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Sir Frank Whittle

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Air Commodore, RAF

Co-Inventor of the Jet Engine

Born Coventry, England

June 1, 1907—August 9, 1996*


Sir Frank Whittle entered Leamington College on a scholarship at the age of 11 and became an apprentice in the Royal Air Force College as a pilot officer in 1928. Whittle became interested in aircraft propulsion and received his first patent on a jet engine in 1930. While working on an advanced degree at Cambridge University in 1932 he continued to work on turbine power plants. By 1936 his designs were ready for prototype production and he patented the concept for the by-pass jet engine.

Exigencies of World War II accelerated his efforts and the first flight of his W.I. engine in an experimental Gloster aircraft took place on May 15,1941. When the United States entered World War II, his engine was sent to the United States to be reproduced and that engine became the basis for American work on the turbojet engine. Whittle received knighthood for achievements in the fields of jet propulsion and aircraft development.

Sir Frank Whittle retired from the R.A.F. with the rank of Air Commodore and later served as technical advisor to British Overseas Airways and Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Nearly forty-seven years after man first ventured aloft, Sir Frank Whittle had dramatically altered the course of aircraft and power plant design. He is honored throughtout the world with von Ohain of Germany as a co-inventor of the jet engine [both were awarded the Charles Stark Draper Prize of the National Academy of Engineering in 1991].

Invested 1977 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

* Sir Frank Whittle died on August 9, 1996 of lung cancer at the age of 89 at his home in Baltimore, MD.

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Updated: March 12, 2004