What is an Aircraft Power Plant?
Power plants are the engine of the aircraft, aiding in their ability to achieve flight through the generation of thrust. An aircraft power plant may vary in its configuration, sometimes being a singular jet engine, or they may contain propellers aircraft and other components alongside the engine. The configuration mostly depends on the type of aircraft or rotorcraft and its needs. The two most common forms of aircraft power plants are the piston engine and gas turbine engine.
- Piston engines, also referred to as reciprocating engines, utilize pistons to convert pressure into rotational motion. This type of power plant is most commonly used with propeller aircraft and other small airplanes. Spark ignition engines have served as the most popular choice for piston engines, and they utilize pistons and cylinders to transform linear motion to rotary motion of the aircraft crankshaft through fuel combustion.
Piston engines operate through a cycle of four strokes. First, fuel enters the aircraft combustion chamber, pushing the piston downwards. As the piston moves back up, the fuel begins to compress and is ignited by a spark plug. This combustion causes a great force to be exerted on the piston, launching it downwards and creating the energy for rotational motion. Lastly, the piston pushes back up once more, forcing the spent gasses out of the engine as exhaust before repeating the process again.
- Gas turbine engines parts are the other form of aircraft power plants and are the most common form of creating propulsion for aircraft. Within the engine, a mixture of air and fuel is compressed and then internally combusted within chambers. After combustion, a large amount of pressurized, hot gas is produced that is harnessed to drive the turbine blades, creating thrust. Due to the method of combustion and propulsion, exhaust gasses actually prove to be beneficial in creating positive thrust for the aircraft as compared to other types. Gas turbine engines also provide a good power to weight ratio, adding to their popularity.
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