Britain’s first jet aircraft, the experimental Gloster E.28/39, was designed to provide a platform for the flight testing of the new Whittle jet engines and to investigate their potential for use in fighter aircraft.
Sometimes referred to as the Gloster Whittle or the Gloster Pioneer, the aircraft was a low-wing monoplane design with tricycle undercarriage and a slightly rotund fuselage to accommodate the Whittle W.1 engine with its centrifugal compressor. The engine was installed in the centre fuselage and was provided with a nose intake and a tail jet pipe. Two prototypes were built (W4041/G and W4046/G).
Designed by George Carter, the Gloster E.28/39 was completed under conditions of high secrecy at Regent Motors, Cheltenham to avoid the risk of bombing at the main factory.
The E.28/39 (W4041/G) completed taxiing trials on 7th & 8th April 1941 at Hucclecote (including some initial hops) before moving to Cranwell for flight test. The first 17-minute flight took place on 15th May 1941.
Handling was reported by Flight Lieutenant Gerry Sayer as being 'light and responsive' although throttle response was said to be sluggish. The aircraft was moved to Edgehill (convenient to both Power Jets and Gloster) and when Sayer suddenly disappeared during a test flight in a Hawker Typhoon in October 1942, his assistant Michael Daunt took over the development program. After further proving trials, the aircraft was subsequently transferred to Farnborough to allow service pilots to fly and assess the type.
The type was flown with several early jet engines, including the Whittle W.1, W.1A, W.2/500 from Power Jets Ltd and the significantly more powerful Rover W.2B (W4046).
The first flight of the second aircarft (W4046) took place on 1st March 1943 although the aircraft was later lost due to 'aileron failure' during flight testing from Farnborough on 30th July 1943.
In modern procurement parlance, the E.28/39 proved to be a perfect Technology Demonstration
Programme and provided a flight envelope that extended to a maximum speed of 466 mph and a maximum altitude of 42,170 ft.
The first prototype (W4041) now resides at The Science Museum in London, whilst a full-size replica is mounted on a plinth alongside the main entrance to what is now TAG Farnborough Airport.
(W4041 & W4046
|Powerplant||Several different engines tested: Initially Power Jets W.1, 960 lb thrust, ending with a Rover W.2/500 engine of 1,760 lb thrust|
|Span||29 ft 0 in|
|Maximum Weight||3,748 lb (W.1A), 3,900 lb (W.2B)|
|Capacity & Armament||Single pilot, Armament space provisions only|
|Maximum Speed||338 mph (W.1A), 466 mph at 10,000 ft (W.2B)|
|Endurance||Initial flight test endurance 56 min|
|W4041/G||Placed on permanent exhibition in the Science Museum, London in 1946|