How It Works

How has the jet engine evolved?

Full steam ahead
In Charles Parsons’ patent for the steam turbine, he describes a configuration in which a compressor feeds air into a furnace, which produces energy to power a turbine that returns energy back to the compressor – essentially a gas turbine!


Turboprop origins
AA Griffith publishes a seminal paper on axial compressors built with airfoil- shaped blades. The paper includes a basic diagram of a turboprop engine.


Turbojet turned down
English engineer and pilot Frank Whittle submits designs for a turbojet engine to the Air Ministry, which rejects the design for a mathematical error. Whittle gets a patent instead.


German jet
With no knowledge of Whittle’s design, German engineering student Hans von Ohain writes a paper proposing a strikingly similar jet engine.




Maiden jet flight
With the support of German plane manufacturer Heinkel, Von Ohain’s improved turbojet design is the first to be built and tested. The first jet-propelled aircraft, the Heinkel He 178, flies in August 1939.



British jet
After a decade of setbacks, Whittle finally sees his jet engine take flight on the Gloster E.28/39 – the first British- built jet-powered plane.




Deadly Swallow
The German Messerschmitt Me 262 – aka the Swallow – becomes the first jet-propelled fighter aircraft, claiming 542 Allied kills in WWII.


Comet takes off
The British-made de Havilland DH 106 Comet becomes the world’s first commercial passenger jet aeroplane sparking a new era of global travel.


Concorde’s debut
The Concorde SST becomes the first supersonic passenger jet, travelling from London to New York in only three and a half hours at twice the speed of sound.


Enter the hyperjet
The X-43, an unmanned experimental NASA aircraft, employs a Hyper-X scramjet engine to achieve Mach 9.6 (11,760km/h; 7,310mph).