Aircraft Engine Types and Their Capabilities

The engine of an aircraft is paramount for its ability to sustain heavier-than-air flight over significant distances, typically providing thrust for forward propulsion through the combustion of fuel-and-air mixtures and various assemblies. Since the inception of powered flight in the early 1900s, numerous advancements have been made to aircraft engines with more complex types coming about throughout the years. While early engines were more simplistic and are intended for lighter aircraft, we now have jet engines and other advanced types that have revolutionized the ways in which we can design aircraft and traverse the atmosphere. In this blog, we will provide a brief overview of the most common types of aircraft engines, allowing you to understand their differences and their effect on flight operations.

The Wright Brothers Engine

When discussing aviation as a whole, the first instance of powered flight is considered to be the 1903 Wright brothers flight that was conducted near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. For this monumental achievement, the Wright brothers employed a self-designed and constructed canard biplane that was made from wood and took advantage of sprocket chain drives, hand-crafted propellers, and a lightweight gasoline engine.

While other contemporaries of the Wright brothers attempted solutions such as gas powered engines and steam power for powering their airframes, all were unable to reach the success of the Wright brothers. With the ample power provided by gasoline engines and their ability to assist in maintaining lift, such apparatuses quickly became the standard for following aircraft models.

Reciprocating Engines

Before the rise of modern aircraft, reciprocating engines dominated the market for powering airframes. Also known as piston engines, reciprocating engines are notable for their use of one or more reciprocating pistons that transform pressure into a rotating motion. With piston-powered aircraft featuring four to six pistons each on their engine, fuel-and-air mixtures could be created, compressed, and ignited within cylinders, the resulting pressure then being used to drive propeller assemblies for propulsion with the use of a connecting rod and crankshaft.

Including radial engines, in-line-engines, flat engines, and other such types, four and six cylinder reciprocating engines are known for their ability to provide sufficient power for light aircraft and aerobatic airplanes so that they may conduct flight with ease. While six cylinder reciprocating engines are more expensive than four cylinder types, they will typically provide increased power which can be useful for certain needs.

Jet Engines

Jet engines, also known as gas turbine engines, are those that generate propulsion through the use of combusted fuel-and-air mixtures, turbine blade assemblies, and more. With the immense power produced by jet engines, manufacturers have been able to greatly increase the size of aircraft, achieve speeds not thought possible before, and forever change how aerial combat is conducted. While the original Wright brothers aircraft was limited in its speed, operational distance, and power, a modern jet-powered Concorde can traverse the Atlantic Ocean in just three hours or so. Aerobatic aircraft have also highly benefited from the release of jet engines, allowing them to take on quicker turns, tighter maneuvers, and increased angles of attack.


Whether you operate a reciprocating or jet engine, it is crucial that you carry out inspections on a regular basis to guarantee the reliability, operability, and general airworthiness of your systems. At Purchasing 3sixty, we can serve as your sourcing solution for every part you require to successfully carry out your operations. With our purchasing power and market expertise, we work to save customers time and money for every order. Additionally, with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, we stand by the quality of our offerings. Take the time to explore our massive database as you see fit, and our team of industry experts is on standby 24/7x365 to assist customers throughout the purchasing process as necessary. Initiate the procurement process when you are ready and see why customers choose to steadily rely on Purchasing 3sixty for all their operational requirements.


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