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Harborough Museum
Gloster-Whittle Prototype Jet Engine

Gloster-Whittle Prototype Jet Engine

The Gloster-Whittle jet engine was invented by Sir Frank Whittle. Whittle was born in Coventry in 1907 and was taken on as an apprentice in the RAF in 1923, qualifying as a pilot in 1928.

Whilst a cadet, he wrote a thesis arguing that a plane’s fastest airspeed and longest range could only be achieve when flown at extremely high altitude; because the air is thinner and less resistant. Standard piston and propeller engines were unsuitable for this, so he suggested that rocket propulsion or propellers powered by gas turbines should be used instead. Whittle went to the Air Ministry with his proposal, but he later patented the idea himself after they turned him down.

In 1936, Whittle secured financial and RAF support, and founded Power Jets Ltd in Rugby. There, he began constructing a test engine, which – after a false start – completed its first flight in 1941.

The engine for Britons first jet aeroplane, the Gloster E.28/39 (also referred to as the Gloster-Whittle), was made in Lutterworth. A memorial statue of the aircraft can be seen on the Whittle Roundabout, south of the town, in celebration of Lutterworth’s aeronautical heritage.

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