Skip to main content

Sir Frank Whittle Papers

Identifier: MS-241

Scope and Content

Series I consists of design and technical reports: basic jet concepts, research and development, and bench and flight testing of gas turbine aircraft engines. The reports are arranged chronologically. The bulk of these reports were prepared by Power Jet Limited, a company in which Sir Frank Whittle played an elemental role. This series also includes reports by The British Air Ministry, The National Gas Turbine Establishment, as well as reports from a variety of other sources. The reports are rich with early jet aircraft technology at its beginning stage. Many of today's standard jet aircraft concepts are shown in their developmental phase. Ideas that were new and innovative in the 1930s-1940s, like water injection, afterburners, special jet fuel, inlet guide vane designs, turbo-props, thrust reversers, supersonic jets, etc. are discussed in these reports as possibilities for development.

Besides the test data on early British jets, some test data on America's first jet aircraft, the Bell YP-59, is included. Many of the reports carry interesting photographs, schematics, and technical drawings. Anyone studying the stepping stones to jet power will find these reports essential.

Series II contains correspondence, internal and external, mostly of Power Jets Limited and The British Air Ministry. It is arranged chronologically, with some groupings on specific subjects. Trip reports show the sharing of technology between various agencies within the British aircraft manufacturing community, as well as sharing with the United States. Most of the correspondence is technical in nature, and some reports are included as part of memos and letters. Security concerns and patent information are among the non-technical topics which show up in the series.

Series III contains loose photographs which were not part of technical reports. Most of the photographs are dated, but most are not labeled specifically. Many of the photographs are of various types of jet engines. There are also some interesting photographs of compressor damage caused by foreign objects.

Series IV consists of loose drawings and charts which were not part of any specific technical report. One large fold-out jet engine drawing is especially informative with different systems color coded. An organizational chart of Power Jets Ltd. is also included in this series.

Series V is made up of miscellaneous documents having to do with jet aircraft and engines. There are two Bibliographies of technical reports which will be of great use to researchers. This series also includes early histories of British jet aircraft development, and a script for a motion picture about jet aircraft.


  • Creation: 1936-1964


Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biography of Sir Frank Whittle

Frank Whittle first proposed the use of the gas turbine for jet propulsion in a science thesis in 1928. His thesis, Future Development of Aircraft, was his fourth term project at the R.A.F. College. Whittle filed British Patent No. 374206 for his idea in January of 1930. The British Air Ministry did not take much interest in the idea at that time due mostly to the unavailability of materials necessary to build such a power plant.

Whittle did not let the idea rest though. After a brief posting as a flying Instructor, Group Captain Whittle attended the R.A.F. Officers Engineering Course (1932-1934). From there he continued his graduate studies in Mechanical Sciences at Cambridge University. In 1936, Whittle teamed up with J.C.B. Tinling and R.D. Williams to form Power Jets Ltd. The R.A.F. was supportive of Whittle and allowed him to pursue his research and development with Power Jets Limited and the British Thomson-Houston Co., Rugby, to produce a working jet engine. In April 1937, the first engine was started and run up to 13,600 r.p.m.

In July 1939, the Gloster Aircraft Co. was contracted to build an aircraft for the new engine. The Gloster E28/39 (nicknamed the Squirt) took to the air on 14 May 1941 with Whittle's engine, the W1. In the years to follow much testing and improvement was completed before reliable production models came about. The Whittle engine technology was shared with the United States, and became the foundation for the American jet aircraft program.


1.7 linear feet

Language of Materials



Sir Frank Whittle invented the jet propulsion engine, proposing the use of the gas turbine for jet propulsion in 1928. He patented his idea in 1930. The first jet aircraft flew in 1941. Whittle's engine technology was shared with the United States government and became the foundation for the American jet aircraft program. The papers in the collection document Whittle's invention of the jet engine and include correspondence, technical and design reports, photographs, charts, and engineering drawings.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into five series:

  1. Series I: Design and Technical Reports
  2. Series II: Correspondence
  3. Series III: Photographs
  4. Series IV: Technical Drawings and Charts
  5. Series V: Miscellaneous

Acquisition Information

The Sir Frank Whittle Papers were donated to Special Collections and Archives by Eric Falk, General Electric Aircraft Engines, Cincinnati, Ohio in September 1992.

Existence and Location of Copies

The Sir Frank Whittle Papers is available on microfilm and located in the Special Collections and Archives Reading Room.

Related Material

MS-335, Hans von Ohain Papers; GBT/0041/WHIT, The Papers of Sir Frank Whittle, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, UK


  • Whittle, Frank, Sir, "Jet, The Story of a Pioneer." New York: Philosophical Library, 1954. Golley, John, "Whittle, the True Story/John Golley in Association with Sir Frank Whittle." Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987.

Processing Information

Processed by David Bragg, June 1993.

Guide to the Sir Frank Whittle Papers (MS-241)
Finding aid prepared by David Bragg, June 1993
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018-05-29: The Finding Aid was updated to the EAD Finding Aid format in March 2011; revised May 2018 by Lisa Rickey.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA