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DeHavilland DH 106 Comet

The Comet was the most technologically advanced airplane of its era. It flew faster, higher, and smoother, than anything the public had seen before. The BOAC first class cabin arrangement was luxurious and roomy. Cabin noise levels and passenger comfort were also dramatically improved over previous unpressurized airplanes.

The Comet is a four-engine cantilevered wing, all-metal construction. Four crew members were seated in the cockpit. A light-headed wing, acting as a huge fuel tank, was still something new at the time. The passengers were arranged on four front seats, separated by a central aisle. If it was approximately the length of a Boeing 737-100, it carried fewer passengers, but in a more spacious environment.

In 1943 the Brabazon Committee met and came up with a postwar plan for the industry. Through mis-assignment, prevarication, lack of responsibility, and cold-shouldering of genius, among other causes, not all of the committee's proposed types were successfully developed. The Comet well illustrates the longevity of some technological developments, for it was conceived in 1943 and modifications were being built decades later.

The Brabazon Committee was formed to determine British civil aviation needs for the post-war period. This committee proposed the study of five very different types of aircraft, numbered Type I to V. Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, himself a member of the committee, fought for a jet airliner. But at the time, these engines were not really developed, not reliable enough and fuel hungry. His point of view was accepted, however, and gave birth to the Type IV, a transatlantic postal plane with a payload of 1000 kg and a maximum speed of 400 mph (640 km / h).

First flown in 1949, the British-made Comet was the world's first jet airliner to go into service. It was designed to give Great Britain a definite edge in post-World War II transport and it was an immediate success. Other commercial aircraft of the period, such as Douglas's DC-6, could not compete with the technological and performance superiority of the Comet.

The Comet was widely regarded as both a bold step forward and a supreme tragedy. The aircraft'sdesign and experiences drove numerous advances not only in aircraft construction but also in accident investigations. The inquiries into the accidents that plagued the Comet 1s established many important precedents in accident investigation; many of the salvage and meticulous accident reconstructiontechniques developed at the time remain in use within the aviation industry.

Aeronautical engineering firms were quick to respond to the Comet's commercial advantages, designinnovations and technical flaws alike; other aircraft manufacturers learned from, and profited by, the hard-earned lessons made by de Havilland.The de Havilland Company eventually faded from existence, having been acquired and subsumed by theHawker Siddeley Aviation in 1960. Hawker Siddeley, in turn, became part of the British AerospaceCorporation (BAe) in 1977.

The Comet 1 is widely thought to have been a real step forward in aviation technology and design. Despite the awful tragedies, one of the positive legacies will be the advances in techniques for air accident investigation which were the most extensive and ground-breaking ever seen. The Comet 4 re-entered service in October 1958 on the trans-Atlantic route with 80 passengers. A few weeks later the Boeing 707 flew the same route with 120 passengers and a safer, more flexible design engine design. The loss of 6 years to the Comet problems may have been instrumental in losing the lead in future jet transportation to the US.

Consequently, in the 1960s orders for the Comet declined, with a total of only 76 Comet 4s beingdelivered between 1958 to 1964. BOAC retired its Comet 4s from revenue service by the end of 1965 but other operators continued commercial passenger flights with the Comet until 1981. In particular, the Danish airline, Dan-Air played a significant role in the types later history and, at one time, owned all 49 of the remaining airworthy civilian-registered Comets. On 14 March 1997 a Comet 4C, registered XS235 and named Canopus, which had been acquired by the British Ministry of Technology and used for radio, radar and avionics trials, made the last documented flight of a production Comet. Parity in sales of passenger aircraft was established only in 1999 between Airbus and Boeing.

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Page last modified: 03-11-2019 18:50:22 ZULU