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Power Jets

A brief biography

1935

 
May Whittle, in second year at Cambridge, receives letter from R D Williams, with whom he had shared hut at Cranwell. This proposes a meeting with himself and his partner J C B Tinling, also an ex-RAF pilot. Agreed that Williams and Tinling try to raise £50,000 for Whittle to produce an engine, in return for each receiving a quarter share in the rights of the invention. Tinling introduces M L Bramson, a pilot and aeronautical engineer, who in turn introduces investment bankers.
Sept. Negotiations start with L L Whyte MC representing Falk and Partners, director Sir Maurice Bonham Carter also frequently present. Favourable technical report by Bramson, acting as consultant to Falk and Partners.

1936

 
Jan. “Four Party Agreement”, creating the company, signed 27th January. Parties are: Williams and Tinling. O T Falk and Partners.(Whyte as Chairman, Bramson as Consultant) Whittle (Honorary Chief Engineer and Technical Consultant). President of the Air Council (Whittle being a serving RAF officer) Whittle, Williams and Tinling to have 49% in return for assigning patent rights, not to be watered down before £50,000 in cash subscribed. Falk and Partners to put in £2,000 with option on further £18,000 within 18 months. Director of Scientific Research asks for a write-up of engine (at Tizard’s prompting) to be sent to RAE for their opinion.
Dec. By end of year: Most of detail design completed. BT-H well advanced with parts on cost plus basis. £2,000 spent so far.

1937

 
March Whittle receives Griffith’s negative report, which is considered by Engine Sub-Committee of Aeronautical Research Council. It concludes that Air Ministry should take up gas turbine research as matter of urgency. Result is that RAE authorized to go ahead, using Metropolitan Vickers as sub-contractors. No financial support for Power Jets. Falk and Partners give notice that they cannot go beyond £5,000.
April On 12th WU engine runs for first time.
June Inconclusive negotiations with Air Ministry to pay for a report and/or buy engine and loan back to Power Jets. Ministry originally suggest £10,000 research contract.
July Whittle’s graduate year at Cambridge officially ends. DSR agrees to his full-time work on engine. By 8th finances critical and work likely to stop. Falk and Partners lend £250 for work to 22nd. By 15th Falk and Partners expected to put up £4,000 to £14,000, though this does not materialize.
Nov. On 1st, control of Power Jets passes by agreement to Whittle, Williams and Tinling on default by Falk and Partners, who undertake to find a further £3,000, which is paid through a nominee.
Dec. Power Jets take on first full-time employee, Victor Crompton.

1938

 
Jan. Power Jets move into Ladywood Works. BT-H subscribe £2,500.
March Ministry contract for £5,000 finally signed.
April Reconstructed WU runs.
May Turbine fails on 6th. Whittle decides to reconstruct with 10 combustion chambers.
June Power Jets funds down to £1,200. Difficulty in raising money privately as now subject to Official Secrets Act.
Oct WU engine begins tests in its 3rd form.

1939

 
Jun. On 30th. Dr Pye, Director of Scientific Research, witnesses engine run up to 16,000rpm and is highly impressed.
July Ministry agree to buy and loan back engine. Order placed for W1 flight engine and design commenced.

1940

 
Jan. Employees reach 25, including recent graduates Ogston, Voysey, Fielden, Bennet-Powell and Van Millingen. Work on design of W2 of 1,600lbs thrust Ministry places contract with Gloster for two E28/39 aircraft. Visits by Tizard and Tedder. Combustion problems hampering development. Rover invited to invest.
Feb. Design of W1A, intermediate engine to W2 for testing in second E28/39.
April Ministry places orders for production W2 with Rover and BT-H. Decides Power Jets to be maintained only as a research organization.
Sept. Number of staff reach 70 – but original WU in its 3rd rebuild is still the only complete engine.
Oct On 9th WU model 3 run with Lubbock (Shell type) atomizing burners which solve combustion vaporizing problem. Ministry give Gloster go-ahead for F9/40 twin-engined fighter (Meteor).
Dec. Entire team working on design of W2B engines for F9/40.

1941

 
Jan. 144 full-time staff, including those on loan. W1A now on test.
Feb. WU finally damaged beyond repair on 22nd. Almost 170 hours running since last rebuild.
April E28/39 completed early in month followed by 1st run of W1. E28/39 taxiing trials with W1X.
May On 15th, E28/39 makes first flight of 17 minutes from Cranwell powered by W1. Surging problems with W1A and W2.
July Whyte resigns as Chairman and MD. Whittle appoints Tinling as Chairman, himself and Williams as joint MDs.
Oct. Ministry concede that Power Jets be equipped to make experimental engines. Authorize new factory at Whetstone. On 1st W1X flown to US with Power Jets personnel. Handed over to General Electric.
Dec. On 10th Whittle has 1st nervous breakdown. Returns to work 1 month later. W1A cleared for flight.

1942

 
Jan. Hives of Rolls-Royce and Whittle meet twice, agree on technical co-operation.
Mar. 2nd E28/39 reaches 430mph at 15,000ft with W1A. On 13th, redesign of W2B, to be known as W2/500, commenced.
April Crises with Rover over their secret, Ministry-sponsored re-design of W2B, designated B26, with straight-through combustion chambers.
June Whittle flies to US on 3rd to help GE, returns on 14th Aug.
Sept. W2/500 begins tests on 13th, only 6 months from start of design. Reaches design thrust of 1,750lbs same day.
Oct. On 2nd, Bell P-59 Airacomet flies with GEI-A engines, GE version of W1. W1A completes 100hour test.
Dec. Rolls-Royce take-over Rover W2B contract and their Barnoldswick factory.

1943

 
April On19th E28/39 demonstrated to Churchill. On 29th Whittle proposes complete nationalization of gas turbine industry to Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production, on basis that Power Jets shareholders only private investors to have risked money, patents and know-how given to other companies with contracts.
May Whittle posted to Staff College for 3 month War Course. W2B passes 100hour test at Rolls-Royce at 1,600lbs. Whetstone factory largely in use.
Oct. On 24th Cripps tells Whittle of his intention to nationalise Power Jets only.
Nov. W2/500 flight tested in prototype Meteor.
Dec. On 1st Cripps advises Power Jets directors that Treasury will not pay more than £100,000 for company.

1944

 
Jan. Whittle awarded CBE in New Year Honours. On 3rd Ministry offer of £135,000 for Power Jets reluctantly accepted after Ministry refuses arbitration. Whittle meets Cripps to object to nationalisation of Power Jets. (Whittle not to receive any of the compensation as previously offered to surrender shares to Ministry.) Power Jets to be known as Power Jets (Research and Development) Ltd, with Roxbee Cox (www.cranfield.ac.uk/library/lordkingsnorton) as Chairman, Constant of RAE Head of Engineering Division, Whittle as Chief Technical Advisor. Negotiations concluded 28th March.
March Whittle in hospital end of March to end of August.
April On 5th Whittle receives interim award of £10,000.(In May 1948 The Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors make this £100,000)
May W2B powered Meteors start to be delivered to RAF.
Oct. On 19th Whittle flies Meteor powered by Power Jets-built W2/700 engines. Key Power Jets staff begin to leave.

1945

 
Jan. Whittle resigns on 22nd. 16 key staff resign en bloc.
April Group of Power Jets engineers and others meet at “The Hind” in Lutterworth to form “The Reactionaries” and keep in touch with Whittle and each other.