By Campbell-Smith, Duncan
Facing a huge audience of American engineers in 1985, Hans von Ohain, the scientist who pioneered Nazi Germany's efforts to build a jet plane, spoke of a rival in Britain whose pre-war work had clearly surpassed his own, yet had been disastrously neglected. The RAF, said von Ohai...n, could certainly have had jet fighters several years before they went into service in 1944. 'Would World War II have occurred if the Luftwaffe knew it faced operational British jets instead of Spitfires? I, for one, think not.' That rival was Frank Whittle, working-class outsider and self-taught enthusiast. By 1929 Whittle had worked out the blueprint of a completely new type of engine, only for his ideas to be blocked by bureaucratic opposition until the outbreak of war in 1939. The importance of his work was recognized too late by the government for his revolutionary engine to play a major part in World War II. After the war Whittle's dream of civilian jet-powered aircraft became a triumphant reality and Britain enjoyed a golden age of jet-powered flight in the 1950s. Drawing on Whittle's extensive private papers, Duncan Campbell-Smith tells the remarkable story of the struggle and stoicism of a very British hero - and a tantalizing tale of 'what might have been'.Read more
Duncan Campbell-Smith is a former Financial Times and Economist journalist whose career has also included working in the City, consulting with McKinsey & Co and a short stint in the world of corporate communications. His previous books include Struggle for Take-Off, A History of British Airways (1986). He won the Wadsworth Business History Prize for his authorised history of the Royal Mail, Masters of the Post (2011).
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