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24 September 2014

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That's the wonder of Whittle...
Runners get underway in the London Marathon 2003
Gloucestershire's local hero Sir Frank Whittle
Last updated: 23 March 2004 1453 GMT
lineGloucestershire has been celebrating the pioneering work of Sir Frank Whittle.
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Sir Frank Whittle: the man who shrank the world

BBC History - Sir Frank Whittle
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The E28/39 Gloster Pioneer

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The inventor of the jet engine was the clear winner of the BBC's Local Heroes poll and was the subject of a special documentary on BBC One West.

The programme told the story of the first jet flight at Brockworth, Gloucester in April 1941 when test pilot Gerry Sayer lifted the E28/39 aircraft off the runway.

The event changed the world for ever but until now has not been officially recognised as the first flight because the engine used wasn't a flight engine but "a beaten up old thing that wasn't air worthy".

The Whittle programme revealed that despite claims that RAF Cranwell was the location of the groundbreaking event, Sir Frank himself considered the Brockworth test to be the first flight of an aircraft powered by his jet engine.

Special screening

To mark the television broadcast, 200 people attended a celebrity screening at the University of Gloucestershire at Oxstalls.

Mark Cummings, Ian Whittle and Vernon Harwood
BBC presenters Mark Cummings (left) and Vernon Harwood (right) with Ian Whittle (centre)

It was hosted by Mark Cummings and Vernon Harwood from BBC Radio Gloucestershire. Among the audience were several people who'd worked on jet production at the Gloster Aircraft Company and others with connections to the aviation industry in the county.

There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the documentary with many people expressing their delight that it finally put the record straight about Gloucester's place in jet history.

Guest of honour

Ian Whittle

The Guest of Honour was Ian Whittle, the son of Sir Frank Whittle. He flew from the South coast especially for the event and was delighted by the response. Ian said:

Start of quote This is where it all started as far as jet flight is concerned in this country. The people here have every right to feel proud and I, myself, feel proud of my father. I was amazed that in the West Country people remembered him. I thought you'd all forgotten about him here. So I'm very pleased and very honoured on behalf of my father. End of quote

The Chairman of the Jet Age Museum, John Lewer said:

Start of quote It was absolutely marvellous. A lady sitting behind me said it wasn't about boring old aeroplanes, there was something for everyone. It was amusing. Sir Frank was amusing and one can see how his son Ian has got his sense of humour. Undoubtedly the fact that Sir Frank came here with his engine really put Gloucester on the map. At the Jet Age Museum we intend to commemorate that in a very positive way. We're about to take delivery of a replica of the Gloster E28/39 which will form the focal point of the displays in the museum. End of quote

Permanent monument to Sir Frank Whittle

It's now hoped that a major and permanent monument to Sir Frank Whittle will become a reality in Gloucestershire.

Volunteers from the Jet Age Museum continue to raise funds and awareness for a visitor attraction devoted to the county's aviation heritage. They're hoping that another bid for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will prove successful.

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2005 Archive
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Check out the 2004 Features archive for past stories from the website

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