RESEARCH PAPERS: Gas Turbines: Aircraft

The Development of the Whittle Turbojet

[+] Author and Article Information
C. B. Meher-Homji

Bechtel Corporation, Houston, TX 77056-2166

J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 120(2), 249-256 (Apr 01, 1998) (8 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2818112 History: Received February 01, 1997; Online November 19, 2007


Sir Frank Whittle passed away on August 8, 1996, at the age of 89, in Maryland. His work in developing the turbojet can truly be said to represent one of the greatest mechanical engineering achievements in the last 70 years. The development of the turbojet demanded that Whittle face almost insurmountable technical and institutional challenges. The technical challenges included developing centrifugal compressor pressure ratios of 4:1 from the prevailing technology level of 2.5:1, increasing compressor efficiencies from 65 to 80 percent while designing for combustion intensities that were 10 times the prevailing state of the art in boiler technology. He was also responsible for utilizing a vortex turbine design approach. The institutional challenges that he faced included changing a paradigm on aircraft propulsion technology and nurturing Power Jets Ltd. to produce excellent engine designs with minimal resources in terms of money, technical manpower, and governmental support. It is the object of this paper to document the epic long-drawn-out struggle fought by Sir Frank against entrenched technical opinion, which ultimately resulted in the turbojet revolution. The technical aspects of his pioneering work with emphasis on the problems he encountered will also be discussed.

Copyright © 1998 by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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