Early Gas Turbines

The "experts" said gas turbines would never power aircraft, but a few dedicated geniuses persevered with their lonely research, and eventually produced successful gas turbine aircraft power plants.


Examination and Commentary on Sir Frank Whittle’s 1928 Paper

Dr. Fred Starr and Alec Collins examine Cadet Officer Frank Whittle’s 1928 paper in detail and dispute the idea that this was the first mention of jet propulsion. Starr’s and Collins’ papers were published by the Royal Aeronautical Society in June 2019.

Dr. Fred Starr — A Commentary on Future Developments in Aircraft Design

Alec Collins — Comments on Whittle’s 1928 Cranwell Thesis

Early US Gas Turbines

During World War II, mainstream U.S. aircraft engine manufacturers, such as Allison, Pratt & Whitney and Curtiss-Wright, were not given gas turbine development contracts. The Army Air Corps believed the big engine makers were too busy meeting War production requirements. As a result, other organizations such as Allis-Chalmers, General Electric and Westinghouse took the lead in US gas turbine development. Notably, several US aircraft manufacturers (Lockheed, Northrop) also designed gas turbines of their own during WWII. Of these, only General Electric remains a modern player in the world of aircraft gas turbines. Most of the other efforts have faded into obscurity.

Frank Whittle's W2B Turbojet: United Kingdom versus United States Development

Wright's T35 Turboprop Engine, et al. — the Contest to Power the B-52


A notable exception is that much of the aircraft gas turbine work of Westinghouse was documented in a 1997 Masters Thesis by Paul D. Lagasse. The AHES is pleased to publish Mr. Lagasse's Thesis, and gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Mr. Lagasse and Mr. Paul Christiansen for their efforts in preparing it for publication here.

The Westinghouse Aviation Gas Turbine Division 1950-1960:
A Case Study in the Role of Failure in Technology and Business
(655K PDF)

by Paul D. Lagasse

The Whittle/Rover W2B and
Rolls-Royce W2B/23 Welland Turbo-Jets

by Peter Berry