The History of North American Small Gas Turbine Aircraft Engines

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This landmark joint publication between the National Air and Space Museum and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics chronicles the evolution of the small gas turbine engine through its comprehensive study of a major aerospace industry. Drawing on in-depth interviews with pioneers, current project engineers, and company managers, engineering papers published by the manufacturers, and the tremendous document and artifact collections at the National Air and Space Museum, the book captures and memorializes small engine development from its earliest stage.

Leyes and Fleming leap back nearly 50 years for a first look at small gas turbine engine development and the seven major corporations that dared to produce, market, and distribute the products that contributed to major improvements and uses of a wide spectrum of aircraft. In non-technical language, the book illustrates the broad-reaching influence of small turbines—from commercial and executive aircraft to helicopters and missiles deployed in recent military engagements.

Detailed corporate histories and photographs paint a clear historical picture of turbine development up to the present. See for yourself why The History of North American Small Gas Turbine Aircraft Engines is the most definitive reference book in its field.

The publication of The History of North American Small Gas Turbine Aircraft Engines represents an important milestone for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). For the first time, there is an authoritative study of small gas turbine engines, arguably one of the most significant spheres of aeronautical technology in the second half of the twentieth century. It is noteworthy that this important reference work found its genesis at NASM. At the museum, there is not only an extraordinary aero propulsion collection, but also an active program of scholarly research. AIAA became the logical publisher of this superlative history, given AIAA's long and impressive program of publications in technical literature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781563473326
  • Publisher: American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Pages: 998
  • Sales rank: 851,581
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard A. Leyes II is the Curator for Aero Propulsion at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. He has a B.A. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin and a M.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. For NASM, Mr. Leyes has done aircraft engine research and writing, collecting and exhibitions. He also holds a private pilot's license and a Federal Aviation Administration Airframe and Powerplant license. William A. Fleming is a graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering. He was a pioneer and leader in jet engine research during the 1940s and 1950s at the National Advisory Committee (NACA) for Aeronautics Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory. He later directed development of the plan for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Apollo manned lunar landing program and served in senior management positions at NASA Headquarters. Mr. Fleming's publications include Future Aeronautics and Space Opportunities—Volume 1 Space and approximately 30 NACA research reports. Following retirement from NASA, he spent 12 years as a management consultant. Contributor An important contributor to the book is A. Stuart Atkinson, who holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from George Washington University. For more than 37 years, Mr. Atkinson held engineering positions in the Department of the Navy associated with aeronautical research and development, including senior managerial positions with the Naval Air Systems Command. Most of his career was in the field of aero propulsion, during which time he developed the technical and program requirements for Navy engines and directed the development of many of the small turbine engines sponsored by the Navy.

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Read an Excerpt

2: The Small Gas Turbine Aricraft Engine

What is a Small Engine?

From the beginning of their evolution, large and small gas turbine aircraft engines have been recognized throughout the aircraft engine industry as separate categories of engines. Not only did small engines have unique problems and distinct advantages related to their size, but they were used for a category of applications quite different from those of large engines.1

Following the introduction of gas turbines for aircraft in the 1940s, in little more than a decade, the large turbine engine quickly took over the traditional reciprocating engine role in military fighters and bombers and began making inroads on the civil transport aircraft markets for high-power engines. Following that time, the large turbine engine grew in size and capabilities far beyond the possibilities open to the reciprocating engine.2 For example, by the 19gos, the thrust of large turbine engines used in military combat aircraft had grown to the 30,00016 thrust class, very large turbofans used in civil transports were in the 100,000 lb thrust class, and turboprops had grown to more than 8,000 shp.

But, at the low-power end of the aircraft engine market, the piston engine was considerably more difficult to oust. As a result, the evolution of the small engine came more slowly.3 Nevertheless, over time, the small gas turbine engine became the power plant of choice for: Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and target drones; decoy, tactical, and strategic missiles; military trainer aircraft; special purpose aircraft; selected small military aircraft; helicopters; general aviation aircraft; and regional transport aircraft. The small turbine engine provided these aircraft with greater operational capabilities in terms of speed, payload, altitude, and reliability than the piston engine. Small turbojet and turbofan engines provided missile systems with range and endurance capabilities not achievable with rocket propulsion.4

Because small gas turbine aircraft engines have been traditionally associated with distinct categories of aircraft applications, the authors followed this convention and defined small turbine engines by their airframe applications. One exception to this classification included small turbine engines that were used as auxiliary or boost engines on some piston engine fighters, larger aircraft, and high-speed rotorcraft.5

Remotely Piloted Vehicles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and Target Drones

RPVs and UAVs were aircraft of the type that the pilot did not fly in, but controlled from another aircraft or from a station on the ground or aboard a ship. Reconnaissance RPVs and UAVs were typically used for aerial photography, surveillance, and intelligence gathering. Target drones, often RPVs, were pilotless target aircraft. Drones were utilized for target practice by ground or ship gun and missile crews and by pilots for aerial combat practice. RPVs, UAVs, and drones were variously powered by turbojet, turbofan, or turboshaft engines....

Decoy, Tactical, and Strategic Missiles

Operational missiles were typically powered by small turbojet or turbofan engines. Included were turbofan-powered low- and high-altitude, long-range, strategic cruise missiles, a variety of turbojet-powered low-altitude tactical missiles, decoy missiles to protect aircraft, and other missiles with highly specific missions. Tactical missiles ranged from tiny, low-cost, fiber optic guided missiles that were being developed in the early 19gos for use against helicopters and ground targets to larger and more expensive standoff missiles used against aircraft, ground, and sea targets. Cruise missiles, which could perform a variety of missions, were typically armed with either conventional or nuclear explosives.

Military Trainer Aircraft

Trainer aircraft were used for training military pilots. These included subsonic and supersonic jet aircraft and turboprop trainer aircraft. Jet aircraft were powered by either small turbojet or turbofan engines. Supersonic aircraft engines incorporated an afterburner.

Special Purpose Aircraft

Typically, these were military Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft, including turbine-powered platforms and fans, rotorcraft, propeller-driven convertiplanes, liftjets and tiltjets, and vectored and deflected jets. They were powered by a variety of turbine engine types.

Selected Small Military Aircraft

Among these were a large variety of small fixed-wing aircraft, including small lightweight fighters and close air support, anti-submarine warfare, observation, utility, and small personnel transport aircraft. They were powered by a variety of turbine engine types.


This application encompassed all types of helicopters, both civil and military, that were normally powered by turboshaft engines. Categories included light, intermediate, medium, and heavy helicopters. Military helicopter missions included close air support and attack, general utility, troop and cargo transport, observation, rescue, anti-submarine warfare, and assault. Examples of civilian helicopter roles included executive and commercial transport, law enforcement...

1. "Small Gas Turbine Progress," Aviation Age, Vol. 23, No. 2 (February 1955): 26-59.

2. "Small Turbines Growing Market," Flying Review, Vol. 24, No. 3 (November 1968): 1.

3. "Small Turbines Growing Market," 1.

4. "General Electric Presents: Small Turbines for Varied Markets," Interavia, Vol. XVI (July 1961): 966-969.

5. An auxiliary engine, also known as a boost or booster engine, was not a prime propulsion engine. In the early 1940s, some small U.S. turbojet engines were designed originally as booster engines for some piston engine fighters to provide them with extra power for short periods during combat. Later, some larger aircraft powered by piston engines were equipped with small turbojet auxiliary engines to assist in takeoff at highly-loaded conditions. Some rotorcraft designed for high-speed flight were also fitted with small turbojet engines to assist in high-speed, forward flight.

6. Exceptions to this definition of missiles were Army, Navy, and Air Force missiles deployed in the 1950s that were powered by modifications of man-rated engines. The Allison J33 and J71, Pratt & Whitney J52, and GE J79, classified as "large" engines at the time, were used in such missiles.

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Table of Contents

The Small Gas Turbine Aircraft Engine
Genesis of the Industry
Teledyne CAE
General Electric Small Aircraft Engines
Williams International
Pratt & Whitney Canada
Garrett (AlliedSignal Engines)
Miniature and Model Turbine Engines
The Historical Evolution of the Industry: A Comparative Summary, Analysis, and Conclusion
Appendix A: Rationale for the Engine Data Tables and Genealogy Charts
Appendix B: Data Tables and Genealogy Charts
Appendix C: Acronyms and Abbreviations
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