EGGD
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DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 9:48 am

The early 1950's - Britain is at the forefront of Aviation technology. The newest creation, the de Havilland Comet is widely anticipated around the world. It became the worlds first commercial jetliner, and Britain were set to be the leaders in the world of aviation for years to come.


But, a serious of mysterious accidents tied down the marvel of engineering. The aircraft, on a number of occaisions disintegrated in mid-air. The comet was taken out of service, with Scientists and air crash detectives working together to find the causes of these terrible incidents.

After months of hard work the problem was found, it was narrowed down to pressure building in the corners of the square windows causing metal fatigue. Modifications were made but De havilland never recovered, and neither did public confidence.

American manufacturers learned important lessons from the British's mistakes, and put into production the 707, and later the DC-8. These two aircraft held a vast sector of the market leaving de havilland (Hawker Siddeley) with next to nothing.

Boeing and Douglas were now leading the field in the world of Aviation, with Hawker Siddeley sagging far behind.

Things began to look up in the 1960's, with the go ahead of the Concorde (joint venture with Aerospatziale) project and Boeing's similar project being underfunded. But Confidence was once again ruined in potential buyers eyes when they realized the running costs of such a unique aircraft, Boeing had capitolized with the production of the 747. But the damage had already been done back in the 1950's.

What would have happened if the Comet had been a success???

your views?

EGGD
 
EGGD
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 9:53 am

Oops, forgot to add about the bae-146 never really made in roads into the international market, eventually becoming part of the RJ series and attempts like the VC-10, hs748, hs trident, BAC 1-11 and Bae ATP all not becoming major sellers in relation to the DC-9 series, MD-80, MD-11, DC-10, B747, 757, 767, 777, 737, 727, Tristar etc etc etc.

EGGD
 
cedarjet
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 10:53 am

I don't think the Comet's initial structural problems were cause for the demise of British aviation. It was killed by a short-sighted establishment which forced the manufacturers to build for the needs of the state owned national airline/s, BOAC and BEA. If the Comet 4 had been the size of the 707 then the British would still be at the forefront, but the Comet 4 has a cabin the same width and length as a Canadair RJ, and the 707 has an almost identically wide and long cabin as a 757. Which is going to be more viable and allow market growth?

Part of Concorde's problem was that it was so small - Braniff were serious about getting into the SST business and sent representatives to the UK to look at Concorde. They said it was too small and too slow and no one would buy it, and that was in the late 60s. If Concorde had been a 200 seater and faster, it would possibly have sold a lot better. I don't know if it's size and speed were limited by the state of the art at the time, but I DO know that airlines weren't consulted (compared to Boeing's work before they finalised the 777) about what they required.

The British suffered from a lack of world view and were obsessed with building machines for their government airlines. And by the way, the British have not historically been any better than the Belgians at running an airline, BA spectacularly unprofitable, costing the British taxpayers £1m a day throughout the late 70s til the mid 80s. Hence the products that resulted were smaller and less efficient than their American counterparts - there was no defiancy on the technical side, the VC10, Trident and 111 were built like tanks and had excellent safety records.

By the way, the 111 was profitable and sold widely (including 75 to AA, and a big fleet for Braniff as well). The 146 has been reasonably successful, flown by dozens of major airlines such as UA, LH, BA, QF, and performing a unique role due to it's amazing field performance. And most interestingly of all, the VC10 only sold about 50 or 60 examples but Vickers made a profit on the program - remember, British manufacturers were tiny outfits in those days, the VC10 first flew from Wisley, which is a nice SW London suburb. The runway was only something like 7,000 feet long, surrounded by houses, gardens and parks.

Today the industry's major triumph is designing and building the most advanced and efficient wings in the world, for the A330 and A340, as well as the A300 and A320. The wing is a major contribution to the success of Airbus and I think the British industry should take pride in that. That part of the Airbus program was not awarded to Britain randomly, it's because despite shortsighted commerical attitudes, their operating experience is unrivalled, even in the US - for all the research $$ and military programs Boeing et al benefit from, the British have actually BUILT and OPERATED an SST, a jet STOL aircraft, and were flying jet transports as long ago as 1949. If the result is building the most advanced airliner wings in the sky then the past cannot be considered a failure in the if it provides for such a strong present and future.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
philb
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 5:54 pm

Cedarjet has pretty much summed it up.

The following needs to be added to complete the picture:

1. In 1946 the US had an industry geared up for war, a population of around 200,000,000, massive natural resources, no food shortages, no physical damage to its industrial infrastructure and the advantage from an agreement with the UK that, during WW2, the US would build transports whilst all the UK production would be on warplanes (the only exception was the Avro York).

On the other hand the UK had a population of around 42,000,000, few natural resources, a food shortage, massive damage to both the industrial and domestic infrastructure and no history of new airliner building for 8 years.

2. Yet in a very short period of 10 years the following types helped rebuild British and many world airlines and air forces (the military and civil developments in both the US and UK are totally interlinked in the first 30 years after 1946), in some cases led the technology, broke world records and, whilst some types led the industry down blind alleys, at least showed the way to go.

Avro: Tudor, Vulcan
Bristol: Brabazon, Britannia
de Havilland: Vampire, Venom, Dove, Heron, Comet.
English Electric: P1/Lightning
Fairey: FD1, FD2
Hawker: Hunter
Rolls Royce (engines) Dart, Derwent, Avon, Tay
Supermarine: Swift
Vickers: Viking, Viscount, Valiant

After 1956 we move on to the era of the jet transport and, as already mentioned in the thread, the heavy hand of BOAC and BEA who so tightly drew the design outlines of both the VC10 and Trident that they made sure that neither would be anything but superbly over engineered, totally reliable, white elephants, as far as the rest of the world was concerned.

Fortunately the dead hand of bureaucracy did not fall on the 1-11 or the 146 and both have sold relatively well as did the 748. On the military side, only in the last 5 years have any designs come near to the superb Harrier and there is still nothing in service to equal its flexibility.

To go back to the original point, had the Comet sold, say around 900 as the 707 eventually did, the question has to be asked as to the capacity of de Havilland to cope.

Resources at both Hatfield and Chester would have been stretched to breaking point to produce the Dove, Heron, Vampire, Venom, Sea Vixen and the 400+ Comets that may have been required between 1953 and 1957

 
EGGD
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 6:46 pm

Don't get me wrong here, these aircrafts were not failures. But if you compare them to the leaders of the market they were far behind. If the comet had outsold the 707 and it was the 707 which went out of production, what would've happened?

I agree that Chester, Woodford, Hatfield etc would have to expand, but so did Boeing in Seattle. If you get where i'm coming from here, if the Comet had lead the field the government and Hawker Siddeley would have the funds and the determination (not to mention public support) to build many more aircraft in the future, but as you said the majority of manufacturers were only small. Which, if you want to sell an aircraft widely you just cannot achieve.

I can see where you are both coming from, and you have made some very valid points!

Very interesting discussion(for me)

EGGD
 
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 6:49 pm

Cedarjet ,

We have had this conversation before, the VC10 DID NOT make a profit for Vickers it lost them £20 million (source: British Aircraft Corporation - A History by Charles Gardner). This can also be confirmed by a presentation by Sir George Edwards, the VC10's Chief Designer & forrmer Chairman of the British Aircraft Corporation, gave to The Fellowship of Engineering in 1982 where he says - "the VC10 also lost us money".
Incidentally all the VC10 first flew from Brooklands, but the test programe was run from Wisley.


The project that lost the British lead in the airliner race was the VC10's forerunner, the Vickers 1000. This a/c was derived from the Vickers Valiant bomber using the same basic technology and aerodnamics. An order had been placed for a prototype and six production a/c for the RAF while BOAC was also involved as it specified a six-abreast seating and a transatlantic range. It would have been the British entry into the long range big jet race. It had a trans-Atlantic non-stop capability, something the 707's of the time did not. Any way the project was cancelled six months before it's first flight because of political considerations in Northern Ireland. Due the high unemployment in the region the Government made the RAF buy the Bristol Britannia with a/c being built a Shorts in Belfast.

BOAC were asked if they wanted the project to continue but replied on the 8th Dec 1955,"BOAC is satisfied that it can hold its own commercially on the Noth Atlantic route until well into the 1960's with the Comet IV and the long rang Britannia". Then six months later when the government announced the £44 million BOAC order for 15 707's the reason was explained as " in order that the Corporation may hold their competative position in the North Atlantic route from 1959 to the 1960's. At that time no suitable new British Aircraft can be available for that purpose - the purchase is an exeptional measure to bridge the gap."

Regarding the Trident, the original DH121 was 727 size, with an engine (the RR Medway) to match. BEA decided that the 121 was too big so it was cut down to the Trident 1 size, with the engine project cancelled and a smaller engine put in. As soon as BEA got the Trident 1 it was too small ! Thereafter Hawker Siddeley were trying the stretch the a/c with an under powered engine.

The cancellation of the Medway made its effects felt on the 1-11 as it limited the growth potential of that to.
 
L-188
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 7:33 pm

I would like to add that I agree that there was a significant learning curve for you Brits, regarding commercial aircraft after the war.

I do belive the consolidations in the industry that occured over where the major factors why your aviation industry pretty much tanked compared to what it was pre-war. It wasn't killed by a lack of skilled workers or talented engineers. It was the government.

OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
 
philb
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 7:54 pm

L-188,

What you say is partly true - the heavy hand of government, particularly between 1955 and 1975, made for difficulties and a great deal of "shotgun" marriages between manufacturers.

There is another factor. Look at how many UK born, raised and educated engineers etc., worked for NASA, Boeing, Lockheed, Douglas et al.

They were lured away from the politicised British aviation industry by excellent pay, conditions, a far higher level of expendable income coupled to far lower prices and, in a number of cases, the sunshine of either California or the Sunbelt was also a factor.
 
Guest

RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 8:12 pm

Nice little discussion we've got here!-anyone care to add some photos?

Amazing what politcical considerations can do to stifle aviation, and these days, orders from certain a/c manufacturers!

I'd heard the TSR (now in Cosford) was cancelled by the UK Gov't. What was the reason behind that? Money?

Rgds,
CP

 
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 8:17 pm


Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Bill ARMSTRONG




Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Brian Hill



ps-there was a good book on East African Airways-which also operated the VC-10-wish I'd snapped it up before it got sold out!

Rgds,
CP
 
philb
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 8:26 pm

TSR2 is off topic, but it was cancelled by the 1964 Labour Govt under Denis Healey's defence review as being too expensive and the F111 was ordered instead.

There was more to it than this.

1. the left wing of the Labour Party was solidly anti defence spending at the expense of social programmes.
2. Harold Wilson rightly denied the use of UK troops in Vietnam and resisted US calls to reintroduce conscription to build an army to be slaughtered there.
As a peace offering, the F111 was ordered, but quickly cancelled.

It was left to the Tornado to eventually take on the tasks that the TSR2 could have done better and sooner and one outcome of the decision was that the TSR1 (otherwise known as Canberra) is still on RAF charge.

 
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 8:28 pm

 
EGGD
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 8:36 pm

What sort of pictures?

Well this is the Comet in service with Dan-Air London:


Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Eduard Marmet



Vickers VC-10 in BOAC colours:


Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Caz Caswell



BAC 1-11 in EAC colours:


Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Peter Unmuth



hs 748 in Royal Tongan colours operated by Emerald Airways


Click for large version
Click here for full size photo!

Photo © Colin Abbott



hs Trident BA colours


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Click here for full size photo!

Photo © AirNikon



EGGD  Smokin cool
 
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 9:10 pm

Thanks for all info and photos-much appreciated!

Rgds,
CP
 
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RayChuang
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 10:19 pm

I think another HUGE mistake on behalf of British aviation was the fact the British government backed out of the Airbus consortium, forcing Hawker Siddelery to stay in the consortium as a private venture to develop the wings for the A300B. If the British had stayed in Airbus Industrie today would likely have France, Germany and the UK all as 30% partners in the partners in the project, and very likely one of the final assembly lines for Airbus planes would be in the UK, not in Germany.

Remember, it was a joint marketing research project by British European Airways and Air Inter that developed the basis for the design of the A300 back in the middle 1960's.

If the British government had stayed in the Airbus consortium Airbus would have likely sold at least 20-25 A300B2/B4's to British Airways, instead of Airbus languishing in sales until the late 1970's.
 
philb
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Sun May 20, 2001 10:29 pm

Ray,

Spot on
 
cedarjet
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 1:30 am

Capt. Picard: the EAA book is excellent and very nicely produced. Highlights include the time their DC9 was stolen by joyriders. The author is Peter J Davis, type it into the search engine at www.bibliofind.com and you'll find a cheap secondhand copy which will be on your doormat within days.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
Guest

RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 2:05 am

Oh Joy!!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

I had always wanted to read the story behind the airline-I met an Emirates A300 Captain who had also Captained the VC-10's for EAA in his "youth", and since I used to live in Kenya (wish I still did), I could easily picture the VC-10's climbing out of Embakasi.....thanks v.much for your reference, I shall grab a copy immediately!

Rgds,
CP
 
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lindy field
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 2:17 am

None of the aircraft mentioned failed as badly as the French Dassault Mercure. Any ashamed Brits should lord that over the French.


Click for large version
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Photo © Eddy Cuperus

 
EGGD
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 6:21 am

Lindy Field - The French were never at the forefront of modern aviation (technologically more advanced than any other country) but the British were, essentially the failure (upto a point) of the worlds first Jetliner brought down Britain as a world leader.

EGGD
 
shankly
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 4:34 pm

High quality debate from all above. Well done.

RayChuang's point about the A300 is so true. In the early 1990's I had the opporunity to have a good chat with my local MP on the terrace of the House of Commons (only about 6 months after being made redundant - remember those days!?). Well in a general talk about industry, he started banging on about Govt assisting and supporting industrial successes including BAe/Airbus. I had one of those rare opportunities to silence a politician, when I reminded him that the Govt (colours not important) had failed to back the Airbus venture and that the British involvement was a private venture.

Even after Comet us Brits had two great chances. The V1000, but I beleive more importantly the VC10. US airlines were very interested in its hot & high abilities for South America. If BOAC hadn't publically ridiculed the aircraft, it would have been a winner. The irony is of course that those people that did destroy the industry went on to become Lords and Sirs and the high and mighty, whilst the once great industry became no more than a sub-contractor.

Just to leave a bit of a smile, I would add that as a subcontractor the British aircraft industry is now hugely successful, but the chances of seeing a design like the VC10 roll out of a hanger are now long gone.
L1011 - P F M
 
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 6:05 pm

Shankly,

You imply that the VC10 was a better bet than than the V1000, but remember the V1000 would have got our "foot in the door" and hopefully the airlines that bought the V1000 would have bought the "new improved" V1000, the VC10.

I once spoke to Sir George Edwards about the '10 and he said it would have been a world beater if it had come out 2 years earlier.

It is interesting to note when BOAC eventually came clean about the '10 it revealed the '10 was cheaper to operate than the 707 & had a higher daily utilisation
 
shankly
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 8:30 pm

VC10:

No implication intended. Simply that the VC10 was the last of "the last two chances". I agree, had the V1000 programme survived, we would maybe now be posting about the third or fourth generation "V-ships"!

Even today, the truth about the VC10 operating costs still makes me annoyed!

I can remember as a lad flying to Bermuda from LHR in the mid seventies and being gutted that we would by flying on a 747 and not a VC10!

Nice footnote about the VC10 that I hadn't known until recently was that during a test flight an elevator detached. The pilot was the late Brian Trubshaw of Concorde fame, who guided the VC10 safely back.
L1011 - P F M
 
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 8:56 pm

He only brought it back because as he slowed down to allow a bale out he found the violent pitching stopped, so he thought he would give it a go.

As you can tell fron my "handle" I am a VC10 fan and it makes me annoyed what BOAC did for the '10. They issued their own specification, Vickers built it to their specification, changed it when BOAC wanted things changed, and when BOAC had it delivered they cried it wasn't what they wanted.

BOAC & BEA (both Government organisations )between them distroyed the UK civil aviation manufacturing base.

I read a book some time ago that pointed out that in the UK the Universiies have always looked down on Industry. The people in power all study the arts or history & similar subjects so when it comes to making intustrial decisions they have no idea. The book "The Lost Victory" is an interesting read. It details all the lost chances Britain had to make a strong recovery after the war
 
ckw
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 9:55 pm

I think you have to go back before the war to see the roots of Britains post-war civil airline problems. While Douglas with the DC-2/3, and to a lesser extent Fokker, Junkers and Focke-Wulf were building fast, modern and above all economical aircraft, the British were using frankly outdated designs and flying boats in order to service the all (politically) important empire routes.

These routes were never going to be an economic proposition, but this was considered less important than
maintaining the empire links.

With her back to the wall during WWII, Britain had little time for civil aviation, and, the logistics of an initially European war did not require priority on long range air transport.

The US, however, started an industry based almost purely on operating economics. Furthermore, the nature of the war for the US involved less disruption to industry, plus the logistics of America's war made the development of long range transport a necessity. The sheer productive might of the US meant, by wars end, there was an abundance of relatively cheap transport aircraft - while the British struggled with converted bombers (no market there!), the US had DC3s and 4s in abundance ... which the airlines could readily sell to help capitalise the DC6, 7 and Connie.

It is unlikely the aircraft industry in the UK could ever have hoped to compete immediately post-war on pure economics alone (how many DC-3 replacement projects have there been? ).

The only hope was a quantum leap forward, and in fairness to the Brits, the Brabazon committee was thinking along these lines during the war. Unfortunately, the thinking was still based on pre-war politics, economies and unproven technologies - hence we had the Saunders Roe Princess and the Bristol Brabazon. The Comet was the only proposal to really succeed in any fashion, but, like the Concorde later, great technology alone doesn't mean much to airline accountants.

With regard to the 707, it must also be realised that the US industry was heavily subsidised and influenced by the military needs of the time - the 707 was, essentially, a development of a jet tanker built to SACs urgent requirements (cost, was I would bet, no object)!
Britain had no corresponding military driver.

On the related subject of post-war military aircraft development, I strongly recommend a book called "Project Cancelled" (sorry, can't recall the author, and my Dad's nicked my copy!). It's enough to make any Brit cry! Aside from the tragic scrapping of the TSR2 - an incredible plane - we have the 1946 Miles supersonic fighter, which by all accounts would have worked, but the government forbade it be flown due to danger to the pilot, and a number of promising fighter projects scrapped overnight when the government decided only ground to air missiles would be required in future!

Cheers,

Colin
Colin K. Work, Pixstel
 
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RayChuang
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Mon May 21, 2001 10:37 pm

Colin,

I think your assessments are extremely correct.  Smile

People forget that by the early to middle 1930's, the race was on to develop modern air transports because of the sheer size of the continental USA. That was why airlines like United, Transcontinental and Western Air, American, etc. were willing to pay large sums of money to buy airliners that could long routes without a US Mail subsidy. Boeing responded with the Model 247, and Douglas responded with the DC-/DC-2/DC-3. Remember, it was an AA requirement for a 14-sleeping berth overnight/21-seat daytime transport that resulted in the famous DC-3. Boeing's Model 307 Stratoliner was also a major breakthrough, capable of flying above inclement weather--it's success was unfortunately cut short by World War II.

In short, the British was at a distinct disadvantage after World War II in regards to selling airliners, because British industry could not compete against the much larger resources of Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed. Only one British design--the Vickers Viscount--was considered a major success by world standards; the other post-war British airliners were unable to compete against their American counterparts.

The primary reason why Airbus succeeded was the fact that the French and German governments realized the ONLY way they were going to compete against US manufacturers was to pool their resources. This was how Airbus was able to build the A300B and all its subsequent derivatives and build the A320 Family of planes, which was built to a requirement proposed around 1970 for the Joint European Transport (JET).
 
philb
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Tue May 22, 2001 5:52 am

Ray,

First off, thanks for your email - right in every respect again!

ckw:

The flying boat wasn't just a British pre-occupation. Without the Sikorsky and Boeing boats, Pan Am would never have grown to be the US "chosen instrument" and the Pacific would have been an even less inviting and less well surveyed area for the battles of the Pacific war than it actually was.

Flying boats were an obvious solution for transport to an "empire", be it British or the little American one in the Pacific, where the destinations had good water access, poor infrastructure and the cost of runways would have been beyond the economic benefit.

Also, the major British advance in the 1930s was in engine technology which, by devious and not altogether planned routes, led to the jet engine and, before that, the RR Merlin, without which much of the British aviation war effort would have been crippled.

For reasons of speed and weight, the Brits also became experts in building wooden aircraft and the beautiful, fast and very economical DH Albatross was faster, lighter and cheaper to run (even with 4 engines) than the DC3. Only 7 were completed before DH had to turn their attention to more warlike activities but the Albatross contributed much to the technology of what should really be referred to as the first TSR1, the Mosquito.

After WW2, don't forget the worldwide significance of the Viscount, an aircraft no turboprop has equalled for efficiency, reliability and long life, and the Dart engine, the world's first fully effective, operational TP engine, which was still being produced over 50 years after its first flight.
 
prebennorholm
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Tue May 22, 2001 8:31 am

You Brits are always so fast pointing at your own mistakes. There has been a few of them, mainly politically driven. But why not sometimes point at your successes?

The Comet had its treoubles in the beginning, but the Comet 4 was a huge success. Maybe not in numbers, but at that time the demand outside the US wasn't very big, and it was never great US politics to buy foreign products.

There were plenty of other failures, or not so great successes, around - CV-880/990, Tristar, Mercure to mention a few. Even if I hate to call them failures, for instance the Mercure, 12 planes produced, 12 planes flew day and night for 25 years and wore trenches in all French runways, 12 planes finally scrapped. Just imagine if SNECMA had not been so slow with progress on their M56 engine. After working on it for ten years they joined with GE, took the core ot the GE F-101 engine for the B-1 bomber and mated with to the M56 fan, and the CFM56 (GE CF (Commercial Fan) -M56) was born. Just imagine what a world beater the Mercure would have been, had it had two M56 engines under its wings. It would have been an A320 fifteen years ahead of time.

Today a vast number of American jets are powered by British engines - some of the finest in the world.

British wings lift almost every other new, large airliner in the world today.

The airliner industry has become global. There is no large scale final assembly line in Britain today, but then they are found in only five cities on this planet today.

More than every other Boeing plane has either British engines (all 717, some 747, 757 and 777) or half French engines (all 737 from -300 and up). The same way Airbus products are stuffed with American hardware all over.

Brits, you have plenty of achievements to be proud of, and your airliner industry is probably stronger and healthier today than ever.

Best regards, Preben Norholm
Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs
 
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RayChuang
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Tue May 22, 2001 10:04 am

Preben,

The reason why SNECMA couldn't produce the M56 engine as envisioned in the late 1960's was the fact they didn't have the technology to produce a high-quality engine core behind the big front fan SNECMA developed. It wasn't until they teamed up with General Electric that allowed the engine core of the F101 turbofan from the B-1 bomber became available, which fit the needs of SNECMA perfectly.

Once the CFM56 development began, everyone knew it was in the long run going to be big winner. Both Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas saw serious possibilities of extending the life of the 707 and DC-8 with this engine, and companies involved in the Joint European Transport (JET) 150-seat airliner studies knew they found the right engine also. The JET development program, of course, was taken over by Airbus, which evolved it to the A320 Family of planes we know today. Boeing in the early 1980's was looking for a way to extend the life of the 737, and the CFM56 proved to perfect once some engineering changes to the engine design and engine mounting on the 737 wing was made.

Personally, I believe Rolls-Royce jet engines did not make big inroads into the US market outside of the RB.211's used on the L1011 until a number of US airlines chose the RB.211-535 for the 757-200 and a number of US airlines chose the Trent 892 for the 777-200ER. Or course, Rolls-Royce by default had a bigger market share when they bought out Allison from GM.
 
ckw
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Tue May 22, 2001 5:10 pm

PhilB - don't get me wrong ... there was nothing inherently wrong with flying boats, at the time for the purpose ... as you say, the US used them as well. The problem was with British government officials retaining a "flying boat" mentality long after their time had passed!

As for the DH Albatross - arguably one of the most beautiful aircraft ever - but made of wood, and unlikely to to prove economical to maintain. Its 4 engines were small and underpowered and it did not have the load carrying capability of the DC3.

But this is not a dig at the British aero industry, rather the politicians that stifled it. I think a class mentatlity existed through and after the war. Flying was expensive, hence only the wealthy could fly, hence they would demand luxury. Projects like the Princess and Brabazon could never have been an economic success - and in a way this mentality extends to Concorde. The US industry, on the otherhand (unhampered by government) strove to stuff as many people as possible into a metal tube.

The potential successes (Comet, VC10, Trident) were hampered by being effectively designed for a single customer.

But yes, the Bitish industry - when given the chance - had its moments. On the military front, for example, the Canberra, Lightning and Harrier were the best of their time. The Viscount was a great success, though the followup Vanguard was once more crippled by airline/government influence in the design - the Vanguard SHOULD have been a bigger hit than the Lockheed Electra (esp. since the wings didn't fall off!).

Cheers,

Colin
Colin K. Work, Pixstel
 
VC-10
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Tue May 22, 2001 11:03 pm

For once, the Government was not responsible for the failure of the Vanguard. BEA managed that all on its own. BEA wanted a larger Viscount and considered the turbo-prop was the way forward for short/medium range travel and so issued the Vanguard spec. However at this time the Sud Aviation Caravelle appeared and when BEA's rivals started to go for jet power BEA had to follow suite, so hence the DH121 spec. BEA then went on to f*** that up.

In this debate so far no-one has mentioned the HS 134, a proposal that was years ahead of the 757 market. The 757 looks remarkable like the HS 134.

At the same time BAC had the 2-11, a stretched 1-11 with RB211 engines that was for the same market as the 757. This then grew into the BAC 3-11 which was rival to the A300. BAC had got as far as starting to put one together when in 1970 the Conservative Government decided to back the Airbus consortium and not back the 3-11 or the RB211 powered A300. With hindsight the RB211 Airbus may have become an bit of an albatross round the goverments neck in view of RR difficulties shortly afterwards. On the other hand development cost could have be shared between Lockheed & Airbus. In the end the goverment even dropped out of the Airbus consortium.

 
philb
Posts: 2645
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RE: DH Comet - The Demise Of British Civil Aviation?

Wed May 23, 2001 7:07 am

Colin,

You are so right about the British class system and flying. Some may say BA's insistent pursuit of the premium fare passenger is the modern day continuation.

As to the Albatross, it is clear that, had not Adolf intervened, the DH91 would have been to what followed as the DC2 was to the DC3.

Plans for a larger, more powerful aircraft existed but wood would have been retained, at least for part of the structures.

The reasoning was lightness, cost and the massive availability of skilled woodworkers compared to metal bashers.

Head to head with the DC3, an interesting competition may have ensued. With front line aircraft expected to last only 5 years in major carriers' service, wood may have held sway for a good deal longer than it did.

As it was, the experience with wood stood DH in good stead after WW2 as the Vampire's fuselage was wood and the fact that the Brits built a 500mph+ jet fighter amazes many younger enthusiasts when this is first pointed out.