It started in a student's notebook. Today, it enables us to make 1.5 billion air passenger journeys a year. The story of how Sir Frank Whittle invented the jet engine and shrank the world is one of the great dramas of the 20th century. In his teens, Whittle demonstrated a natural aptitude for engineering and an interest in aviation. Determined to be a pilot, he made himself three inches taller to get into the RAF, where his abilities took him out of the ranks and onto its officer training course. He excelled in his studies and became an exceptional pilot. While writing his course thesis, he formulated the ideas that led him to create the turbojet engine, which he patented in 1930. With no government support, he and two retired RAF officers formed Power Jets Ltd. to make the world's first jet engine. Despite limited funding, Whittle built a prototype which first ran in 1937. By June 1939, Power Jets could barely afford to keep the lights on when skeptical British government scientists came to check Whittle's progress. His engine ran for 20 minutes without difficulty and saved the turbojet project for Britain. In January 1940, the Air Ministry ordered a simple aircraft specifically to flight-test Whittle's engine.
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