This article outlines some of the important developments in the early history of the development of the jet engine
. Although the most common type, the gas turbine powered jet engine, was certainly a 20th century invention, many of the needed advances in theory and technology leading to this invention were made well before this time.
The jet engine was clearly an idea whose time had come. In the mid-to-late 1930s there were six teams in the midst of developing their own independent ideas, three in Germany, two in the UK and one in Hungary. By 1942 they had been joined by another half dozen British companies, three more in the United States and early efforts in the Soviet Union and Japan. For some time after the World War II, British designs dominated practically all efforts, but by the 1950s jet technology was already a well understood and robust industry.
- 1st century: Aeolipile by Hero of Alexandria steam jet/rocket engine on a bearing
- 12th Century: rocket jet power used for weaponry by Chinese
The leadup (1791-1931)
- 1791: John Barber receives British patent #1833 for A Method for Rising Inflammable Air for the Purposes of Producing Motion and Facilitating Metallurgical Operations. In it he describes a turbine.
- 1884: Charles Algernon Parsons patents the steam turbine. In the patent application he notes that the turbine could be driven "in reverse" to act as a compressor. He suggests using a compressor to feed air into a furnace, and a turbine to extract power to run the compressor. Although intended for factory use, he is clearly describing the gas turbine.
- 1887: Gustaf de Laval introduces nozzles design of small steam turbines.
- 1900: Sanford Moss publishes a paper on turbocompressors. He builds and runs a testbed example in 1903.
- 1903: Ægidius Elling builds a gas turbine using a centrifugal compressor which runs under its own power. By most definitions, this is the first working gas turbine.
- 1903-1906: The team of Armengaud and Lemale in France build a complete gas turbine engine. It uses three separate compressors driven by a single turbine. Limits on the turbine temperatures allow for only a 3:1 compression ratio, and the turbine is not based on a Parsons-like "fan", but a Pelton wheel-like arrangement. The engine is so inefficient, at about 3% thermal efficiency, that the work is abandoned.
- 1908: Hans Holzwarth starts work on extensive research on an "explosive cycle" gas turbine, based on the Otto cycle. This design burns fuel at a constant volume and is somewhat more efficient. By 1927, when the work ended, he has reached about 13% thermal efficiency.
- 1908: René Lorin patents a design for the ramjet engine.
- 1909: Marconnt proposes a modification of Lorin's design using a resonant compression chamber, creating the pulsejet.
- 1910: Henri Coandă builds and flies the world's first jet powered aircraft, the Coanda-1910. It uses an engine-powered compressor mounted in a short duct. Efficiency is low and he abandons the concept, although his studies of burning resulted in the discovery of the Coanda effect. Although this is the first design to be powered by a jet of air, it does not get its power from a gas turbine and is thus not a "jet engine" in the current meaning of the term.
- 1916: Auguste Rateau suggests using exhaust-powered compressors to improve high-altitude performance, the first example of the turbocharger.
- 1917: Sanford Moss starts work on turbochargers at General Electric, which goes on to be the world leader in this technology.
- 1917: J.S. Harris patents a "Motor Jet" design, similar to Henri Coandă's.
- 1920: W.J. Stern reports to the Royal Air Force that there is no future for the turbine engine in aircraft. He bases his argument on the extremely low efficiency of existing compressor designs. Stern's paper is so convincing there is little official interest in gas turbine engines anywhere, although this does not last long.
- 1921: Maxime Guillaume patents the axial-flow turbine engine. It uses multiple stages in both the compressor and turbine, combined with a single very large combustion chamber. Although sightly different in form, the design is significantly similar to future jet engines in operation.
- 1923: Edgar Buckingham at the United States National Bureau of Standards publishes a report on jets, coming to the same conclusion as W.J. Stern, that the turbine engine is not efficient enough. In particular he notes that a jet would use five times as much fuel as a piston engine.
- 1925: Wilhelm Pape patents a constant-volume engine design.
- 1926: Alan Arnold Griffith publishes his groundbreaking paper Aerodynamic Theory of Turbine Design, changing the low confidence in jet engines. In it he demonstrates that existing compressors are "flying stalled", and that major improvements can be made by redesigning the blades from a flat profile into an airfoil, going on to mathematically demonstrate that a practical engine is definitely possible and showing how to build a turboprop.
- 1927: Aurel Stodola publishes his "Steam and Gas Turbines" - basic reference for jet propulsion enginers in the USA.
- 1927: A testbed single-shaft turbocompressor based on Griffith's blade design is tested at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Known as Anne, the tests are successful and plans are made to build a complete compressor-turbine assembly known as Betty.
- 1929: Frank Whittle's thesis on future aircraft design is published. In it he talks about the needs for high-speed flight and the use of motorjets as the only reasonable solution to the problem of propeller efficiency.
- 1930: Whittle realizes that the compressor of a motorjet could be powered by the turbine, and quickly designs a complete jet engine, passing it to the Air Ministry. They pass the paper to Griffiths, who says the idea is impracticable, pointing out a mathematical error, noting the low efficiency of his design, and stating that Whittle's use of a centrifugal compressor would make his proposal useless for aircraft applications.
- 1930: Whittle receives official notice that the Air Ministry is not interested in his concepts, and that they don't even feel that it is worthy of making secret. He is devastated, but friends in the Royal Air Force convince him to patent the idea anyway. This turns out to be a major stroke of luck, because if the Air Ministry had made the idea secret, they would have become the official owners of the rights to the concept.
- 1930: Schmidt patents a pulsejet engine in Germany.
- 1931: Secondo Campini patents his motorjet engine, referring to it as a thermojet.
First steps (1933-1938)
- 1933: Hans von Ohain writes his thesis at the University of Goettingen, describing an engine almost identical to Frank Whittle's with the exception that it uses a centrifugal "fan" as the turbine as well as the compressor.
- 1934: von Ohain hires a local mechanic, Max Hahn, to build his a prototype of his engine design at Hahn's garage.
- 1934: Secondo Campini starts work on the Campini Caproni CC.2, based on his "thermojet" engine.
- 1935: Whittle allows his patent to lapse after finding himself unable to pay the £5 renewal fee. Soon afterward he is approached by several ex-RAF men with a proposal to set up a company to develop his design and Power Jets, Ltd is created.
- 1936: von Ohain is introduced to Ernst Heinkel by a former professor. After being grilled by Heinkel engineers for hours, they conclude his idea is genuine. Heinkel hires von Ohain and Hahn, setting them up at their Rostock-area factory.
- 1936: Junkers starts work on axial-flow turboprop designs under the direction of Herbert Wagner and Adolf Müeller.
- 1936: Junkers Motoren (Jumo) is merged with Junkers, formerly separate companies.
- 1936: A stationary gas turbine is installed at the Sun Oil refinery in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania
- 1936: French engineer René Leduc, having independently re-discovered René Lorin's design, successfully demonstrates the world's first operating ramjet. The Armée de l'Air orders a prototype aircraft, the Leduc 010, a few months later.
- March, 1937: The Heinkel HeS 1 experimental hydrogen fueled centrifugal engine is tested at Hirth.
- April, 1937: Whittle's experimental centrifugal engine is tested at the British Thomson-Houston plant in Rugby
- September, 1937: von Ohain's Heinkel HeS 1 is converted to run on gasoline. Ernst Heinkel gives the go-ahead to develop a flight-quality engine and a testbed aircraft to put it in.
- 1937: Hayne Constant, Griffith's partner at the RAE, starts negotiations with Metropolitan-Vickers (Metrovick), a British heavy industry firm, to develop a Griffith-style turboprop.
- 1937: At Junkers, Wagner and Müller decide to re-design their work as a pure jet.
- 1938: Metrovick receives a contract from the Air Ministry to start work with Constant.
- 1938: György Jendrassik starts work on a turboprop engine of his own design.
- April, 1938: Hans Mauch takes over the RLM rocket development office. He expands the charter of his office and starts a massive jet development project, under Helmut Schelp. Mauch spurns Heinkel and Junkers, concentrating only on the "big four" engine companies, Daimler-Benz, BMW, Jumo and Bramo. Mauch and Schelp visit all four over the next few months, and find them uninterested in the jet concept.
- 1938: A small team at BMW led by Hermann Östrich builds and flies a simple thermojet. They turn to true jet engine design almost immediatey.
- 1938: The Heinkel He 178 V1 jet testbed is completed, awaiting an engine.
- 1938: The Heinkel HeS 3 "flight quality" engine is tested. This is the first truly usable jet engine. The engine flies on a Heinkel He 118 later that year, eventually becoming the first aircraft to be powered by jet power alone. This engine is tested until it burns out after a few months, and a second is readied for flight.
- 1938: Wagner's axial-flow engine is tested at Junkers.
- 1938: Messerschmitt starts the preliminary design of a twin-engine jet fighter under the direction of Waldermar Voight. This work develops into the Messerschmitt Me 262.
This is the first jet powered aircraft.
- September: A team from the Air Ministry visits Power Jets once again, but this time Frank Whittle demonstrates a jet engine at full power for a continuous 20-minute run. They are extremely impressed, and immediately offer contracts to Whittle to develop a flyable design, and production contracts are offered to practically every engine company in England. These companies also set up their own design efforts, making the possibility of financial rewards for Power Jets slim.
- September: The Air Ministry also contracts Gloster to build an experimental airframe for testing Whittle's engines, the Gloster E.28/39
- After hearing of Whittle's successful demonstration, Hayne Constant realizes that exhaust thrust is practical. The Metrovick efforts are immediately reworked into a turbojet design, the Metrovick F.2.
- November: Müller's team restarts work on their axial-flow design at Heinkel, now known as the Heinkel HeS 30.
- René Anxionnaz of France's Rateau company received a patent on an advanced jet design incorporating bypass.
- Leist joins Dailmer-Benz and starts work on an advanced contra-roating turbofan design, the DB 6001
- A shakeup at the RLM's engine division places Helmut Schelp in control, and results in development contracts for all existing engine designs. The designs are also given consistent naming, the Heinkel HeS 8 becoming the 109-001, the HeS 30 the -006, BMW's efforts the -002 and -003, and Jumo's the -004. Porsche's project becomes the -005, although work never starts on it. DB gets -007. Numbers starting in the 20s are saved for turboprops, and 500 and up for rockets.
- The Campini Caproni CC.2 flies for first time. The flights were highly publicized, and for many years the Italians were credited with having the first jet powered aircraft.
- NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) starts work on a CC.2 like motorjet for assisted takeoffs, and they later design an aircraft based on it. This work ends in 1943 when turbojets start to mature, and rockets take over the role of JATO, or jet assisted takeoff.
- von Ohain's larger Heinkel HeS 8 (-001) engine is tested.
- BMW's P.3302 (-003) axial-flow engine is tested
- September: Glider testing of the Heinkel He 280 twin-jet fighter begins, while it waits for the HeS 8 to mature.
- September: Henry Tizard visits the United States to show them many of the advanced technologies they are working on, becoming known as the Tizard Mission. Among many other details, Tizard first mentions their work on jet engines.
- October: Rover is selected to build the flight-quality Power Jets W.1. They set up shop at a disused mill in Barnoldswick, but also set up a parallel effort at another factory in Clitheroe staffed entirely by their own engineers. Frank Whittle is incensed.
- November: The Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow engine is tested.
- November: Gloster Aircraft Company's proposal for a twin-engine jet fighter is accepted, becoming the Gloster Meteor.
- December: Whittle's flight-quality W.1X runs for the first time.
- The Lockheed Corporation starts work on the L-1000 axial-flow engine, the United States's first jet design.
- The Northrop Corporation starts work on the T-37 Turbodyne, the United States's first turboprop. design.
- After only two years of development, the Jendrassik Cs-1 turboprop engine is tested. Designed to produce 1,000 horsepower, combustion problems limit it to only when it first runs. Similar problems plagued early Whittle designs, but help was immediately available from the rest of the industry. It appears György Jendrassik had no similar talent pool to draw on.
- February: The Air Ministry places an order for 12 Gloster Meteor.
- February: NACA starts testing their "Propulsive duct engine", a ramjet, unaware of earlier similar efforts. Since ramjets need to be moving in order to work, NACA engineers take the simple step of mounting it at the end of a long arm and spinning it.
- April: The He 280 flies under its own power for first time, powered by two Heinkel HeS 8 (-001) engines. The HeS 8's continue to have reliability issues.
- May: The Gloster E.28/39 flies for the first time. Over the next few weeks, the top speed soon passes any existing propeller aircraft.
- Müller's Heinkel HeS 30 (-006) axial-flow engine runs for first time.
- General Electric is awarded a USAAF contract to develop a turboprop engine, leading to the TG-100 / TG-31 / XT-31 series, and later the J35.
- Work on the Jendrassik Cs-1 ends. Intended to power a twin-engine heavy fighter, the factory is selected to produce Daimler-Benz DB 605 engines under license for the Messerschmitt Me 210 instead.
- October: A Power Jets W.2B is sent to General Electric to start production in the US. Sandford Moss is lured out of retirement to help on the project.
- The Switzerland turbine-powered train enters testing.
- The Metrovick F.2 is tested.
- Work on the BMW 002 is stopped as it is proving too complex. Work continues on the 003.
- Work on the HeS 8 (-001) and HeS 30 (-006) is stopped, although the later appears to be reaching production quality. Heinkel is ordered to continue on the more advanced Heinkel HeS 011.
- The Messerschmitt Me 262 flies for the first time, powered by a Junkers Jumo 211 piston engine in the nose. The BMW 003 has been selected to power the production versions, but is not yet ready for flight tests. The design, offering more internal fuel capacity than the He 280, is selected over its now 003-powered competitor for production.
- A Jumo 004 flies, fitted to a Messerschmitt Me 110
- The Daimler-Benz 007 axial-flow engine is tested, similar to Griffith's "contraflow" design that uses two contra-rotating compressor stages for added efficiency.
- The "production-quality" BMW 003 is first tested.
- July 18, 1942: The Messerschmitt Me 262 flies for the first time under jet power.
This is the first jet powered fighter aircraft.
- July: Frank Whittle visits the United States to help with General Electric's efforts to build the W.1. The engine is running soon after, known as the "General Electric Type 1", and later as the I-16, referring to the thrust. They also start work on an improved version, the I-40, with thrust. The majority of United States jet engines from this time through the mid-1950s are licensed versions of British designs.
- Whittle returns to Power Jets and starts development of the improved Power Jets W.2/500 and /700 engines, so named for their thrust in kilograms-force (kgf).
- Westinghouse starts work on an axial-flow engine design, the WE-19.
- October: The Bell XP-59 flies, powered by a General Electric Type I-A (W.1).
- The Fieseler Fi 103 V-1 pulsejet powered cruise missile flies for the first time.
- Armstrong Siddeley starts work on an axial-flow design, the ASX.
- December: After meeting held at a pub, Rover agrees to hand over the jet development to Rolls-Royce, in exchange for their Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine factory.
- January 1: Rolls takes over the Rover plants, although the official date is several months later. Stanley Hooker leads a team including Fred Morley, Arthur Rubbra and Harry Pearson. Several Rover engineers decide to stay on as well, including Adrian Lombard, leader of Rover's "offshoot" design team. They focus on making the W.2B production quality as soon as possible.
- After only a few short months at Rolls, the W.2B/23, soon to be known as the Rolls-Royce Welland, starts production.
- The parallel Rover design effort, the W.2B/26, is tested. It becomes the Rolls-Royce Derwent.
- The de Havilland Goblin engine is tested, similar in most ways to the Derwent.
- March: A license for the Goblin is taken out in the United States by Allis-Chalmers, later becoming the J36. Lockheed is awarded a contract to develop what would become the P-80 Shooting Star, powered by this engine.
- Production of Jumo 004B starts.
- Production of BMW 003A starts.
- First running turbofan the German Daimler-Benz DB 670 (aka 109-007) operated on its testbed on April 1 1943
- Throughout 1943, the Jumo 004 and BMW 003 continue to destroy themselves at an alarming rate due to turbine failures. Efforts in the United Kingdom, at one point years behind due to official indifference, have now caught up due to the availability of high temperature alloys which allowed for considerably more reliable high-heat sections of their designs.
- Design work on the BMW 018 starts.
- The US decides to rename all existing jet projects with a single numbering scheme. The L-1000 becomes the J37, GE's Type I the J31, and Westinghouse's WE-19 the J30. Newer projects are fitted into the remaining "30's". Turboprop designs become the T series, also starting at 30.
- September: Allis-Chalmers runs into difficulty on the J36, and the Shooting Star project is re-engined with the General Electric J33, a licensed version of the W.2B/26, or Rolls-Royce Derwent. GE later modifies the design to produce over twice the thrust, at .
- Frank Whittle's W.2B/700 engine is tested, fitted to a Vickers Wellington Mk II bomber.
- March: Westinghouse's X19A axial-flow engine is bench tested at .
- Miles Aircraft test an all-moving tailplane as part of the Miles M.52 supersonic research aircraft design effort.
- A Welland-powered prototype Gloster Meteor flies.
- The Goblin-powered de Havilland Vampire flies.
- Lyul'ka VDR-2 axial-flow engine tested, the first Soviet jet design.
- The General Electric J31, their version of the W.2B/23, is tested.
- November: The Metrovick F.2 is tested on a modified Gloster Meteor. Although more powerful, smaller and more fuel efficient than the Welland, the design is judged too complex and failure prone. In his quest for perfection, Griffith instead delivers an impractical design. Work continues on a larger version with an additional compressor stage that over doubles the power.
- The Armstrong Siddeley ASX is tested.
- BMW tests the 003R, a 003 with an additional rocket engine for boost on takeoff and combat.
- Stanley Hooker visits General Electric and is alarmed by the success of their team in improving the power of the Derwent as the I-40. He decides that their team at Rolls-Royce should beat them and produce an even more powerful engine. In a short 6-month period they design and build the Rolls-Royce Nene at , but it sees only limited use in the United Kingdom.
- April: With internal design efforts underway at most engine companies, Power Jets have little possibility of profitability, and are nationalized, becoming a pure research lab as the National Gas Turbine Establishment.
- June: Design work on a gas turbine engine for powering tanks begins under the direction of Müller, who left Heinkel in 1942. The first such system, the GT 101, is completed in November and fit to a Panther tank for testing.
- June: A Derwent II engine is modified with an additional turbine stage powering a gearbox and five-bladed propeller. The resulting RB.50, or Rolls-Royce Trent, is not further developed, but is test flown on a modified Gloster Meteor.
- The Junkers Ju 287 jet bomber is tested.
- The BMW 018 engine is tested. Work ends soon after when the entire tooling and parts supply are destroyed in a bombing raid.
- The Junkers Jumo 012 engine is tested, it stands as the most powerful engine in the world for some time, at .
- The J35, a development of an earlier turboprop effort, runs for the first time.
- Ford builds a copy of the V-1's engine, known as the PJ-31-1.
- The Ishikawajima Ne-20 first runs in Japan. Originally intending to build a direct copy of the BMW 003, the plans never arrived and the Japanese engineers instead built an entirely new design based on a single cutaway image and several photographs.
- The Doblhof WNF-4 flies, the first ramjet powered helicopter.
- April 5: The nearly-complete prototype of the Leduc 010 ramjet-powered aircraft, under construction at the Montaudran airfield near Toulouse, France unbeknownst to German occupation authorities, is heavily damaged by a Royal Air Force bombing raid.
- April: The Messerschmitt Me 262 first enters combat service Germany.
- June: The Messerschmitt Me 262 enters squadron service in Germany.
- July: The Gloster Meteor enters squadron service in the United Kingdom.
- An effort starts in Germany to build a simple jet fighter, the Volksjäger. The contract is eventually won by the Heinkel He 162, to be powered by the BMW 003.
- December: Northrop's T-37 turboprop is tested. The design never matures and work is later stopped in the late 1940s.
- Stanley Hooker scales the Nene down to Gloster Meteor size, producing the RB.37, also referred to, confusingly, as the Derwent V. A Derwent V powered Meteor sets the world speed record at 606 mph at the end of the year. This performance is so outstanding that immediate development of more powerful engines is considered unimportant.
- The Junkers 022 turboprop runs.
- An afterburner equipped Jumo 004 is tested.
- Lyul'ka VDR-3 axial-flow engine tested.
- Lyul'ka TR-1 axial-flow engine tested.
- The RB.39 Rolls-Royce Clyde turboprop runs, combining axial and centrifugal stages in the compressor. It is considered too complex to bother with.
- The Avia S-92, a version of the Me 262, is built in Czechoslovakia.
- January: A dispirited Frank Whittle resigns from what is left of Power Jets. Gradually the company is broken up, with only a small part remaining to administer its patents.
- Development of the Rolls-Royce Dart starts. The Dart would go on to become one of the most popular turboprop engines made, with over 7,000 being produced before the production lines finally shut down in 1990.
- April 21: The Leduc 010, the world's first ramjet powered aircraft, finally completes its maiden flight in Toulouse, France. The aircraft's rate of climb exceeds that of the best contemporary turbojet powered fighters.
- late 1950 Rolls-Royce Conway the worlds first production turbofan enters service, significantly improving fuel efficiency and paving the way for further improvements
- TF39 high bypass turbofan enters service delivering greater thrust and much better efficiency
- X-15 rocket plane flys at more than 50 miles altitude at more than 3000 mph.
- HyShot scramjet ignited and operated
- Hyper-X first scramjet to maintain altitude
- Hyper-X first airbreathing (scram)jet to attain mach 10