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The United Kingdom’s contributions to the development of aeronautics Part 4. The origins of the jet age

  • J. A. D. Ackroyd (a1)

Extract

Despite the common title of this series of papers, the specific area into which we now move originated on a more global scale than the title suggests. Thus in the spirit of the plan set down at the outset for this review, viz that major ideas from abroad must be included, contributions from such countries as France, Germany and the United States here warrant greater prominence.

In Part 3 of this review we surveyed the development within Britain of the stress-skinned streamlined monoplane. Since the 1920s increasing numbers within Britain’s government research establishments, the universities and industry had been actively promoting this advance. Nonetheless, the practical hardware’s eventual emergence by the mid-1930s was largely driven by industry’s need for greater aerodynamic efficiency and a desire to excel. Thus record-breaking attempts, events such as the Schneider Trophy and MacRobertson races, all provided the impetus for this. So, too, did the commercial pressure of a new generation of American airliners and, for those astute enough to interpret them as such, the alarum calls of an impending Second World War. As a result of the appreciable decrease in drag coefficient achieved, coupled to a massive improvement in piston engine power, military aircraft, in particular, proved capable of flying not only further and higher but also dramatically faster. A further consequence, however, was that certain wartime high-speed fighter aircraft began to encounter serious, even fatal, compressibility effects as their enhanced speeds in dives reached subsonic critical Mach number conditions.

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In view of the large number of references to British Reports and Memoranda (R&M), the following abbreviations have been used: ACA = Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; ARC = the Advisory Committee’s successor from 1920 to 1945, the Aeronautical Research Committee; subsequently the Aeronautical Research Council. Numerous contributions to the Proceedings, Obituary Notices and Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society have been used to provide biographical material.

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The United Kingdom’s contributions to the development of aeronautics Part 4. The origins of the jet age

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