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Turbine Helicopters

Turbine Helicopters

Turbine engines are more powerful and are used in a wide variety of helicopters. They produce a tremendous amount of power for their size but are generally more expensive to operate. The turbine engine used in helicopters operates differently from those used in airplane applications. In most applications, the exhaust outlets simply release expended gases and do not contribute to the forward motion of the helicopter. Approximately 75 percent of the incoming airflow is used to cool the engine.

The gas turbine engine mounted on most helicopters is made up of a compressor, combustion chamber, turbine, and accessory gearbox assembly. The compressor draws filtered air into the plenum chamber and compresses it. Common type filters are centrifugal swirl tubes where debris is ejected outward and blown overboard prior to entering the compressor, or engine barrier filters (EBF), similar to the K&N filter element used in automotive applications. Although this design significantly reduces the ingestion of FOD, it is important for pilots to be aware of how much debris is actually being filtered. Operating in the sand, dust, or even in grassy type materials can choke an engine in just minutes. The compressed air is directed to the combustion section through discharge tubes where atomized fuel is injected into it. The fuel/air mixture is ignited and allowed to expand. This combustion gas is then forced through a series of turbine wheels causing them to turn. These turbine wheels provide power to both the engine compressor and the accessory gearbox. Depending on model and manufacturer, the rpm range can vary from a range low of 20,000 to a range high of 51,600.

Power is provided to the main rotor and tail rotor systems through the freewheeling unit which is attached to the accessory gearbox power output gear shaft. The combustion gas is finally expelled through an exhaust outlet. The
temperature of gas is measured at different locations and is referenced differently by each manufacturer. Some common terms are: inter-turbine temperature (ITT), exhaust gas temperature (EGT), or turbine outlet temperature (TOT). TOT is used throughout this discussion for simplicity purposes.

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