De Havilland Comet
It all started in 1929 when the gas turbine engine was proposed. After eleven years of research and experimentation the first ever jet fighter was born and they called it the Comet. The aircraft was powered by four Rolls-Royce Ghost engines instead propeller engines. The aircraft was being designed to cruise at altitudes of 40,000ft and had a cruising speed of 500mph. This was going to be the first passenger carrier of its time with the ability to carry 36 passengers and travel 2,500 miles. The aircraft was designed using more metal bonding than the traditional rivets and a thin aluminum on the fuselage to reduce weight enabling it to travel longer distances. The Comet prototypes were put through pressurization testing and should also be able to handle 18,000 flights.
Two prototypes built, 06001, and 06002. The 06001 was first flown 1949 The 06002 was first flown in 1950. During the first year of operation the Comet successfully flew 104 million miles and carried a total of 28,000 passengers but then… the accidents began. There have only been two well publicized crashes but the Comet suffered five crashes in the span of three years, all showing the same trends. The first two crashes in Oct 52’ and Mar 53’ were both ruled pilot error when they crashed on takeoff. The May 53’ Comet exploded over India and investigation ruled that the explosion was from the storm they were flying through. The Jan 54’ Comet exploded off the coat of Italy and this time weather was not a contributing factor. The Apr 54’ Comet checked in with Cairo air traffic control and was never heard from again. Debris from the aircraft was discovered floating in the ocean and again, weather was not a factor.
After so many years of research, engineering, extensive testing, and a year of successful flying what was suddenly causing these aircraft to explode in mid air? The fleet was grounded after the first two crashes and over fifty mandatory modifications had to be made to the Comet. Once all the modifications were made they had no real reason to keep the Comet’s grounded. By the end of Mar 54’ the investigators had no real