Whittle- The Jet Pioneer: His Race Against Time And The Nazis
Directed by Nicholas Jones. 71 minutes. Shelter Island, 2012. $24.98.
Jet engine-designer Sir Frank Whittle was the quintessential lone British scientist: quiet and determined, he made his immortal mark on aviation history only to fade from the scene as bigger organizations carried his dream faster and farther.
The heart of this no-frills, rather dated-looking documentary is an engaging interview with Whittle, filmed some years before his death in 1996. Before aerospace engineering was big business, British jet development had a distinctly cottage industry feel to it, and this film does an excellent job capturing the zeitgeist of those frontier days. The documentary also has some incredible color footage of the prototype Gloster-Whittle E.28/39 during its test program.
Though some of the film’s claims stretch credibility (if only the stuffed shirts at the Air Ministry had listened, for example, British jets would have been in service years earlier and the war shortened) this is a worthwhile look at an underappreciated genius.
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.