Jet engine anniversary marked by re-release of Whittle documentary - The Rugby Observer

Jet engine anniversary marked by re-release of Whittle documentary

Rugby Editorial 22nd Nov, 2019   0

THE 90TH anniversary of a milestone on the way to the first jet-powered flight, made possible thanks to a breakthrough in Rugby, is being marked by the re-release of a film including interviews with inventor Sir Frank Whittle.

This year is the 90th since Sir Frank patented his pioneering jet engine – which was first successfully tested at British Thomson-Houston’s works in Leicester Road eight years later.

Sir Frank had the original idea for a propeller-less aeroplane in 1929, but it wasn’t until facing the military pressures of the Second World War that he was able to test his first jet-powered plane.

The plane, a Gloster E28, took to the skies for 17 minutes from RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire.

Sir Frank spoke at length to film producer Nicholas Jones, who made ‘Whittle – The Jet Pioneer’.

In the film, he tells his amazing yet poignant life story in his own words.

He grew up in Leamington, where he studied mechanics in the Old Library, before he joined the air force in 1923, aged 15.

Mr Jones said: “In November 1929 Frank was a young pilot officer in the RAF, training to be a flying instructor. He loved flying – but despaired of the noisy propeller and piston aircraft he flew. He felt there had to be a better way to fly. This drove him to think of a solution – and he came up with the jet engine.

“But it was no easy task. My film shows him explaining how he conceived the idea of a ‘turbo-jet’ – an engine with a gas turbine to produce a propelling jet.

“When filming, I asked Sir Frank what inspired this brainwave in the autumn of 1929. He couldn’t really tell me. ‘Maybe I was having a bath or something,’ he says in my film. It’s quite possible the jet engine began in a bathtub.

“We also filmed at the former BTH plant in Rugby, where Sir Frank first tested his jet engine, at Brownsover Hall where his office was, and at the railway station, where people would come up from London to see the jet engine.”

Frank Whittle filed his patent for the ‘turbo-jet’ 90 years ago, which required him to explain how he could produce an actual working engine from his concept. All the jet engines powering aircraft today are descended from Whittle’s first jet.

‘Whittle – The Jet Pioneer’, made for History Channel, is re-released on DVD and download to mark the 90th anniversary.

Mr Jones said: “The film is available in the hope that more people will get to know the truly inspiring story of how Whittle – a working class boy who defied the odds to became an RAF officer – eventually shrank the world with his invention.

“I always say he didn’t just change the face of the Earth with his jet engine: he enabled us to see what it looks like.

“Today, we make over four billion journeys between us each year in a jet airliner. He has quite a legacy.”

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