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A brief history of jet engines

~1800s: Using simple models, English inventor Sir George Cayley

(17731857) figures out the basic design and operation of the
modern, wing-lifted airplane. Unfortunately, the only practical
power source available during his lifetime is the coalpowered steam engine, which is too big, heavy, and inefficient to
power a plane.
1860s1870s: Working independently, French engineers Joseph
tienne Lenoir (18221900), German engineer Nikolaus Otto
(18321891), and Karl Benz develop the modern car engine,
which runs on relatively light, clean, energy-rich gasolinea
much more practical fuel than coal.
1884: Englishman Sir Charles Parsons (18541931)
pioneers steam turbines and compressors, key pieces of
technology in future airplane engines.
1903: Bicycle-making brothers Wilbur Wright (18671912) and
Orville Wright (18711948) make the first powered flight using a
gas engine to power two propellers fixed to the wings of a simple
1908: Frenchman Ren Lorin (18771933) invents the ramjet
the simplest possible jet engine.
1910: Frenchman Henri-Marie Coand (18851972) builds the
world's first jet-like plane, the Coand-1910, powered by a large
air fan instead of a propeller.
1914: US space pioneer Robert Hutchings Goddard (18821945)
is granted his first two patents describing liquid-fueled, multi-stage

rocketsideas that will, many years later, help fire people into
1925: Pratt & Whitney (now one of the world's biggest aeroengine makers) builds its first engine, the nine-cylinder Wasp.
1928: German engineer Alexander Lippisch (18941976) puts
rocket engines on an experimental glider to make the world's first
rocket plane, the Lippisch Ente.
1926: British engineer Alan Griffith (18931963) proposes using
gas turbine engines to power airplanes in a classic paper titled An
Aerodynamic Theory of Turbine Design. This work makes Griffith,
in effect, the theoretical father of the jet engine (his many
contributions include figuring out that a jet engine compressor
needs to use curved airfoil blades rather than ones with a simple,
flat profile). Griffith later becomes a pioneer of turbojets,
turbofans, and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft as the
Chief Scientist to Rolls-Royce, one of the world's leading aircraft
engine makers.
1928: Aged only 21, English engineer Frank Whittle (19071996)
designs a jet engine, but the British military (and Alan Griffith,
their consultant) refuse to take his ideas seriously. Whittle is
forced to set up his own company and develop his ideas by
himself. By 1937, he builds the first modern jet engine, but only as
a ground-based prototype.
1936: Whittle invents and files a patent for the bypass turbofan
19331939: Hans von Ohain (19111998), Whittle's German
rival, simultaneously designs jet engines with compressors and
turbines. His HeS 3B engine, designed in 1938, powers the

Heinkel He-178 on its maiden flight as the world's first turbojet

airplane on August 27, 1939.
1951: US aerospace engineer Charles Kaman (19192011)
builds the first helicopter with a gas-turbine engine, the K-225.
2002: General Electric's GE90-115B turbofan becomes the world's most
powerful engine, with a maximum thrust of 569kN (127,900 lbf).