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Aircraft Engine Performance Comparison

in Aircraft Systems

It is possible to compare the performance of a reciprocating powerplant and different types of turbine engines. For the comparison to be accurate, thrust horsepower (usable horsepower) for the reciprocating powerplant must be used rather than brake horsepower, and net thrust must be used for the turbine-powered engines. In addition, aircraft design configuration and size must be approximately the same. When comparing performance, the following definitions are useful:


Brake horsepower (BHP)—the horsepower actually delivered to the output shaft. Brake horsepower is the actual usable horsepower.

Net thrust—the thrust produced by a turbojet or turbofan engine.

Thrust horsepower (THP)—the horsepower equivalent of the thrust produced by a turbojet or turbofan engine.

Equivalent shaft horsepower (ESHP)—with respect to turboprop engines, the sum of the shaft horsepower (SHP) delivered to the propeller and THP produced by the exhaust gases.

Figure 6-29 shows how four types of engines compare in net thrust as airspeed is increased. This figure is for explanatory purposes only and is not for specific models of engines. The following are the four types of engines:

  • Reciprocating powerplant
  • Turbine, propeller combination (turboprop)
  • Turbine engine incorporating a fan (turbofan)
  • Turbojet (pure jet)
Engine net thrust versus aircraft speed and drag

Figure 6-29. Engine net thrust versus aircraft speed and drag. Points A through F are explained in the text below.

By plotting the performance curve for each engine, a comparison can be made of maximum aircraft speed variation with the type of engine used. Since the graph is only a means of comparison, numerical values for net thrust, aircraft speed, and drag are not included.

Comparison of the four powerplants on the basis of net thrust makes certain performance capabilities evident. In the speed range shown to the left of line A, the reciprocating powerplant outperforms the other three types. The turboprop outperforms the turbofan in the range to the left of line C. The turbofan engine outperforms the turbojet in the range to the left of line F. The turbofan engine outperforms the reciprocating powerplant to the right of line B and the turboprop to the right of line C. The turbojet outperforms the reciprocating powerplant to the right of line D, the turboprop to the right of line E, and the turbofan to the right of line F.

The points where the aircraft drag curve intersects the net thrust curves are the maximum aircraft speeds. The vertical lines from each of the points to the baseline of the graph indicate that the turbojet aircraft can attain a higher maximum speed than aircraft equipped with the other types of engines. Aircraft equipped with the turbofan engine will attain a higher maximum speed than aircraft equipped with a turboprop or reciprocating powerplant.

518VcjVMo3L._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about aircraft and their systems with A Pilot’s Guide to Aircraft and Their Systems by ASA. Pilot-oriented rather than mechanic-oriented, this guide to aircraft systems is designed specifically to help general aviation pilots understand how aircraft systems work so that they can better use them in flight.

 

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