Aviation Historian 41
K.Hayward - The De Havilland Comet & the British Government. Back in business (3)
West meets East - BOAC Comet 4 G-APDD and Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-104 CCCP-42493 go head to head in July 1962. The Soviet jetliner had made its first flight in June 1955, and, in the wake of the grounding of the Comet after the tragic series of crashes, the Tu-104 was the world’s sole jet-powered airliner operating commercial routes.
Although the Comet had led the way in jet travel with its introduction into BOAC service in 1952, the Americans were not far behind with the development of their own jetliners; namely the Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 707, an example of the latter seen here in Pan American Airways colours. Pan American announced orders for 25 DC-8s and 20 707s on October 13, 1955, the first 707-100 making its first flight on December 20, 1957.
By the end of 1955 orders for the DC-8 had reached 98 aircraft for seven carriers - Eastern, Japan Air Lines, National, Pan American, SAS, United and KLM (seen here is the latter’s PH-DCK, delivered in 1961). It was clear that if Britain was to stand any chance of retaining its jetliner lead, or even keeping pace with the American challengers, it would have to make some crucial decisions regarding the Comet.
The Comet 2s originally intended for BOAC ultimately went to the RAF, Transport Command receiving 15 examples, designated Comet C.2s. Originally G-AMXH when it first flew in August 1956, XK695 (named Perseus in RAF service) joined No 216 Sqn - the world’s first military jet transport unit - at RAF Lyneham later that year.
With three Comet 2s in the background, Comet 3 G-ANLO is towed on to the distinctive apron at Hatfield in May 1954. The new variant’s pinion tanks fitted at two-thirds span are clearly visible. Initially fitted with 10,000lb (44kN)-thrust Avon 502 engines, G-ANLO had these replaced with more powerful hush-kitted Avon RA.29s in 1957.
The sole Comet 3 to fly, G-ANLO - essentially a “stretched” version of the Comet 2 with more powerful Rolls-Royce Avon engines - made its first flight on July 19, 1954, and is seen here being hauled around at the 1957 SBAC show by test pilots John Cunningham and Peter Bugge. Colourisation by RICHARD J. MOLLOY
The Comet 3 is prepared for another test flight by groundcrew. In December 1955 G-ANLO was used to undertake a whistle-stop global publicity tour in order to bolster faith in the Comet after the tragic series of Comet 1 crashes the previous year.
The shape of things to come? The minimal but stylish BOAC scheme making the aircraft look sleek and ultra-modern, G-ANLO comes in to land with full flap deployed at the 1957 SBAC show at Farnborough. The Comet 3 was “stretched” by some 15ft 5in (4·7m) and maximum accommodation was increased to 78 from the Comet 2’s 44.
The first of the definitive long-range variant of the type, Comet 4 G-APDA made its maiden flight on April 27, 1958. The world’s first transatlantic jet services carrying paying passengers were made by Comet 4s G-APDC (westbound) and G-APDB (eastbound) on October 4, 1958; the British had clawed back a significant victory.