WGW2707 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 1197 posts, RR: 37 Posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 3517 times:
Unfortunately, many of us have not had the opportunity to fly on the legendary De Havilland Comet, the world's first commercial jetliner. For those of you who have enjoyed that privilege, I am curious, what was the Comet like? I imagine the vast majority of those of you fortunate to fly on the Comet flew the Comet 4 series as opposed to the ill-fated original version (with the deadly rectangular windows), however, if any of you were fortunate to have seen or flown on the original Comet 1 and 2, it would be very interesting to hear what your experiences were also. Finally, if there are any pilots on this forum who flew Comets in their professional capacity, it would be very interesting to hear your opinion of the aircraft.
Mariner From New Zealand, joined Nov 2001, 23929 posts, RR: 87 Reply 1, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 3454 times:
The problem is, compared with what?
At that time, BOAC had Stratocruisers, Constellations, Argonauts and Hermes in the fleet. Because my father worked for BOAC in the Middle East, we used to fly regularly, usually on the Hermes or the Argonaut.
From a passenger point of view, the Hermes was the better plane, although the Argonaut had a small, six seat lounge at the back.
Then I flew on the Comet 1, and it was amazing. It was quiet. It was fast. There wasn't that constant drone in your ears that could, after a long flight, give you a headache. There was no vibration (or very little). In the hot Middle Eastern summers, that vibration and the noise and the heat could make you sick. That's when people really did use barf bags a lot. I did at least once.
But I was about twelve at the time, and I can remember the buzz of excitement about flying the Comet, and the sense that this was something so much better than the prop planes.
The service was impeccable. There was no Y class, because that hardly existed then, so everything was first class. But even then, on board catering was not what it is today. I remember eating cold chicken and salad.
So if you put the Comet up against the modern jets, I would think it would feel pretty ancient. Take a look at the photo of the seats and remember that this was first class.
WGW2707 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 1197 posts, RR: 37 Reply 2, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 3431 times:
Mariner, I must thankyou for your reply, that was very interesting. It must have been extremely unpleasant flying under certain conditions back then, and the Comet must have seemed like a breath of fresh air.
Btw, I did not intend for this post to be a comparison of the Comet against other jetliner types, as such a comparison would lean towards irrelevancy, similiar perhaps to comparing the DC3 with the Saab 2000. The intent of this post was to encourgae those fortunate enough to fly on the Comet to recount their experiences about this fascinating pioneer of commercial jet aviation.
Mariner From New Zealand, joined Nov 2001, 23929 posts, RR: 87 Reply 4, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 3381 times:
Remember that crashed were more common then and we didn't know what the Comet's future was going to be. It was just exciting. We lived in Jordan at the time (my father worked there) and we had been on leave to the UK, which is how I flew the Comet.
We came back on an Argonaut to Beirut, and a DH 9 (Dragon Rapide) to Amman. Soon after we got back, there was news of the first Comet crash, and I remember my mother weeping at the news (my mother wept at most news, good or bad).
She kept saying "what if we'd been on it?" But we weren't.
The first King Abdullah of Jordan was going to Jerusalem to pray at the mosque. His security people had news of an assassination plot, and tried to persuade him not to go. He said:
"Until my day comes, no one need guard me. When my day comes, no one can save me."
I live by that. I'll try pretty much anything (unless it's really stupid), and I've had a lot of good adventures.
Flybynight From Norway, joined Jul 2003, 1004 posts, RR: 3 Reply 5, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 3358 times:
I was a just small kid in Norway when SAS used the Comet. I still think it is one of the best looking jet of all times.
Check-out this picture. Using a parachute to slow it down on the shor Fornebu runway in Oslo
CV990 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 7, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 3336 times:
This is an excelent topic, the Comet will always be THE FIRST to do it, it was not the best, but the pioneering years gave us the chance to fly jets safely, so I bow my head to all those that sacrificed their lives and their time to give us a great ride when we fly in those high skies!
I never flew on a Comet, but I consider myself a lucky guy because I actually visit one of them still in airworthy condition and I saw some of them landing, taking-off, taxing, starting and stopping their engines.
Comet during the 70'd and early 80's was imediately connected to DAN AIR LONDON, those guys loved the Comet..... you could see the Comet all over Europe during many years. I'm portuguese and I remember vividly seeing DAN AIR LONDON Comets arriving at LIS. LIS sometimes was quite boring for spotters but I tell you... everytime we saw a Comet that would make our day. In 1980 I was working in a catering company and we received a call that we needed to assist a DAN AIR Comet 4C, for the first ( and only ) time in my life I jumped over the stairs to came inside that great classic airliner. The F/A wanted a dozen cokes and 3 lemons, we got her request and then she asked me to cut the lemon in slices, I off course did it ( she was a pretty british F/A... ) with a plastic knife and after that she gave me 2 packs of Marlboro and a permition to visit the Comet cockpit, that was my prize!
That's why I will never forget the Comet!
Positive rate From Australia, joined Sep 2001, 2143 posts, RR: 1 Reply 8, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3313 times:
I read Air disaster volume one and the comet Mk 1 crashes. Apparently a lot of people who flew on the Comet MK1 reported a "cobblestone" sensation. The plane would vibrate and buffet at high speed. You're lucky you survived though because over half of the Mk1's built crashed- a lot of them breaking apart in mid-air.
Mariner From New Zealand, joined Nov 2001, 23929 posts, RR: 87 Reply 9, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3294 times:
The critical crashes, as opposed to couple of minor ones, all broke apart in mid-air. The thing that alerted everyone was that the planes crashed at a similiar number of flying hours.
If you already know this, there may be others that don't. They managed to get the plane off the sea bed at Elba, and reassembled it. Then they did a series of tests with a Comet in a water tank and simulated flying. They discovered that the crashes were caused by metal fatigue, the plane tore apart.
This was important information for the future of jet travel.
There's an interesting novel by Nevil Shute called "No Highway" which dealt with metal fatigue, on a fictitous plane. It's a pretty good read.
But without doing any research I'm surprised at your statement that "over half of the Mk 1's built crashed." I didn't think it was that many.
I seem to remember two BOAC crashes and - I think - one Air France, but that might have been another BOAC too. Then the Comet was grounded.
But hey, I've been wrong before and I'm sure I'll be wrong again.
WGW2707 From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 1197 posts, RR: 37 Reply 10, posted (10 years 3 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 3260 times:
Flybynight, I recently read somewhere that the Caravelle actually bought a license to use the Comet's nose design, accounting for the similiarity in appearance between the two jetliners. Sort of a mid 1950s version of the DC8/DC9 commonality or the 707/720/727/737 commonality.
GDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 12957 posts, RR: 79 Reply 11, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 3209 times:
Great topic with some fascinating insights.
Sometimes you pay a price for being first, Comet 1 was a good example of that, very valuable lessons were learned.
Want to know why the next big quantum leap in air travel, Concorde, took so long to develop, why it was the most extensively tested airliner ever built?
Look no further than the Comet.
It is common for people to speculate what would have happened if the Comet 1 had not failed.
I think things would not have been too different to how they turned out, the project that would become the 707 was already underway, it had the advantage of being developed on the back of a massive USAF tanker contract, (the KC-135), which meant that production costs and output would have been much better.
As it was the Comet 1 and 2s were built in cottage industry conditions, plans were underway to produce some at Chester and Belfast as well as Hatfield to meet the expected demand.
In the end, the 707 and DC-8 would have appeared and overtaken the Comet, but they were probably much safer as a result of the investigation of the Comet 1 losses, then by far the most extensive crash investigation ever.
That the Comet was built at all, in a nation still shattered economically and physically from WW2, was pretty micraculous.
As you can see BOAC lost 4. Interestingly both the accidents in India were in or near Calcutta and did not have anything to do with metal fatigue. The first was apparently due to fuel vapor getting ignited while flying near a thunderstorm and the second was a ground accident due to crew error. Aircraft was written off after extensive damage due to gear collapse.
Apart from the above, 17 other Comets of various marques met with accidents/hostile action which caused the aircraft to be destroyed or written off.
Overall however, the Comets must be given due credit for being pioneers of the jet age.
Sarfaroshi kii tamannaa ab hamaare dil mein hai, Dekhnaa hai zor kitnaa baazu-e-qaatil mein hai
MD80Nut From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 876 posts, RR: 9 Reply 15, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 3048 times:
While I never flew on the Comet, I've always admired the aircraft and recognized it's important place in aviation history. It was a remarkable leap forward in technology and the lessons learned at such a high cost from the accidents played an important role in making jet travel safe.
My father flew on BEA's Comets in the 60s during a trip to Europe and told me it was a great aircraft, though he said he found it a bit cramped compared to the 707s and DC-8s he was used to. Nevertheless, he said it was a smooth flying aircraft and really enjoyed it. My only experience with the Comet was seeing Mexicana's flying about a couple of times.
No matter how you look at it, the Comet will always be the first!
Leej From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2001, 288 posts, RR: 0 Reply 17, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 3038 times:
My first flight was on a Dan-Air Comet - 1971!!! Gatwick to Rimini, Italy for 2 weeks of sunshine.
I was only 3 at the time, so of course I don't remember it, although I do remember getting lost on the beach!
Skymonster From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 18, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 2989 times:
My only Comet flights were:
16-FEB-78 G-APYD Comet 4b Dan Air LGW-VCE
01-MAR-78 G-BDIV Comet C4 Dan Air NAP-LGW
Its all a while ago now, of course, but I remember the cabins still had the open racks above the seats rather than closing bins. The cabin was noisier than most modern jets, particularly as we were sat over the wings, probably because the engines were so close in - especially noticable compared to the 707 I'd flown on previously was the noise at startup, where the engines were very noticable as they wound up to idle power. Both Comets climbed like rockets but I recall a significant sink during the climb when the barn-door sized flaps were retracted in stages. Only other thing I recall was when landing in a very wet VCE there were sparks showering out of the over-wing reverser exhaust ports. The C4 we flew NAP-LGW on was a former RAF bird, and underneath the Dan Air livery on the rear fuselage it was possible to clearly see where the RAF roundel had been painted over.
India Victor was cut up in the end, but Yankee Delta lives on in the Science Musuem's collection at Wroughton - I've seen her a few times since I flew on her, and she still looks as graceful as ever!
Fanofjets From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 1913 posts, RR: 3 Reply 20, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 2860 times:
I flew on a Comet in the late 1960s, when I was about 8. I wish I remembered more about the flight; I believe it was an Olympic Airways flight from Paris to Athens, but even that I am not sure of. I recall sitting in the seats that face each other, located in the front of the cabin, railroad style. I recall not being able to see over the table between us and the facing seats. The narrow door to the cockpit was open. Unusual aircraft, to say the least.
Trident From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 484 posts, RR: 0 Reply 21, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2811 times:
I never had the opportunity to fly in one but I have been on board the preserved example at Duxford. What strikes you (almost literally) is how small the cabin is. Even I, at 5ft 6 ins had to duck entering through the passenger door.
De Havilland bit off rather more than they could chew when going ahead with the Comet. They had never built a fully pressurised aircraft before and the only jet experience they had was with the diminutive Vampire fighter. Because the original De Havilland Ghost engines were so low on power, preventing weight escalation was a prime concern of the design team. As a result, De Havilland probably used too thin a gauge aluminium in the aircraft skin. Using rectangular appertures for door, windows and radio aerials did not help and the final straw was deliberately omitting corner strengtheners in those apertures, again to save weight. They totally underestimated the fatigue effect of using rectangular apertures and totally misunderstood how vital corner strengtheners would be.
It is noticeable that the other British pressurised airliner being designed at the same time, the Vickers Viscount, had large oval windows and even doors (on the Series 700s).
I don't think many of the findings of the investigation into the Comet depressurisations fed through to other manufacturers. I think those other manufacturers just did their homework better than De Havilland had done. How many 707s burst apart in mid air due to structural failure after less than two years' flying?
Vc10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1395 posts, RR: 16 Reply 22, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 2762 times:
Please tell me if I am wrong, but didn't the B707 have square passenger windows with rounded corners , just like the original Comet. Also the Comet 1 was designed with window aperture strengtheners, however the design of these was altered during production due to difficulties with their fitting to the fuselage. So I understand, the alteration was done on the shop floor without the design office knowledge. I do not think De Havilland built all it's previous aircraft without knowing about fatigue. One thing that came from the Comet inquiry was the fitting of tear stopper strips to aircraft so that if a failure dues occur the size of the failure should be limited
RIX From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 1785 posts, RR: 1 Reply 23, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2740 times:
"I don't think many of the findings of the investigation into the Comet depressurisations fed through to other manufacturers. I think those other manufacturers just did their homework better than De Havilland had done. " - may be, but, at least, they knew what the homework was about.
Great "flight stories" by Mariner and Skymonster. WGW2707, thank you for starting the topic...
Trident From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2000, 484 posts, RR: 0 Reply 24, posted (10 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 2714 times:
But the "homework" was based on what THEY had learned from their own experiences, not De Havilland's. In fact, De Havilland DID have a history of structural problems with their aircraft going back to the 1930s. The Albatross airliner and the Mosquito had serious problems with defective glues etc causing aircraft to come apart. I just don't think they had enough in-house expertise in the areas they were embarking on with the Comet. They even ignored recommendations from the RAE at Farnborough.
As others have pointed out, there is nothing wrong with square or rectangular windows. In fact, they are now the norm on airliners. They just need to be designed properly. De havilland took a gamble and it didn't pay off. If these accidents had happened in more modern times, the company would have been sued into oblivion.
25 WGW2707: A brief note regarding an above post: "There's an interesting novel by Nevil Shute called "No Highway" which dealt with metal fatigue, on a fictitous
26 Trident: Neville Shute Norway (to give him his full name) was a stress engineer with Vickers and worked alongside Barnes Wallis in the design of the airship R1
27 Mariner: WGW2707: Nevil Shute, who wrote "No Highway" was an aircraft engineer who turned to writing novels. His most famous books are "On The Beach" and "A To
28 Trident: His autobiography, "Slide Rule", is also worth reading.
29 SLCPilot: Mariner & Trident, Since you seem to be familiar with Neville Shute's novel and movie, I'll ask you.. The tail of the Reindeer looks unlike any I've s
30 Diesel1: Good topic. Wish I could remember more about my flights on Dan Air Comet's - must have flown on them a few times (2 returns?) , probably both LGW-MAH
31 Trident: It's many years since I've seen the film "No Highway in the Sky" so I can't remember much about it - apart from the fact that it starred Jimmy Stewart
32 Richierich: The Comet was a remarkable plane that was also a pioneer. Had the metal fatigue crashes not occurred (BOAC lost 2 to metal fatigue; I believe another
33 Luisinho: This is a very important topic for me... hii folks... how are everybody? Well the comet was the pioneer, well, during the period of the III Reich, Ado
34 Mariner: SLCPilot: Trident may come up with better research, but from memory - it's a long time ago - all the aircraft stuff in "No Highway In The Sky" was moc
35 RIX: Luisinho, AFAIK, Me262 was not that success. There were more than 1000 of them built (plus some other jet fighter types), but they totally failed to m
36 Luisinho: The problems of Me262 relative unsucess was on takeoffs or landings, but that was the problem of all jet fighters that time. As you know, the first je
37 Trident: No Germans were involved in the Comet. The British cocked it up all by themselves. Von Braun was not involved with the V1 "cruise missile" programme.