Dr. Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank
Whittle are recognized as the co-inventors of the jet engine.
Each was working separately and knew nothing of the others work.
Although Whittle started first, von Ohain was first to design
and develop a turbojet engine to power an aircraft.
Of the many honors received by both, the most significant honor
was probably "The Charles Draper Prize" in 1992 which
was given to both Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank Whittle for their
efforts and contributions to aviation and mankind. "The Charles
Draper Prize" is recognized as the equivalent to the Nobel
Prize in technology.
Hans von Ohain
Born Dessau, Germany
December 14, 1911
Died Melbourne, Florida
13 March, 1998
Hans von Ohain started development of the turbojet engine
in the early 1930's while in the midst of his doctorial studies
at Goettinger University in Germany. By 1935 he had developed
a test engine(shown below, left with master mechanic Max Hahn)
to demonstrate his ideas. He asked Ernst Heinkel, an aircraft
manufacturer for support rather than approach the the German engine
industry (they probably would not have been interested). Heinkel
(shown below, right with Von Ohain standing) saw the promise in
von Ohain's invention - a means to build the fastest airplane
in the world. At the end of February 1937, the He S-1 turbojet
engine with hydrogen fuel was tested and produced a thrust of
250 pounds at 10,000 rpm. Von Ohain reported: "The apparatus
fully met expectations. It reached the anticipated performance,
it handled well in acceleration and deceleration, probably because
of the relatively small moment of inertia of the compressor and
turbine rotor and the great stability of the hydrogen combustion
over the wide operational range."
Max Hahn with test engine.
Heinkel (seated) and von Ohain toasting.
The He S-3 engine used to power the He-178 aircraft.
| So impressed with the engine tests, Heikel
pressed for an accelerated flight engine program. Von Ohain's
team began development on the He S-3 engine. One of the main
technology hurdles they faced was the development of a liquid
fuel combustor. This resulted in the engine shown to the left
with a front combustor. Detailed design began in early 1938 on
the test aircraft, the He-178 (shown below). In early 1939, both
the engine and the airframe were completed, but the net thrust
was below requirements. After several internal engine adjustments,
the engine was ready. On August 27, 1939, Heinkel's test pilot,
E. Warsitz, made the first successful flight of a jet power aircraft.
First jet aircraft, Heinkel He-178 powered by one He S-3 turbojet
Hans von Ohain at age 25. Picture was taken in early 1937 after
first run of hydrogen test engine.
Hans von Ohain in his 50's. Picture taken in 1960's.
Other Tributes to Hans von Ohain: 1 2 3
Sir Frank Whittle
Born Coventry, England
June 1, 1907
Died Baltimore, MD
August 9, 1996
Frank Whittle was a 22 year old Royal Air Force (RAF)
officer when he first conceived of the use of a gas turbine engine
to power an aircraft. In January of 1930, he filed for a patent
which was granted in 1932 and published widely. However he received
very little encouragement from the Air Ministry or industry. After
receiving support from investment bankers, Powers Jets was established
in 1936 and Whittle was assigned to the company on special military
duty to work on the design and development of his jet engine.
The first real run of the first experimental engine (shown
below) was in April of 1937. This engine has a centrifugal compressor
and axial flow turbine. Whittle describes it as follows: "The
experience was frightening. The starting procedure went as planned.
By a system of hand signals from me the engine was accelerated
to 2,000 rpm by the electric motor. I turned on a pilot fuel jet
and ignited it with a hand turned magneto connected to a spark
plug with extended electrodes; then I received a 'thumbs up' signal
from a test fitter looking into the combustion chamber through
a small quartz 'window.' When I started to open the fuel supply
valve to the main burner (the fuel was diesel oil), immediately,
with a rising scream, the engine began to accelerate out of control.
I promptly shut the control valve, but the uncontrolled acceleration
continued. Everyone around took to their heels except me. I was
paralyzed with fright and remained rooted to the spot." The
reason for the uncontrolled acceleration was that prior bleeding
of fuel lines had created a pool of fuel in the combustor. "The
ignition of this was the cause of the 'runaway.' A drain was quickly
fitted to ensure that this could not happen again."
The original version of Whittle's first experimental engine first
run in April of 1937.
During the next year, many development problems were solved
and the experimental engine reconstructed several times. The resulting
engine with ten combustion chambers (shown below, left) performed
well enough to finally received support from the Air Ministry
First experimental engine, after the second reconstruction in
Frank Whittle using a slide rule to perform calculations.
The W.1 turbojet engine used to power the Gloster E28/39 aircraft.
It was designed to produce a static thrust of 1,240 lbs at 17,750
rpm. This engine was also the basis of the design of the General
Electric I-14 turbojet engine used to power the Bell XP-59A twin
engine experimental fighter.
In June 1939, the Air Ministry was finally convinced
of the merits of Whittle' invention. They then decided to have
a flight engine built (the W.1) and have the Gloster Aircraft
Company build an experimental airplane - the E28/39.
The aircraft was completed in March 1941 and the engine in
May 1941. First flight of the E28/39 occured on the evening of
May 15, 1941.
In recognition of his singular contributions, Frank Whittle
was knighted by King George VI in 1948 and thus became Sir Frank
The Gloster E28/39 aircraft powered by one W.1 turbojet engine.
Some Other Tributes to Sir Frank Whittle: 1 2 3
The Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter, first production jet
aircraft, powered by two Jumo 004B turbojet engines. The Me 262
first flight was on July 18, 1942. The Jumo 004 was designed by
Dr. Anselm Franz of the the Junkers Engine Company.
Drawing of Jumo 004B turbojet engine showing
air cooling system [thrust = 2000 lb, airflow = 46.6 lb/sec,
pressure ratio = 3.14, turbine inlet temperature = 1427F, fuel
consumption = 1.4 (lb/hr)/lb-thrust, engine weight = 1650 lb,
diameter = 30 in, length = 152 in, efficiencies: 78% compressor,
95% combustor, 79.5% turbine].