OM, KBE, FRS, Hon
FRAeS. (June 1 1907 - August 9 1996).
Frank Whittle is the Father of British jet propulsion. Whittle
was born in Coventry in 1907 and attended Leamington College
before joining the RAF as a mechanic in 1923.
In 1926, Whittle managed to get a place at the Officer Training
College at Cranwell where he learnt to fly. For his Thesis
at Cranwell, Whittle espoused the theory that some other means
of propulsion other than propellers alone would be required
to achieve speeds in excess of 500 mph at altitude and conjectured
that the already much mooted idea of using compressed exhaust
gasses to provide additional thrust was not only possible
but would improve at higher altitudes.
After leaving Cranwell in 1928, Whittle served as a pilot
with 111 Squadron based at RAF Hornchurch. It is probable
that Whittle worked on his early ideas for a Jet Engine whilst
serving at Hornchurch for he patented a simple jet engine
design in 1930.
Unfortunately the Air Ministry showed little interest in
the idea and in so doing allowed it to remain in the public
domain and not an official secret. Whittle’s patent
expired in 1935 whilst Whittle was studying at Cambridge but
he continued to work on his idea with Power Jets Ltd.
In 1937 Power Jets Ltd finally won funding from a still apathetic
Air Ministry in the nick of time to continue development of
the design. Meanwhile similar work was also being undertaken
by Hans von Ohain in Germany but with far more support from
Power Jets was, however almost completely finished due to
the Air Ministry’s continued lack of interest when war
broke out in 1939. With the outbreak of war, however, the
Air Ministry finally took an interest in Whittle’s brainchild
poured resources into it.
Two years later on may 15th 1941 the first British Jet aircraft
took to the skies and despite being an experimental model
soon exceeded the Spitfire’s top speed at high altitude.
Further delays in finding a suitable engine manufacturer before
Rolls Royce were commissioned to make the engine meant that
a German jet, the Messcherscmitt 262 beat the British Gloster
Meteor into front line service by a full nine months.
After the war, Whittle retired from the RAF and Power Jets
Ltd and soon after joined BOAC advising on gas turbine technology.
Bishop, E. 2002. The Daily Telegraph Book of Airmen's Obituaries.