Aviation Historian 40
K.Hayward - The De Havilland Comet & the British Government. The knife's edge (2)
Авиакомпания "Эйр Франс" в 1951г. заказала три "Кометы"1A, отличавшиеся от стандартной "единички" увеличенным до 44 мест пассажирским салоном и более экономичными двигателями, что позволило увеличить дальность полета на 30%.
Keen to capitalise on the prestige of the Comet and its sparkling performance, two French airlines acquired three Comet 1As each during 1952-53: Union Aeromaritime de Transport (UAT) and Air France. The latter’s first example, F-BGNX, seen here, operated on the airline’s Paris-Rome-Beirut service from the summer of 1953.
In the wake of the BOAC Comet crashes in January and April 1954, Comet 1 G-ALYU was used for testing in a tank at the RAE at Farnborough, in which water was used to simulate cabin loading in flight and hydraulic rams were used to simulate loading on the wings. The loads applied simulated a three-hour flight in ten minutes.
Comet 2 G-AMXH made its first flight on August 21, 1956, but was not certificated and was converted into a Comet C.2 for the RAF, for which it served as XK695, joining No 216 Sqn at Lyneham later that year. With the Comet 2s hived off to the RAF, de Havilland turned its attention to developing the Comet 3 into the definitive variant, the Comet 4.
The first production Comet 2, G-AMXA, made its first flight on August 27, 1953, the new variant incorporating fuselage pressure shells of heavier-gauge metal, rounded apertures and modified engine jetpipes swept outwards to reduce fuselage buffeting. All 12 Comet 2s ultimately went to the RAF, G-AMXA becoming XK655.
With the Comet Mk 1, BOAC could legitimately claim to be a ‘‘world leader in air travel", as this brochure claimed - but as BOAC Chairman Sir Miles Thomas said of the 1954 crashes: “All my aspirations and expectations had fallen out of the sky”.
A detail from a contemporary advertisement for Sperry flight instruments.
The sole Comet 3, G-ANLO, with a stretched fuselage and pinion tanks at two-thirds span, made its first flight in July 1954. While de Havilland’s accounts were healthy, a fact the MoS took into consideration, the magnitude of the compensation due to airlines for the failure of the Comet 1 put the company in dire financial straits.
In terms of military programmes in the mid-1950s, de Havilland was committed to production of various types for the British air arms and export, including single-seat and two-seat Venoms for the RAF and two-seat Sea Venoms, including FAW.3 WM569 seen here, for the Fleet Air Arm. The company was also developing the D.H.110.
In 1954 de Havilland appeared to be in good financial shape, with a healthy order book for both military and civil projects, the latter including the D.H.114 Heron - the prototype of which is seen here - and its engine and equipment subsidiaries. The Comet tragedies nevertheless put the company in a precarious financial position.