The RB211 gas turbine engine was to be the biggest engineering project in Britain, and the world's fi rst three-spool turbofan. It had been developed for the Lockheed L1011 Tristar and fi nally entered service in 1972. Despite its huge development costs, which pushed Rolls-Royce into bankruptcy, it turned Rolls-Royce into a global company, supplying engines for many thousands of airliners and military aircraft. Despite the development costs, the failure of the company that produced the engine and the problems of its single launch customer (Lockheed), the RB211 proved itself to be a highly fl exible engine, with a massive potential power range, light weight and ease of maintenance. Andrew Porter tells the story of the RB211, the history of its development and the political and economic factors that saw the company nearly die.