Turboprop vs Jet: Differences, Safety, Pros & Cons

If you are looking at chartering a private flight you may be seeing some options for turboprops as well as jets. While most people associate private charters with jets, there are some distinct advantages of opting for a turboprop airplane over a jet airplane.

Below, we’ll take a look at some of the considerations and differences when looking at turboprops vs jets side-by-side. Read on to learn more about how turboprops and jets fare when comparing important flight aspects such as safety, cost, range, and more.

But before we dive into those factors, it pays to know exactly what the main difference between these two charter plane options are.

What’s the Difference Between Turboprops and Jets?

The main difference between a turboprop and a jet is that a turboprop is a jet engine turning a propeller. Turboprops are a hybrid of jet engines and the more traditional piston engine propeller that you see on smaller, lightweight airplanes. 

Turboprops are reliable options and were designed to fill the gap between high speed, high altitude jets and low flying light airplanes. This does not mean turboprops are slow or fly low compared to jets, however.

Let’s take a look at some of the other side-by-side comparisons of turboprops and jets.

Turboprop vs Jet Safety

Both turboprops and jets are powered by turbine engines, so they are essentially the same thing and thus, are considered to be equally as safe. The main difference is that turboprops have a propeller on the outside of the engine while jets have fan blades inside the engine housing.

One area where turboprops might get the nod is on smaller runways. Because of the drag propellers cause, they actually allow the aircraft to stop much more quickly than a jet. This is important because of something pilots call the ‘balanced field.’ The balanced field refers to how quickly you can stop during takeoff in the event something goes wrong. In this balanced field scenario, turboprops get the nod. 

A more legitimate safety question is the safety factors between turboprops and jets vs pistons. Turboprops and jets are considered safer, and especially those with twin engines. If safety is a concern of yours and you are able to have a say in the aircraft you charter, the redundancy of a turbine engine is about as safe as you can get.

Here’s a real life story of our Cessna Conquest II compared to that of a jet. On a flight from Palm Beach to Hilton Head, the Conquest had a guest on board who happened to own a popular light jet.  He couldn’t get over the fact that the Conquest – the Great Flight Turboprop – was able to complete the leg only 7 minutes behind the time he would have taken in the jet.

A major advantage of a turboprop over a jet is the unmatched operating economics. While the speed of a Cessna Conquest II is nearly that of a jet, cost savings of up to 40% are possible while travel time even on a trip as long as Palm Beach to New York is only as little as 10% greater.

Turboprop vs Jet Cost to Charter

The cost of turboprops vs jets — and namely light jets — is really dependant on the distance you are traveling. Generally speaking, turboprops are much more economical than jets.

Here are some takeaways on the costs to charter a turboprop vs jet:

  1. Understand that shorter flights may be more economical on a turboprop
  2. Always talk to your charter company if you want the best option as there are a lot of variables at play

Turboprop vs Jet Efficiency

If you care about fuel efficiency as a passenger or an airplane owner, the difference between turboprop and jet propulsive efficiency may surprise you. Like with cost, there is a tradeoff at certain configurations.

Turboprops are more efficient at slower speeds whereas jets become more efficient at higher speeds.

Turboprop vs Jet Altitude

As we’ve mentioned, turboprops are designed to operate at slower speeds and lower altitudes than jets. Why is this an important factor?

Altitude is important because it affects the quality of the flight. Airspace has a tendency to be more bumpy or influenced by weather at 23,000–39,000 ft as it meets the tropopause. Turboprops are designed to fly below 30,000 feet while jets usually cruise within this airspace that has a tendency to be more turbulent.

This aspect of air travel might seem trivial on a nice day, but when you are experiencing Mother Nature at her finest you may wish you were in more stable airspace.

Turboprop vs Jet Range

Jets have the most range when compared with turboprops. Many turboprops are only capable of flights up to 1,500 miles whereas jets can fly 5,000+ miles without having to refuel. Most light jets are capable of a range of 800 to 2,400 miles, so the range factor is not always apples-to-apples.

When considering range of a turboprop vs jet, also consider the cost of the jet per hour so you understand the full economics of the charter flight.

Turboprop vs Jet: Luxury

There seems to be a misnomer in the charter industry that turboprops are less luxurious than jets. Perhaps this is due to the association of propellers as an antiquated technology that is represented in the cabin. 

Fact is, turboprops are neither an antiquated technology nor subject to less refined interiors than jets. Turboprop cabins are equally as luxurious as those of jets and will often rival those of any VIP jet owner in the sky.

Turboprops vs Jets: Final Takeaways

Let’s face it, the inherent sexiness of a jet often makes the consumer automatically want to seek out this option for their private charter. However, when you consider the pros and cons of turboprops and jets it is easy to understand why the turboprop option is often the most logical choice. 

Fact is, roughly 80% of private flights in the US are less than two hours, making the use of a jet illogical. The business aviation marketplace seems to understand this as well, as turboprops accounted for nearly 30% of business-related flights last year.[*]

For longer flights in excess of 1,000 miles, jets may very well be the most comfortable option. 

As you can see, there are always a lot of variables in the decision to go with a turboprop or jet but the hard and fast rule is that turboprops are usually better and cheaper for shorter flights, and jets are more comfortable for longer flights.

Before you book a turboprop or jet, talk to Great Flight today so we can help you find the best plane for your travel experience. 

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