- Whittle, Sir Frank
died Aug. 8, 1996, Columbia, Md., U.S.British aviation engineer and pilot who invented the jet engine.He obtained his first patent for a turbojet engine in 1930, and in 1936 he cofounded Power Jets Ltd. The outbreak of World War II spurred the British government to support Whittle's work, and the first jet-powered aircraft took off in 1941. He was knighted in 1948 and awarded the Order of Merit in 1986.
* * *▪ 1997British aviation engineer (b. June 1, 1907, Coventry, Warwickshire, Eng.—d. Aug. 8, 1996, Columbia, Md.), was a pioneer in the field of jet propulsion, which he used to develop aircraft that could fly at faster speeds and higher altitudes than airplanes of the 1920s. Whittle patented the turbojet engine in 1930 and in 1936 formed the company Power Jets to build and test his invention. The engine was tested on the ground in 1937 and made its maiden flight in the Gloster E.28/39 aircraft on May 15, 1941. Whittle's was not the first jet-propelled aircraft to lift off, however. The German engineer Hans Pabst von Ohain, who had independently conceived of the jet engine, had flown the first jet-propelled aircraft on Aug. 27, 1939. After the start of World War II, the British Air Ministry contracted Whittle's company to produce aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF), although up to that time the British government had shown little interest in Whittle's invention. Growing up, Whittle was influenced by his father, a mechanic known for his inventiveness. Whittle joined the RAF as an apprentice at the age of 16 and soon entered RAF College, Cranwell, as a cadet. He wrote a thesis on Future Developments in Aircraft Design and graduated in 1928. He then served as a flying instructor and a test pilot and continued his studies at the RAF engineering school and the University of Cambridge, where he delved into mechanical sciences. He was promoted to air commodore near the end of the war and retired from the RAF in 1948, the same year he was knighted. He subsequently acted as a consultant for various organizations, including the British Overseas Airways Corporation and Bristol-Siddeley Engines. He moved to the U.S. in 1976 and the following year began work as a research professor at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.
* * *▪ British inventor and aviatorborn June 1, 1907, Coventry, Warwickshire, Englanddied August 8, 1996, Columbia, Maryland, U.S.English aviation engineer and pilot who invented the jet engine.The son of a mechanic, Whittle entered the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a boy apprentice and soon qualified as a pilot at the RAF College in Cranwell. He was posted to a fighter squadron in 1928 and served as a test pilot in 1931–32. He then pursued further studies at the RAF engineering school and at the University of Cambridge (1934–37). Early in his career Whittle recognized the potential demand for an aircraft that would be able to fly at great speed and height, and he first put forth his vision of jet propulsion in 1928, in his senior thesis at the RAF College. The young officer's ideas were ridiculed by the Air Ministry as impractical, however, and attracted support from neither the government nor private industry.Whittle obtained his first patent for a turbo-jet engine in 1930, and in 1936 he joined with associates to found a company called Power Jets Ltd. He tested his first jet engine on the ground in 1937. This event is customarily regarded as the invention of the jet engine, but the first operational jet engine was designed in Germany by Hans Pabst von Ohain and powered the first jet-aircraft flight on August 27, 1939. The outbreak of World War II finally spurred the British government into supporting Whittle's development work. A jet engine of his invention was fitted to a specially built Gloster E.28/39 airframe, and the plane's maiden flight took place on May 15, 1941. The British government took over Power Jets Ltd. in 1944, by which time Britain's Gloster Meteor jet aircraft were in service with the RAF, intercepting German V-1 rockets.Whittle retired from the RAF in 1948 with the rank of air commodore, and that same year he was knighted. The British government eventually atoned for their earlier neglect by granting him a tax-free gift of £100,000. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1986. In 1977 he became a research professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. His book Jet: The Story of a Pioneer was published in 1953.
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