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Frank Whittle To Be Honoured By University

Coventry-born jet engine pioneer Sir Frank Whittle is to be honoured by Coventry University by having an engineering building named after him.

Sir Frank WhittleSir Frank’s son Iain will be guest of honour at the ceremony at C-block next week.

The building is mainly used for courses connected with the automotive industry.

Frank Whittle was born in Earlsdon, Coventry in 1907. As a youngster he was amazed by an early aeroplane which made an emergency landing on Hearsall Common.

Te plane flew so low it blew his cap off, and it proved an inspirational moment for Frank, who joined the RAF as an apprentice aircraft fitter after leaving school in 1923.

Later, he was selected for pilot training at the RAF College, Cranwell, where he was soon flying solo.

While at Cranwell, and still only 21, Whittle began to consider future developments in aircraft design including the use of an aero gas turbine.  By January 1930 he had patented his design for the jet aircraft engine.

His story is one of fluctuating fortune, of a struggle against a lack of vision by others, of financial crises and bureaucratic caution by those he approached.

The Air Ministry gave him no support, so Whittle launched his own development company.  In 1937 he test-ran the first successful jet engine. It was not until 1939 that the Ministry decided to test-fly the Whittle engine that was later incorporated into the twin-jet Meteor.

During his lifetime Frank Whittle was awarded many prizes, elected a member of the Royal Academy, knighted and awarded the Order of Merit.

A Coventry University spokesperson said:

“There can be no doubt that Whittle's work was the most important mechanical invention of this century.

“What he had pioneered led to the development of such icons as the Vulcan and eventually Concorde.”

Coventry University already has connections with Sir Frank. A former member of the academic staff, Eugene Place, worked with Sir Frank on the development of the jet engine, and the former Department of Mechanical Engineering owned a rotor from one of Sir Frank’s development engines.

The rotor is now on extended loan to the Air Museum at Baginton Airport in exchange for a range of jet engine components which are used in the teaching of undergraduates.

The spokesman added:

“The high quality research that is carried out, the innovation associated with student projects, and the excellence of the teaching of Mechanical Engineering make the association of the building with the name Sir Frank Whittle most appropriate.”

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CWN / Education / Universities / Coventry University / 22 Feb 01
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