The gas turbine engine is a common internal combustion engine type for countless aircraft, utilizing the ignition of compressed fuel-and-air mixtures in order to create the necessary propulsion for flight. Over the years, a number of gas turbine variations have come about, each of which features varying operational characteristics and designs which may accommodate different aircraft requirements. As the most widely used type of propulsion system for aircraft operations, it can be very beneficial to have a basic understanding of the four main variations that are found on modern aircraft.
The turbojet engine can be considered to be the most simplistic variation, utilizing a large amount of air that is drawn in and compressed for operations. With the blades of the compressor, intake air increases in pressure and flows into the burner section. At this point, the compressed air is then combined with fuel before being ignited. The resulting rapidly expanding combustion gases then push through the turbine assembly, colliding with blades which extract energy from the hot airflow. This creates the ability for the compressor to be driven by the turbine, allowing the engine to operate with self-sufficiency. Once all energy has been derived from the exhaust, its velocity is increased during the exiting process in order to create extra thrust.
The turboprop engine varies in its operations as compared to other types, utilizing the energy from hot combustion gases to drive propellers instead of imparting exhaust with a high velocity. The engine and propeller assembly are the two most important parts of turboprops, and the engine itself has a very similar operation to the turbojet. Once combusted fuel has driven the turbine and thus the compressor, energy is transferred to the drive shaft that is connected to a gearbox. As the gearbox is attached to the propeller assembly, energy may be used to rotate the propeller blades for thrust generation. Due to the amount of energy such engines can create, turboprop engines are most often found on low-speed aircraft such as cargo planes.
The turbofan engine is widely used on modern airliners, due to the fact that such variations provide high thrust generation and optimal fuel efficiency. For their construction, a standard turbofan engine will feature two fans that surround the core engine. Each fan is placed on opposite sides of the assembly, and a fan shaft passes through the core with a two-spool arrangement. As air is captured by the inlet, some of the flow is directed through the fan so that it may be compressed and burned as usual. Meanwhile, the rest of the flow is redirected around the engine, allowing for a higher velocity. The ratio between the two flows is known as the bypass ratio, and low-bypass ratios allow for more fuel efficiency over standard turbojets.
Afterburning Turbojet Engine
Afterburners are an addition to turbine engines which can allow for a high amount of thrust to be generated as needed, often being employed by military fighter jets for dogfights and by supersonic aircraft. In order to produce extra thrust, the afterburner injects fuel directly into the stream of hot combustion gases so that more power is generated for propulsion. While an increased amount of thrust may be generated through such methods, such processes are inefficient and can burn a great amount of fuel.
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