Jet Fighters

The first true turbine-equipped jetplaneFrank Whittle’s memorial showing a full-scale model of the Gloster E28/39The first aircraft to incorporate the principles of the jet engine was the Coanda-1910, piloted by its Romanian inventor Henri Coandă in 1910. The engine of this aircraft, unlike the modern jet engine, used a piston engine rather than a turbine to drive its compressor. The aircraft crashed during its first and only demonstration but remained intact.

The British flew their Gloster E.28/39 powered by Sir Frank Whittle’s turbojet on May 15, 1941, with Flt Lt PG Sayer as pilot. The United States, upon learning of the British work, produced the Bell XP-59, with a version of the Whittle engine built by General Electric which flew on September 12, 1942 with Col L. Craigie as pilot.

The first operational jet fighter was the Messerschmitt Me 262, piloted by Fritz Wendel. It was the fastest conventional aircraft of World War II – only the rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was faster. Mass production started in 1944, too late for a decisive impact. About the same time, the United Kingdom’s Gloster Meteor made up the first operational jet fighter squadron in 1944. It was used to defend the UK against the V1 flying bomb and in ground-attack operations over Europe towards the end of the war. The Imperial Japanese Navy also developed jet aircraft in 1945, including the Nakajima J9Y Kikka, partially inspired by German designs.

On November 8, 1950, during the Korean War, United States Air Force Lt. Russell J. Brown, flying in an F-80, intercepted two North Korean MiG-15s near the Yalu River and shot them down in the first jet-to-jet dogfight in history according to USAF sources. Soviet Sources say a Mig 15 shot down a P 80.

BOAC operated the first commercial jet service, from London to Johannesburg, in 1952 with the de Havilland Comet jetliner.

The fastest military jet plane was the SR-71 Blackbird at Mach 3.2.

The fastest commercial jet plane was the Tupolev Tu-144 at Mach 2.35.

Captain John Adams released to the press the fact that in 2020, a new jet plane will be at Mach 3.5.

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 landing

Modern jets

Modern jets generally cruise at speeds of 0.75 to 0.85 Mach, or 75 to 85% of the speed of sound (420 to 580 mph/ 680-900 km/h). The speed of sound is a function of air temperature and pressure, and therefore the speed of a jet is not constant in terms of miles per hour, but varies with atmospheric conditions. NASA and the FAA have recently been promoting Very Light Jets, small general aviation ircraft seating 4 to 8.

Other jets

Most people use the term ‘jet aircraft’ to denote gas turbine based airbreathing jet engines, however, both rockets and scramjets are both also propelled by jets.

The fastest airbreathing jet aircraft is the unmanned X-43 scramjet at around Mach 9-10.

The fastest manned (rocket) aircraft would be the X-15 at Mach 6.85.

The Space Shuttle while far faster, is not normally considered to be an aircraft during powered ascent, and the orbiter is unpowered when flying as an aircraft during reentry and landing, so is not properly considered a jet aircraft at either time.

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