5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Jet Engines

It’s one thing to wrap your head around the physics of the Wright brothers’ plane, but how do you generate enough power to sling a 350-ton Boeing 747 into the air and keep it cruising at 1,000-plus kilometres (640 miles) per hour? These extraordinary powerhouses are fascinating, even to those who work with them on a daily basis, which is why we’d like to share some facts about jet engines with you.

1. What does an aircraft engine cost?

That’s an interesting question, but it’s surprising difficult to answer. Most aircraft are fully equipped with engines when purchased, so you could say it’s a package deal. And then there are so many different types of engines, which each have their own thrust rating. Roughly speaking, an engine can cost anything from 12 to 35 million dollars.

2. Heavy-duty turbines

To generate electricity, some powerplants use 100-ton gas turbine engines fuelled by natural gas. Residual heat can be used to boil water for a secondary steam turbine.

3. When does an engine need servicing?

Every engine must undergo minor or major maintenance after a set number of flight cycles. This varies depending on the engine type. For instance, the CF6-80E, which powers KLM’s Airbus A330s, requires major maintenance approximately every 7,300 cycles and minor maintenance every 200 to 400 cycles.

4. What is the biggest aircraft engine in the world?

General Electric’s GE90-115B, with a diameter of 3.25 metres, generating 115,000 pounds of thrust, is currently the biggest in the world. You’ll find these big boys hanging under the wings of KLM’s Boeing 777-300s, which are easily recognisable because they are all named after world heritage sites, such as the Yellowstone National Park.

5. How a jet engine works

A jet engine is similar to a piston engine, but it is a little more complex. Instead of having a design which uses fuel burned to move pistons through a four-stroke cycle, a jet engine is powered by constantly spinning turbine blades. Making the turbine blades spin, requires a continuous supply of fuel and air to burn.