History of Early Jet Engines

Early Jet Engines: Sir Isaac Newton to Hans Von Ohain

Jet engines go as far back as the invention of the "aeolipile " around 150 BCE. This apparatus used steam power directed through two nozzles to make a sphere spin rapidly on its axis. Actual jet propulsion only came to be with the invention of the rocket by the Chinese in the 13th century fireworks but gradually progressed to propel formidable weaponry; and there the technology stalled for hundreds of years.

History of Early Jet Engines

Here are some additional key events and people in the history of early jet engines:

• Sir Isaac Newton in the 18th century was the first to theorize that a rearward-channeled explosion could propel a machine forward at a great rate of speed. This theory was based on his third law of motion. As the hot air blasts backwards through the nozzle the plane moves forward.

• Henri Giffard built an airship which was powered by the first aircraft engine, a three-horse power steam engine. It was very heavy, too heavy to fly.

• In 1874, Felix de Temple, built a monoplane that flew just a short hop down a hill with the help of a coal-fired steam engine.

• Otto Daimler in the late 1800's, invented the first gasoline engine.

• In 1894, American Hiram Maxim tried to power his triple biplane with two coal-fired steam engines. It only flew for a few seconds.

• The early steam engines were powered by heated coal and were generally much too heavy for flight.

• American Samuel Langley made a model airplanes that were powered by steam engines. In 1896, he was successful in flying an unmanned airplane with a steam-powered engine, called the Aerodrome. It flew about 1 mile before it ran out of steam. He then tried to build a full sized plane, the Aerodrome A, with a gas powered engine.

In 1903, it crashed immediately after being launched from a house boat.

• In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew, "The Flyer", with a 12 horse-power gas powered engine.

• From 1903, the year of the Wright Brothers first flight, to the late 1930s the gas powered reciprocating internal-combustion engine with a propeller was the sole means used to propel aircraft.

• It was Frank Whittle, a British pilot, who designed the first turbo jet engine in 1930. His patent was granted in 1932. The patent showed a two-stage axial compressor feeding a single-sided centrifugal compressor.The first Whittle engine successfully flew in April 1937. This engine featured a multistage compressor, and a combustion chamber, a single stage turbine and a nozzle. 

• The first jet airplane to successfully use this type of engine was the German Heinkel He 178 invented by Hans Von Ohain. It was the world's first turbojet powered flight. 

• General Electric for the US Army Air Force built the first American jet plane. It was the XP-59A experimental aircraft.