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http://surf.to/comet: Comet crashes and hull losses

All Comet crashes : Summary of all De Havilland Comet accidents.
All hull-losses : Summary of all De Havilland Comet incidents.
Descriptions : Detailed descriptions of all Comet accidents and incidents.

http://surf.to/comet: Comet accident reports

G-ALYP Crash : Official accident report of the G-ALYP crash.
G-ALYY Crash : Official accident report of the G-ALYY crash.
G-ARJM Crash : Official accident report of the G-ARJM crash.
G-APDN Crash : Official accident report of the G-APDN crash.
LV-AHR Crash : Official accident report of the LV-AHR crash.
G-ALYZ Crash : Official accident report of the G-ALYZ crash. Added 16-Aug-99
CF-CUN Crash : Article about the accident of the CF-CUN crash. Added 16-Aug-99

To set up the Comet crash page a major help came from Harro Ranter whom I would like to thank with this occasion.

http://surf.to/comet: Summary of all D.H. Comet crashes

In this table you will find the most important information related to all De Havilland DH106 Comet crashes. To compile this page, I used different sources. The detailed descriptions of the accidents are listed in separate sections.

Nr Date Type Registration SN Operator Fatalities Location Cause
1 26 Oct 52 Comet 1 G-ALYZ 6012 B.O.A.C. 0/8 + 0/35 Rome,
Italy
Aircraft
2 03 Mar 53 Comet 1A CF-CUN 6014 Canadian Pacific 5/5 + 6/6 Karachi,
Pakistan
Aircraft
3 02 May 53 Comet 1 G-ALYV 6008 B.O.A.C. 6/6 + 37/37 Calcutta,
India
Aircraft
4 25 Jun 53 Comet 1A F-BGSC 6019 UAT 0/7 + 0/10 Dakar,
Senegal
Pilot
5 10 Jan 54 Comet 1 G-ALYP 6003 B.O.A.C. 6/6 + 29/29 Elba,
Italy
Aircraft
6 08 Apr 54 Comet 1 G-ALYY 6011 South African
Airways
7/7 + 14/14 Stromboli,
Italy
Aircraft
7 27 Aug 59 Comet 4 LV-AHP 6411 Aerolineas
Argentinas
1/6 + 1/44 Asuncion,
Paraguay
Pilot
8 20 Feb 60 Comet 4 LV-AHO 6410 Aerolineas
Argentinas
0/6 + 0/0 Buenos Aires,
Argentinia
Pilot
9 23 Nov 61 Comet 4 LV-AHR 6430 Aerolineas
Argentinas
12/12 + 40/40 Sao Paulo,
Brazil
Pilot
10 21 Dec 61 Comet 4B G-ARJM 6456 British European
Airways
7/7 + 20/27 Ankara,
Turkey
Aircraft
11 19 Jul 62 Comet 4C SU-AMW 6464 United Arab
Airlines
8/8 + 18/18 Mt Kao Yai,
Thailand
Pilot
12 20 Mar 63 Comet 4C SA-R-7 6461 Saudi Arabian
Government
9/9 + 9/9 Cuneo,
Italy
Pilot
13 27 Jul 63 Comet 4C SU-ALD 6441 United Arab
Airlines
8/8 + 55/55 Madh,
India
Pilot
14 22 Mar 64 Comet 4 G-APDH 6409 Malaysian Airlines
System
0/8 + 0/60 Singapore,
Singapore
Aircraft
15 12 Oct 67 Comet 4 G-ARCO 6449 British European
Airways
7/7 + 59/59 Nicosia,
Zypria
Bomb
16 14 Jan 70 Comet 4C SU-ANI 6475 United Arab
Airlines
0/9 + 0/5 Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia
Pilot
17 09 Feb 70 Comet 4C SU-ALE 6444 United Arab
Airlines
0/9 + 0/14 Munchen-Riem,
Germany
Pilot
18 03 Jul 70 Comet 4 G-APDN 6415 Dan-Air
Services
7/7 + 105/105 Sierra Montensy,
Spain
ATC
Aircraft
19 07 Oct 70 Comet 4 G-APDL 6413 Dan-Air
Services
0/4 + 0/5 Newcastle,
GB
Pilot
20 02 Jan 71 Comet 4C SU-ALC 6439 United Arab
Airlines
8/8 + 8/8 Tripoli,
Libya
Pilot

http://surf.to/comet: Summary of other D.H. Comet incidents

Nr Date Type Registration SN Operator Fatalities Location Cause
A 25 Jul 53 Comet 1 G-ALYR 6004 B.O.A.C. 0/0 Calcutta,
India
Pilot
B 13 Sep 57 Comet 2R XK663 6027 RAF 192 sqn 0/0 Wyton,
GB
Fire
C 01 Jan 68 Comet C2 7926M 6028 RAF 0/0 Lyneham,
GB
Fire
D 28 Dec 68 Comet 4C OD-ADR 6445 Middle East
Airlines
0/0 Beirut,
Lebanon
Bomb
E 28 Dec 68 Comet 4C OD-ADS 6448 Middle East
Airlines
0/0 Beirut,
Lebanon
Bomb
F 28 Dec 68 Comet 4C OD-ADQ 6446 Middle East
Airlines
0/0 Beirut,
Lebanon
Bomb
G ?? ??? 70 Comet 4C XM829 06021 Stansted Airport 0/0 Stansted,
GB
Fire

http://surf.to/comet: Details about all D.H. Comet crashes

In this section I summarized the information of the crashes which I collected from different sources. However errors are human, if you think that some information is not correct feel free to post me an . Don't forget to tell me your source.


1. G-ALYZ / 6012 crash in Rome (Crew 0/8 & Passengers 0/35)

Rome YZ

G-ALYZ was the last Comet 1 which was delivered to B.O.A.C. and the first one to be involved in a major incident. The plane with 35 passengers and 8 crew was in the takeoff phase and didn't get altitude. The plane overshoot the runway and stopped finally with broken landing gears. The plane was a hull loss. Initially Captain Foote was made responsible for this incident. It was stated that the plane was pulled up too fast, leading to an interruption of the airflow on the wings.

After the crash of CF-CUN it was found out that a considerable part of the wing lost its lift if the plane was pulled up too fast. A design change of the leading edge of the Comet wings was the solution to this problem. This change proved to be sufficient.

Photo Credit: Aeroplane Monthly [Sep-89]. Thanks to Trevor Friend for contributing this picture. Added [15-Nov-98]

Cause of the accident: design fault

[ Official accident report of G-ALYZ ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

2. CF-CUN / 6014 crash in Karachi (Crew 5/5 & Passengers 6/6)

CF-CUN was the first Comet 1A for Canadian Pacific. On its delivery flight from England to Sydney the first fatal Comet crash occurred. In the early morning the 'Empress of Hawaii' didn't takeoff in Karachi. The plane collided with a bridge and took fire. None of the 11 people, including Captain Pentland survived this crash.

Initially the Captain was made responsible, but flight tests found out that a considerable part of the wing lost its lift if the plane was pulled up too fast. A design change of the leading edge of the Comet wings was the solution to this problem. This change proved to be sufficient.

Cause of the accident: design fault

[ Accident description of CF-CUN ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

3. G-ALYV / 6008 crash in Calcutta (Crew 6/6 & Passengers 37/37)

G-ALYV was on a flight from Singapore to London. The aircraft was in the initial climb phase and at 10Kft it flew in a heavy tropical thunderstorm. The plane disintegrated in this thunderstorm. The remains of the Comet were found in an area of 20 km2.

The cause of the crash was an overload of the tail of the aircraft. Other crashes of the Comet make the weak structure of the aircraft a more likely reason.

Cause of the accident: design fault

See also the comments about this crash in the YP accident report.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

4. F-BGSC / 6019 crash in Dakar (Crew 0/7 & Passengers 0/10)

The Comet 1A registered, F-BGSC of the French company UAT -- Union Aeromaritime de Transport -- was as scheduled passenger flight in the landing phase to Dakar airport. It overshot the runway and crossed a -- 0.7 m deep and 22 m wide -- sandy culvert. As a result it came to rest 38.4 m later with a sheared landing gear. None of the passengers was injured.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

5. G-ALYP / 6003 crash in Elba (Crew 6/6 & Passengers 29/29)

YP G-ALYP was as flight BA781 on the way from Singapore to London. A fuel stop was made in Rome. Captain Gibson was in the command when the aircraft crashed at 25Kft. Since the crash occurred in daylight, whiteness could report three explosions. The remains of the aircraft were 150 meters deep in the sea.

Initially an engine explosion or a bomb was assumed to have led to this tragic event. All flights of Comet's were suspended. More than sixty modifications were done on existing Comet aircrafts, all possible causes were eliminated. At least that's what the experts thought at the time. Protections were added in the case of an engine explosion. New fuel pipes, fire and smoke detectors were added. On the 23 Mar 54 the Comet's were again allowed to takeoff.

Only the next Comet crash allowed to find out the real reason of this tragic event. More about it in the next section.

Cause of the accident: design fault

[ Official accident report of G-ALYP ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

6. G-ALYY / 6011 crash in Stromboli (Crew 7/7 & Passengers 14/14)

YY G-ALYY was leased from B.O.A.C. to South African Airways. Flight SA201 was on its way from London to Johannesburg. After a fuel stop in Rome the plane took-off, but only 36 minutes later the radio-contact was interrupted in the area of Stromboli.

The next morning remains were found in the sea. Since the sea was at this place as deep as 1000 meters, no parts of the aircraft could be inspected. Only four days after the crash the Comet flights were again suspended, one of the reasons being the similarities to the YP crash. G-ALYY had only performed 2704 flighthours. A very intensive flight test program was performed in order to find out the reason of the YY and YP crashes, with no special conclusion.

Only after a very long expensive investigations, which included the assembly of the remains of the crashed YP and the underwater stress test of the YU Comet which came from B.O.A.C. Finally the fuselage of YU broke up on a sharp edge of the forward escape-hatch. After that this rupture was repaired the tests were restarted, but only shortly afterwards the fuselage broke up. This time the rupture started at the upper edge of a window and was three meters long.

The YP and YY crashes were due to metal fatigue, which took place because of the crystalline changes in the fuselage skin. They were amplified by the high speed and altitude the Comets were operated. The metal fatigue resulted in ruptures of the fuselage, this had as a consequence a terrible decompression at 33Kft, tearing up the plane with all known consequences.

Cause of the accident: design fault

[ Official accident report of G-ALYY ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

7. LV-AHP / 6411 crash in Asuncion (Crew 1/6 & Passengers 1/44)

LV-AHP a Comet 4 of Aerolineas Argentinas was on final approach to Asuncion, Paraguay when it hit a hill top. One passenger and one crew member died. Further information is missing.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

8. LV-AHO / 6410 crash in Buenos Aires (Crew 0/6 & Passengers 0/0)

LV-PLM LV-AHO a Comet 4 of Aerolineas Argentinas was in the landing phase of a training flight. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair, due to a heavy landing, but none of the six crewmembers was killed.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

9. LV-AHR / 6430 crash in Sao Paulo (Crew 12/12 & Passengers 40/40)

The flight had originated at Buenos Aires, Argentina. At Vira Copos (Campinas) Airport, Brazil, the engines were started at 05:20 hours and the aircraft took off for Trinidad (alternately Barbados) at 05:38 hours. After reaching an altitude of about 100 m, the aircraft lost altitude, collided with a eucalyptus forest and was destroyed. Twelve crew and forty passengers died in the accident, which occurred at approximately 05:40 hours .

It was presumed that the co-pilot was under flight instruction. If such was the case, the instructor, who was pilot-in command, may have failed to brief or supervise the co-pilot properly.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Official accident report of LV-AHR ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

10. G-ARJM / 6456 crash in Ankara (Crew 7/7 & Passengers 20/27)

The probable cause of the accident was the obstruction of the pitch pointer in the captain's director horizon which led him to make an excessively steep climb immediately following unstick.

Cause of the accident: instrument failure

[ Official accident report of G-ARJM ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

11. SU-AMW / 6464 crash in Bangkok (Crew 8/8 & Passengers 18/18)

SU-AMW, a Comet 4C of UAA -- United Arab Airlines -- was supposed to land as scheduled passenger a/c to Bangkok when it made a premature descent and struck Mt Kao Yai. None of the passengers survived this CFIT crash.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

12. SA-R-7 / 6461 crash in Cueno (Crew 9/9 & Passengers 9/9)

SA-R-7 SA-R-7 was the private a/c of the Saudi Arabian Royal family. During a flight from Geneva to Nice the plane struck during the descent phase a mountain at 900 m. The crash occurred at Cuneo in Italy. Everybody on board of the a/c -- including members of the royal family -- died.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

13. SU-ALD / 6441 crash in Bombay (Crew 8/8 & Passengers 55/55)

SU-ALD was supposed to land in Bombay, India. The plane crashed at 20h20 in the sea while approaching the Bombay airport. This crash during the initial approach was probably due to a loss of control caused by the heavy rain and severe turbulence which took place at the moment of the crash. None of the passengers survived this crash.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

14. G-APDH / 6409 crash in Singapore (Crew 0/8 & Passengers 0/60)

G-APDH, a Comet 4 of MAS -- Malaysian Airlines Systems -- was as scheduled passenger plane on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Shortly after landing the right gear forging broke because of a fatigue failure. The Comet remained on the runway but fire broke out. None of the passengers was killed.

This crash was caused by a fatigue failure of the right gear forging.

Cause of the accident: fatigue failure

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

15. G-ARCO / 6449 crash off Nicosia (Crew 7/7 & Passengers 59/59)

G-ARCO, a Comet 4 of British European Airways was flying Athens - Cyprus when it disappeared form the radar screens 10 minutes after it took off from Nicosia. Captain Gordon Blackwood had previously not informed of any technical difficulties. Since there were a lot of similarities to the YP and YY crashes, rumours were saying that this crash was again due to fatigue.

The analysis of the wreckage allowed to detect that the Comet 6449 was indeed teared up, following the detonation of a highly explosive device within the cabin. In addition this theory was reinforced by the fact that initially the General in command of the Cyprus army should have been on board. He cancelled in the last moment his flight. The political problems which existed at the time on the island make a terrorist act highly possible. The official accident report concluded therefore to a bombing.

Cause of the accident: bomb explosion

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

16. SU-ANI / 6475 crash in Ethiopia (Crew 0/9 & Passengers 0/5)

SU-ANI was as flight MS755 on a flight from Khartoum to Addis Ababa-Bole in the final approach phase. The aircraft broke through clouds at 150ft, but was 200-300ft to the right of Runway 32. The Comet banked left, made some shallow turns and made a higher than normal landing flare half way down the runway. This caused the aircraft to stall; the left wing and pod fuel tank struck the runway and the Comet crashed.

This crash was caused by the fact that the pilot attempted to land from an unfavourable position, brought about by the fact that he had descended below weather minima before being able to establish visual ground contact.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

17. SU-ALE / 6444 crash in Munchen (Crew 0/9 & Passengers 0/14)

SU-ALE SU-ALE was taking off from Munchen-Riem, but due to buffeting, the take-off had to be rejected at a height of 30ft. The aircraft landed back, overran the runway and struck a fence. The undercarriage was torn off and a small fire started.

This crash was caused by buffeting probably caused by icing on the wings. In addition due to improper operation of the flight controls, the Comet over-rotated.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

18. G-APDN / 6415 crash in Spain (Crew 7/7 & Passengers 105/105)

G-APDN, a Comet 4 of Dan-Air Services was as a charter flight in the descent phase when it hit a mountain. All passengers and crewmembers died.

Cause of the accident: ATC and intrument failure

[ Official accident report of G-APDN ]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

19. G-APDL / 6413 crash in Newcastle (Crew 0/4 & Passengers 0/5)

G-APDL, a Comet 4 of Dan-Air Services was on a training flight when it landed wheels up. The aircraft was damaged beyond repair.

This crash was caused by the fact that the crew omitted to carry out the pre-landing checks while practising a flapless landing.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

20. SU-ALC / 6439 crash in Tripoli (Crew 8/8 & Passengers 8/8)

SU-ALC was as flight MS844 on a flight from Alger-Houari Boumediene to Tripoli and made its initial approach. The Comet struck sand dunes at 395ft while making an ADF approach procedure turn for Runway 18.

This crash was caused by the fact that the captain decided to land while prevailing visibility was below company-minimum for that airport at night.

Cause of the accident: pilot error

[ Back to the listing of all Comet crashes ]

http://surf.to/comet: Details about all D.H. Comet incidents

In this section I summarized the information of the hull-losses which I collected from different sources. However errors are human, if you think that some information is not correct feel free to post me an . Don't forget to tell me your source.


A. G-ALYR / 6004 hull-loss in Calcutta (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

India YR

G-ALYR, a Comet 1 operated by B.O.A.C. was damaged beyond repair because the aicraft was being taxied off a curving taxyway. Capt Willerton was faced with a design defect. At night the taxy lights were too dim to use safely, and the crews had to use the landing lights, which were high poer, and got hot. So they had to be alternated left and right to avoid a meltdown. The switches to do this were fitted on the left flight deck wall low down, and behind the captains seat. The taxy light switches were also there, and the layout was poor. It was easy to find the wrong switch. Also the nosewheel steering wheel was self centering, and if the hand was taken off it then the aircraft would turn.

In a left hand turn Capt. Willerton took his left hand off the steering wheel to select another landing light. The steering centered, and then the aircraft right wheel bogies ran off the paved surface. Capt. Willerton made the mistake of trying to get the aircraft back onto the paved surface, and when it did not respond he applied engine power on the two right engines. This caused the bogie struts to be forced up and into the wing structure causing much damage. Willerton was blamed, and lost seniority. Soon afterwards the switches were relocated to the upper front panel. Note that G-ALYR was returned to the UK for repairs.

Thanks to Capt. Peter Duffey for the details of the report listed above.
Photo Credit: Aeroplane Monthly [Sep-89]. Thanks to Trevor Friend for contributing this picture. Added [15-Nov-98]

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

B. XK663 / 6027 hull-loss in Wyton (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

XK663, a Comet 2R of the 192th RAF sqn was damaged beyond repair during a hangar fire. Unfortunately further details are missing.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

C. 7926M / 06028 hull-loss in Lyneham (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

7926M, a Comet C2 of the RAF burnt during fire rescue training in 1968. Unfortunately further details are missing.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

D. OD-ADR / 6445 hull-loss in Beirut (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

The Comet 4C of MEA registered OD-ADR was one of three destroyed by an Israeli commando attack on the 28th December 68.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

E. OD-ADS / 6448 hull-loss in Beirut (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

The Comet 4C of MEA registered OD-ADS was one of three destroyed by an Israeli commando attack on the 28th December 68.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

F. OD-ADQ / 6446 hull-loss in Beirut (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

The Comet 4C of MEA registered OD-ADQ was one of three destroyed by an Israeli commando attack on the 28th December 68.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

G. XM829 / 06021 hull-loss in Stansted (Crew 0/0 & Passengers 0/0)

Frame 06021, the former Air France Comet 1A, which was converted to 1XB specifications and last served as XM829 was donated to the Stansted airport fire services and destroyed by fire at Stansted in 1970. Sorry I don't have the precise date.

[ Back to the listing of all Comet hull-losses ]

http://surf.to/comet: Article about the Comet crashes

This section is taken from an article published in xx-xxx-1953 in Airways magazine.

IMPORTANT NOTE : The information contained is this report remains the property of xxxx and may not be distributed without their written approval.

Radical thougts on the Comet

Now that the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation has announced that there is to be a public inquiry into the causes of the accident to the Comet on January 10, it will be both useful and astringent to look back for a moment. By so doing some of the misfortunes suffered by this Comet which means so much to us may be viewed again as rationally as possible and brought into perspective in the light of present information.

There would be no point in minimizing the seriousness of this latest accident, but, at the same time, any tendency to connect it too closely in our minds with previous accidents must, at this difficult time, be prevented. It is true that of the 19 Comet 1s and 1As which have entered, or been about to enter, air-line service, five have been written off. Two of the accidents concerned involved no loss of life, and, more important still, three of the five were the result of known and fully understood causes.

Only two of the five accidents, therefore, need to have any air of mystery about them, but, unfortunately, the causes of two of the three fully understood accidents may tend to remain a little hazy in the eyes of the public. This should not be, but, at the time when the headlines were at their biggest and the public were most interested, no authoritative explanatory information could be made available about the aircraft's accepted characteristics. To ordinary people, a couple of Comets simply failed, for some reason or other, to become airborne.

Even though an official report about the first of these two accidents had already been issued when the second one occurred, the wording of this report was not such as to lead any reader straight to an understanding of both accidents.

U.A.T. Comet 1A F-BGSC

The third of these "understood" accidents received little attention in this country and concerned one of Union Aéromaritime de Transport's Comets. It was a mishap on the landing run at an African aerodrome and need only be mentioned here because the aircraft was considered, from the insurance point of view, to be damaged beyond repair.

So, before considering the two more recent tragedies, let us try to remove any remaining mystery from the sequence of these take-off accidents.

The Take-off Accidents

B.O.A.C. Comet 1 G-ALYZ

The first was suffered by a B.O.A.C. Comet, G-ALYZ, at Ciampino Airport, Rome, on October 26, 1952. It was dark and it was raining. The Comet failed to accelerate adequately, or even to become properly airborne, and the captain, considering that there must be a lack of thrust, abandoned the take-off.

No one was seriously hurt, but the aircraft was irrevocably damaged in the resultant crash landing. The report showed that the attitude of the Comet had, unknown to the crew, become very nose-high during the takeoff run, so much so that the wing was stalled or semi-stalled.

In the Corporation's Training Manual, as quoted in the report at that time, it was noted that "an increase of incidence to 9 deg. results in a partially stalled wing giving a high drag which appreciably affects the aircraft's acceleration .... " In fact, the tail-bumper of G-ALYZ had been scoring the runway, so the Comet's attitude was of the order of 11 deg., or more, noseup. At the take-off weight of 100,370 lb. it would never have flown at all in that attitude.

Following this accident a new take-off technique was apparently recommended for B.O.A.C. pilots and more attention was paid to this particular problem during the training of Comet pilots. The modified system involved lifting the nosewheel at the appropriate speed and afterwards letting it touch again, so that it could be felt on the runway until take-off safety speed had been reached. The Comet's controls are power-operated, and "feel" is provided by spring-loading from a neutral trimming datum.

Canadian Pacific Air Lines Comet 1A CF-CUN

The second of the two take-off accidents followed the same form, but the conditions were much more difficult this time and the accident disastrous. It occurred at Karachi on March 3, 1953, during the delivery flight of the first of the Canadian Pacific Air Lines' Comet 1As to its service base at Sydney.

No official report was published after the accident, but a summary was issued. This made it clear that the aircraft was at its limit of weight for the conditions existing. It was being taken off at 114.816 lb., which was very nearly the permissible maximum for the 1A Series, and the hours of darkness had been chosen so that the air temperature should be as low as possible. Even so, this was about 8 degC. above International Standard Atmosphere and water-methanol injection was being used to regain the power from the Ghosts for the take-off. There was no wind--and the Comet's take-off distance is sensitive to wind conditions.

In the words of the report summary, "the aircraft continued along nearly the whole length of the runway in a very nose-high attitude and never left the ground." The summary concluded with the words: "at this high weight strict compliance with the take-off technique would be necessary for a successful take-off."

It is tragic that good and experienced pilots should have been defeated, as they were at Rome and Karachi, by a new type of aircraft, but the Comets characteristics and power-operated controls were known and its technique of take-off understood. Later history has shown the Comet to be a "different" aircraft, but far from being a difficult one.

Calcutta and Elba

Long afterwards it was learnt that de Havillands had started experimenting with a new wing section before even the accident at Rome in 1952. No doubt this re-design was primarily intended as a development to permit the use of higher weights for a later Comet Series, but its advantages in the take-off case must have been much in the designers' and test pilots' minds. Meantime they had, supported by B.O.A.C. Comet pilots, adamantly resisted any suggestion that the control system should be altered. Its simplicity and other advantages apparently outweighed, in their view, any risks of over-control it might involve.

The two take-off accidents and the one almost unrecorded landing accident can now be put on one side in the knowledge that their reasons are well understood.

But the Elba accident--and, to a lesser degree, the Calcutta accident--are still in the present. They must be understood and explained as thoroughly as possible so that we can go on to the next stage of progress with clear minds and a full understanding of the means by which such accidents can be prevented in future. There will always be aeroplane accidents, but even the most timid traveller will accept this prospect-- just as he or she accepts the possibility of a train accident or of a sinking ship--so long as the reasons are known and action known to have been taken.

B.O.A.C. Comet 1 G-ALYV

The sequence of events leading up to, and following, the Calcutta accident on May 2, 1953, will be remembered by the majority of people and only certain features need to be mentioned here.

The report of the Indian Court of Inquiry which had investigated the accident --and which included one experienced British assessor amongst the three who were appointed-- gave the "probable" cause of the Comets disintegration as: "severe gusts encountered in the thundersquail: or over-controlling or loss of control by the pilot when flying through the thunderstorm." An appendix, written by one of the assessors and giving a suggested sequence of events leading to the disaster, was described by the Court as being "plausible" but unproven.

Concurrently with the issue of this report B.O.A.C. and de Havillands, in a combined statement, made it clear that they did not agree that over-control or loss of control was a likely cause, and stressed the theoretical nature of any findings before a more detailed examination of the wreckage had been made.

The Indian report had, in fact, recommended that such an examination should be made.

No further information has yet been made publicly available about the results of this continued examination. So, following this very' natural resistance to the findings of the Court. This leaves the Calcutta accident still in the "unsolved" category. Since they each occurred on the climb it may be natural for many people interested in the Comet to tend to connect the Calcutta accident with that near Elba twelve days ago.

B.O.A.C. Comet 1 G-ALYP

Some considerable attention was paid in the Press last weekend to Sir Miles Thomas' statement that the possibility of sabotage in the case of the Elba accident "cannot be overlooked." This statement was natural enough in the circumstances, since such a cause is always a possibility in any such disaster, and efforts must obviously be made to follow up likely clues.

But the weight of the investigation will, no doubt, continue to be directed towards hat I believe to more practical possible causes. Among these could be the explosion of a kerosene-air mixture, or of hydraulic fluid vapour, and the medical evidence may go a long way towards confirming the likelihood of one or other similar possibility.

The very difficult feature of the Elba accident--that the aircraft fell into water--has also provided medical evidence which might not have been available if the wreckage had fallen on land. Unfortunately, latest reports say that the wreckage of G-ALYP is lying at a depth of the order of 600 ft. and salvage may not be practicable.

The fact that the Comets had been taken out of service by B.O.A.C. was a voluntary move so there was no reason why these aircraft should not be returned to service when they had been thoroughly examined.

Nevertheless, no one imagined it probable that signs of incipient structural failure would actually be found in the Comets under examination. B.O.A.C.'s maintenance and inspection is among the most thorough in the World, and if such signs were to be seen in any of the Comets in service it is likely that they would have been found during previous maintenance checks completed during the past few months.

But a full and careful inspection of all the Corporation's Comets was vital, both as a means of assuring the public and as an essential link in the series of checks which must be made towards a narrowing-down of the possible cause of the accident.

Air France and Union Aéromaritime de Transport had also removed their Comets temporarily from service last week and the former was making a thorough examination of at least one aircraft. The Royal Canadian Air Force, as military operators, were taking no action for the time being.

Last week-end Mr. A. T. Lennox-Boyd, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, flew out to Rome to observe the progress of the investigation there. He was due to return on Tuesday for the opening of Parliament.

Finally, let us remember, that the Comet is far from being the first or only civil aircraft to have suffered serious trouble, the cause of which could not be immediately diagnosed, in the earlier stages of its service life.

There was the case, for instance, of the DC-6. After one of these aircraft had been lost, with all its passengers and crew, following a fire in the air (October 24, 1947) another, flown by a different U.S. operator, was successfully force-landed after suffering similar trouble (November 11, 1947).

All DC-6s were then grounded while investigations were made. It was discovered that if, after transferring fuel between certain tanks, the immersion pumps were accidentally left "on," the resultant pressure build-up caused fuel to vent. This could be carried by the airflow straight into the air-intake of a combustion heater, causing a continuous fire which could not be controlled.

There have been other similar cases of trouble with civil transports which have afterwards continued, during their long lives, to be popular and successful aircraft.---H.n.w.

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