Frank Whittle

Fighter Aircraft

The first operational jet fighter was the American Bell Aircomet, which made its maiden flight in October 1942, followed by the UK's Gloster Meteor fighter aircraft in March 1943.

The Meteors, with a top speed of 480 mph were used to great effect in the Second World War to knock the VI flying bombs out of the sky, using their wing tips! A total of 3875 Meteors were built between 1943 and 1954.

The first jet airliner, the Comet, was launched in Britain in 1949.

Improvements in design

The first Whittle engines used centrifugal flow compressors for both military and civilian applications, but today, jet engines use axial compressors. These are more difficult to make, and rely on good aerodynamic design to work. The axial flow compressor is essentially a turbine in reverse, with air flowing between alternate rows of stationary (stator) and rotating (rotor) blades, each having an aerofoil shape.

The Whittle Laboratory

Research into compressors and turbines still continues with the work at the Whittle Laboratory, which was opened in 1972 and is part of the Cambridge University Engineering Department