine design utilizes reverse flow. This process allows air to travel through intakes near the propeller scoop, and backward towards the engine firewall. The air is then directed in reverse towards the compressor where airfoil shaped blades create axial flow to speed up and compress incoming air flow to reach the combustor. The air then makes another turn to redirect air to the relatively standard combustor. This begins spinning the compressor turbine of an aircraft. This is where the turboprop engine works more of its magic.
While the compressor turbine operates relatively similarly to standard operation, there is one significant difference, it does not spin the aircraft propeller. The turboprop features a secondary engine shaft in front of the turbine. Continuous airflow moves toward the compact power turbines, which then powers the propeller.
With the resourceful nature of this design, it’s not surprising to see that the aviation industry has taken notice. The most popular turboprop engines include the Pratt and Whitney PT6 and the up and coming General Electric ATP engine. Regional airliners and single pilot crop dusters alike can benefit from the reliability and efficiency of the turboprop engine.
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