Skip to main content

This is How a Jet Engine Works. "Masterclass" Videos Explain It All and More

June 16, 2014
Any kid who lost the training wheels can describe how a bicycle works, and most adults with a driver’s license can do the same for a car engine. But ask a random person about a jet engine and you’re likely to draw a blank. “Millions of people fly every day and few of them know how their plane stays in the sky,” says Todd Wetzel, aerospace engineer at GE Global Research (GRC). “Yet the principle is so simple; it’s action and reaction, nothing more than Newton’s physics. We all learned it in middle school.”
Wetzel, who spends his days trying to build a better jet engine, recently invited the author and comedian Baratunde Thurston inside his lab. Thurston was at the GRC to film a series of short videos that explain how jet engines, wind turbines and locomotives work. The series is live now. (Take a look below.)


(Wetzel is becoming GE’s media star. In May, he also spent a couple of days with three kid inventors who appeared with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show in a sketch called Fallonventions.)

How does a jet engine work? Here’s the answer:

The wind turbine works like a fan in reverse. Take a look:

The locomotive is a power station that’s no longer stationary: