Frank Whittle bigraphy, stories - RAF officer, Jet engine pioneer

Frank Whittle : biography

1 June 1907 - 9 August 1996

Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, OM, KBE, CB, FRS, Hon FRAeS (1 June 1907 – 9 August 1996) was a British Royal Air Force (RAF) engineer air officer. He is credited with single handedly inventing the turbojet engine. Whittle's engines were developed some years earlier than those of Germany's Dr. Hans von Ohain who was the designer of the first operational jet engine. Encyclopaedia Britannica

From an early age Whittle demonstrated an aptitude for engineering and an interest in flying. At first he was turned down by the RAF but, determined to be a pilot, he overcame his physical limitations to be accepted into the RAF, where his abilities earned him a place on the officer training course at Cranwell. He excelled in his studies and became an accomplished pilot. While writing his thesis there he formulated the fundamental concepts that led to the creation of the turbojet engine, taking out a patent on his design in 1930. His performance on an officers' engineering course earned him a place on a further course at the University of Cambridge where he graduated with a First.

Without Air Ministry support, he and two retired RAF servicemen formed Power Jets Ltd to build his engine with assistance from the firm of British Thomson-Houston. Despite limited funding, a prototype was created, which first ran in 1937. Official interest was forthcoming following this success, with contracts being placed to develop further engines, but the continuing stress seriously affected Whittle's health, eventually resulting in a nervous breakdown in 1940. In 1944 when Power Jets was nationalised he again suffered a nervous breakdown, and resigned from the board in 1946.

In 1948 Whittle retired from the RAF and received a knighthood. He joined BOAC as a technical advisor before working as an engineering specialist in one of Shell Oil's subsidiaries followed by a position with Bristol Aero Engines. After emigrating to the U.S. in 1976 he accepted the position of NAVAIR Research Professor at the United States Naval Academy from 1977–1979. In August 1996, Whittle died of lung cancer at his home in Columbia, Maryland. In 2002, Whittle was ranked number 42 in the BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Styles and promotions

(ribbon bar, as it would look today)


  • 1907–1923: Frank Whittle
  • 1923–1926: Apprentice Frank Whittle
  • 1926–1928: Officer Cadet Frank Whittle
  • 1928–1930: Pilot Officer Frank Whittle
  • 1930–1934: Flying Officer Frank Whittle
  • 1934–1938: Flight Lieutenant Frank Whittle
  • 1938–1940: Squadron Leader Frank Whittle
  • 1940–1941: Squadron Leader (Temp. Wing Commander) Frank Whittle
  • 1941-1943: Wing Commander Frank Whittle
  • 1943–1944: Wing Commander (Temp. Group Captain) Frank Whittle
  • 1944–1946: Group Captain (Actg. Air Commodore) Frank Whittle, CBE
  • 1946–1947: Group Captain (Temp. Air Commodore) Frank Whittle, CBE
  • 1947–1948: Group Captain (Temp. Air Commodore) Frank Whittle, CB, CBE
  • 1948–1986: Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, KBE, CB
  • 1986–1996: Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle, OM, KBE, CB, FRS, FRAeS

Early life

Whittle was born in a terraced house in Newcombe Road, Earlsdon, Coventry, England on 1 June 1907, the eldest son of Moses Whittle and Sara Alice Garlick. Retrieved: 18 July 2008 When he was nine years old, the family moved to the nearby town of Royal Leamington Spa where his father, a highly inventive practical engineer and mechanic,Details from the Sir Frank Whittle Jet Heritage Centre display at the Midland Air Museum purchased the Leamington Valve and Piston Ring Company, which comprised a few lathes and other tools and a single-cylinder gas engine, on which Whittle became an expert., The Daily Telegraph, Obituaries, 10 August 1996 Whittle developed a rebellious and adventurous streak, together with an early interest in aviation.

After two years attending Milverton School, Whittle won a scholarship to a secondary school which in due course became Leamington College, but when his father's business faltered there was not enough money to keep him there. He quickly developed practical engineering skills while helping in his father's workshop, and being an enthusiastic reader spent much of his spare time in the Leamington reference library, reading about astronomy, engineering, turbines, and the theory of flight. At the age of 15, determined to be a pilot, Whittle applied to join the RAF.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine