How Does a Jet Engine Work?

Jet engines are complex machines. By definition, they’re “any of a class of internal-combustion engines that propel aircraft by means of the rearward discharge of a jet of fluid, usually hot exhaust gases generated by burning fuel with air drawn in from the atmosphere.” Originally adapted from the piston engine, the first jet engine to incorporate a turbine design dates back as far as 1921. English inventor Frank Whittle patented his design in 1930, began testing in 1937, and achieved first flight in 1941. While development for Whittle was slow due to lack of interest, independent work in Germany was significantly faster with a patent issued in 1935 and the very first flight a turbojet-powered aircraft, the Heinkel HE-178, by 1939.

Generally, the jet engine involves two main components, the prime mover, which is usually a gas turbine, and the propulsor. The energy released from the combustion of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is converted into mechanical energy in the form of high-pressure, high-temperature airstream by the gas turbine. Then, the mechanical energy is harnessed by the propulsor to generate a thrust to propel the aircraft.

For a jet engine to have high propulsive efficiency, the exiting jet velocity cannot greatly exceed the flight speed, and yet the thrust generated is proportional to the velocity excess that must be minimized. Because the requirements are so restrictive, jet engines have become very specialized, with each tailored to achieve a balance of good fuel efficiency, low weight, and compact size for use in their specific flight speed-altitude-mission application. However, they all share the same two major characteristics. One, in order to achieve high efficiency, the jet velocity is matched to the flight speed of the aircraft. Slow aircraft have low jet velocities and fast aircraft have high jet velocities. Two, to match the jet velocity to the flight speed, the size of the propulsor varies inversely with the flight speed of the aircraft. Slow aircraft have large propulsors and vice versa.

At Buy NSN, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we know how important it is that your jet engines are working at full capacity. So, as a premier supplier of aviation parts such as jet engine parts, turbines, and propellers, we make sure that our inventory is stocked with the highest quality parts and ready to ship immediately. If you’re interested in more information or a quote, email us at or call us at +1-919-348-4040.


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