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  • Jet Man

  • The Making and Breaking of Frank Whittle, Genius of the Jet Revolution
  • By: Duncan Campbell-Smith
  • Narrated by: Roger Davis
  • Length: 19 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Summary

The story of Frank Whittle - RAF pilot, mathematician of genius, inventor of the jet engine and British hero.

In 1929, a 22-year-old maverick named Frank Whittle - a self-taught aeronautical obsessive and risk-takingly brilliant RAF pilot - presented a blueprint for a revolutionary, jet-powered aircraft engine to the Air Ministry. His idea had the potential to change the course of history, but it was summarily rejected.

In this meticulously researched biography, Duncan Campbell-Smith charts Whittle's stoic efforts to build his jet engine in the interwar years, during which he was constantly frustrated to find his groundbreaking project impeded by bureaucratic inertia until the outbreak of war in 1939. Eventual recognition of the importance of his work by the British government came too late for Whittle's invention to play a major part in the Second World War, but after the war his dream of civilian jet powered aircraft was gradually realized - eventually transforming the entire world of air travel.

Gripping in its narrative, authoritative in its technical detail and insightful in its judgements, Jet Man is the definitive telling of the life of an engineering icon and unjustly neglected British hero of the Second World War - and a tantalizing tale of 'what might have been'.

©2020 Duncan Campbell-Smith (P)2021 W F Howes

Critic reviews

"A very well-written and long overdue corrective account of an extraordinary man." (James Hamilton-Paterson)

"Highly readable, and based on thorough research, Jet Man casts new light on the intense, heroic character of Frank Whittle and his revolutionary invention. The tale of how he overcame all the obstacles in his path is a gripping one. What also makes Duncan Campbell-Smith's narrative compelling is the way the complex mechanics of jet propulsion are so clearly explained." (Leo McKinstry) 

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating despite issues

A frustrating listen for a number of reasons, but overall I enjoyed this book as the subject is fascinating. Firstly the narrator seems to pronounce each word individually so the delivery becomes is stilted. Secondly the book is too long and feels unnecessarily padded. Finally there is endless detail about the difficulties of the relationships between Whittles company Powerjets and MAP, Rover and others and little of depth about the development of the jet engine itself. I feel that the author wanted to get every bit of his research into the book but misses the essential points. Why exactly was this astonishing invention so technically difficult to produce? What was it about Whittle that made important people ignore or dismiss him, as happened over and over again? The author is clearly a big fan of Whittle and thinks that everyone else is the problem.

A bit of pruning and perhaps more engineering input and this could be a classic on an invention that revolutionised the modern world.

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Disappointing

I guess all the mundane information contained needed to be recorded but it made the text very boring to listen to. It was also spoilt by some silly errors such as the Superfortress being called a B27 and the Me 163 described as a jet! I'm also convinced the narrator described the Spitfire's wing as being of 'stretched' skin construction but I suppose that could have been my hearing!! It was a shame, Frank Whittle's story deserved better.

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Great Book a must read on a world changing invention.

Full of interesting facts and not too technical. Had the path of this been different the world might have been so different too.

A little sad for Frank Whittle but I think he was OK in the end. Also good to hear he was probably the pioneer of the Jet and not the Germans.

We need more People like Frank Whittle and more fantastic books like this from Duncan Campbell-Smith.