Aviation Historian 39
K.Hayward - The De Havilland Comet & the British Government. A life in politics? (1)
Dawn of a new era - de Havilland technicians prepare the prototype de Havilland D.H.106 Comet on July 26, 1949, for its maiden flight the following day. Photographic colourisation by RICHARD J. MOLLOY.
In its gleaming natural-metal finish, the prototype Comet is prepared for a flight at Hatfield. The prototype was fitted with four de Havilland Ghost 50 single-stage centrifugal-flow turbojet engines. By the time of the Comet’s first flight, Rolls-Royce’s axial-flow AJ.65, which would become the Avon, was showing promise as a possible replacement for the Ghost. Colour by RICHARD J. MOLLOY
A rare colour photograph of G-ALYT in flight, powered by its four Avon Mk 502 engines. The sixth Comet 1 built, ’LYT was retained by the Ministry of Supply as the sole Comet 2X and used by BOAC for tropical trials in May 1953. It was withdrawn from use in 1954 and went on to be an instructional airframe at Halton during 1959-67.
The shape of things to come - this 1954 de Havilland promotional photograph shows Comet 2 G-AMXD (which became XN453 in RAF service) in the background accompanying the sole Comet 3, G-ANLO. The latter was lengthened by 15ft 5in (4-7m) and fitted with wing-mounted pinion fuel tanks for increased range performance.
The prototype, registered G-ALVG and resplendent in BOAC colours, up from Farnborough during the SBAC show in September 1950. The new jetliner was streets ahead of any other airliner then available, but its success was dependent on a series of government interventions that would have far-reaching consequences.
One of the Avon engines fitted to Comet 1 G-ALYT during the latter’s construction; this led to the aircraft being designated the Comet 2X, which made its first flight on February 16, 1952.
The jewel in the crown of the programme established in the wake of the Brabazon Committee’s final report on the future of British civil aviation in December 1945, the de Havilland D.H.106 Comet represented a quantum leap in airliner technology. Here, the prototype is seen up from Hatfield in the second half of 1949 with its original B Conditions registration, G-5-1.
The Comet not only ushered in the jet era in terms of commercial transport, but also pioneered the use of jet aircraft in the military transport role. Ultimately, all 15 of the Avon-powered Comet 2s built entered service with RAF Transport Command, No 216 Sqn becoming the world’s first military jet transport unit in the summer of 1956.
The fitting of Avons required the enlargement of the air intakes in the wing roots, as seen in this photo of G-ALYT.