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History of Jet Engines
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The most important part of a jet is the engine. As such, jet history closely follows the engine development. It is important to give credit were credit is due. Hence the names of the key engine inventor and aircraft designer is included. The first jet aircraft to fly was the Heinkel He 178 powered by the He S3B jet engine shown below. As other engines, such as the Jumo 004, were developed, new jets such as the Me 262 followed.  
History of Jet Engines Hans Von Ohain   Dr. Hans-Joachim Pabst von Ohain, "father of the gas turbine engine," beside his He S 3A jet engine which he invented, developed and successfully tested in 1936.1 He and Dr. Herbert Wagner are the father's of the jet engine. At about the same time, Frank Whittle in England also worked on a gas turbine engine but his engine did not run until 1937 at Power Jets.

History of jet engines






The He 178, using the He S3B engine, made its maiden flight on 27 August 1939. In subsequent tests it reached 400 mph. It was without a doubt the world's first jet aircraft. It's designers were Dr. Hertel, Siegfried GŁnter (later designed MiG 15 in Russia), Karl Schwaerzler.1, 4

In comparison, the first British jet, the Gloster E.28/39 powered by a Whittle engine first flew almost two years later in 1941. Only two Gloster's were built and one crashed supposedly because of icing?  The real cause may never be determined. However, the fist one accumulated 25 hrs of bench testing and ten hrs of flight.

The first US jet was the Bell XP-59A which made its maiden flight in October of 1942. It maximum speed was 380 mph. Because of its low performance and high fuel burn, it  was a big disappointment. See Ed Heinemann by Heinemann and Rausa. Available from Scientists and Friends.

The He 178 first flight in 1939
History of jet engines   Prof. Dr. Herbert Wagner started the design of the world's first axial gas turbine at Junkers, Magdeburg in 1935. He was in charge of advanced developments at Junkers until 1939. Then a fellow Austrian, Dr. Ing. Anselm Franz, also a graduate from the University of Graz, continued its development which during the war years led to the Jumo 004 axial gas turbine engine. Wagner is also the father of the turboprop engine which he patented in 1935. See British Patent No. 495 469. Sketch shown below.2

History of jet engines
History of jet engines

  The first axial gas turbine engine designed by H. Wagner. Drawing of German Patent 724091 of 1942 is shown below. This engine was further developed into the Jumo 004 engine under the direction of  Dr. Anselm Franz at Junkers Motorenbau (Jumo).1

The axial gas turbine engine was a big improvement over the centrifugal compressor turbine engine such as the von Ohain or the Whittle engines. All large jet engines today are axial gas turbine engines.

History of jet engines Dr Franz   Dr. Ing. Anselm Franz, director of the gas turbine engine development at Junkers in Germany from 1940 to 1945 came to the US with Operation "Paperclip" in 1946 and became vice president and assistant general director at AVCO Corp. Lycoming Division in Connecticut were he continued his management efforts developing gas turbine engines. Most of the Lycoming gas turbine engines were designed by Franz and his team of engineers.

History of jet engines






History of jet engines

  Over 7,900 Jumo 004 engines were built at Junkers from 1943 to 1945. The engine produced 2,000 lbs of thrust and it was the first engine to be fitted with an afterburner.1


The Junkers Aircraft and Motor Co., on the right, employed over 147,000 workers; 52,880 on aircraft engines and 91,000 on aircraft. After the war, the complete company was dismantled and taken to Russia as war bounty and rebuilt exactly as it stood in Leipzig.3 All design offices were set up and the blue prints of the German jet and rocket aircraft were stored so that when the German "Specialists" arrived on October 1946, they could work on the new Russian "Wunder" jets such as the MiG 15.4

  1. Wolfgang Wagner, "The First Jet  Aircraft," Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 1998.
  2. Monica Wagner-Fiedler, "Herbert Wagner," Scientists and Friends. August 2003.
  3. Andrew Brent, "TYPE 150," Flying, November 1952.
  4. Werner Keller, "Ost Minus West=Null, Der Aufbau Russlands Durch Den Westen." Droemersche Verlagsanstalt Th. Knaur Nachf. Munich, Zuerich. 1960.