There’s a never-ending debate in the aviation world about turboprop vs jet. Some people swear by turboprops, while others are die-hard jet fans. So which is better?
Turboprop vs Jet: What are the differences?
Turboprop and jet aircraft are both powered by engines that rotate a propeller or turbine to create thrust. The main differences between jet vs turboprop is their engines.
Turboprop engines use a gas turbine to drive a propeller, while jet engines use a gas turbine to power a fan that blows air through a nozzle.
Jet engines are more efficient than turboprop engines and can fly at higher altitudes and speeds. Turboprop engines are more fuel efficient than jet engines at lower altitudes and speeds.
What Is a Turboprop Engine?
A turboprop engine is a type of engine that uses a turbine to power a propeller. The turbine spins the propeller, which then generates thrust to power the airplane.
The exhaust generated from the turbine is not used as thrust to power the airplane. The rotational energy of the turbine is used to spin a propeller. This propeller then generates thrust.
The engine pulls in air from the front, which then gets compressed in one or more compressors. The air then enters the combustion chamber, where it ignites and powers the turbine.
The turbine is attached to a shaft, which goes into a gearbox. The gearbox slows the turbine down to an operational speed, and outputs to a shaft attached to the propeller. The propeller then creates thrust to fly the airplane.
Turboprops are designed to be most efficient at lower speeds and altitudes, as opposed to jets which can fly at higher speeds and altitudes.
What Is a Jet Engine?
A jet engine is one that uses a combination of air and fuel to produce exhaust gas. So far this is just like the turboprop. But what the engine actually does with the exhaust gas is where the difference. The engine uses the exhaust gas to power a turbine.
Jet engines are powered by intakes of air that enter the front of the engine. This air is compressed by one or more compressors, which increases the pressure and temperature of the air.
The hot air then enters the combustion chamber, where it is mixed with jet fuel. The resulting exhaust gases travel through turbine blades, which spin the intake and compressor fans. The exhaust gases then exit the engine.
A jet engine works by accelerating hot exhaust gas out the back of the engine through a tapered nozzle. The high speed of the exhaust gas produces significant amounts of thrust, which powers the airplane and enables it to fly.
Jet engines are capable of operating at much higher speeds and altitudes than turboprop engines because they don’t rely on a propeller to generate thrust.
Turboprop vs Jet: Efficiency
There are many differences in efficiency between turboprop vs jet engine. Turboprop aircraft are typically more efficient at slower speeds and altitudes, while jet aircraft are more efficient at higher speeds and altitudes.
Turboprop aircraft are powered by propellers, while jet aircraft are powered by jet engines. Turboprop engines are less fuel efficient than jet engines, but they are typically more reliable and require less maintenance.
Jet aircraft are able to fly faster and higher than turboprop aircraft, and they can typically carry more passengers and cargo. Jet aircraft are also less affected by bad weather than turboprop aircraft.
Turboprop vs Jet: Operating Cost
There are many factors to consider when comparing the operating costs of a turboprop and a jet aircraft. The most important factor is typically the price of fuel.
Turboprops are more efficient for short distances because they have a higher power-to-weight ratio. This allows them to take off and land more easily, and they are also more fuel-efficient at lower altitudes.
Other factors include engine maintenance and repair costs, as well as the cost of leasing or owning the aircraft.
Turboprops are typically more fuel efficient than jets, so they have lower operating costs.
- More efficient
Turboprop engines are one of the most efficient types of aircraft engines available. They are capable of burning less fuel while still providing the same amount of power for short distances. This makes them an attractive option for both private and commercial pilots who are looking to save money on fuel costs.
- Take off and land on shorter runways
A turboprop has an advantage over a jet when traveling to destinations with shorter, less improved runways. Turboprops can land on runways as short as 3,200 feet, while jets have a minimum of 5,000 feet. Turboprops can also handle grass airfields that jets must avoid.
- Lower costs to charter
A turboprop is less expensive to charter and own than a jet because it has fewer moving parts in its engine, making it more reliable and requiring less maintenance. Additionally, turboprops burn less fuel per hour than jets, resulting in a lower hourly operating cost.
Jet Engines Advantages
Jet engines are the most common type of propulsion system for modern aircraft. They are highly efficient and can generate large amounts of thrust, making them ideal for long-distance flight.
- Higher ceiling than a turboprop
The average light jet will fly at 41,000 feet, which is substantially higher than a turboprop’s 30,000-foot ceiling. This can mean the difference between a smooth, comfortable flight and a flight marred by turbulence thanks to flying at a high altitude.
- Faster than turboprops
You can expect to arrive at your destination faster in a jet than you would in a turboprop. On average, light jets have cruising speeds of between 370 and 450 knots. The jet engine design also provides a quieter cabin than a turboprop.
- More efficient in long range flights
Light jets are chosen for mid-to-long-range flights because they can fly faster and at higher altitudes than other types of jets. This makes them more efficient and able to fly longer distances.
- Slower speeds than a light jet
Since turboprops are not as fast as jets, expect your flight to take longer. The hourly cost of a turboprop is lower, but for longer flights, the jet will be faster and offset the cost savings.
- Lower ceiling
Turboprops typically can’t fly as high as jets, only reaching altitudes of 25,000-30,000 feet. This means that if you encounter turbulence or bad weather conditions at that altitude, a turboprop can’t avoid them by flying to a higher altitude like a jet can. This may make for a bumpy and uncomfortable ride.
- Shorter range
Turboprops have shorter range than other types of planes because they fly more slowly and at a lower altitude. This is true even though turboprops are more efficient. So if you’re planning a long flight, a turboprop is not the right kind of plane to use. The average range for a turboprop is 1,000 to 1,300 miles.
Jet Engines Disadvantages
Jet engines are the most commonly used type of propulsion system for commercial airplanes. They are also used in many military fighter jets and some high-performance recreational aircraft. Jet engines are very efficient and can produce large amounts of thrust, but they have some disadvantages.
- Less efficient at shorter flights
A jet is most efficient when it is operating at a faster speed and a higher altitude. However, during takeoff, a jet will be less efficient than a turboprop because it is going at a slower speed and a lower altitude. This means that for short flights that don’t spend much time at cruising altitude, a jet will cost more per hour than a turboprop.
- Can’t take off and land everywhere
While jets may be able to take off and land in standard airports, they are not able to land in more remote areas with a shorter runway or an unimproved grass airstrip. On average, jets need a paved runway that is at least 5,000 feet long. Turboprops, however, can land on a 3,200-foot grass stip.
- Higher maintenance costs
The jet aircrafts are consistently more costly than the turboprops because they have more moving parts and their engines are more complex.
Turboprop vs Jet: Safety
While turboprops and jets both use turbine engines and are thus essentially the same, some people consider turboprops to be slightly safer than jets. The main difference between the two is that turboprops have a propeller on the outside of the engine while jets have fan blades inside the engine housing.
Turboprops might be more advantageous than jets on smaller runways because they can stop more quickly due to the drag propellers cause.
So, both turboprops and jet engine aircraft are as safe as they can be. The question would be between piston engine aircraft. In this case, turboprops and jets are considered much safer, especially those aircraft with twin engines. If safety is a major concern of yours and you have a say in the aircraft you charter, the redundancy of a turbine engine is about as safe as you can get.