Jet and piston-powered engines are two of the most common engine types in modern aircraft. While they are both ideal in certain situations, this blog will focus on the seven benefits jet engines have over their piston counterparts.
The first benefit of jet engines is that they have less vibration. As there is no reciprocating motion in turbine engines, vibration is greatly reduced, easing wear on engine components. Second, jets offer a much longer time between overhaul than piston powered aircraft. For example, the typical TBO of a Cessna 172 engine is approximately 2,000 hours. Adversely, a typical jet overhaul has an average TBO of more than 10,000 hours. A third benefit is the lack of propeller thrust limitations on jet engines. Because air separation means a propeller can only spin so fast before beginning to stall, its performance is limited. Jet engines, on the other hand, have intakes designed to slow the air to subsonic speeds before entering the engine, allowing them to operate efficiently at much higher speeds.
The fourth benefit of jet engines is that they produce more overall thrust. Gas turbine engines produce constant power, while only one out of every four strokes on a four-cylinder reciprocating engine produces power. Almost like a natural turbocharger, ram recovery in jet engines begins around 60 knots, at which point air density begins to be recovered due to higher speeds and compression of intake air. The ram recovery is also responsible for the fifth benefit of jet engines: higher altitude. Ram recovery allows jet engines to fly at higher altitudes, allowing them to avoid inclement weather and provides higher tailwinds, providing more efficiency.
The penultimate benefit is the higher power to weight ratio offered by turbine engines. The power to weight ratio of a reciprocating engine, like a Cessna 172, is significantly smaller than that of a turbine engine. The seventh and final benefit of turbine engines is the simple pilot controls. Rather than a run-up, leaning, or propeller control knob, you will often only need to deal with thrust levers.
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