The W2B was the Rover version of the Whittle engine, ordered into production by the British Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1942. This “reverse-flow”, 43.5-inch diameter engine, featured a 19-inch, double-sided impeller, 10 “reverse-flow” combustion chambers and a single-stage turbine. Engine weight was some 850 lbs.
To improve the “surging” problem found at altitude, Maurice Wilks and his staff at Rover, Barnoldswick in Lancashire, developed 20-vane diffusers to Whittle’s design. With the thrust still at 1,000 lbs, Mr. J.P. Herriot from A.I.D. came to Rover and with improved turbine material, achieved a 25-hour test at 1,250 lbs in November, 1942.
From July 10, 1940, test pilot Jerry Sayer, was only able to make taxiing runs with 1,200 lb thrust Rover W2B/23 turbo-jets fitted to the first twin-engined Gloster F.9/40 prototype fighter, DG202/G.
The Rover W2B turbo-jet was first flown in the tail of a twin-engined Wellington test-bed, Z8570/G, from Hucknall, on August 9, 1942.
The deteriorating relations between Power Jets and Rover led to the transfer, in early 1943, of the production of W2B engines at Barnoldswick to Rolls-Royce. Rover handed over a total of 32 W2B engines to Rolls-Royce as well as four “straight-through” W2B/26 engines, developed by Adrian Lombard.
The first flight of the second, single-engined Gloster E.28/39, W4046/G, fitted with a Rover W2B/#110 turbo-jet, was made from Edgehill airfield by John Grierson on March 1, 1943. From April 16, 1943, flight tests continued with a 1,526 lb. thrust W2B/#101 installed in W4046/G. On May 3, this aircraft was flown to the RAE at Farnborough and the following day, flights were made powered by a Rolls-Royce W2B. Flying continued with Farnborough test pilots until June 20, when a Rolls-Royce W2B/#141 was installed.
Following the twisting of the turbine blades by 5°, the W2B passed its 100-test at 1,600 lbs on May 7, 1943.
The Rover W2B/#101 engine was re-fitted to W4046/G for further flights, but on July 30, when passing 37,000 feet in a ceiling climb, test-pilot Sqdn. Ldr. Davie, found the ailerons had frozen (by ice) and W4046/G entered an inverted spin. Davie was thrown from the cockpit at 33,000 feet, becoming the first jet pilot to abandon his aircraft in flight! He lost his goggles, a glove and his oxygen mask and only survived by sticking the tube of his emergency oxygen supply into his mouth. He suffered severe frostbite, taking twenty-seven minutes to descend by parachute, landing safely at nearby town of Guildford.
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