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Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

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Anselm Franz, Engine Designer

Posted July 19, 2007 4:24 PM by Steve Melito

Anselm Franz was an engine designer whose Junker Jumo 004 became the first jet engine to enter mass production. He also designed turbochargers, superchargers, and turboshafts. Before his death in 1994, he was awarded the U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and the R. Tom Sawyer Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Anselm Franz was born in Schladming, Austria in 1900. He studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Graz and earned a PhD from the University of Berlin. After completing his education, Franz developed hydraulic torque converters for a company in the German capital. Several years later, he joined Otto Mader's Junkers Engine Co. as head of turbocharger and supercharger development.

The Jet Race of the 1930s

During the 1930s, military aircraft began to use forced induction systems to increase high-altitude engine power. As the clouds of war gathered over Europe, however, engine designers began to experiment with a new technology - jet propulsion. In 1930, England's Frank Whittle designed the first turbojet, an engine which featured a multistage compressor, combustion chamber, single-stage turbine, and nozzle. Five years later, the Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot finally received enough private funding to build his first jet engine.

Whittle's successful bench test in April 1937 was historically significant, but the work of German inventors wasn't far behind. A year after British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain ceded the Sudetenland to Adolph Hitler, Germany's Hans von Ohain watched as his own jet engine powered a Heinkel He 178 airframe on the world's first jet-powered flight. Days later, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, triggering the start of World War II.

The First Operational Jet Fighter

As the Nazi blitzkrieg raced across Europe, Anselm Franz was placed in charged of jet-engine development at Germany's Junker Engine Co. Although Junker's Otto Mader was unimpressed with what he called "this jet idea", he heeded the advice of Helmut Schelp, director of advanced development at the Reich Air Ministry, by reassigning Franz. The Austrian-born engineer took several turbocharger engineers with him, but soon discarded the centrifugal compressors with which they were familiar. Instead, Franz opted for an axial compressor that offered both efficiency and reliability.

With little time to model individual components, Anselm Franz designed an experimental jet engine that was aerodynamically and thermodynamically similar to the final production version. Equipped with a six-can combustor, the Junker Jumo 000A could be bench tested with only a single can. Test runs in 1940 and early 1941 were successful, but damage to the engine's sheet-metal stator vanes required help from vibration specialist Max Bentele. After a complete stator redesign, Franz tested his engine again during a 10-hour run in December 1941. On July 18, 1942, two 000A turbojets powered the world's first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me262, on its maiden flight.

Although almost 6000 Junker Jumos were built by the end of World War II, jet fighters such as the Messerschmitt couldn't stop the advance of Allied armies. After Germany's surrender on May 8, 1945, Franz was brought to the United States as part of "Operation Paperclip", the same secret program that recruited Werner von Braun.

A New Life

During the late 1940s, Anselm Franz worked with the United States Air Force (USAF) on various engine-related issues. In 1951, he was named head of the new turbine division of Lycoming Engines, a manufacturer of general-aviation products. Working out of the company's plant in Stratford, Connecticut, Franz focused on market segments that were largely ignored by giants such as General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Franz's first design, the T53 helicopter engine (right), was used on both the Bell Aircraft UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra helicopters. A subsequent design, the larger T55, was later converted into a small turbofan engine and mounted on OV-1 Mohawk ground-attack aircraft.



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Re: Anselm Franz, Engine Designer

07/20/2007 10:02 AM

In researching this story, I came across this tidbit about the postwar fate of the Junkers plant in Leipzig, Germany. For those who would criticize the U.S. for Operation Paperclip, I submit the following:

"After the war, the complete company was dismantled and taken to Russia as war bounty and rebuilt exactly as it stood in Leipzig. All design offices were set up and the blue prints of the German jet and rocket aircraft were stored so that when the German 'Specialists' arrived on October 1946, they could work on the new Russian 'Wunder' jets such as the MiG 15."



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Re: Anselm Franz, Engine Designer

07/22/2007 3:56 PM

There will certainly be no criticism from me. For the most part the scientists and engineers who were whisked away to the U.S.A. were quite apolitical in nature, seeking only to see their visions materialize. And, finally out from under the thumbs of the party and the SS they were relatively free to work, assemble, and travel.

But for the most part those who were taken to the U.S.S.R. remained for life what they became during the first days after the capitulation of Nazi Germany-prisoners. The U.S.S.R. removed everything useful from its sector of occupied Germany and took the best and brightest minds from their homes. Restitution for the Operation Barbarossa that was paid by at least (3) generations of Germans.

But, that is all the past and that past is just that. There is nowadays no bitterness with me-that was my father's and grandfather's generations. The lifetime work of Franz, Porsche, von Braun, and the other "criminals" is quite present in our everyday lives. In my opinion we obviously chose to take the best since the U.S.S.R. no longer exists!


Ing. Robert Forbus

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