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Pegasus engine

key to vertical takeoff and landing South West,

A jet aeroplane with silver body and long nose cone, suspended from the ceiling of a museum gallery.
Hawker P1127 experimental vertical takeoff aircraft, 1960. Science Museum/ Science & Society Picture Library

In the 1950s the next great challenge for aeroplane design was to produce a craft that could achieve vertical takeoff. Many different designs were tested around the world but with little practical success.

In 1956 the designs of Frenchman Michel Wibault were brought to the attention of Gordon Lewis (1910-2004) of the Bristol-based company Bristol Siddeley. Lewis simplified the design and reduced its weight.

In the Pegasus the ‘cold stream’ or bypass air forms the front two engines. The ‘hot stream’ creates the two at the rear. These jets are directed by swivelling nozzles. In the ‘hover’ and takeoff mode the aircraft is supported on four ‘legs’. This made it more stable than other vertical takeoff systems.

A short time later, British aircraft manufacturer Hawker Aviation became interested and the new Pegasus engine was fitted in the Hawker P1127. On 8 September 1961 the difficult transition from hover to full flight was finally achieved. The Pegasus engine has gone on to be used in all Harrier jets.

Science Museum

South West
Key Individuals
Gordon Lewis, Michel Wibault, Bristol Siddeley,