A turboprop engine is an engine that uses a turbine to turn an aircraft propeller. You’ll find turboprop engines in aircraft of all sizes, including single-pilot planes and large airliners. They combine the reliability of jet engine thrust with the efficiency of a propeller and, compared to traditional jet engines, bring a variety of advantages with some notable disadvantages.

Pros of Turboprop Engines

Cost-effective and straightforward Operation and Maintenance

A turboprop engine features fewer moving parts than a jet and requires less maintenance. Turboprops also burn less fuel per hour. Due to the efficient nature and simpler turboprop design, the overall cost to own and operate a turboprop is lower than a jet.

High Efficiency

A turboprop engine is more lightweight than a jet engine and provides a higher power output per unit of weight. Turboprops excel at fuel efficiency in low altitudes, being able to attain high speeds with the ability to be more cost-efficient than jet flight.

Flexibility in Takeoffs and Landings

Due to turboprop engines’ lighter weight, they can perform more efficient takeoffs than traditional jet engines. Turboprops also provide a clear advantage over jets in landing capability; due to the drag a propeller brings, turboprops can land on much shorter runway strips and stop very quickly. Additionally, turboprops can land on runways or environments that are not concrete.

Disadvantages of Turboprop Engines

Low Cruising Speed    

Turboprops have a slower maximum cruising speed than jet engines (up to approximately 300 knots indicated airspeed), resulting in a longer flight time. While turboprops are more efficient than jet engines, their low cruising speed may offset cost savings after especially long flight times.

Limited Cruising Altitude

Planes with turboprop engines are typically limited to a lower cruising altitude than jet engines, capping at around 25,000-30,000 feet. Because of this, turboprops are also more susceptible to turbulence, noise, and inclement weather.

Unsuitable for Long-Distance Travel

The low maximum cruising speed and altitude of turboprop engines make turboprops most suitable for shorter distances like regional flights. Traditionally, turboprop planes are limited to flights up to 1,500 miles.

Turboprops Today

While jet engine aircraft are more common than turboprops (many passengers cite the low altitude and more extended flight as issues), turboprop aircraft remain in regular use in modern aviation, both commercial and recreational. The unique feature set of turboprop aircraft makes them an attractive option for many pilots and carriers. As turboprop design advances, some airliners and regional carriers, such as Silver Airlines, are increasing their turboprop fleets. Even more prominent aircraft manufacturers are exploring new turboprop concepts for future airline markets, including Embraer, targeting a new turboprop release for 2025.