Aircraft Engines (Part Two) Power and Weight

in Aircraft Engines

The useful output of all aircraft powerplants is thrust, the force which propels the aircraft. Since the reciprocating engine is rated in brake horsepower (bhp), the gas turbine engine is rated in thrust horsepower (thp):


The value of 375 mile-pounds per hour is derived from the basic horsepower formula as follows:


One horsepower equals 33,000 ft-lb per minute or 375 milepounds per hour. Under static conditions, thrust is figured as equivalent to approximately 2.6 pounds per hour.

If a gas turbine is producing 4,000 pounds of thrust and the aircraft in which the engine is installed is traveling at 500 mph, the thp is:


It is necessary to calculate the horsepower for each speed of an aircraft, since the horsepower varies with speed. Therefore, it is not practical to try to rate or compare the output of a turbine engine on a horsepower basis. The aircraft engine operates at a relatively high percentage of its maximum power output throughout its service life. The aircraft engine is at full power output whenever a takeoff is made. It may hold this power for a period of time up to the limits set by the manufacturer. The engine is seldom held at a maximum power for more than 2 minutes, and usually not that long. Within a few seconds after lift-off, the power is reduced to a power that is used for climbing and that can be maintained for longer periods of time. After the aircraft has climbed to cruising altitude, the power of the engine(s) is further reduced to a cruise power which can be maintained for the duration of the flight.

If the weight of an engine per brake horsepower (called the specific weight of the engine) is decreased, the useful load that an aircraft can carry and the performance of the aircraft obviously are increased. Every excess pound of weight carried by an aircraft engine reduces its performance. Tremendous improvement in reducing the weight of the aircraft engine through improved design and metallurgy has resulted in reciprocating engines with a much improved power-to-weight ratio (specific weight).

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