SIR FRANK WHITTLE (1907- 96)

1941 – England

‘Whittle realised that an aircraft could take advantage of the thinner atmosphere and reduced air resistance at great altitude to achieve speed’

As early as 1930 Whittle had patented his first design for an engine which took in air and after compression ignited it with fuel in a suitable chamber. The engine could then be boosted forward by the burning gas, which during the emission process would also rotate a rod. This was connected to a turbine, which turned to draw in more air and start the cycle over again.

By 1937 his first engine was ready for testing. On 15 May 1941 the specially built Gloster E28/39 undertook its maiden flight using Whittle’s engine. It achieved top speeds of 370 mph and operated at altitudes of 25,000 feet.

Whittle was knighted in 1948.

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diagram showing how a jet engine works

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