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The Jet Age


Jet engines came to fruition in the 1930s and 40s, originating within the military, becoming a strong rival in the world of technology and engine design. Isaac Newton’s laws of motion were the basis for propulsion theories, and in as early as 1872, the first gas turbine engine was invented by a German engineer, Franz Stolze.


Dr. Hans von Ohain is considered the first designer of what we today consider to be the turbojet engine. His jet was the first to fly in 1939, however, a man named Frank Whittle received a patent first for his prototype. These two men had no idea of each other's work, but today we recognize them both as inventors of the jet engine.

The Heinkel He 178: world's first aircraft to fly under turbojet power.

These engines were originally used in aircraft, like the Heinkel He 178, Caproni Campini N, T-37 Tweet, and much more! I got to speak with Ted Morgan about his experience flying these types of aircraft. Jet engine planes were used in the military, and Ted talked about the different planes he flew, which included the T-37, T-38, F-4, and the F-16.


The Cessna T-37 plane first flew in 1954, and it was used as a trainer aircraft for the military. This aircraft was referred to as the “6,000 lb dog whistle” because of the high pitched screech it omitted during flight. This loud sound came from the small turbojets that propelled it. The max speed of this aircraft is about 425 miles per hour!


The T-38 is powered by J-85 turbojet engines, the same kind of engine used in our jet dragsters. This supersonic jet trainer was used in many roles within the military because of its safety and high performance. The AT-38B included a gun sight and practice bomb dispenser, and this jet aircraft has a max speed of over 800 miles per hour. Fast!


Meanwhile, upon creation, the F-4 became the U.S Navy’s fastest fighter jet at it’s debut. Just the prototype itself set the world altitude record at 98,556 feet! Then, it set the world speed record at 1,604 miles per hour! This jet had many improvements as well, one of them being it was equipped with cameras and surveillance gear. By 1978, 20 years after being created, 5,000 of the F-4 jets were built and in use.


Finally, our last fighter jet covered was the F-16. This is a single seat model, making its first flight in 1976. Advanced aerospace science was applied greatly to the invention of the F-16 to reduce its size, weight, and cost without reducing its strength. The F-16 can withstand up to nine G’s with a full load of internal fuel. That is nine times the force of gravity! Additionally, this fighter jet has a max speed of 1,500 miles per hour.


Whether a jet engine is placed inside of a dragster or an aircraft, the adrenaline rush is present. Jet engines made their way from military aircraft all the way to commercial airlines, and of course our jet dragsters. So now that we know the history of how these jet engines made their way into our technological world, stay tuned to see just how they make things go so fast.



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