The Engineer has covered the entire history of powered flight, from the Wright brothers to the latest plans for exploration of other planets. It took a particular interest in one of the most momentous shifts in aerospace: the invention and development of the jet engine, and its impact on aircraft from the end of the Second World War onwards. Here, we pick out some of our key articles on the rise of the jet.
1945: Whittle’s jet engine
The inventor of the turbojet, Sir Frank Whittle, was only 21 when he conceived the technology that would shrink the world and shape the way that war is fought in the air until the present day.
Rejected twice by the RAF, a few months after the end of the war, the now Air Commodore Whittle contributed a series of articles to The Engineer explaining how he had come up with the idea of using a gas turbine to generate thrust and the long process of realising his idea and developing it into a working prototype.
1945 German air power
While jets did not play a decisive role in the Second World War, both the allies and Germany were developing the technology. In one of a series of articles studying the machinery of the defeated Luftwaffe, The Engineer was impressed by jet-powered fighters produced by Messerschmitt and positively intimidated by some of the German developments in rocket powered aircraft.
1946 Waiting in the wings
A host of jet powered aircraft were waiting to enter service in the mid-1940s, including the record-breaking Gloster Meteor. In January 1946, The Engineer took a look at the latest developments.
1946 The Miles 52 - the supersonic aircraft that never was
Not every aircraft under development made it into service. One that never got to realise its potential was the Miles 52, resembling a "winged bullet” and potentially capable of a feat that would be not be achieved until the following year: breaking the sound barrier.
1958 Thunder and Lightnings
Slab-sided, with wings like sharpened planks and a tail like a shark’s fin, the brutal-looking English Electric Lightning was the RAF’s spearhead for almost 40 years. The Engineer reported on the first flight of the prototype of this blisteringly fast aircraft the year before the final version entered service.