Incident No. 1
A Comet taking off from Rome overshot the runway. No-one was hurt and an investigation blamed the pilot.
The pilot, Foote, was forced to sign a confession that it was his fault, and he was moved to
the freighter division. In reality, De Havilland knew there could be problems with the plane's
take-off performance - they were relying on the experience of pilots to over-ride
Incident No. 2
Crash-on take-off, with 11 people killed. De Havilland had no choice but to re-design the wing.
Nevertheless, Foote was never re-instated to the Comet fleet.
This aircraft was being delivered to Canadian Pacific. But instead of going the simple way
across the Atlantic, Canadian Pacific attempted to display it as a record-setter - it was
to go the other way, and in so doing establish a new elapsed-time air record from
Britain to Australia.
The aircraft CF-CUN, named "Empress of Hawaii", did not become airborne on takeoff from Karachi and
crashed into the dry bed of a river. CF-CUN was the first passenger jetliner involved
in a fatal accident. Canadian Pacific canceled their order for two more aircraft.
Incident No. 3
On 2. May 1953, on the first anniversary of the introduction of the Comet into BOAC
service, a Comet crashed after leaving Calcutta.
The accident investigators blamed it on bad weather.
Incident No. 4
On 10. January 1954, Comet G-ALYP, which had logged 3600 hours, crashed into the sea after
off from Rome. The difficulties arose at the top of its climb,
at about 10.500 meters - the pilot had been talking to a colleague on another aircaft and
transmission had cut off instantaneously.
The Comets were grounded but only for a short period - 10 weeks after
the crash, flights resumed. This was before an investigation had taken place - they were still
fishing the evidence out of the Mediterreanean.
At a meeting of the 140 Comet crew, an agreement to return to work was passed by just one vote.
Incident No. 5
Two weeks after flying resumed, on 3. April 1954 another Comet,
G-ALYY of South African Airways (on charter from BOAC), was lost, again after leaving
Rome, and again the difficulties arose at the same height. Every
Comet was grounded indefinitely.
It was only now that testing was carried out at Farnborough. The immediate evidence from
the wreckage was that the aircaft had suffered catastrophic explosion of the fuselage.
The tests showed that the Comets had suffered catastrophic
metal fatigue (equivalent to the effect of a 250kg bomb). Initially Farnborough had been primarily worried about the wings,
but it was now learnt about the fuselage as well.
The thin nature of the aircraft's skin had not been helped by rivets around the windows,
the source of cracks. The square windows themselves were of the wrong shape
(the Americans had already been very dubious about
this shape of window), and De Havilland had decided to rivet them in, after experiencing great
difficulties with their original methods. Also, de Havilland had failed to take full
notice of the short period within which pressures change, as the
Comet climbs or descends.
All of Farnborough's findings became
fully available to all aircraft manufacturers.
Again amazingly, an inquiry at the time absolved De Havilland, BOAC and the British
Government of any blame, saying that the effects of fatigue were unknown. No compensation was given for loss of life.
As detailed below, the Comet did rise again as the Comet 4, but only 79 were built. The original
Comet had expected over 1,000 sales.
Within 5 years, De Havilland was taken over..