Refresher Lesson: The Difference Between Radial and Turbine Engines

Turbine engines, also commonly known as jet engines, are different than radial engines. Some pilots who fly smaller aircraft find that radial engines are more fun to fly, while pilots of jet engine aircraft find the extra steps involved in flying a radial engine too difficult.

Turbine Engines

Turbine enginesTurbine engines operate similar to a steam power plant, except they use air instead of water. Air flows through a compressor, creating higher pressure, and fuel is sprayed into that air so that it ignites and creates energy. The gas created enters a turbine, expanding and producing shaft work output. The turbine shaft then works to drive the compressor and generator, and energy not used in the process is expelled as exhaust fumes.

Radial Engines

Radial engines, also referred to as “round engines” by pilots, resemble a star when viewed from the front, as cylinders point outward from a central crankshaft. Radial engines were common in aircraft before the development of turbine engines, and many pilots still prefer flying radial engine airplanes. In a radial engine, pistons are connected to the crankshaft using a rod assembly. One piston has a master rod with a direct attachment to the crankshaft. Normally, radial engines have an every-other-piston firing action that makes the motion more uniform.

Main Differences

Radial engines often have a large frontal area, which sometimes made planes—especially those used in battle—less aerodynamic. Turbine engines also fly at higher rates of speed than aircraft powered by rotary engines, but are often less fuel efficient and much louder than rotary engines. Many pilots claim that rotary engines are more challenging to fly, as the steps for take-offs, in flight and landings are much more complicated than turbine engines.

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5 thoughts on “Refresher Lesson: The Difference Between Radial and Turbine Engines

  1. radial and rotary are not interchangeable. they look the same, but a rotary the whole engine spins and crankshaft is fixed.

    1. The only time I flew a 985 was on the twin beech
      I flew various models but mainly super E with crosswind gear. I have flown more turbine engines than I can list.

  2. THE AIR IS FORCED INTO THE COMPRESSOR TO COMPRESSED THE AIR NOT CREATE HIGHER PRESSURE. THE COMPRESSED AIR IS THAN LET INTO THE COMBUSTION CHAMBER TO BE BURN WITH THE FUEL JET FUEL JET A OR JP-8 AND THAN THE GAS ARE DIRECTED TO THE TURBINE AND THE EXHAUST IS USED TO TURN THE TURBINES WHICH TURN THE COMPRESSOR AND ALSO OTHER EQUIPMENT WORKS OFF THE COMPRESS AIR LIKE AIRCONDITIONING, YOU GOT SOME OF IT RIGHT BUT DO READ UP ON AIRCRFT ENGINES LIKE INLINE ENGINES FAN JET ETC

  3. One more common situation for both types is the cycle of operation (Otto vs Brayton) intake ,compression,combustion and finally exhaust.
    I will mention as a main difference the compleximpility of radial engine to the jet one which makes the radial one more difficult to maintain (for unexpierienced mechs timing an engine could be a living hell).

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