AskDefine | Define trijet

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  1. An aircraft powered by three jet engines.
  2. Three jets of particles from an event or source

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Extensive Definition

A trijet is an aircraft powered by three jet engines. Early twin-jet designs were limited by the FAA's "60-minute rule", whereby the flight path of twin-engined jetliners was restricted to within 60 minutes' flying time from a suitable airport, in case of engine failure. In 1964 this rule was lifted for trijet designs, as they had a greater safety margin. This led to a flurry of trijet designs, which by 1980 had become the most popular airliner configuration.
Generally, passenger airline trijets are considered to be second generation jet airliners, due to their innovative engine locations, in addition to the advancement of "fanjet" technology.
Other variations of three-engined designs are trimotors, which are aircraft with three piston engines.

Narrow body aircraft trijets

Widebody aircraft trijets

Today, both narrow-body and wide-body trijet production has ceased in the West, being replaced by twinjets which are quieter and more efficient. With modern engines having extremely low failure rates and increased power output, more than two engines are no longer necessary except for "very large aircraft," such as the Airbus A380 or Boeing 747.
A real disadvantage with trijets is positioning the central engine. On most trijets they are placed at the tail along the middle, producing some technical difficulties. A "straight" layout such as the DC-10 and MD-11 leaves the engine high above the ground, making access difficult. Another option is an S-shaped duct like that found on the Boeing 727, Tupolev 154 and Lockheed Tristar, which is a complicated and costly design. One major advantage of the trijet design is that the wings can be located further aft on the fuselage, allowing main cabin exit and entry doors to be more centrally located for quicker embarkation and disembarkation, ensuring faster turnaround times.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, three was the most common number of engines on US jet airlines, making up a majority of all such aeroplanes in 1980. From 1985 to 2003 the number of such planes in service has sunk from 1488 to 602. The number of twin-jets has more than quadrupled in the same period.


  • Modern Commercial Aircraft Willian Green, Gordon Swanborough and John Mowinski, 1987
trijet in French: Triréacteur
trijet in Chinese: 三引擎噴射機
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