Frank Whittle and the Jet Engine Documentary ( Logbook ep.1)

Frank Whittle and the Jet Engine Documentary ( Logbook ep.1)

December 14, 2019 0 By Kailee Schamberger


Altough thousands of people pass through this roundabout everyday very few realise that a couple of yards from here happened one of History’s most important episodes which would have repercursions still today It was here, in this small central England rural village that the jet engine was born an invention that shortened distances eased progress, but also brought war and destruction the World would never be the same again We are the Jet Generation it is increasingly difficult to find someone that lived in the era where aircrafts only had propellers no one could guess that only 30 years after the flight of the Wright brothers Aviation would go through its major breakthrough a breakthrough that would change the World into a global village This is a very special airshow where aircraft don´t fly these aircraft were withdrawn from service a long time ago but even without flying, watching an aircraft accelerating down the runway is still spectacular. And it is why all these people are here today, to see just that almost 90 years after the jet technology was invented it still moves a lot of passion today, we are going to need this Join me on this episode to discover a bit more about Frank Whittle and the places where the jet engine was born I still remember the first time I learned about frank Whittle was in a small book entitled ” First questions about Aviation” there , was a photo of Mr. Whittle in a lab testing the jet engine and also a picture of the E28/39, the first english jet propelled aircraft since i was a kid, this story fascinates me frank Whittle was born in Coventry in the Midlands in 1907 and very early develops a passion for Aviation one of his first toys was a little model of the aircraft Bleriot used for his first channel crossing flight WWI pilots and their achievements became his favourite idols it came with no surprise that Whittle would dream about joining the Air Force when he grow up but the RAF refused Whittle because he was too short without giving up whittle resorted to a nutricional plan and some exercises and managed to grow 7 centimeters! to avoind being recognized in a second attempt Whittle filled all the paperwork again as it were the first time hoping not to be detected He was successful, and managed to join the RAF as an apprentice but as an apprentice Whittle would never have the chance to fly an aircraft so he joined the model club where he excelled with the quality of his constructions one of his superiors then referred him to the Academy Whittle managed then to get his foot in Cranwell with the conclusion of his course in 1928 Whittle wrote a thesis about future developments in aircraft design in this work Whittle concluded that propeller engines coul hardly develop any more power and a new type of engine that could operate fast at high altitude would be necessary Whittle graduated from Cranwell with just 21 ranking second in his class he was awarded by his thesis and although is record show a bit of a bravado attitude he was considered an above average pilot Whittle carried on researching the jet engine the original idea was to use a conventional car engine to operate a compressor able to pressurise the combustion chambers but the result output was practically the same as a conventional engine so Whittle forgot about this but later he change his mind and used a shaft to drive a turbine in the same device instead Whittle was then invited in 1930 to the RAF aerobatic squadron soon he would gain a reputation as a fearless pilot always eager to perform bold manoeuvres but soon aftter destroying three aircraft, the squadron leader told him off ” might as well put all aircraft in a pile and torch them” “turns out cheaper and save us some time” one of the officers Whittle felt confident to tell about his jet engine for the first time, was pat Johnson an officer that once was involved with the patent registration office Pat Johnson took Whittle’s idea to the squadron leader which in turn show them to Alan Griffith an officer at the time had the reputation of being the biggest authority in the subject but Griffith studies had grind to a halt due to frequent technical failures the findings so far would warrant very little use for turbine engines in a near future best case scenario, in an eventual turbo-prop when the squadron leader showed the drawings to Griffith he immediatly recognised some mistakes and ignore them saying that could never work Whittle was naturally disappointed but Pat Johnson still believed in his idea and carry on giving him hope and decided to help him register his jet engine patent in 1930, Whittle would then registered for the first time in history, the patent for a jet engine next step would be to find companies happy to finance the first prototype of a jet engine Pat Johnson then arranged a meeting between Whittle and a director of British Thomson Houston in Rugby to discuss a joint venture but the company wasn´t willing to invest the 60000 pounds needed to build a first prototype meanwhile, Whittle would be promoted and in 1934 would enter Cambridge University Next year, in 1935 because he was a student and couldn´t afford five pounds Whittle didn´t renewed the patent of the jet engine his secrets would then fall into public domain that same year, the german magazine Flugsport publish a detailed article about Whittle´s jet engine although very frustrated, Whittle gets some time later a letter from Rolf Wiliams a former colleague from Cranwell invinting him to a meeting with James Tingling from that meeting, it is then created a society between Whittle, Rolf and Tingling to search for finance to build a jet engine soon enough the project is presented to Mogens Bramson an aeronautical consultant that at first wouldn´t believe in Whittle´s idea but as soon as he saw the drawings, he changed his mind Mogens then showed the project to a bank used to deal with high risk projects one of its bankers writes a favourable report Hardly any more power can be extracted from a conventional engine anymore I think the future is in this sort of engine, able to generate 2000 hp with just a moving part only. on the 27th January 1936 the Power Jets company was created a society between the bank , Whittle and his friends where the government also has his share the RAF briefly excuses Whittle from service so he can proceed his university studies, and to work on the jet engine by this time, RAF still had little interest in Whittle´s research deeming it a long term research British Thomson Houston lent some facilities so Whittle could build his first prototype and at the sime time in Germany the research for a jet engine was also giving their first steps In this year, german engineer Hans Von Ohain files his first jet engine patent Whittle´s jet engine fires up for the first time ever in 12 of April 1937 but government supoport to build a flyable version of the jet engine keeps being postponed it is remarkable how today still survives one of the supports used by Whittle to secure his first ever jet engine the experiments with his static jet unit known as ” Whittle unit” would resume, although with the dangerous tendency to speed out of control due to this danger wasd then decided to transfer the research to a rather modest wharehouses that used to be a foundry , here in Lutterworth in 1938 the BTH company decided to give 2000 pounds as finance and finally in Marchy the government support arrived but this would turn out to be a poisoned gift now the state had officially a say in Whittle’s project he would then automatically be barred from seeking investment elsewhere and had to keep everything under state secret this situation would hamper the research and would generate crucial delays that would have a tragic influence in History. Power Jets original building still exists today Altough is declared a protected building is still in private hands would be a wonderful museum This is the building where Whittle designed and built the first ever jet engine! we were upstairs at his former office but we have no authorisation to film meanwhile in Germany, Ohain was getting ready to test an aircraft equipped with the Heinkel’s own HeS 3 jet engine there is no doubt whatsoever that if government if government funding would have been awarded in due time to Whittle his project would be far more advanced in 1939 when Wolrd War II erupted Whittle only had ten employees working with him Psychological pressure was immense at some point, Whittle wrote: the responsibility me and my men have is immense either we come up with a new weapon to RAF or we disappoint who place so much expectations in our work but my men are so tired they are bound to make some mistakes in July 1939 Power Jets hardly could pay the electricity bill desperatedly, and when everything seemed lost Whittle is visited by some Ministry of the Air officials Whittle then happily demonstrate the engine for 20 minutes in this workshop the delegation was highly impressed and finally decided to buy his static jet unit throw in vast amounts of money and order a version able to be installed in an aircraft but Germany jumps ahead and flies for the first time a jet aircraft on the 27th of August 1939 flies for the first time a jet aircraft Heinkel He 178 England suddenly had a rude awakening with World War II full blown government orders the Gloster factory an aircraft with the purpose of testing the jet engine the Gloster E28/39 E28 being the experimental project number and 39 the year of the order right after, another order is given for further variants of the engine in 1940 Italy briefly enters the race, with a version of Whittle’s abandoned idea of the Motorjet the Caproni Campini CC1 flies but hardly excites anyone. Whittle is then introduced to Stanley Hooker Rolls Royce head of turbocharged engines Hooker was renowned for having improved the performance of the Merlin engines using a Turbo compressor and now would help Whittle solve some technical issues and manufacture some parts for the experimental engine a lighter version to be installed in an aircraft meanwhile in Germany , the second jet aircraft took the skies the Heinkel He 280 Rolls Royce had its flyable version ready as well and in December 1940 was tested using a Wellington bomber as a testbed in Bruntingthorpe the next year and after some tests took off in Cranwell at 07.40 am of 15 May 1941 the first english jet would fly 17 minutes reaching 545 Km/h in the small village of Lutterworth Whittle´s work is often celebrate, this time with a lecture about the jet engine story and we went to visit the museum although Rover installed a laboratory for the Whittle’s team the relationship between them weren´t the best Whittle would complain about lack of quality of the parts and snobbering from Rover technicians without Whittle knowing Rover created a secret department to also develop the jet engine causing obviously a lot of resentment among Whittle´s team resentment between Rover and Whittle carried on at the end of 1942 the Ministry of Air gathered Whittle, Rolls-Royce and the Rover director at a pub and suggest an interesting proposition: Rolls Royce tank engine factory would become Rover’s and Rover jet factory would become Rolls-Royce´s it was agreed and sealed with a handshake the difficulty in finding heat resistant material such as cobalt kept hampering the fiability of the german jet engines still, in August 1942 their third jet aircrtaft was ready to fly the Messerchmitt Me 262 with its engines still just able to operate for just 20 to 25 hours. If suddenly accelerated the engine would risk exploding or stop nearly 200 german pilots lost their lives testing the jet engine Me 262 had better fire power and was faster, but English engines were more robust and with better fuel comsumption and alloys and with a working life of 150 hours with the jet engine production on its way Whittle would sail to the US to help General Electric equipe its first jet aircraft Bell P-59 Airacomet using a licence built version of the Whittle engine the Airacomet would fly for the first time on the 1st of October 1942 As a result of this cooperation, the US would learn a lot of data from the Miles M-52 project equipped with Whittle engine, due to break the sound barrier but again, shelved due to lack of funding at the same time power jets moved to an ample industrial estate in Whetstone near Leicester England managed to fly its first jet fighter on 5th March 1943 the Gloster Meteor finally brought England and the allies to the stage of the jet war in 1978 Whittle could finally chat with Ohain to know more about the German jet research Whittle always thought Ohain copied his design but later after seeing Ohain own research was happy to accept that his work had been independent both remain friends and Ohain told Whittle that in 1935 all German industry knew about his work unfortunately , none of the companies that was now producing the jet engine needed to employ Whittle Instead, Whittle worked as a consultant to BOAC and to Shell, where he developed a new type of drill based in his jet engine Whittle would left us on the 9th of August 1996 in the american state of Maryland and his ashes were brought back to the Cranwell Chapel Whittle left us perfectly aware that his invention had changed the World forever but History never stops even jet aircraft that not so long ago were considered the pinnacle of technology enter now retirement this is a very special Tornado this is the civilian livery Tornado used for testing all the equipment now in service in the Tornado was tested in this same aircraft and we are going to chat with its preservation team this aircraft has a website where you can chech the aircraft history and the work of our friends (the story of the jet engine since its early moments where it struggle for survival has been a story of uncertainty and ingratitude but one thing is for sure: Frank Whittle would be happy to see all this people here almost 90 years later, gathering to celebrate his jet engine)