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Sir Frank Whittle was a British aeronautical engineer and pilot who was the best-known inventor of jet engine. He was born on June 1, 1907 in Newcombe Road, Coventry, England.
In 1923, He joined the Royal Air Force or RAF and became an aircraft apprentice. At admission, his first two attempts were rejected due to diminutive stature. But because of eagerness and determination, he managed to increase his height by three inches and enhance his built by vigorous diet and exercise. He was then accepted as an apprentice on the third attempt.
In 1923, he started his training and became a pilot officer later on. Whittle joined in a fighter squadron in 1928. He wrote a remarkable thesis on jet propulsion entitled “Future Developments in Airplane Design” during his apprenticeship at RAF. For him, for planes to fly further and at higher speeds, it should achieve higher altitudes as the air resistance was lower at greater heights. In the same year, he presented his thesis at the Royal Air Force but wasn’t able to receive any support from the government and the aviation industry. Because of lack of support, Whittle started to conduct research on his own and in 1930, he patented the idea. He made his research and the details of patent available for public viewing. He even took up an engineering course to keep working on his plans for jet engine development. In January 1935, he began to lose hope when the patent of his jet engine was subjected to renewal. Due to the unpaid fee, the patent lapsed. During this time, his plans finally came into reality when two ex-RAF pilots supported him financially.They decided to establish a company named “Power Jets” and convinced the British government to provide them monetary assistance.
On April 1937, the first turbojet engine of Whittle was made ready for test runs at the British Thomson-Houston works at Rugby. W.U. (Whittle’s Unit)was the world’s first turbojet unit. The Air Ministry provided financial support when they realized the potential of the new engine for further development.
During the onset of World War II, the development of the engine became dependent financially on the Air Ministry. The new engine named W1 was ready for flight testing on April 1941. The maiden flight was tested on May 15, 1941 at Cranwell. It flew 17 minutes with a speed of 340mph.
The maiden flight of an allied Turbo-jet, the Gloster E28/39 was a success. The news of the powerful jet engine reached the United States. The Americans came up with Bell XP-59A Airacomet by October 1942.
In 1948, he had his retirement from the Royal Air Force (RAF) with the rank of Air Commodore. The latter years of his life, he was a BOAC’s technical advisor, Shell Oil’s and Bristol Aero Engine’s mechanical engineer and NAVAR Research Professor. He also wrote a biography entitled “Jet: The Story of a Pioneer.”
Thank you to Sir Frank Whittle for his immense contribution to the aviation sector. His ideas and jet engine invention provided concepts to our modern aircraft engine engineers; modern aircraft engine engineers who create the advanced engines of airplanes for private jet flights that we relish today.
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