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Research Aircraft: the Gloster Whittle E-28/39, Images by Wernher Krutein and PHOTOVAULT®

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Engine:
One 390 kg (860 lb) st. Power Jets (Whittle) W.1 centrifugal turbojet engine
Wing Span:
8.84 m (29 ft)
Length:
7.72 m (25 ft 4 in)
Weight:
Gross 1,678 kg (3,700 lb)
Maximum Speed:
544 km/h (338 mph)
Accommodation:
1 Pilot
Armament:
None

History: Gloster-Whittle E.28/39 Jet Aircraft 1941

The first Allied jet aircraft, the Gloster-Whittle E.28/39 first flew briefly on 8 May 1941 while on taxiing trials, although the first official flight took place on 15 May. Gloster E28/39 with Whittle WIX jet eingine, at Cranwell, England, flown by Flight Lt. Sayer for about 17 minutes. The Gloster Whittle
E29/39 jet aircraft was powered by the Whittle Jet Engine W1.
of the W1's castings and other components had to be
manufactured from stainless steel to withstand the high
temperatures generated within the engine.


The airframe of the E.28/39 was built by the Gloster aircraft company and proved the turbojet concept which had been under development by Frank Whittle and his company since 1936.

The E.28/39 was the forebear of the Gloster Meteor, which, unlike the experimental Gloster-Whittle, saw active service during the Second World War against the V-1 flying bombs.

The E.28/39 was surprisingly successful, considering the novelty of the technology it used, and was the first real proof that jet propulsion was a viable alternative to the propeller.

 

Engine:
One 390 kg (860 lb) st. Power Jets (Whittle) W.1 centrifugal turbojet engine
Wing Span:
8.84 m (29 ft)
Length:
7.72 m (25 ft 4 in)
Weight:
Gross 1,678 kg (3,700 lb)
Maximum Speed:
544 km/h (338 mph)
Accommodation:
1 Pilot
Armament:
None

History:

 

 

The real difference between the two designs was the crucial one of weight: Whittle's centrifugal compressor was very much lighter
and thus became the preferred option. The airframe to carry this revolutionary new engine was developed by the designer George Carter at Gloster Aircraft Ltd, working in close collaboration with Whittle and with
Power Jets.

The first recorded jet flight in Britain took place on May 15 1941 when Gloster E28/39, W4041/G, fitted with a Whittle W1 jet engine, took off from RAF Cranwell. The pilot was Gerry Sayer. This aircraft was sent to
Farnborough late in 1942 for testing by service pilots. The first man to do so was Wing Commander HJ Wilson who, in 1945, established a world air speed record of 606mph in a Meteor F3. W4041/G was joined in
May 1943 by a second machine fitted with the more powerful W2B engine. While testing the latter in July 1943, Squadron Leader Douglas Davie had the dubious distinction of becoming the first man to bail out of a
jet aircraft when he was forced to abandon his machine because the ailerons had jammed. W4041/G was transferred to the Science Museum in April 1946.

These two planes were the direct forerunners of the Gloster Meteor, prototypes of which were tested in two new wind tunnels opened at Farnborough in 1942 and 1943 specifically for the new jet aircraft. The
Metropolitan-Vickers F2 engine first flew in a Meteor in November 1943. Interestingly, it was casualties among pilots of these new jet aircraft which encouraged James Martin in his attempts to perfect an aircraft
ejection seat. His prototype, first tested in 1946 and used in conjunction with a standard parachute, has since saved thousands of lives.

 

In 1941 he watched his invention come to life as the
jet-propelled Gloster-Whittle E 28/39 flew successfully
for the first time. But his triumph was tainted with
bitterness and regret over the lack of support he
received from the British authorities.

Born in 1907 near Coventry, England, Whittle was
given a toy airplane with a clockwork propeller at the
age of four. His interest in airplanes increased during
the First World War when he used to watch aircraft
being built in a local factory. He started to spend hours
in the library reading about steam and gas turbines.

Whittle joined the Royal Air Force in 1923 and flew his
first solo flight after just eight hours of instruction. He
spent his spare time pondering new ways of powering
aircraft, and in 1928 wrote a revolutionary thesis called "Future Developments in Aircraft
Design." He patented his idea for a jet-engine in 1932.

Whittle always maintained that if his ideas had been adopted earlier Britain would have developed
a jet-propelled fighter aircraft before the outbreak of the Second World War, giving it an
enormous advantage against the Nazis. But his brilliant invention was met with indifference by
the authorities, who claimed it would never work. The British Air Ministry even refused to pay
the £5 renewal fee when his patent lapsed.

Fortunately Whittle was able to find independent backing. This, combined with the outbreak of
the Second World War, saw the rapid development of the first jet fighter, which took its maiden
flight in 1941.

Whittle's invention led to the development of other aircraft, such as the Gloster Meteor
which was used to shoot down German V-1 flying bombs at the end of the war. He also
influenced the de Havilland Comet, the world's first passenger jet, and Concorde, the first
supersonic airliner.

Frank Whittle retired from the RAF in 1948 was knighted shortly afterwards, finally receiving
the official recognition his momentous invention deserved. He retired to the United States in
1976.
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