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History of Early Jet Engines
Part 2: The First Jet Engine - A Short History of Early Engines
Picture of a Turbojet EnginePicture of Turbojet Engine
 More of this Feature
Part I: The History of the Jet Engine
• Part 2: Timeline of Early Airplane Engine Leading to the Jet Engine
 Related Innovations
The History of Flight
Air Ships
Understanding Engines
More on Jet Engines 
How Jet Engines Work
Parts of a Jet Engine
Jet Engines Types

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. 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.

Next page > The History of the Jet Engine

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