Tag Archives: aircraft turbine engine

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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Airplane Maintenance


Although every aviation mechanic should be well-versed in the maintenance requirements of aircraft turbine engines, with time comes complacency. Failure to adequately perform maintenance on a gas turbine engine can lead to engine failure, which could have catastrophic, if not deadly, results.  Therefore, let’s examine a few routine maintenance items on aircraft turbine engines that are often overlooked.

Improper Torqueing Techniques

One common error during maintenance on an aircraft turbine engine is using improper torque.  Mechanics often estimate the amount of torque they are using rather than getting a torque wrench to perform the maintenance correctly.  When engineers design an aircraft, whether it is one with a large or small turbine engine, a thorough analysis is done on the stresses that will affect each part of an aircraft.  Under-torqued hardware will result in inadequate preload and lead to unnecessary wear on nuts and bolts, while over-torqued hardware exceeds the design limits and often leads to failure.

Improper O-Ring Installation

When mechanics get busy, O-ring installation is one of the aircraft turbine engine maintenance requirements that are easily overlooked. However, by following good standard practices, O-ring maintenance is much easier.  Inspect O-rings prior to installation, looking for manufacturing defects, such as cracks or material left over from the manufacturing process.  Ensure the O-rings are properly lubricated using the correct type of lubricant.  Improperly lubricated O-rings can clog filters and fuel nozzles.  Install a protective sleeve over any threads the O-ring slides over to prevent damage.

Clamp Complacency

Another area where mechanics can become complacent while performing routine aircraft turbine engine maintenance is inspecting the many clamps found in the aircraft engine.  Mechanics should inspect clamps for proper cushioning as worn or out-of-position clamps can cause wire and tubing chafing.  When clamps are replaced, check for damage to the tubing where the clamp was located, and replace the clamp with one of the same size.  A clamp that is too small will pinch the hose, while one that is too large will not hold the hose securely.  Solvents spilled on rubber clamps could cause deterioration of the rubber, so use caution.  Never use tie wraps in place of clamps as tie wraps are hard enough to cause serious damage to the wiring, tubing and engine frames.


Visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com for more information about aircraft turbine engine, as well as radial engine, overhauls, maintenance and repair.  You can also find us on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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