It's 90 years since Sir Frank Whittle patented the jet engine - did you know he likely came up with the idea in the bath?

Good ideas seem to come to people while they’re in the bath – it (reportedly) happened to Archimedes with his eureka moment, and it might just have happened to Sir Frank Whittle.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 2:07 pm
Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Sir Frank’s invention and patenting of the jet engine.

To mark the occasion, television producer Nicholas Jones, who spent much time interviewing Sir Frank, is re- releasing a feature-length documentary he made on the subject for the History Channel.

Mr Jones contacted the Advertiser to share with readers some of the fascinating insights he has gained into the life of Sir Frank – and how the man who was born into a humble terraced house in Coventry went on to change the world.

The world's first jet engine, pictured in 1938.

He said: “To mark this occasion, I am re-releasing my feature-length TV documentary Whittle - The Jet Pioneer on Vimeo download as well as on DVD. I knew Sir Frank and filmed him at length: his testimony forms the core of this film.

“In this production Whittle tells his amazing yet poignant life story in his own words.

“It’s a moving account, which devotes much time to his crucial Leamington, Rugby and Lutterworth years.”

Mr Jones added: “In November 1929 Frank was a young pilot officer in the RAF, training to be a flying instructor.

“He loved flying – but despaired of the noisy propeller/piston aircraft he flew.

“He felt there had to be a better way to fly.

“This drove him to think of a solution – and he came up with the jet engine. But it was no easy task.

“Frank Whittle had this revelation 90 years ago – and quickly applied for a patent to protect it.

“You might say this patent amounts to the invention proper, for it required Whittle to explain how he could produce an actual working engine from his concept.

“All the jet engines powering aircraft today are descended from Whittle’s first jet.

“When filming, I asked Sir Frank what inspired this autumn 1929 brainwave.”

Mr Jones reports that Sir Frank replied: “Maybe I was having a bath or something.”

In the documentary, Mr Jones filmed what remained of Rugby’s old BTH factory – where Sir Frank built and ran the world’s first jet engine.

Mr Jones also filmed at Brownsover Hall, where Sir Frank was based during the war years.

Whittle - The Jet Pioneer is available on DVD and download from can also order it by calling 07435 973397.

Mr Jones added he would love to hear from Advertiser readers who have any stories to tell about Sir Frank – and they are welcome to call the above number to speak with him.