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Jet Aircraft

Jet aircraft

The jet-powered Airbus A380, due to enter service in late 2007
The jet-powered Airbus A380, due to enter service in late 2007

Jet aircraft make use of turbines for the creation of thrust. These engines are much more powerful than a reciprocating engine. As a consequence, they have greater weight capacity and fly faster than propeller driven aircraft. One drawback, however, is that they are noisy; this makes jet aircraft a source of noise pollution. However, turbofan jet engines are quieter, and they have seen widespread usage partly for that reason.

The jet aircraft was developed in Germany in 1931. The first jet was the Heinkel He 178, which was tested at Germany's Marienehe Airfield in 1939. In 1943 the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first jet fighter aircraft, went into service in the German Luftwaffe. In the early 1950s, only a few years after the first jet was produced in large numbers, the De Havilland Comet became the world's first jet airliner. However, the early Comets were beset by structural inadequacies discovered after numerous pressurization and depressurization cycles, leading to extensive redesigns.

Most wide-body aircraft can carry hundreds of passengers and several tons of cargo, and are able to travel for distances up to 17,000 km. Aircraft in this category are the Boeing 747, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, the upcoming Boeing 787, Airbus A300/A310, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A380, Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, McDonnell Douglas MD-11, Ilyushin Il-86 and Ilyushin Il-96.

Jet aircraft possess high cruising speeds (700 to 900 km/h, or 400 to 550 mph) and high speeds for take-off and landing (150 to 250 km/h). Due to the speed needed for takeoff and landing, jet aircraft make use of flaps and leading edge devices for the control of lift and speed, as well as engine reversers (or thrust reversers) to direct the airflow forward, slowing down the aircraft upon landing.

Supersonic jet aircraft

F-22A Raptor in flight
F-22A Raptor in flight

Supersonic aircraft, such as military fighters and bombers, Concorde, and others, make use of special turbines (often utilizing afterburners), that generate the huge amounts of power for flight faster than the speed of the sound. The design problems for supersonic aircraft are substantially different to those for sub-sonic aircraft.

Flight at supersonic speed creates more noise than flight at subsonic speeds, due to the phenomenon of sonic booms. This limits supersonic flights to areas of low population density or open ocean. When approaching an area of heavier population density, supersonic aircraft are obliged to fly at subsonic speed.

Due to the high costs, limited areas of use and low demand there are no longer any supersonic aircraft in use by any major airline. The last Concorde flight was on 26 November 2003. It appears that supersonic aircraft will remain in use almost exclusively by militaries around the world for the foreseeable future, though research into new civilian designs continues.

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