The terms “jet” and “plane” can be confusing to many people.
After all, you commonly come across terms like “private jet”, “private plane”, “commercial jet”, “passenger plane”, “passenger jet”.
Is there even any difference between the two, or can the terms “jet” and “plane” be used interchangeably.
In short, a jet can be a plane, but a plane can’t always be a jet. This is because a jet describes any plane that has a jet engine.
A jet engine can either be a turbojet or turbofan engine, whereas a non-jet engine used in an aircraft is usually a turboprop.
Turboprop engines are typically found in propeller planes.
While these planes are still commonly used, planes that use jet engines – i.e. jets – dominate the world of commercial and private air travel due to their ability to get to the destination more quickly and safely.
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How Jet Engines Work
Jet engines generate a tremendous amount of thrust by jet propulsion, which in turn causes the plane to fly very fast.
Without getting too technical and explained as simply as possible:
- A jet engine sucks air in at the front with a fan.
- A compressor, which is made with numerous blades attached to a shaft, raises the pressure of the air.
- The blades then spin at high speed and compress or squeeze the air.
- This compressed air is then sprayed with fuel, and an electric spark lights the mixture.
- As the generated jets of gas shoot backward through a nozzle, at the back of the engine, thrust is generated
How Turboprop Engines Work
Turboprop engines work differently to jet engines.
A turboprop engine uses a gas turbine core to turn a propeller. Thrust is generated by moving a large mass of air through a small change in velocity.
While turboprop engines can be very efficient, planes that use them are not capable of going as fast as planes equipped with jet engines.
One clear benefit of turboprop engines is that the initial climb and takeoff performance is much better.
Turboprops also provide a clear advantage when landing, as they can land on much shorter runways while also being able to stop very quickly.
Are Jets or Propeller Planes Better?
A jet isn’t necessarily better than a propeller plan and vice versa.
It depends on what is more important to the pilot and their passengers.
While you might think that all commercial airlines use planes with jet engines, this isn’t always the case.
Regional airlines that serve small hub airports will often use propeller aircraft with turboprop engines. If the runway is short, then there may be no choice other than to use a turboprop aircraft.
Additionally, a jet would find it near impossible to land on a grass runway, whereas a propeller aircraft would usually have no issue handling this.
- Weather Conditions
Propeller planes are typically smaller and therefore feel the effect of weather conditions like thunderstorms more strongly than jets.
Jets have the advantage of being larger as well as the ability to fly at higher altitudes. This means that any turbulence is not felt as strongly, and by climbing to higher altitudes, turbulence can even be avoided altogether.
Jets have a greater range compared to turboprops. Most turboprops can only fly up to 1,500 miles, whereas jets can more than triple this range by being able to fly over 5,000 miles.
However, this isn’t the case for every single jet. Many light jets are capable of flying up to 2,400 miles.
When it comes to chartering and private ownership, there is no doubt that jets are the vastly more expensive of the two.
Fuel efficiency is partly a reason for this, but so are the higher costs involved with insurance, operation and maintenance.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.