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Turbo-Props: Are Propeller Airplanes Really Safe?


Turboprop corporate aircraft are the back bone of the business aviation fleet across the globe.  Sometimes turbo-props are not understood by private jet travelers but can be a safe, efficient, and highly cost effective option for shorter regional trips and mountain airport operations.

Many people don’t realize that most of the modern twin-engine “propeller” planes used in both corporate aviation and regional airline service are actually using jets to spin propellers.  The term “turbo-prop” is short for turbine engine (i.e. jet engine) powered propellers.  The way it works in the Piaggio and King Air aircraft operated by Mountain Aviation is that air enters the engine nacelle (compartment)and is directed into the engine inlet, a series of steps occurs to compress the air, that then air flows to a combustion chamber where fuel is introduced and a controlled explosion takes place, the exhausted gases exit the engine and are used to power turbines that are mechanically linked to the compression section of the engine (creating the compressed air needed to “explode”) and also turn a fly wheel attached to the propeller.  This of course is a gross oversimplification of a complicated process.  Bottom line: turbo-prop means jet engine spinning propellers.

So why not just use a jet to power the plane?  Well turbo-props are really good at a number of things including:

  1. providing more fuel efficiency at lower altitudes (think shorter trips flown at lower altitudes)
  2. shorter take off distances (great for getting to those smaller airports
  3. better climb performance (perfect for climbing out of the mountain airports Mountain Aviation is famous for operating into and out of!)
  4. better descent, approach, and landing distance performance (propeller blade angles can be adjusted to slow plane down, facilitate steeper approaches into mountain airports, and approach at slower speeds resulting in shorter landing distances, as well as “reversible props” which push air instead of pulling it like they normally do in flight, and act as air brakes once you land).
  5. Lower purchase, ownership, and hourly operating costs: cheaper to buy, own, and operate – it’s that simple

Mountain Aviation has a high utilization turbo-prop fleet consisting of the King Air 90 (5 passengers), King Air 200 (8 passengers), and high-speed/large-cabin Avanti Piaggio II aircraft.  These planes fly everyday and also many nights supporting a multitude of businesses based or with major interests in the Rocky Mountain region.  These aircraft are a more economical choice for many natural-resource extraction companies, health care providers, small businesses, and leisure travelers.

Mountain Aviation’s fleet of turbo-props help bring doctors to serve patients in rural communities, bring skilled labor and engineers that drive the economic engine of oil, gas, and coal industries throughout the West.  And me must not forget that Piaggio and King Air turbo-props help get skiers and summer mountain enthusiast to the remote and extremely challenging mountain airports our pilots have been safely and comfortably navigating for nearly 20 years!

In conclusion, not only are turbo-props safe, convenient, and economical; they are often times the best choice for regional trips to the smallest airports with short runways in addition to steep mountain airport approaches and departures,.  Mountain Aviation is pleased to offer a broad range of turbo-prop aircraft to meet every charter clients need.  Please call today for a quote +1 303 466 3506.

-by Julian Tonsmeire

Mountain Aviation

About the Author

Julian TonsmeireJulian has held a number of position at Mountain over the last 6 years including: Operations Manager and Pilot, providing him with a broad background in corporate aviation and aircraft management. Julian oversees Mountain’s talented Business Development team, specializing in sales and marketing, as well as serving a number of Mountain’s aircraft owners as their Corporate Responsibility Officer.View all posts by Julian Tonsmeire

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