01 June 2016: With an estimated 3.5 billion people thought to have flown in 2015 and numbers looking set to rise further in the coming years, air travel as we know it today could look quite different if the world’s first jet airliner, the beautiful de Havilland Comet, hadn’t been conceived back in 1949. A symbol of Britain’s technological prowess and its hopes for the future after the deprivations of the war years, its inaugural passenger-carrying flight in 1952 heralded a new era of luxurious air travel.
The de Havilland Comet’s fascinating story of triumph and tragedy is captured in Haynes’ latest manual, out this June. The first classic airliner to receive the Haynes manual treatment, the de Havilland Comet Manual is written by Brian Rivas, an authority on the de Havilland Aircraft Company.
It not only tracks the highs and lows of this iconic aircraft, but also explores how de Havilland held faith in its darkest hour, and in turn how the legacy of the Comet has lived on into the 21st century.
Charting the history of this much admired passenger jet between 1949 and 1997, the manual examines the design and operation of the Comet in civil and military service, including its later development the Nimrod. It also offers a detailed close-up look at its construction as well as providing insights into the investigation of the fatal Comet crashes.
Talking about this history of the Comet, Brian said: “In its first two years of service, the Comet was the envy of the world, and carried thousands of passengers over millions of miles in safety, comfort, and at speeds they had never known. At the time, Britain was firmly leading the way in air travel.
"However, then came tragedy as two Comets were lost off the Italian coast in similar circumstances with total loss of life. The whole fleet was grounded, but the investigation that followed set a template for future accident probes and the Comet rose from the ashes to carry passengers once more in the form of the bigger, better and stronger Comet 4. It also contributed towards the safe and fast travel that is enjoyed today.
“It should not be forgotten that the original Comet was a pioneering and courageous design that opened the way forwards for other airliner manufacturers such as America’s magnificent Boeing 707, which would eventually lead the way in air travel in those formative years. Nonetheless, it remains a testament to the de Havilland team from the 1940s that the basic wing design remained in service for 60 years.”
The manual also features over 250 high-quality archive photographs and technical drawings, and gives detailed coverage of all marks of the Comet, as well as its development the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod.
About the author
Brian Rivas is an authority on the de Havilland Aircraft Company, author of John Derry: The Story of Britain’s First Supersonic Pilot, A Very British Sound Barrier, and co-author of the Haynes de Havilland Mosquito Manual. He lives in Somerset.
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