Friday, 9 June 2017

Celebrating 80 Years of Jet EngineTechnology

Frank Whittle - Building 4 BTH (now GE), Rugby
April 2017 saw the anniversary of Frank Whittle first gas turbine/jet engine run. On the 12th of April it was exactly 80 years that the first engine run took place in Building 4 at British Thomson Houston, in Rugby.

There were two celebrations of this anniversary, one by the Warwickshire Industrial Archaeology Society (WIAS) and one by our Group. Both celebrations had that event in 1937 at the centre, however, they were very different.

Ian Whittle and GE Factory Manager
On the 12th of April 2017, both Ray Ball and I were invited by the WIAS to join them in a visit to GE in Rugby for a tour of the factory and lunch at Brownsover Hall in Frank Whittle's 1937 design office. We were joined by Ian Whittle, Sir Frank's son, and his charming wife who had travelled up the day before and stayed in the Brownsover Hall Hotel.
The factory tour was fascinating and quite an eye opener in terms of how these generators are manufactured. There was far more manual work involved than imagined and some of the work being carried out appeared very labour intensive.
The end of the tour was on the mezzanine floor in Building 4 and we walked the length of that floor and paused near the spot where that first engine was anchored to the wall, jet pipe sticking out through the window and Frank Whittle trying to control the runaway engine....not quite to plan by all accounts, but no disaster ensued.

Who are these two?
Back at the Brownsover Hall Hotel there were three model engines on display, two belonging to Ian Whittle, the other belonging to the Lutterworth Museum. Lunch was served in what in 1937 was Frank Whittle's design office and that was followed by a talk by Ian Whittle. Having said goodbye to the Whittle's some of us went to the Rugby Art Gallery where an exhibition on BTH was being put together. It was not quite finished yet, however, it gave a good impression of BTH, its workforce and its effect on the local economy. This visit brought to an end an interesting and reflective day.

On Tuesday 25 April 2017 The Rugby Aviation Group commemorated the legacy that Sir Frank Whittle left the world. The first jet engines were fragile as metallurgy had not been developed sufficiently, especially the axial engines that were developed in Germany during the same period by Hans von Ohain. It is well known that the Messerschmitt Me-262's Jumo engines had a lifespan of 25 hours after which they had to be replaced.

The Rugby Aviation Group Event Poster

As time progressed and technology developed jet engines became multi-spool and multi-stage, developed into turboprops, turboshafts and turbofans for the aviation industry for both civil and military applications. 

Gas turbines have been derived and built to propel ships, trains as well as power stations. The future if this technology appears fine especially with the new generations of power plants being developed that are more efficient and environmentally friendly.

The evening was spent in company of Tony Buttler and Jock Heron, who each related part of the legacy story, Tony from the early beginnings to the early Fifties and Jock picking up from there to the modern day. There was a fascinating kaleidoscope of images, some not seen before of engines and aircraft, highlighting the diversity of power plants and aircraft that were developed, some as prototypes only, that served the armed forces and airlines of the worlds, following on from the trusted, but outdated piston engines.

Both celebrations were truly memorable occasions and my thanks to Alaine Foote of the WIAS for inviting Ray and I and to Tony and Jock for telling us the stories they did.

Theo Claassen
30 April 2017

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sir Frank Whittle - The Jet Legacy

This is a special event to commemorate and celebrate the legacy that Sir Frank Whittle left us with in the form of the development of the jet engine in its various guises and uses. Because we are an aviation group the evening will concentrate on the aviation use of the the gas turbine.

Come and join us for this event that could only take place in Rugby and bring friends too.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Brief Bruntingthorpe Visit

On Saturday 18 February, the Lightning Preservation Group at Bruntingthorpe hosted a Night Photo Shoot for which the gates opened at 14:30.

My presence was planned as a business visit to meet with several people including the LPG and I took the opportunity to take a few pictures for myself and to help out a dear friend. Again I was only "armed" with my smartphone, but the results with a little bit of tweaking have come out well despite the grey weather conditions.
Having had several successful meetings and seen so many friends I left before the actual night shoot session started.

Here are some of the images I managed to capture before the crowds arrived.

Theo Claassen
20 February 2017

RAF Museum Cosford - Open Cockpits Day

Tuesday 7th of February saw the RAF Museum at Cosford open some of its cockpits to visitors resulting a long queues for some of the  more iconic aircraft such as the Valiant, Victor and Belfast.

Normally I would take my cameras, but on this occasion I left them at home and arrived with a fully charged smartphone and a spare battery. The cameras inside modern day smartphones offer a good resolution and can be more flexible in close quarters compared to the DSLR. They also tend to have quite a wide angle lens giving more subject coverage. 
The first Valiant picture is a case in point. It was taken through the three inch gap between the captain's ejection seat and the side wall of the cockpit. 

Ray Ball, Clifford Hill and I were there to take advantage of this opportunity that does not comes to pass very often. Here are some of the resulting images.

Vickers Valiant - Cockpit

Vickers Valiant - Nav positions

Bomb Aimers position and access hatch
Shorts Belfast C1 Cockpit
Shorts Belfast C1 Engineer's Panel

Hunting Jet Provost (and my left knee)

Hunting Jet Provost Cockpit

Avro York C1 Flight Deck

Avro York C1 Navigator position

Avro York C1 

Bristol T-188
From here on you will recognise the aircraft hence a lack of captions.

Guy Gibson's De Havilland DH-98 Mosquito


Recently arrived from sister museum at RAF Hendon, the Junker Ju-88

Recently arrived from sister museum at RAF Hendon, the Junker Ju-88

Recently arrived from sister museum at RAF Hendon, the Junker Ju-88


Odd one out in RAF Museum, Royal Navy Sea Balliol

Partners in crime Ray and Clifford

RAG member Patrick Fitzgerald old mount, XV202

RAG member Patrick Fitzgerald old mount, XV202
A not very good maximum zoom picture of the Jaguars after the aircraft handling sessions of the day.

So the day ended with witnessing some ground running Jaguars being put to bed for the day after the day's aircraft ground handling training sessions.
All in all it was worthwhile visiting this special day at the RAF Museum Cosford and my thanks to Ray for safely driving Cliff and myself there and back and to both of them for their company.

Theo Claassen
20 February 2017