air Commodore
Sir Frank Whittle

British Royal Air Force engineer Frank Whittle is the inventor of the turbojet engine, patenting the design in 1930. Without Air Ministry support, he founded his own company, Power Jets Ltd., to build a prototype, which ran in 1937. The successful test drew interest, and contracts, to build more engines, but Whittle suffered a nervous breakdown in 1940. In 1941, a Gloster E28/39 research airplane was fitted with a Whittle W.1 engine producing 800 pounds of thrust. The airplane reached 466 mph and climbed to 42,000 feet, breaking all aviation records of the day. Because the British government didn’t have the foresight to keep the jet engine design a secret, Germany had no trouble reverse engineering jet engines from Whittle’s patent. In 1944, when Power Jets was nationalized in Great Britain, Whittle again suffered a breakdown, eventually resigning from the company’s board. Despite no longer serving to advance jet design for England, he was nevertheless awarded a knighthood upon retiring from the RAF in 1948. In his career he would be instrumental in helping both Rolls-Royce and General Electric enter the jet age.