View Full Version : Who invented the Jet Engine?

18th Mar 2001, 08:02
Another thread suggested Sir Frank Whittle as a person of note...no doubt for the discovery of the jet engine.

I've often wondered how it was that the Germans had the ME-262 flying combat in the latter part of WW2, but they never got any credit for the development. As far as I know the Whittle engine wasn't powering any serious a/c until after the war ended. Is this a case of the victor re-writing history?

No disrespect to Sir Frank, just curious for the real facts.

18th Mar 2001, 08:46
Have you not heard of Baron Fritz Von Turbinehausen ?.

18th Mar 2001, 09:25
Perhaps parallel development is the answer rather than a single "first". Junkers, BMW (Wilhelm Messerschmitt designed for BMW) and Heinkel were all in the race with the He280 (Heinkel) being the first aircraft with jet propulsion only as opposed to a combination of jet/piston.

18th Mar 2001, 10:56
I think Sir Frank Whittle was first with the engine, but not first to get a jet flying.

ME262, V1 & V2 could have lead to another conclusion to WW2 very easily.

"Who is first" arguments are a giggle anyway, it's amazing how many historical facts are omitted from the school curriculum and popular culture of certain nations (one superpower in particular comes to mind).

18th Mar 2001, 11:26
Are you speaking of Canada?

Mac the Knife
18th Mar 2001, 13:52
and there is an audio clip of him talking about Whittle on

18th Mar 2001, 13:58
Henry Coanda invented the first jet engine around the 1920's french bloke. Will look it up and get back with the details.

18th Mar 2001, 14:07
Close BlueDiamond - but it was actually the Heinkel He 178 - see

The other you refer to is claimed as the first jet fighter - but AFAIK it never saw either entered Luftwaffe service or saw combat.

18th Mar 2001, 14:51
I seem to remember that Whittle invented the jet engine but the War Ministry didn't think it could work so never clasified it, which is why the Germans were able to build them as well; from Whittles un-classified design.

daft fader
18th Mar 2001, 16:36
After last years film offering from the septics about capturing the enigma coding machine in which it was proven beyond all doubt to have been an achievement by their good selves, it would not surprise me to discover that the jet was in fact invented by one of them.

No doubt right now someone is working on a script featuring Mel Gibson playing Frank Whittle who it turns out was born in Sioux City or some other damp patch in a hole in the ground. After all, look at the service already rendered to history by Mel in other films connected with this sceptred isle.

Flap 5
18th Mar 2001, 22:33
... and strangely enough Mel Gibson is an Australian!

19th Mar 2001, 04:20
I have just finished reading "Enigma" by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore - one of the fullest histories of the battle to decode the different versions of Enigma cyphers, the original production of a replica Enigma before the war by the Poles, and the several captures of actual machines, the encoding wheels and settings books by the RN.

In fact, there was a capture of an Enigma machine and settings books by a US Navy vessel.

But only one. And the commander screwed up badly. He allowed the captured German crew of the U-Boat to see his officers descending into it, and then he was crassly stupid enough to try to tow it into port. Luckily it sank. The Germans had to be interned separately from any other POW's, their mail virtually embargoed in case they got a message back to the Fatherland that the Allies were reading German messages.

And this was shortly before D-Day. Had we been unable to read their codes, we would have not known whether the Germans had swallowed the bluff about landing across the Pas de Calais instead of Normandy, and the whole invasion of Europe was endangered.

The commander of the US Navy ship was recommended for a court martial for his stupidity.

What do we get from Hollywood? That they single-handedly sorted out the U-Boat menace. Pah!

19th Mar 2001, 13:00
Found it.

In 1910, seven years after the first flights by the American inventors Orville and Wilbur Wright, the French scientist Henri Marie Coanda designed and built a jet-propelled biplane, which took off and flew under its own power with Coanda as pilot. Coanda used an engine that he termed a reaction motor, but, discouraged by the lack of public acceptance of his aircraft, he abandoned his experiments.

for more information and a picture of the aircaft see http://www.allstar.fiu.edu/aero/coanda.htm

[This message has been edited by Throtlemonkey (edited 19 March 2001).]

19th Mar 2001, 13:02
Here's a cut & paste from my 'Avitaion Trivia' page

The first patent for a turbojet as a powerplant for an aircraft was made by Sir Frank Whittle.

The first jet engine to ever run was made by Professor Ernst Heinkel, in March 1937. It was the hydrogen fuelled Heineken He S 2. The engine only ever ran on a test stand, and its construction was overseen by Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain.
(Whittle's engine first ran on 12-4-1937, a couple of weeks later than the Heinkel engine)

The first jet powered aircraft to fly was the Heinkel He 178, on 27-8-1939, powered by a Heinkel He S 3B engine, which made about 450kg (1,000lbs) of thrust. The flight lasted six minutes, and the pilot was Erich Warsitz.

The first twin engined jet to fly was the Heinkel He 280, on 30-3-1941, powered by two Heinkel He S 8's, and lasted only three minutes due to concerns of the chance of the engines overheating.

The first four engined jet to fly was the Arado AR 234C, in April 1944. It was powered by four BMW 003 jet engines.

The first six engined jet aircraft to fly was the Junkers Ju 287 derivative, the Junkers EF 131. The aircraft was built in Dessau, Germany, and finished in late 1946. The factory had been taken over by occupying Soviet troops, and for some reason for its first flight it was disassembled and taken by train to Podbererez'ye, near Moscow.
The date is not definite, but it was around late 1946. Each forward swept wing had a large pod, each containing three Jumo 004C engines.

The Heinkel factory was the first to use catapults to assist aircraft in taking off from ships.

The Heinkel factory invented the explosive and counter-sunk riveting methods.

The first ejection seat was made by Heinkel, for the He 280. It was pneumatically powered, and accelerated the pilot upwards at between 7 and 9 gees.

The first use of an ejection seat was made by pilot Schenk, on 13-1-1943. He required it's use when the He 280, which was powered by two Argus pulse-jets that required a high forward speed to start up, refused to separate from the tow aircraft due to the cable release mechanism icing up. As a precaution, Schenk ejected and landed safely.

The first aircraft to have variable sweep wings was the Messerschmitt Me P1101, though it never flew due to he end of the Second War War bring its construction to a halt. The wings, however, could not be moved in flight, only on the ground. Its design was later copied and improved on by Bell in the US, when they made the Bell X-5 experimental aircraft, which flew six years later on 20-6-1951.

The axial flow compressor, later used by the vast majority of all jet engines, was invented by Frenchman, Maxime Guillaume in 1921.

The ramjet engine was invented by Frenchman, René Lorin, in 1908. It's use was not realised for many decades.

The first afterburning jet engine was a modified Jumo 004E. It ran in mid 1945, and made 1000kg (2200lbs) thrust 'dry', and 1200kg (2650lbs) when afterburning.

The first by-pass jet engine (like the engines on modern large jet airliners) was to be the Heinkel He S 10 'dual cycle engine', in late 1939, but its development was halted in favour of the He S 011.

[This message has been edited by 18Wheeler (edited 19 March 2001).]

21st Mar 2001, 10:44
Ah the grand old "hydrogen fuelled Heineken He S 2."

Now there's a beer that makes Fosters taste like drain water. But come to think of it, most beers do don't they? (Duck! Incoming!)

That has to be one of the better freudian slips on the forum this year 18Wheeler! I fancy a couple of tins myself right now...

http://www.pprune.org/ubb/NonCGI/eek.gif Whooooosh....

Through difficilties to the cinema

[This message has been edited by Blacksheep (edited 21 March 2001).]

21st Mar 2001, 14:32
I've always understood Throtlemonkey to be correct. Henri Coanda flew his jet-propelled biplane in 1910. I saw a photograph of the machine once and to judge by the width of the intake, it was also quite likely the first high bypass ratio/shrouded propeller in the world as well.

But then, I've also understood that a Richard Pearce, (Pearse?) a Kiwi farmer, flew a heavier than air machine a couple of months before Orville and Wilbur. But, (as so often happens in the Antipodes to this day with anything new), he was treated as a crank and a "flying machine" was regarded by all who heard about it as nothing more than a novelty. The attitude displayed then has been used by Australian MP and author Barry Jones as the 'Pearce syndrome', which reads along these lines: anyone in Australia with a new idea is asked only one question by the idiots we elect or promote to positions of power. "Have they done this already overseas?" If the answer is 'no', the reply is, "Well, it won't work 'cause it hasn't been done overseas." If the reply is yes, the reply is "No need to press on with it then, 'cause they'll do it better than we could".

And HugMonster, regarding the U-Boat captured intact by the USN in June 1944, (it was the 4th June), it didn't sink enroute to the States. (I suspect the USN announced that it had at the time for obvious reasons.) Visitors to the Chicago Museum can actually walk through the U-Boat (a fantastic tour) and see an excellent movie including actual film of its capture and interviews with both American and German veterans of the engagement. The USN destroyer flotilla Commodore who made the capture drilled his crews for months beforehand in boarding sinking U-Boats and closing the sea cocks.

Now if you want to talk about heroes, spare a moment to think about the young sailor who went into the bowels of an (unfamiliar) sinking enemy vessel, right down to the lowest deck, to close the sea cocks, with the very real possibility of the boat's sinking before he got there, to say nothing of possibly meeting some die-hard Nazi down there intent on stopping him. When the long boat drew alongside, only the conning tower was above water and the boat was sinking fast.

Off the subject of jet engines, I know, but since you brought the subject up, HugMonster, in my book, I don't care what nationality the guy was. That took real balls.

[This message has been edited by Wiley (edited 21 March 2001).]

Alpine Flyer
24th Mar 2001, 02:17
AFAIK Coanda was not a Frenchman but a Romanian living in France and his engine was more like a ducted propeller. It was definitely driven by some kind of petrol engine.

As for the Heineken engine, that was a Freudian slip, I guess.....

The invention of the jet engine was something that was "in the air", just like internal combustion engines a few years earlier. I don't think anyone can be accused of copying here, just different people arriving at similar conclusions at the same time....

BTW, impressive ramjet airplanes with the pilot sitting or lying inside the cone at the center of the engine were built by Leduc after the war. Prototypes are on show at the Paris Air and Space museum.

25th Mar 2001, 19:38
If you want to be a real pedant, how about Archimedes - didn't he invent a steam jet engine some time ago?

25th Mar 2001, 20:22
Whittle was hampered by politicians and others who mostly worked against him.

For an interesting web site on jet engines including some mpegs visit:

www.nyethermodynamics.com (http://www.nyethermodynamics.com)

Whittles book makes interesting reading.

26th Mar 2001, 05:04
Musta've been modeled after an aussie dispute pilot

1)...blows out lots of hot air

2)...whines a lot

3)...good thing it stops whining at the gate when shut down..

4)...sucks and blows...at the same time!!!!

26th Mar 2001, 16:36
Wiley, my apologies. U505 did indeed survive. Captain Daniel Gallery, task force commander aboard USS Guadalcanal, however, was singularly stupid. The codebooks for Enigma were already safe. But Gallery interrogated Harald Lange, U505's skipper, making it plain he intended to try to salvage the U-boat.

Initially Gallery wanted to tow it to Casablanca in Morocco. Of course, not many people there who were German spies. On being told he didn't have enough fuel, he then decided to head for Dakar, the nearest neutral West African port. News could easily leak from there back to Germany. Eventually he was persuaded to tow it to Bermuda with the assistance of a tug and an oiler, which were detached from other operations in this waste of time.

There was, therefore a long delay (16 days) in getting the codebooks to Bletchley Park, where they would have been of use - the whole point of boarding the U-boat.

Gallery only narrowly missed being court-martialled. Admiral King in Washington was all for it. Sir Andrew Cunningham, First Sea Lord at the Admiralty was equally shocked at the recklessness, but felt that a court martial would produce more publicity, and secrecy was of the essence concerning the compromise of the cyphers.

The POW's from U505 all knew what had happened. In the USA, they were kept separate from all other prisoners. Even the Red Cross was denied access to them. In Germany, they families were told they were dead, only finding out the truth in 1947 when they were finally allowed to return home.

I don't deny that the action of some of the American crewmen was heroic. However, this was not a planned operation. Daniel Gallery was a fool, who in every way possibly endangered the war effort, endangered the Normandy Landings and resulted in three years of unneccesary suffering for the German POW's and their families, and did not, through the delay in getting the codebooks to the codebreakers, assist at all.

The movie U571 is a farrago. It is a complete misrepresentation of history, when the only American seizure of any material relating to Enigma did not further the war, but endangered the Allies' plans through recklessness and stupidity.

Tricky Woo
26th Mar 2001, 16:54
As usual, a quick search on google.com does the trick:


I think there's a bit of jiggery-pokery going on here with the word jet. Clearly, what we have is a ducted fan driven by a piston engine. A pistonjet, if you like.

This is not what we normally understand by the term jet which is a truncated version of turbojet, i.e. a jet driven by a turbine.

So there you have it: Coanda was a smart cookie who invented (amongst other things) the ducted fan.

Whittle and Heinkel were smart cookies who independently invented the turbojet.

16th Sep 2005, 17:18
posted 26th March 2001 16:54 ___ __ _
I think there's a bit of jiggery-pokery going on here with the word jet. Clearly, what we have is a ducted fan driven by a piston engine. A pistonjet, if you like.

If Coanda's engine were merely (not to say "clearly") a ducted fan, then he would not be counted as the inventor of the first jet-powered aircraft. However, the piston-driven component did not just force air through a duct. It powered a compressor, aft of which fuel and air were mixed and burned in a combustion chamber. The reactive force, i.e the jet exhaust, thus created, was far more than could be delivered by the piston engine itself. Indeed, its power caught Coanda unawares as he tested it, leading to the first, inadvertent, jet-powered flight.

Whittle, Heinkel, Campini, et. al. must yield their places in the history books to this extraordinary Romanian.

This is not what we normally understand by the term jet which is a truncated version of turbojet, i.e. a jet driven by a turbine.

By that logic scram/ramjets would not qualify as jets, which they obviously are. Coanda's engine has just as good a claim.

16th Sep 2005, 17:31

The U-505 event took place on 4 June 44...less than 24 hours before the D-Day invasion kicked off....do recall the Para's and gliders went in the night before the amphib troops landed.

Just how could the capture of the 505 endanger the D-Day landings? The plan was made....it was going to be carried out....the Germans could not react any quicker than they did.

A very good account of the events at this link. The interesting bit was the use of the Sub's propellors to turn the generators to charge the batteries to enable pumping out the flooded compartments.


16th Sep 2005, 17:38

Post posted 26th March 2001


not sure if he's around to read....

at least not by the same username.

16th Sep 2005, 18:59
If you'd all stop using the term "jet engine" and use the term "gas turbine" maybe you wouldn't all keep pinging off on irrelevant tangents. :rolleyes:

Hoping for a bite........ :E

tony draper
16th Sep 2005, 19:31
A Geordie named Charlie Parsons invented the Turbine.
So there.

Ian Corrigible
16th Sep 2005, 19:48
Did Al Gore stake a claim to the jet engine...?



16th Sep 2005, 20:03
A Geordie named Charlie Parsons invented the Turbine.

Not gas (from internal combustion).

And he hardly invented it.....he helped to perfect it.

Crediting Parson's with the gas turbine is like saying the guy who invented the steam engine thereby invented the petrol engine and thereby invented the diesel and thereby.........

tony draper
16th Sep 2005, 20:10
Ah,ok,well a geordie did invented the electric light bulb,yer can't take that from us.

Duff beer
16th Sep 2005, 21:36
Ah,ok,well a geordie did invented the electric light bulb,yer can't take that from us.

Here you go Drapes, an extract from an American author (hence notice the spelling of Newcastle).

Joseph Swan, a British inventor, obtained the first patent for the same light bulb in Britain one year prior to Edison's patent date. Swan even publicly unveiled his carbon filament light bulb in New Castle, England a minimum of 10 years before Edison shocked the world with the announcement that he invented the first light bulb. Edison's light bulb, in fact, was a carbon copy of Swan's light bulb.

Makes you wander though doesnt it. How much of the history we learn in school is actually accurate.

tony draper
16th Sep 2005, 22:07
The first house in the world lit by electric light is about half a mile from me,and it is in Gateshead not Newcastle, one is thinking of getting it in oneself, these gas mantles do tax ones eyesight.


17th Sep 2005, 10:00
I'm surprised that no-one has challenged the first poster on his assertion that:

As far as I know the Whittle engine wasn't powering any serious a/c until after the war ended. Is this a case of the victor re-writing history?

The bloody Gloster Meteor (first flight 5 Mar 1943 - operational July 1944) was in operational service and shooting down V1s etc. The Vampire was just a smidge too late to see service during the war but was just about in service by the time the war was over (prototype first flight Sep 1943 - first production aircraft April 1945 - Operational March 1946).

17th Sep 2005, 10:42
Small correction - it was Hero of Alexandria who invented a sort of reaction engine, not Archimedes. The machine in question was a hollow metal sphere with directionally opposed, bent outlet jets mounted opposite each other at the sphere's equator. The sphere was suspended on a swivel at each side so it could spin. Water was put into the sphere and heated to create steam...

As to credit for achievement, apparently even Chuck Yeager admits that he wasn't the first US pilot to break the sound barrier. He was chosen to take the credit because of his seniority, profile etc.

In any case, it's very possible that a surprised Luftwaffe pilot called Hans Mutke did the trick in an Me262, accidentally, on 9th April 1945:

"The airspeed indicator was stuck in the red danger zone, which is over 1100 km/hr. I noticed that rivets began popping out of the tops of the wings."


or Mutke's own story at


He seems a fairly credible witness.

17th Sep 2005, 16:27
"I noticed that rivets began popping out of the tops of the wings."
Thereby being, in addition to the aformentioned success, the first pilot to $h!t his pants at greater than the speed of sound. :uhoh:

Onan the Clumsy
17th Sep 2005, 16:52
Hope he wasn't wearing a G suit then :uhoh:

17th Sep 2005, 19:55
Well the Mother In Law (R.I.P) was Frank Whittle's secretary and she came from somewhere near Geordie Land so I reckon Drapes is spot on! .

17th Sep 2005, 20:51
Instructor marches into classroom of pilots to lecture them on the new Scruggs 375-33 High bypass powerplant for the Wonderjet 400. Takes baloon out of pocket solemnly blows it up holds it above his head and releases grip in the neck. Farting sound as baloon whizzes round before falling deflated to floor. Instructor declares importantly.
" Ladies Gentlemen. Action reaction. Basic priciple of the Scruggs 375-33. " The short silence following this then broken by one student who slams his book shut and loudly declares," Thank f***k for that, now lets have the test while we have it all cold!"