de Havilland Comet

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The de Havilland Comet was the world's first commercial jet airliner to reach production. Developed and manufactured by de Havilland, it first flew in 1949 and was considered a landmark in British aeronautical design. After introduction into commercial service, early Comet models suffered from catastrophic metal fatigue, causing a string of well-publicised accidents. Rome's Ciampino airport, the site of the first Comet hull loss, was again the origin of more disastrous Comet flights just over a year later. On 10 January 1954, 20 minutes after taking off from Ciampino, Comet G-ALYP, BOAC Flight 781, broke up in flight and crashed into the Mediterranean off the Italian island of Elba, with the loss of all 35 on board. There was no obvious reason for the crash, and the fleet was grounded while the Abell Committee met to determine potential causes of the crash. The committee focused on six potential problems: control flutter (which had led to the loss of the de Havilland Swallow), structural failure due to high loads or metal fatigue of the wing structure, failure of the powered flight controls, failure of the window panels leading to explosive decompression, or fire and other engine problems. The committee concluded fire was the most likely cause of the problem, and a number of changes were made to the aircraft to protect the engines and wings from damage which might lead to another fire. The Comet had to be withdrawn and was redesigned. The Comet 4 series subsequently enjoyed a long and productive career of over 30 years, although sales never fully recovered. The Hawker Siddeley Nimrod, the military derivative of the Comet airliner, is still in service. The original decades-old airframes are being rebuilt with new wings and engines to produce the Nimrod MRA 4, expected to serve with Britain's Royal Air Force until the 2020s, almost 70 years after the Comet's first flight. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]







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