Frank Whittle and the Origin of the Jet Engine

This hour long 2007 documentary includes extended reminiscences by Frank Whittle, German jet pioneer Hans von Ohain, and legendary test pilot Eric “Winkle” Brown.

As a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer, Whittle received little compensation for his invention of the jet engine, which the RAF gave to other companies, including General Electric in the U.S., to develop. Whittle’s company, Power Jets, was nationalised in 1944, with Whittle receiving a total of £10,000 for his shares. In 1948, he received an award of £100,000 from Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors for his invention. These awards were, in 2022 money, equivalent to £3.3 million. Sales of aircraft engines in 2021 alone is estimated as around US$ 40 billion.

Not only did Whittle invent the turbojet engine (patented in 1930, allowed to lapse in 1935 because Whittle could not afford the £5 renewal fee and the Air Ministry refused to pay the renewal), he also invented the turbofan engine, proposed to power a four engine bomber for use in the Pacific. He filed a patent on the turbofan in 1936.




von Ohain


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