What’s a turboprop engine?

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Turboprop engines power aircraft with an outer propeller and are commonly used in smaller planes. The first true turboprop engine was developed in Hungary, while the UK and US developed mass-marketed models for military and private use. The engine includes a turbine, intake, combustion chamber, compressor, and propulsion nozzle.

Turboprop engines are a form of gas turbine engine used in aircraft of various sizes. Much of the power generated by a turboprop engine goes into the task of driving an outer propeller. In general today, a turboprop engine is an option used with smaller aircraft that do not require the increased power and functionality of a turbojet engine.

Turboprops have their origin in the first half of the 20th century. Most historians agree that the first true turboprop engine was developed in Hungary. Gvorgy Jendrassik is considered the father of the turboprop, with his first small-scale design for the engine appearing in 1937. More elaborate designs and extensive testing were carried out at a factory in Budapest between 1939 and 1942.

The United Kingdom was the site of production and sale of the first mass-marketed turboprop engines. The Rolls Royce Company developed and marketed the RB.50 Trent, considered by many to set the standard for further developments in turboprop technology. Rolls Royce made use of the knowledge gained during the development of the Trent and later produced a highly reliable turboprop engine known as the Dart. The design and function of the Dart was such that production of the engine continued for over fifty years.

In the United States, the first American-made turboprop engine is generally understood as the General Electric T-31. Much of the effort on American models of the turboprop engine was focused on military use rather than passenger or private aircraft. Various designs over the years proved useful in various war situations, and over time the technology also found a niche market among domestically-built private jets.

Essentially, the turboprop engine is a simple device that includes a turbine, intake, combustion chamber, compressor, and a propulsion nozzle. The airflow is processed by the inlet and then goes to the compressor. Fuel is added to the compressed air as it passes through the combustion chamber, creating the power as the mixture passes through the turbine. It is within the turbine that the power used to drive both the propellers and the engine is created. A portion of the energy keeps the compressor running and continues to pass air to the combustor. The rest is passed through the propulsion nozzle and helps create the thrust generated by the propeller.

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