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 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, 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.
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.