The story of Frank Whittle – RAF pilot, mathematician of genius, inventor of the jet engine and British hero.
In 1985 Hans von Ohain, the scientist who pioneered Nazi Germany's efforts to build a jet plane, posed the question: 'Would World War II have occured if the Luftwaffe knew it faced operational British jets instead of Spitfires?' He immediately answered, 'I, for one, think not.'
Frank Whittle, working-class outsider and self-taught enthusiast, had worked out the blueprint of a completely new type of engine in 1929, 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 reality and Britain enjoyed a golden age of 1950's jet-powered flight.
Drawing on Whittle's extensive private papers, Campbell-Smith tells the story of a stoic and overlooked British hero, a tantalizing tale of 'what might have been'.