The Man Who Shrank the Globe – Frank Whittle

Frank Whittle (1907 – 1996)

On August 9, 1996 the British Royal Air Force engineer officer Sir Frank Whittle passed away. He was best known for inventing the turbojet engine for which he received the knighthood in 1948.

Thanks to Whittle’s father Moses, Frank was able to get an early insight in the field of engineering and mechanics. The family bought a company where Frank could get lots of practical experience. He early developed a huge enthusiasm for engineering, flight, and turbines and decided to become a pilot when he was 15.

After passing the entrance test to the Royal Air Force he has been deeply disappointed, due to his height he did not pass the medical exams and even though he trained hard, he was not given a second chance. His only chance to stay in the RAF was beginning an apprenticeship to become an aircraft mechanic, which he did so. During his courses he was able to take flying lessons and soon became known as an extraordinary engineer as well as a great pilot. After his graduation he worked as a flying instructor, but destroyed two entire airplanes in accidents without getting hurt himself.

Whittle began developing new concepts for engines since working on his thesis and sent his ideas to the Air Ministry in 1929, but claiming that it was too impracticable they rejected it. However, his career went up and until 1934 he became Flight Lieutenant. In the 1930’s, Whittle was finally able to find partners, helping to finance ‘Power Jets Ldt.’ and the first tests on the engines were performed in 1937. During World War II, Whittles engine was highly needed and thanks to his company, the first British jet aircraft was applied in 1941. The big success has been globally noticed and Whittle worked in the United States for some months to help constructing the jets, but came back to England to work for Rolls Royce.

Frank Whittle was honored numerous times, such as receiving the knighthood and the James Watt International Medal. He had invented the jet engine independently and at the same time as German engineer Hans von Ohain. Later in their life in the 1960s both inventors maintained a deep and lifelong friendship.

At yovisto you may find out more about the engineer Frank Whittle as well as the story behind his famous engine in the video ‘The Wonder Jet‘ published by British Government Public Information Films.

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