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An aircraft propeller, or airscrew, converts rotary motion from an engine or other power source, into a swirling slipstream which pushes the propeller forwards or backwards. It comprises a rotating power-driven hub, to which are attached several radial airfoil-section blades such that the whole assembly rotates about a longitudinal axis. Three types of aviation engines used to power propellors include reciprocating engines (or piston engines), gas turbine engines, and electric motors. The amount of thrust a propeller creates is determined by its disk area—the area in which the blades rotate. If the area is too small, efficiency is poor, and if the area is large, the propeller must rotate at a very low speed to avoid going supersonic and creating a lot of noise, and not much thrust. Because of this limitation, propellers are favored for planes that travel at below Mach 0. 6, while jets are a better choice above that speed . Propeller engines may be quieter than jet engines (though not always) and may cost less to purchase or maintain and so remain common on light general aviation aircraft such as the Cessna 172. Larger modern propeller planes, such as the Dash 8, use a jet engine to turn the propeller, primarily because an equivalent piston engine in power output would be much larger and more complex.

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