Turboprop vs Turboshaft Engine: What’s the Difference?

Propeller airplane

When researching aircraft engines, you may come across turboprop and turboshaft. They are two common types of propeller-based engines. Some airplanes are powered by traditional jet engines, such a turbojet engines. Others, however, are powered by propeller-based engines, such as a turboprop or turboshaft. What are turboprop and turboshaft engines exactly, and how do they differ?

What Is a Turboprop Engine?

A turboprop engine is a type of aircraft engine that combines the power of a traditional jet engine with the versatility and reliability of a propeller engine. Turboprop engines provide thrust while simultaneously turning a propeller. Traditional jet engines, in comparison, only provide thrust. They burn jet fuel and air to generate thrust, which propels them forward and through the air. Turboprop engines still provide thrust by burning jet fuel and air, but they also turn a propeller.

What Is a Turboshaft Engine?

A turboshaft engine is a type of aircraft engine that, like turboprop engines, burns jet fuel and air to turn a propeller. They are commonly found in helicopters. Many helicopters feature a turboshaft engine. The turboshaft engine turns the helicopter’s propeller to keep it in the air. Turboshaft engines and turboprop engines use a similar design. Nonetheless, they are two different types of aircraft engines.

Differences Between Turboprop and Turboshaft Engines

While they both involve the use of a propeller, turboprop and turboshaft engines aren’t the same. One of the main differences between turboprop and turboshaft engines is that the former connects directly to the propeller, whereas the latter does not.

Turboprop engines are directly connected to the propeller. As a turboprop engine produces thrust, it will simultaneously turn the propeller. Turboshaft engines still turn a propeller, but they aren’t directly connected to a propeller. Instead, turboshaft engines are connected to a gearbox. A transmission sits between turboshaft engines and the propeller. The turboshaft engine will engage the transmission, which will then turn the propeller.

Turboprop and turboshaft engines are also used in different types of aircraft. As previously mentioned, turboshaft engines are commonly found in helicopters. While helicopters are typically powered by a turboshaft engine, airplanes are powered by one or more turboprop engines.

The terms “turboprop” and “turboshaft” are often used synonymously to describe propeller-driven engines that burn jet fuel and air, but they aren’t the same. Turboprop engines connect directly to the propeller, whereas turboshaft engines connect to a gearbox or transmission.

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