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Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle (Hardback)

The Man Who Invented the Turbo-jet

Aviation > Aircraft Aviation > Pilots Aviation > Reference World History

By Robert L Evans
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 25 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036111809
Published: 30th September 2024


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RRP £20.00

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The invention by Whittle of the turbo-jet engine, and the determined effort to design, develop and demonstrate that such a novel new method of propulsion would replace piston engines in the air, was one of the most important technical achievements of the twentieth century. That one man accomplished this working with a small but dedicated team of engineers and craftsman in the middle of a war, and in the face of many doubters, was a truly monumental achievement.

The jet engine envisaged by Frank Whittle, a young Royal Air Force cadet, changed aviation forever. It was an invention that has, in the years since, had the effect of shrinking the world we live in.

We think nothing today of flying between continents in a few hours, when just a two or three generations ago this would have been a major expedition. In short, the jet engine, developed with great tenacity by Whittle, has made the world a village, and has introduced world-wide travel to ordinary people everywhere. This accomplishment was all the more remarkable given Whittle’s humble background as the son of a highly skilled but largely uneducated mechanic and machinist.

A young man from a working-class family, Frank Whittle wanted to become a pilot, but he was denied admission into the RAF due to his physical limitations. Nevertheless, he persisted until finally he was accepted on an air mechanic’s (or fitter’s) apprenticeship at RAF Cranwell. It was a course which was primarily used to train officer cadets. Cranwell included a flying training school and it was Whittle’s secret hope that he may be one step closer to achieving his aim of learning to fly.

The air mechanic’s apprenticeship was a three-year course aimed at providing a thorough practical understanding of all aircraft structural components as well as a detailed knowledge of the different types of aircraft engines then in use. He was a diligent apprentice, and happily threw himself into every aspect of the rigorous training provided, while at the same time keeping an eye on the officer cadets on the flying courses.

Inspired by his training, Frank Whittle developed an idea. He believed it was possible for aircraft to fly faster and higher – and he turned his vision into reality.

This incredible accomplishment was not without considerable personal cost though, as Whittle had to face the realities of war, as well as personal and commercial issues that nearly turned his dream into a nightmare. In addition, this biography, written by someone who met Frank Whittle, includes details of his rather colourful personal life, which have not been previously documented.

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About Robert L Evans

ROBERT L. EVANS is Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at The University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada. He obtained a B.A.Sc. degree in mechanical engineering from UBC, an M.A.Sc. from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Dr. Evans served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and was founding Director of the Clean Energy Research Centre at UBC. Dr. Evans is also the author of Fueling Our Future: An Introduction to Sustainable Energy, published by Cambridge University Press. The book was short-listed for the 2007 Donner Prize for the best book on public policy published by a Canadian author. The author met Sir Frank Whittle on 25 May 1973, when the latter came to open the new Whittle Laboratory at Cambridge University where Evans was a post-graduate student. Whittle gave a brief but fascinating talk about his invention of the jet engine; many years later this book is the result of that meeting.

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