Turbine Engines (Part One)

An aircraft turbine engine consists of an air inlet, compressor, combustion chambers, a turbine section, and exhaust. Thrust is produced by increasing the velocity of the air flowing through the engine. Turbine engines are highly desirable aircraft powerplants. They are characterized by smooth operation and a high power-to-weight ratio, and they use readily available jet fuel. Prior to recent advances in material, engine design, and manufacturing processes, the use of turbine engines in small/light production aircraft was cost prohibitive.

 

Today, several aviation manufacturers are producing or plan to produce small/light turbine-powered aircraft. These smaller turbine-powered aircraft typically seat between three and seven passengers and are referred to as very light jets (VLJs) or microjets. [Figure 7-22]

Figure 7-22. Eclipse 500 VLJ.

Figure 7-22. Eclipse 500 VLJ.

Types of Turbine Engines

Turbine engines are classified according to the type of compressors they use. There are three types of compressors—centrifugal flow, axial flow, and centrifugal-axial flow. Compression of inlet air is achieved in a centrifugal flow engine by accelerating air outward perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the machine. The axial-flow engine compresses air by a series of rotating and stationary airfoils moving the air parallel to the longitudinal axis. The centrifugal-axial flow design uses both kinds of compressors to achieve the desired compression.

The path the air takes through the engine and how power is produced determines the type of engine. There are four types of aircraft turbine engines—turbojet, turboprop, turbofan, and turboshaft.

Turbojet

The turbojet engine consists of four sections—compressor, combustion chamber, turbine section, and exhaust. The compressor section passes inlet air at a high rate of speed to the combustion chamber. The combustion chamber contains the fuel inlet and igniter for combustion. The expanding air drives a turbine, which is connected by a shaft to the compressor, sustaining engine operation. The accelerated exhaust gases from the engine provide thrust. This is a basic application of compressing air, igniting the fuel-air mixture, producing power to self-sustain the engine operation, and exhaust for propulsion. [Figure 7-23]

Figure 7-23. Turbojet engine.

Figure 7-23. Turbojet engine. [click image to enlarge]

Turbojet engines are limited in range and endurance. They are also slow to respond to throttle applications at slow compressor speeds.

Turboprop

A turboprop engine is a turbine engine that drives a propeller through a reduction gear. The exhaust gases drive a power turbine connected by a shaft that drives the reduction gear assembly. Reduction gearing is necessary in turboprop engines because optimum propeller performance is achieved at much slower speeds than the engine’s operating rpm. Turboprop engines are a compromise between turbojet engines and reciprocating powerplants. Turboprop engines are most efficient at speeds between 250 and 400 mph and altitudes between 18,000 and 30,000 feet. They also perform well at the slow airspeeds required for takeoff and landing and are fuel efficient. The minimum specific fuel consumption of the turboprop engine is normally available in the altitude range of 25,000 feet to the tropopause. [Figure 7-24]

Figure 7-24. Turboprop engine.

Figure 7-24. Turboprop engine. [click image to enlarge]

Turbofan

Turbofans were developed to combine some of the best features of the turbojet and the turboprop. Turbofan engines are designed to create additional thrust by diverting a secondary airflow around the combustion chamber. The turbofan bypass air generates increased thrust, cools the engine, and aids in exhaust noise suppression. This provides turbojet-type cruise speed and lower fuel consumption.

The inlet air that passes through a turbofan engine is usually divided into two separate streams of air. One stream passes through the engine core, while a second stream bypasses the engine core. It is this bypass stream of air that is responsible for the term “bypass engine.” A turbofan’s bypass ratio refers to the ratio of the mass airflow that passes through the fan divided by the mass airflow that passes through the engine core. [Figure 7-25]

Figure 7-25. Turbofan engine.

Figure 7-25. Turbofan engine. [click image to enlarge]

Turboshaft

The fourth common type of jet engine is the turboshaft. [Figure 7-26] It delivers power to a shaft that drives something other than a propeller. The biggest difference between a turbojet and turboshaft engine is that on a turboshaft engine, most of the energy produced by the expanding gases is used to drive a turbine rather than produce thrust. Many helicopters use a turboshaft gas turbine engine. In addition, turboshaft engines are widely used as auxiliary power units on large aircraft.

Figure 7-26. Turboshaft engine.

Figure 7-26. Turboshaft engine. [click image to enlarge]

Turbine Engine Instruments

Engine instruments that indicate oil pressure, oil temperature, engine speed, exhaust gas temperature, and fuel flow are common to both turbine and reciprocating engines. However, there are some instruments that are unique to turbine engines. These instruments provide indications of engine pressure ratio, turbine discharge pressure, and torque. In addition, most gas turbine engines have multiple temperature-sensing instruments, called thermocouples, which provide pilots with temperature readings in and around the turbine section.

 

Engine Pressure Ratio (EPR)

An engine pressure ratio (EPR) gauge is used to indicate the power output of a turbojet/turbofan engine. EPR is the ratio of turbine discharge to compressor inlet pressure. Pressure measurements are recorded by probes installed in the engine inlet and at the exhaust. Once collected, the data is sent to a differential pressure transducer, which is indicated on a flight deck EPR gauge.

EPR system design automatically compensates for the effects of airspeed and altitude. Changes in ambient temperature require a correction be applied to EPR indications to provide accurate engine power settings.

Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT)

A limiting factor in a gas turbine engine is the temperature of the turbine section. The temperature of a turbine section must be monitored closely to prevent overheating the turbine blades and other exhaust section components. One common way of monitoring the temperature of a turbine section is with an EGT gauge. EGT is an engine operating limit used to monitor overall engine operating conditions.

Variations of EGT systems bear different names based on the location of the temperature sensors. Common turbine temperature sensing gauges include the turbine inlet temperature (TIT) gauge, turbine outlet temperature (TOT) gauge, interstage turbine temperature (ITT) gauge, and turbine gas temperature (TGT) gauge.

Torquemeter

Turboprop/turboshaft engine power output is measured by the torquemeter. Torque is a twisting force applied to a shaft. The torquemeter measures power applied to the shaft. Turboprop and turboshaft engines are designed to produce torque for driving a propeller. Torquemeters are calibrated in percentage units, foot-pounds, or psi.

N1 Indicator

N1 represents the rotational speed of the low pressure compressor and is presented on the indicator as a percentage of design rpm. After start, the speed of the low pressure compressor is governed by the N1 turbine wheel. The N1 turbine wheel is connected to the low pressure compressor through a concentric shaft.

N2 Indicator

N2 represents the rotational speed of the high pressure compressor and is presented on the indicator as a percentage of design rpm. The high pressure compressor is governed by the N2 turbine wheel. The N2 turbine wheel is connected to the high pressure compressor through a concentric shaft. [Figure 7-27]

Figure 7-27. Dual-spool axial-flow compressor.

Figure 7-27. Dual-spool axial-flow compressor.