Turbofan vs. Turboprop

What's the Difference?

Turbofan and turboprop engines are both widely used in the aviation industry, but they differ in terms of their design and functionality. Turbofan engines are primarily used in commercial airliners and are known for their high thrust and fuel efficiency. They consist of a large fan at the front that draws in air, which is then split into two streams - one passing through the core engine and the other bypassing it. This design allows turbofans to generate both thrust and additional propulsion from the bypass air, making them ideal for long-haul flights. On the other hand, turboprop engines are commonly found in smaller aircraft and regional airliners. They feature a propeller at the front that is driven by a turbine engine, providing both thrust and propulsion. Turboprops are known for their efficiency at lower speeds and shorter distances, making them suitable for regional and short-haul flights.


Photo by Pablo Romay on Unsplash
Engine TypeTurbojet with a fanTurbine engine with a propeller
Primary UseCommercial aviationGeneral aviation, regional aviation
ThrustGenerated by both the jet exhaust and the fanGenerated primarily by the propeller
SpeedHigher speed capabilitiesLower speed capabilities
EfficiencyHigher fuel efficiencyLower fuel efficiency
AltitudeCapable of flying at higher altitudesUsually operates at lower altitudes
NoiseQuieter compared to turbopropsCan be noisier
Takeoff and LandingRequires longer runways for takeoff and landingCan operate from shorter runways
ApplicationsCommercial airliners, military aircraftSmall aircraft, regional airliners
Photo by Higor Prestes on Unsplash

Further Detail


When it comes to aircraft propulsion systems, two popular options are turbofan and turboprop engines. Both of these technologies have their own unique attributes and are commonly used in different types of aircraft. In this article, we will explore the key differences and similarities between turbofan and turboprop engines, examining their design, performance, efficiency, and applications.


Turbofan engines are a type of gas turbine engine that feature a large fan at the front, which is responsible for generating most of the thrust. The fan is driven by a turbine connected to the engine's core, which consists of a compressor, combustion chamber, and turbine. The core produces the necessary power to drive the fan and provide additional thrust. On the other hand, turboprop engines also utilize a gas turbine, but their primary source of propulsion is a propeller. The turbine drives the propeller directly, resulting in a more straightforward design compared to turbofans.


When it comes to performance, turbofan engines excel at high speeds and altitudes. The large fan allows for efficient bypass airflow, which contributes to higher thrust and better fuel efficiency. Turbofans are commonly used in commercial airliners, where speed and range are crucial. On the other hand, turboprop engines are optimized for lower speeds and altitudes. They are known for their excellent low-speed performance and are often used in regional aircraft, commuter planes, and military transport planes. Turboprops offer good fuel efficiency at lower speeds, making them ideal for shorter distances.


Efficiency is a critical factor in aircraft engines, as it directly impacts fuel consumption and operating costs. Turbofan engines are designed to be highly efficient at high speeds, thanks to their bypass airflow. The bypass ratio, which represents the ratio of bypass air to the air passing through the core, is typically higher in turbofans. This allows for better fuel economy and reduced noise levels. Turboprop engines, on the other hand, are more efficient at lower speeds. The propeller design and direct drive system contribute to their efficiency in the low-speed regime. Turboprops are known for their ability to operate at lower power settings, resulting in reduced fuel consumption during takeoff, climb, and descent.


Both turbofan and turboprop engines find their applications in various aircraft types, each suited to specific needs. Turbofan engines are commonly used in commercial airliners, such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s. These aircraft require high speeds, long-range capabilities, and the ability to carry a large number of passengers. Turbofans are also utilized in military fighter jets, where speed and maneuverability are crucial. On the other hand, turboprop engines are prevalent in regional aircraft, such as the Bombardier Q400 and ATR 72. These planes operate on shorter routes, connecting smaller airports and offering better fuel efficiency at lower speeds. Turboprops are also utilized in military transport planes, where their ability to operate from shorter runways and carry heavy loads is advantageous.

Noise Levels

Noise reduction is an important consideration in aircraft design, as it impacts both passenger comfort and environmental regulations. Turbofan engines are generally quieter compared to turboprops. The bypass airflow in turbofans helps to muffle the noise generated by the core engine components, resulting in lower noise levels. This makes turbofans more suitable for commercial airliners, where passenger comfort is a priority. Turboprop engines, due to their propeller design, produce more noise, especially during takeoff and landing. However, advancements in technology have led to the development of quieter turboprop engines, reducing their noise footprint and making them more acceptable for use in urban areas.

Maintenance and Reliability

Maintenance and reliability are crucial factors in aircraft operations, as they directly impact safety and operational costs. Turbofan engines are generally more complex than turboprops, with a higher number of components and systems. This complexity can result in increased maintenance requirements and costs. However, turbofans are known for their high reliability and long service life. Turboprop engines, on the other hand, have a simpler design and fewer moving parts, which can lead to lower maintenance requirements and costs. Turboprops are often favored for their robustness and ability to operate in harsh environments, making them suitable for military applications and remote areas with limited maintenance facilities.


In conclusion, turbofan and turboprop engines have distinct attributes that make them suitable for different aircraft types and operating conditions. Turbofans excel at high speeds and altitudes, offering excellent fuel efficiency and range, making them ideal for commercial airliners and military fighter jets. Turboprops, on the other hand, are optimized for lower speeds and altitudes, providing good fuel efficiency and low-speed performance, making them popular in regional aircraft and military transport planes. Both technologies continue to evolve, with ongoing advancements in efficiency, noise reduction, and reliability. The choice between turbofan and turboprop engines ultimately depends on the specific requirements of the aircraft and the intended operating conditions.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.