How it all began
With private financial support but with no government interest or funding, he began construction of his first engine in 1935.
This engine, which had a single-stage centrifugal compressor coupled to a single-stage turbine known as "the Whittle Unit" (WU) was successfully bench tested on the 12th of April, 1937, When the first run was made, onlookers ran for cover amidst a "noise like an air raid siren" but the idea was proved.
It was interesting to see the ministry's view. i.e.. In its present state, and even considering the improvements possible when adopting the higher temperatures proposed for the immediate future, the gas turbine engine could hardly be considered a feasible application to airplanes mainly because of the difficulty in complying with the stringent weight requirements imposed by aeronautics. The present internal combustion engine equipment used in airplanes weighs about 1.1 pounds per horsepower, and to approach such a figure with a gas turbine seems beyond the realm of possibility with existing materials.
Whittle would later say "Good thing I was too stupid to know this"!
Incredibly no-one thought it important enough to
keep this project within the UK, and it was published in many countries, including Germany (research on jet engines began in Germany a
year later). Whittle made attempts to drum up interest within private industry but got nowhere. After giving away the
plans for the jet engine to the Americans, when the war ended, the new Labour government gave Rolls-Royce jet engines to
the Russians as well, resulting in the quick development of the MiG-15 fighter aircraft.
Doctor Hans Von Ohain. A German airplane designer conceived the idea of a continuous cycle combustion engine design (similar in concept to that of Sir Frank Whittle) in 1933. In view of the Whittle design being displayed to the world at large, three years earlier, the Germans must have viewed this as confetti from heaven.
using an axial flow impeller arrangement
Hans von Ohain was granted a patent for his turbojet engine in 1936.
A successful bench test of one of his engines was accomplished in September 1937.
The desire to build a miniature Gas turbine for model
propulsion quickly followed the full-size turbine engines and it comes as no
surprise that the modellers of the day looked at the first production engines for inspiration.
The first Goblins had a single sided Centrifugal compressor which set them on the right
track of simplification for miniaturisation but they assumed that at least three flame tubes were the minimum
it was considered that a single annular one would overheat the shaft tunnel.
Insights into how a miniature turbojet could be developed produced some pretty wild ideas, probably based on the general idea of how the model-size internal combustion engine had been developed as compared to the full-size. The main problem had been foreseen by the sceptics as the impossibility to scale down the carburettor and internal jets, once all the rules were ignored and someone actually tried it, it became obvious that an extreme simplification using a single jet and spray bar worked very well, at least for full throttle use. The fuel metering system for any proposed miniature Turbojet brought the sceptics back into the limelight but this time they were probably right, at least by reading what the general consensus of informed opinion was at the time. A kind of carburettor was visualised where the needle valve was operated in conjunction with rpm. Fuel options had already been chosen as anything from petrol to coal dust.
The book "Model Jet reaction engines" published in 1948, had a statement saying that a Miniature turbojet engine might be developed by the time this book gets to print. I don't know what this guy was drinking because many years passed before one was actually developed.
Jerry Jackman in the UK assembled a small team to develop a working engine and managed to get one to self sustain but unable to accelerate in 1975 but it took another eight years to overcome the many problems and have an engine with low enough temperatures and with high enough thrust to fit into a flying model.
Worlds first turbine powered model flight March 20th 1983, Greenham common airfield UK.
A chance remark to Jerry Jackman in 1975 was to finally resolve a challenge that had eluded modellers worldwide. A colleague queried why no-one had been able to make a useable gas turbine for model flight. Why not indeed? Jerry had an engineering background, access to some machinery and lots of pluck. Four jets later after much frustration and disappointment, his dream was realised on March 20th 1983. The worlds first ever miniature gas turbine proved itself in flight as it thrusted "Barjay" off the Greenham common runway.
But it was no easily achieved success. The Turbine wheel, stumbling block
of many before, called for skill in design,
machining and metallurgy to
survive 80,000 rpm and 650 degrees centigrade. The compressor called for
close tolerance milling to computerised co-ordinates which were in
themselves the result of deep study. Above all, as Jerry was the first to
admit, the development of the T.S.T. (Thatchham small turbines) was only
possible through the recruitment of highly qualified specialists who freely
their own skills to meet the challenge.
For each, it had been a rewarding and educational experience to produce a 3 3/4 lb unit that could develop thrust in excess of 9 lbs at 85,000 rpm. Running on propane, with a feed system that had to be devised for safe and fully controlled operation. All flights were made in public view and advertised in the Radio modelling magazine, so their personal pleasure could be shared, -even when at Abingdon in June when the turbine chose to disintegrate! That little experience was typical. It took hundreds of hours and not at little costs to set it right again, only to find that the revised blade angles were wrong.
Jerry Jackman's final design and the engine that powered the worlds first genuine gas Turbine powered model into the history books.