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Keeping in mind the basic theory of turbine engines, compare the advantages and disadvantages of the turbine engine with the piston or reciprocating engine. The advantages are covered in the subparagraphs below, and disadvantages are discussed in the next section.

  • Power-to-weight ratio. Turbine engines have a higher power-to-weight ratio than reciprocating engines. An example of this is the T55-L-l11. It weighs approximately 650 pounds and delivers 3, 750 shaft horsepower. The power-to-weight ratio for this engine is 5.60 shp per pound, where the average reciprocating engine has a power-to-weight ratio of approximately .67 shp per pound.
  • Less maintenance. Maintenance per hour of operation is especially important in military operations. Turbine engines require less maintenance per flying hour than reciprocating engines generally do. As an aircraft maintenance officer, this advantage will appeal to you because of a greater aircraft availability and lower maintenance hour to flying hour ratio. The turbine engine also has fewer moving parts than a reciprocating engine; this is also an advantage over the reciprocating engine.
  • Less drag. Because of the design, the turbine engine has a smaller frontal area than the reciprocating engine. A reciprocating engine requires a large frontal area which causes a great deal of drag on the aircraft. Turbine engines are more streamlined in design, causing less drag. Figure 1.6 shows one of the two nacelles that contain reciprocating engines in the old CH-37 cargo helicopter. Figure 1.7 shows the smaller frontal area of the turbine engines that power the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. Because of this, the engine nacelles are more streamlined in design, causing less drag.

Reciprocating Engine Nacelles on CH-37
Figure 1.6. Reciprocating Engine Nacelles on CH-37.

Turbine Engine Nacelles on CH-47
Figure 1.7. Turbine Engine Nacelles on CH-47.

  • Cold weather starting. The turbine engine does not require any oil dilution or preheating of the engine before starting. Also, once started, the reciprocating engine takes a long time to warm up to operating temperatures, whereas the turbine engine starts readily and is up to operating temperature immediately.
  • Low oil consumption. The turbine engine, in general, has a lower rate of oil consumption than the reciprocating engine. The turbine engine does not require the oil reservoir capacity to be as large as the reciprocating engine's; because of this, a weight and economy factor is an additional advantage.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015