Gas Turbine Engines – Types and Construction

in Aircraft Engines

In a reciprocating engine, the functions of intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust all take place in the same combustion chamber. Consequently, each must have exclusive occupancy of the chamber during its respective part of the combustion cycle. A significant feature of the gas turbine engine is that separate sections are devoted to each function, and all functions are performed simultaneously without interruption.

A typical gas turbine engine consists of:

  1. An air inlet,
  2. Compressor section,
  3. Combustion section,
  4. Turbine section,
  5. Exhaust section,
  6. Accessory section, and
  7. The systems necessary for starting, lubrication, fuel supply, and auxiliary purposes, such as anti-icing, cooling, and pressurization.

The major components of all gas turbine engines are basically the same; however, the nomenclature of the component parts of various engines currently in use varies slightly due to the difference in each manufacturer’s terminology. These differences are reflected in the applicable maintenance manuals. One of the greatest single factors influencing the construction features of any gas turbine engine is the type of compressor or compressors for which the engine is designed.

Four types of gas turbine engines are used to propel and power aircraft. They are the turbofan, turboprop, turboshaft, and turbojet. The term “turbojet” was used to describe any gas turbine engine used in aircraft. As gas turbine technology evolved, these other engine types were developed to take the place of the pure turbojet engine. The turbojet engine has problems with noise and fuel consumption in the speed range that airliners fly (.8 Mach). Due to these problems, use of pure turbojet engines is very limited. So, almost all airliner-type aircraft use a turbofan engine. It was developed to turn a large fan or set of fans at the front of the engine and produces about 80 percent of the thrust from the engine. This engine was quieter and has better fuel consumption in this speed range. Turbofan engines have more than one shaft in the engine; many are two-shaft engines. This means that there is a compressor and a turbine that drives it and another compressor and turbine that drives it. These two shafted engines use two spools (a spool is a compressor and a shaft and turbines that driven that compressor). In a two-spool engine, there is a high-pressure spool and a low pressure spool. The low-pressure spool generally contains the fan(s) and the turbine stages it takes to drive them. The high-pressure spool is the high-pressure compressor, shaft, and turbines. This spool makes up the core of the engine, and this is where the combustion section is located. The high-pressure spool is also referred to as the gas generator because it contains the combustion section.

Figure 1-43. Turbofan engine with separate nozzles fan and core.

Figure 1-43. Turbofan engine with separate nozzles fan and core.

Turbofan engines can be low bypass or high bypass. The amount of air that is bypassed around the core of the engine determines the bypass ratio. As can be seen in Figure 1-43, the air generally driven by the fan does not pass through the internal working core of the engine. The amount of air flow in lb/sec from the fan bypass to the core flow of the engine is the bypass ratio.


Some low-bypass turbofan engines are used in speed ranges above .8 Mach (military aircraft). These engines use augmenters or afterburners to increase thrust. By adding more fuel nozzles and a flame holder in the exhaust system extra fuel can be sprayed and burned which can give large increases in thrust for short amounts of time.

The turboprop engine is a gas turbine engine that turns a propeller through a speed reduction gear box. This type of engine is most efficient in the 300 to 400 mph speed range and can use shorter runways that other aircraft. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of the energy developed by the gas turbine engine is used to drive the propeller. The rest of the available energy exits the exhaust as thrust. By adding the horsepower developed by the engine shaft and the horsepower in the exiting thrust, the answer is equivalent shaft horsepower.

With regard to aircraft, the turboshaft engine is a gas turbine engine made to transfer horsepower to a shaft that turns a helicopter transmission or is an onboard auxiliary power unit (APU). An APU is used on turbine-powered aircraft to provide electrical power and bleed air on the ground and a backup generator in flight. Turboshaft engines can come in many different styles, shapes, and horsepower ranges.