Understanding the Differences Between Two Stage Turbines & Direct Drive Turbines

Two stage turbines and direct drive turbines – the two ways model jet engines convert thrust into horse power and torque.

Two Stage Turbine Engine with both Airplane & Helicopter Gear Boxes Shown

After learning all about how model jet engines work , we now know they spin very fast and produce lots of thrust.

This is fine for a RC jet powered airplane that relies on thrust to push it through the air, but a RC helicopter needs to spin a rotor - we need rotational horse power called torque.

Direct Drive Turbines

The first method of converting turbine thrust power into rotational power for a RC turbine helicopter is to extend the turbine/compressor shaft out the rear or front of the engine and attach it to a gear reduction box or series of reduction gears & belts (as shown below).

Single Stage RC Helicopter Turbine

The gear reduction then reduces the turbine shaft speed of around 100,000 - 150,000 RPM by at least a factor of ten for a more usable speed most main gear pinions spin at (in the range of 15,000 RPM).

This is the least expensive way to convert turbine power to rotational horse power, but there are some problems with this method.

First, all the thrust that the turbine produces is wasted since it is simply just blown out the exhaust nozzle/s. This wasted thrust also can push your helicopter around so you have to use up even more power to compensate for the push of the thrust.

This leads to the biggest problem of direct drive turbines, they are very inefficient. Most of the power (about 80%) is just blown off. Shorter flight times and/or larger fuel tanks are the end result.

Direct drive turbines are on the way out as far as I am concerned. The top model turbine manufacturers have all started getting away from direct drive and offer 2 stage turbines now.

Two Stage Turbines

A two stage turbine is exactly what is used on real helicopters and real turboprop airplanes. Instead of wasting all that thrust, it is used to turn another set of turbine blades mounted right behind the turbine blades in the jet engine.

In essence, the jet engine's sole purpose when combined with a second stage turbine is to act as a high volume air pump or more correctly called a "gas generator". At any rate, these two turbines (the engine's and the second stage's) are not connected to each other with a shaft – they are completely independent of one another.

Think of it like two fans facing each other. If one fan is turned on, it causes the other fan to spin. For you car guys and gals out there, this is the same principle that is used in an automatic transmission torque converter.

The secondary turbine converts most of that thrust back into rotational power and is hooked up to a reduction gear box to reduce the speed down to a usable level – about 15,000 rpm for RC helicopters. The secondary turbine doesn’t spin as fast as the primary turbine in the jet engine. This reduces the amount of heat and wear in the reduction gear box.

Two Stage Turbine Model Helicopter Engine

The above picture shows a two stage MW44 Wren model jet helicopter engine. Notice the collar that is bolted onto the back of the jet engine. This is where the secondary turbine is located. Bolted onto the back of this collar is the jet exhaust diverter. Behind the diverter, you can see the gear reduction box. This is a 90 degree gear box that allows for the more conventional "vertical" engine shaft placement that is used on most RC helicopters to drive the main gear.

The picture below shows the individual components of the second stage.

2nd Stage Turbine Components

Inside the gear box below...

2nd Stage Gear Box (output gear & shaft removed).

This method of capturing the thrust to spin another turbine increases efficiently tremendously. A model helicopter two stage turbine engine is about 80% more efficient than a direct drive turbine engine.

By using up most of this thrust/energy to spin another turbine, there is much less thrust force exiting the exhaust nozzle/s and the effects of jet exhaust pushing the heli around is greatly reduced. In fact, the air flow out the exhaust nozzles is not much greater than what you would feel out of a hair dryer - albeit much hotter ;-) 

The other big benefit is you are not loading down the engine as you would with the direct drive method. There is no mechanical connection between the engine and the second stage/gear box. This makes for a much smoother running model turbine engine, better engine management, better speed control, longer bearing life, reduced parts count, and reduced vibrations.

Of course there is a bit more weight with a two stage turbine and it is more costly. These are insignificant concerns next to the many advantages 2 stage turbines provide IMO and why I personally chose to fly with a two stager over a direct drive.

Two Stage Wren MW54 Turbine In Bergen RC Intrepid Helicopter

Search This Site

YouTube Channel

Click To My YouTube Channel

Social This Site

Translate This Site

Multi eBook Savings
up to 25% Off

1 eBook = Regular Price
2 eBooks = 10% Off
3 eBooks = 15% Off
4 eBooks = 20% Off
5 eBooks = 25% Off

Discount is automatically calculated as eBooks are added to the shopping cart. *Does not apply to Beginner's Guide Combo* 

Setup & Tips For RC Helis

Click Image For Details
Add to Cart View Cart

The Setup & Tips For Electric Collective Pitch RC Helicopters e-Book helps you understand all about setting up a collective pitch RC helicopter along with many other useful tips. Click on the image of the book or watch the video below to find out more about what information is covered in this, my most popular & #1 selling e-book.

Beginner's Guide To Flying RC Helicopters

Click Image For More Details
Add to CartView Cart

The Beginner's Guide To Flying RC Helicopters is an e-Book that goes over the basics of getting started with RC helicopters. Click on the image of the book or watch the video below to learn more about what's inside.

Swash Setup, Leveling & FBL Configuration

Click Image of eBook For More Information
Add to Cart View Cart

The 120/135/140 Degree Swashplate Setup, Levelling & FBL Configureation e-Book shows how to properly setup and level a 120,135, or 140 degree electronically mixed swash to attain perfect interaction and a trimmed out bird off the bench. Click on the image of the book or watch the video below to learn more about it.

Getting The Most Out Of Your mSR/X & 120SR

Click Image For Details
Add to CartView Cart

Getting The Most Out Of Your mSR/X & 120SR is an e-Book that focuses on the Blade mSR, mSRX, & 120SR. Click on the image of the book or watch the video below if you want to find out more about it.

How To Build Training Gear

Click Image For Details
Add to Cart View Cart

RC helicopter training gear is the essential training aid used when learning to hover and fly most RC helicopters, this e-Book shows how to build them. If you want to learn more about what's inside, click on the image of the book or watch the video below.

*Beginners Guides Combo Deal

Click Image For More Details

Thinking of getting into planes too, or trying to decide between RC helicopters or RC airplanes? If so, the Beginners Combo deal which includes both the Beginners Guide To Flying RC Helicopters and the Beginners Guide To Flying RC Airplanes e-Books, represents excellent value for anyone looking to get started safely and quickly in either or both forms of radio control flying.

Good Beginner RC Helicopters & Quadrotors

RC Heli Magazine

Helicopter Movies

Quality Pulse LiPo Batteries