After two Comet jetliners plunged into the Mediterranean Sea in 1954, doubts were cast over the survival of de Havilland. In the first of our 100th anniversary features on the manufacturer and its aircraft, Ken Ellis explains how the company came back from the brink

In October 1958, two DH Comet 4s of the British Overseas Airways Corporation undertook the first scheduled jet passenger flights across the North Atlantic; Comet G-APDB shown here made the eastbound crossing. This stunning artwork by Chris French FGAvA (www.chrisfrenchart.co.uk) is available as a print entitled Atlantic Pioneer from: www.hansenfineart.co.uk

There had been aircraft crashes and accidents before, but that was only to be expected; de Havilland’s Comet was a new concept, being the first-ever jetliner. Attitudes began to change, though, on January 10, 1954, when British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) Comet 1 G-ALYP disappeared off Elba, Italy, with the loss of all 35 on board.

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