While most people familiar with aviation basics may know what a jet or gas turbine engine is, they may not be familiar with the various subtypes that are found on different aircraft. While turbojets once dominated the aviation market and revolutionized how we fly, technology has since immensely improved to bring about new capabilities and efficiencies. As of the present, the turbofan is the most common engine found on airliners, differing from early turbojets in various ways.
As the original jet-powered engine, turbojets feature a straight turbine that is used for generating large amounts of thrust. The first step of engine operations is the compression of air, increasing pressure and temperature to an optimal degree before being mixed with fuel within the combustion chamber. Once the mixture is made, ignition occurs for the means of creating powerful exhaust capable of driving turbine blades and the driveshaft. With this harnessed mechanical power, the engine can maintain operations with ease as the compressor is driven. Due to the construction of the exhaust section and nozzle of the engine, exhaust gases are imparted in such a way that the airplane is forced forward from pressure.
The first turbojet engines came into use prior to World War II, with initial designs coming about in 1928 and 1935 respectively. The first turbojet-powered aircraft was flown in 1939, coming in the form of the German Heinkel HE-178. A British turbojet-powered aircraft soon followed in 1941, that of which was the Gloster E.28/39. Despite having little impact on the war itself, the introduction of the turbojet engine created major changes in the aviation industry due to the massive increase in reliability, reduced maintenance, and other advantages turbojets brought over piston aircraft. Despite their revolutionary debut, turbojets find little implementation in the modern day, typically only serving for low altitude operations at slower speeds.
Turbofans are gas turbine engines that were built upon their predecessors, adopting some qualities of the previous turboprop engine. As their unique feature, turbofans utilize a large fan that is driven by engine operations. The first aircraft to feature a turbofan engine was the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy, that of which made its debut in the early 1960s. Within such engines, the fan sits near the front of the assembly, while turbine blades are situated behind the aforementioned parts. With the fan, air may be ducted around the turbine, maintaining low temperatures for increased efficiency and low noise levels. Similar to a turbojet, the compressed air moving through the turbine is used to drive blades, and bypass ratios will dictate the amount of air that is ducted around the core versus how much enters the core. Turbofans are known for their higher efficiencies and lower emissions, meaning that they can save operators money on operations. With other advantages such as lower noise, it is understandable that they have well replaced the turbojet in standard use.
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