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TurboProp -vs- Jet Engine: Which is the best?

An often overlooked alternative to a typical 'private jet' is a single or double-engined turboprop airframe. Despite the aircraft itself not being a jet, these versatile, balanced and fully capable alternatives offer the same level of interior luxury as most light-jets and should always be considered for short-haul charter itineraries.

In this article, we explore the differences between a traditional turboprop aircraft and a light-jet alternative. For easy comparison, we have decided to compare the Pilatus PC-12 turboProp with the Pilatus PC-24 Light Jet.

The Basics: How Does a Jet Engine Work?

A jet engine comprises of five separate, but important parts:

  1. Fan

  2. Compressor

  3. Combustor

  4. Turbine

  5. Nozzle

Jet engines work by sucking air into the front of the engine using the fan. Once the air has been taken in, the engine compresses the air and raises its pressure. The compressed air is then mixed with the fuel and ignited. The burning gases are then expanded and pass through the turbine before being exhausted out of the nozzle which generates the thrust required to power the aircraft.

Jet engines generate a greater level of thrust which allow aircraft to cruise at higher altitudes and higher speeds, whilst maintaining exceptional fuel-efficiency and operating capabilities at those higher-speeds.

The Basics: How Does a Turboprop Engine Work?

Unlike a jet engine, a turboprop uses an enhanced version of a traditional propeller to generate forward momentum.

Behind the propeller itself is a jet engine which powers the rotation of the propeller and generates the forward momentum. The jet engine behind the propeller functions in a similar fashion to the traditional jet engine, but reverses the thrust back to the propeller to enhance its capabilities over a traditional piston-powered propeller.

A turboprop engine performs better at low to mid altitudes and are more fuel efficient, and therefore cost efficient, when compared to jet engines.

Advantages of a Turboprop Aircraft

The Pilatus PC-12, as a turboprop aircraft, is an unrivalled competitor of similar sized jet engined aircraft with regards to operating costs and fuel efficiency.

The PC-12 is capable of carrying a maximum of 10 passengers, similar to the 11 capacity offered by the PC-24 jet, but at a significantly lower charter costs than the jet alternative due to the overall reduced operating costs for the operator in terms of fuel and maintenance.

The PC-12 as a turboprop doesn't compromise on interior luxury or luggage capacity. Designed by Pilatus to compete with traditional jet aircraft, the aircraft offers the same level of interior comfort and beauty as with jet aircraft, which are priced twice as much for similar interior specifications. To that end, a charterer enjoys the benefits of a privately chartered aircraft at a significantly reduced rate, when compared to traditional jet alternatives.

Turboprop aircraft emit up to 70% less emissions than jet-powered alternatives. Capable of being fuelled with Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), selecting a turboprop alternative for your private charter itinerary creates a sense of positive action towards reducing your overall personal carbon footprint.

Turboprop aircraft can operate in remote, unpaved and otherwise in-accessible locations. The PC-12 can operate on runaways as short as 758 meters, regardless of tarmac, grass, dirt or gravel. This equates to being able to access remote locates in the Alps, South America and Africa, which other faster jet powered aircraft can not compete with.

Advantages of Jet Aircraft:

Jet powered aircraft make up the bulk of the private charter market and as such, a charterer has a greater choice of aircraft to fulfil an itinerary. In turn, a charterer can be selective with regards to the amenieties, performance or style that their desired aircraft is equiped with. For example, a charterer may select a very light jet, such as an Embraer Phenom 100 to complete a short-haul itinerary or rather a heavy aircraft like the Global 6000 for its increased cabin experience, luggage capacity and overall charter experience.

Each bracket of jet aircraft offers its own benefits such as cabin experience, range, amenities or cruising speed. Something which most turboprop aircraft are unable to offer.

The jet powered dual-engine PC-24 is capable of cruising at 45,000 feet, some 15,000 feet higher than the turboprop PC-12 alternative. What this translates to is jet powered aircraft being able to fly at around 150 KTAS faster than turboprop aircraft (and of course reaching the destination faster) but also reserving the ability to fly over most weather conditions and offer smoother cruising conditions by comparison.

Despite a turboprop having superior fuel efficiency and lower operating costs, a jet powered alternative will offer increased range in comparison, meaning that for some itineraries a turboprop is not a viable option.

Lastly, a jet powered aircraft such as the PC-24 has its jet engines located behind the cabin. The creates a quieter and more relaxing cabin experience. The PC-12 by comparison has its engine at the nose of the aircraft which generates significantly more noise.

Conclusion - which aircraft is right for you?

Turboprop aircraft are often overlooked as they don't appear, on the face of it at least, to offer the 'jet-set' experience that we all crave. This can't be further from the truth however.

The Pilatus PC-12 offers an almost identical cabin experience as its jet alternative whilst boasting competitive fuel efficiency, lower charter rates and cleaner for the environment.

For short-haul charter itineraries, a turboprop is a fantastic alternative to experience private charter in.

Jet powered aircraft are overall more superior for a charterer, offering increased selection flexibility, amenities and cabin experience. A private jet is exactly that, a jet and will remain the most desirable method for private aviators and charterers. Nevertheless, next time you request a short-haul flight, why not request a turboprop alternative and put our conclusions to the test!


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