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De Havilland Comet Question

Mon Jul 05, 2004 3:10 am

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I thought all Comets were taken out of service in the 1960s or around there? It had safety issues because of the rectangular windows. Then I came across this picture from this year. Are there still some out there flying?
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Mon Jul 05, 2004 3:14 am

The windows were the fault on Comet 1 aircraft in the 1950s.

The plane in the above picture is a Comet 4, which was built with round windows, different engines and a stretch. It was introduced after the Comet 1 was taken out of service. The pic is also of Canopus, the last surviving Comet in operational condition. Hopefully it'll be around for some time to come, and maybe eventually find its way to the British Aircraft display at MAN.

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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Mon Jul 05, 2004 6:37 am

The RAF still flies their modified version of the Comet, known as the Nimrod

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Trolley Dolley
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Mon Jul 05, 2004 7:43 am

The last comets flew commercially in the early 1980's for Dan Air. The last flight of a commercial comet was to the Duxford air museum. She's still there if you're ever lucky enough to see her in the UK. The RAF still flies military versions of the comet. The final comet flying was one used by the Boscombe Downs research department, she was named Canopus. There was much effort to try and keep Canopus flying as a last example of the world's first jetliner, but that came to nought.
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Mon Jul 05, 2004 8:19 am

You need to get together with WhiteHatter, Trolley Dolley. You can't both be right  Smile
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Mon Jul 05, 2004 10:43 am

The Comet 1 had rectangular windows and these flew in commercial service with BOAC, Air France and UAT from 1952 to 1954, when they were withdrawn from service due to their tendancy to explode in mid-air. This was due to the effects of high altitude flying and metal fatigue not being understood at this early time.

The Comet 2 also had rectangular windows, and none of these went into commercial service - though some were used by the military either modified with oval windows, or used unpressurised.

Only one Comet 3 was built and was sent on an around the world demonstration flight in 1955 from memory in BOAC colours.

From 1958, the Comet 4 became the first scheduled jet on the transatlantic route, beating Pan Am with the 707 by a few weeks. The Comet 4 went into service with many carriers and was in service commercially into the 1980s.

The military continued to use the Comet in various roles until around 1998(?) when the final one was retired.

I do enjoy a spot of flying, especially when it's not in economy!
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Tue Jul 06, 2004 1:38 am

No one will deny the tragic beginnings of the Comet 1 - the aircraft that was supposed to have been a world beater. It was a clear six years ahead of anything from the States.

The Comet 4 was a capable and reliable aircraft and was used around the world until 1980. I wish I had had the opportunity to fly on one at that time.. oh well. But it was no match for the 707 and DC-8 in terms of number of passengers or range and therefore was not a big seller. I'm sure the Comet stigma also had a lot to do with that. BOAC, the forerunner to today's BA, initially flew Comets transatlantically from Heathrow-Idylwild but eventually caved in the 1960s and purchased brand new 707s-300s with RR jets, essentially ending transatlantic Comets and relegating them to European and inclusive-tour (IT) carriers. Incidentally, it was Dan-Air London (great British IT and charter airline that ironically merged into BA in 1988) that flew the most Comets. They fittingly also flew the last commercial Comet.

Still, the Comet deserves its place in history for a variety of reasons and milestones. Notably:
(a) First commercial jet service in 1952 (BOAC)
(b) First commercial jet crash, 1954 (BOAC)
(c) Painful lessons learned from metal fatigue, carried down to all future jetliners*
(d) First transatlantic jet service, 1958 (BOAC)

* There were also huge lessons learned in retrieving the remains of the destroyed aircraft (from the Mediterranean seabed) and aircraft reconstruction to determine point of failure. These sad lessons are the basis for current accident investigations, including PA103 and TWA800.
None shall pass!!!!
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Tue Jul 06, 2004 2:03 am

The one RAE Comet outlasted all the other civil ones by a decade and a half, the last commercial Comet 4 being used by Dan Air until 1980.
RAF also got 5 new Comet 4's in the early 60's, they were used until 1976.
One thing, saying a Nimrod is a Comet is like saying a P-3 is a L-188, though the changes to the Comet to make the Nimrod were actually far greater than the Lockheed product, new engines (R/R Spey replacing R/R Avons), a whole new lower fuselage, all the equipment for the maritime patrol mission of course, it was a new aircraft built on the basic Comet 4 platform.

When considering the Comet 1, you have to remember that a jet powered airliner was like science fiction come true in the early 50's, though limited in range and payload compared to the big pistons of the time, it was a look of the future, it caused a sensation and probably in the case of Douglas and Lockheed, some alarm. (Boeing would use work on the B-47 and B-52 and a planned USAF jet tanker project, to produce what became the Dash 80 then 707).

The decompression were a total shock, eventually the cause became clear after a Comet was put in a giant water tank while simulated flight loads were performed, in an attempt to replicate the stresses and pressures of pressurize, this was the pre computer era remember.

The official inquiry was light on dishing out blame, DH, industry in general, BOAC, had simply paid a price for pushing the envelope so far. Comet was full of innovative construction techniques and large rectangular windows were commonplace at the time on airliners.

Comet sales had started to increase as the Comet 2 became available, more production capacity was needed and lines in Chester and Belfast were being set up, even Pan Am were ordering, this all changed with the grounding.
But DH were determined to recover, as stated, some Comet 2's were modified, (and served with the RAF from 1956-67 carrying Royalty, Prime Ministers and dignitaries as well as servicemen, the RAF were way ahead of other air forces in having a jet transport).

The planned Comet 3 served as a template for the comeback kid, the Comet 4, 116 of these would be built from 1957-62, but the 4 year hiatus had allowed Boeing, followed by Douglas, to leap ahead with more advanced aircraft.

It is often said the the Comet 1 losses ended forever the UK's large market share in large civil aircraft, allowed the US to dominate.
Too simplistic, even when the Comet 1 looked like a success in 1952, the then CEO of Sabena asserted that by 1962, US jetliners would dominate.

Comet 1 was almost miraculous in that it ever happened, with transport aircraft production in WW2 subordinated to the US to maximize UK combat aircraft production playing catch up was tough, copying the US design concepts was pointless, so some other ideas were considered, some were non starters (the giant Brabazon transatlantic propliner) others were a great success, (the worlds first turboprop airliner, the Vickers Viscount).

So playing high tech to leap frog all those 100's of Lockheed, Douglas and smaller Martin props being churned out was seen to be essential, but the UK post-war was a bankrupt, damaged, austere place where wartime privations would last well into the 1950s.
That's why production of the Comet was planned to be increased not by a big new facility at Hatfield, but by new lines elsewhere in the UK, conditions of production at Hatfield were small and austere compare to the giant US plants (a legacy of dispersed wartime production against air attack).

Had the Comet 1's problems been foreseen, how would things have been different?
Well, not much really, Comet 2/3 would have sold well, even maybe a few in the US, but eventually the sheer size, supply base and funding of the US industry would tell, remember the 707 was launched on the back of the USAF order for hundreds of KC-135s.
Despite the end of the Comet 1 (and it was seen as a national tragedy at the time) nothing can change the fact that it WAS the first jetliner in regular commercial service, lessons from the lost aircraft were incorporated across the industry and the inquiry was to serve as the basis for modern air accident investigation.
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Tue Jul 06, 2004 2:03 am

The first picture says: G-CPDA making her way to perform a high-speed taxi run. and dates May 2, 2004.

Does that mean this Comet 4 is still air worthy and could fly?

Can somebody give more information as to what extend this plane is still able to start up, taxi, fly (pressurized or not) etc... ???

I am highly interested to find out.

Thanks in advance!
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RE: De Havilland Comet Question

Tue Jul 06, 2004 2:14 am

There is also a Comet 4C undergoing restoration at the Museum Of Flight Restoration Center up at Paine Field, Everett, WA.
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