Jet vs Reciprocating Airplane Engines: What’s the Difference?

All airplanes require one or more engines. Engines are responsible for generating propulsion, which along with lift, allows airplanes to safely traverse the skies. While some airplanes have jet engines, though, others have reciprocating engines. Jet engines and reciprocating engines are both used to generate propulsion by consuming energy. Nonetheless, they are two different types of airplane engines with their own unique properties.

What Is a Jet Engine?

A jet engine is a type of airplane engine that’s characterized by a jet-based method of propulsion. Most jet engines have an internal combustion chamber. Within this combustion chamber, they burn a mixture of jet fuel and air. As these elements burn, they create byproduct gases that are released out of the back of the jet engine. The fast speed at which these byproduct gases are released then propels the airplane forward.

What Is a Reciprocating Engine?

A reciprocating engine, on the other hand, is a type of airplane engine that’s characterized by the use of reciprocating pistons to generate propulsion. Reciprocating engines typically have a set of sets. During use, the pistons will reciprocate will converting pressure into a rotational force.

There are several variants of reciprocating engines, some of the most common being in-line, horizontally opposed and radial. Of those three variants, radial is the most common. Radial reciprocating engines have cylinders that protrude or radiate out of the crankcase.

Differences Between Jet and Reciprocating Engines

Jet and reciprocating engines are undoubtedly similar. They both consist of a combustion chamber, and they both burn a mixture of fuel and air. With that said, jet and reciprocating engines aren’t the same. One of the main differences between them is that reciprocating engines have a set of pistons, whereas jet engines do not have pistons.

Jet engines are typically more powerful than reciprocating engines as well. They can produce more propulsion than their reciprocating counterparts, resulting in faster flight speeds for airplanes. The downside to their increased propulsion, though, is poor efficiency. Jet engines are less efficient than reciprocating engines. They consume more fuel, making them a poor choice for long-distance flights.

There are other types of engines, but jet and reciprocating are the two most common. Most airplanes are powered by either jet engines or reciprocating engines. Only reciprocating engines have pistons, which is the main difference between these two common types of engines.

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