Aircraft History

The DH106 Comet was the first jet airliner used for commercial passenger services. Design work began at the De Havilland Aircraft Company in 1944 with the prototype flying on 27 July 1949. The design was conventional but incorporated the latest knowledge of aerodynamics with the four De Havilland Ghost jet engines mounted inside the wing to minimise drag. Test pilot John Cunningham flew the aircraft on many of the trial and route proving flights in 1950-51. Ten Comet 1 aircraft were delivered to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in 1952. Sales were also made to Canada and France. The proposed trans-Pacific Sydney-Vancouver service by Canadian Pacific Airlines began badly when the first Comet (CF-CUN) 'Empress of Hawaii' crashed in Pakistan in March 1953 on the way to Sydney to begin the first service. Three unexplained crashes followed in May 1953, January 1954 and April 1954 with all passengers and crew being killed after mid-air structural failures. All remaining aircraft were grounded and an exhaustive investigation using water tank pressure testing found metal fatigue originating at the corner of a cabin window was at fault. The Comet was re-designed with thicker aluminium and rounded cabin windows but the loss of confidence and delay gave American firms such as Boeing the lead in jet airliner sales which was never regained by Britain. BOAC used a pair of Comet 4 airliners to fly the first commercial east and west jet airliner crossings of the Atlantic on 4 October 1958.

The new Comet 2, 3 and 4 series operated safely in commercial and military service for many years. The Comet's wing and engine nacelle design was used in the Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft which remains in RAF service.

Model History

This 1:32 scale model of a Comet 1 was purchased by the Museum from a commercial modelmaker in March 1953.

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