How the de Havilland Comet 1 revolutionsed air travel

Bruce Hales-Dutton explains how the early Comet 1 revolutionised air travel and why de Havilland paid a heavy price for pioneering

Hatfield Aerodrome, 1817hrs, July 27, 1949: commercial aviation was about to make a great leap forward. At the controls of the sleek silver de Havilland Comet airliner waiting at the runway threshold, its engines running up to a shrieking crescendo, was the company’s chief test pilot Gp Capt John Cunningham.

Many years later, the observer on that maiden flight, Tony Fairbrother, recalled his feelings about what happened that day: “I don’t think it’s too much to say that the world changed from the moment the Comet’s wheels left the ground.”

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The Comet 1 prototypes during the summer of 1950. G-ALVG is below and behind G-ALZK. ALL IMAGES KEY COLLECTION UNLESS NOTED

Many years later, the observer on that maiden flight, Tony Fairbrother, recalled his feelings about what happened that day: “I don’t think it’s too much to say that the world changed from the moment the Comet’s wheels left the ground.”

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