View Full Version : BOAC Comet 1 fleet.

2nd Mar 2012, 09:43
I wonder if anyone can tell me what happened to the Comet 1's that were positioned abroad after they were grounded in April 1954.

I am just going through the log books of an old friend of mine, Reg Langtry, sadly now dead, who was a first officer on the Comet 1.

His log indicates he left Heathrow on March 30th 1954 in GALYS to Rome, Cairo, Khartoum,Entebbe and Joburg. He then departed Joburg on April 8th for Entebbe. This was the date of the second major comet disaster when GALYY crashed en-route from Rome to Cairo. I assume the Comet fleet was grounded on this day.

There are no more log entries until the 20th July when he is now flying the Hermes.

I remember him telling me that he and the crew of YS flew back to London as passengers and I wonder if the Comet YS was eventually shipped back the UK.

Reg was also the first officer on the first Royal Flight by the Comet.

He and Captain Rodley took the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret to Rhodesia, as it was then called, on July 1st 1953 on GALYW.

I have a copy of a notice published by BOAC amending the crash landing and dinghy drills for this flight. One of the points it makes is that because the front row of passenger seats is unstressed for ditching two male passengers will be required to lie on each bunk, feet forward with their chest straps tightened across their bodies and their bodies and feet placed firmly on the forward bulkhead, knee slightly bent. The stewardess should sit on the floor of the forward toilet with her back to the forward bulkhead.

Reg went on to get his command on the Comet 4 and finished his illustrious flying career on the 707.

2nd Mar 2012, 11:24
Hi tourman68

According to Martin Painter's excellent Comet book "The DH106 Comet, An Illustrated History":

The Comets' C of A was withdrawn on 9th April 1954, the day after the Stromboli accident. Apparently, 6 of the Comets were in service with BOAC (6 in addition to those that had been written off) at the time of the grounding, at various locations on the BOAC network. Interestingly, G-ALYS is listed as "location not known" at that time, so your information fills in a gap there.

The book states that in 'Late April 1954, specially briefed crews were dispatched to collect the stranded Comets returning them to London and subsequently to Hatfield and Farnborough [for testing]. The empty aircraft were flown unpressurised and at a lower altitude.'

G-ALYS was allocated to the R.A.E. at Farnborough for testing of fueling system & structural tests. It was eventually scrapped there around 1961.

2nd Mar 2012, 11:32
Thank you that completely answers my question

7th Jan 2013, 09:46
A lone complete machine survives at Cosford, G-APAS, which, although it is in BOAC's colours, I'm pretty sure did not fly with them. Also, it has round windows rather than the original rectangular ones, which were a major cause of the disasters. Here's a photo of it:

ScanImage11 | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/48975048@N06/5309144735/)

7th Jan 2013, 10:14
A lone complete machine survives at Cosford, G-APAS, which, although it is in BOAC's colours, I'm pretty sure did not fly with them.

Correct - it would have looked like this in airline service:


(G-APAS was formerly F-BGNZ)

7th Jan 2013, 10:57
But the AF one has the square windows. There was an AF Comet fuselage on the fire dump at Farnborough up to about 1985. It wasn't used for burning and was cocooned but you could still make out the AF markings
There was also a BOAC one stored at Henlow for many years in a T2 hangar on the east side of the airfield away from the main site. It was removed mid 90s along with a Bristol 171 twin rotor helicopter (forerunner of the 192 Belvedere) and several other rare types; I presume this is the Cosford one.

7th Jan 2013, 11:09
But the AF one has the square windows.

As did the Cosford example while it was with Air France, before it was modified from Comet 1A to Comet 1XB standard.

7th Jan 2013, 20:52
The fuselage of Comet 1A F-BGNX (see photo above) exists at the deHavilland Heritage Museum at London Colney, Herts. It is the ex Farnborough, unused, test cell aquired by the museum in 1985.
My photo below, from April 2010, still shows signs of the registration ! and window shape ??

Keith :)


7th Jan 2013, 21:53
Both the Air France (3 aircraft) and the UAT (UTA predecessor - 2 aircraft remaining as the 3rd had crashed at Dakar) Comet fleets were withdrawn and stored at Le Bourget; AF Comets had operated from the latter although almost all other services of theirs ran from Orly. After two years the AF three were sold to Farnborough in 1956 for further tests, and ferried back, while the UAT ones lay at LBG until 1961 when they were scrapped.

Here's an interesting web page of complete Comet 1 timetables for every operator, including the forthcoming schedules for a number of them which were not actually implemented. Not generally realised is that Canadian Pacific did not intend to use their Comets from Canada, but to base them in Australia to operate only a far north as Hawaii. Likewise the final 1954 crash was not actually a BOAC service but a South African Airways one using a chartered BOAC aircraft with SAA cabin crew. The BOAC services were not very extensive because so many aircraft had been lost in accidents - of their original fleet of 9, no less than 5 were lost in two years of service. The intended second aircraft for CP became BOAC's tenth.

De Havilland Comet 1 - Comet 1A - BOAC - UAT - Air France - Canadian Pacific Airlines (http://www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/comet1.htm)

The Comet at Henlow (and later Lyneham gate guardian) is actually a Comet 2. It is true it was laid down for BOAC but never completed as such, construction being stopped after the 1954 accidents, and was eventually finished for the RAF to whom it was delivered in 1957. It was a Hatfield-built aircraft, although many of the Comet 2s whose building was abandoned were under construction in the Chester factory.

8th Jan 2013, 06:47
As a postscript, the Cosford Comet spent a grand total of 4 months in revenue service for Air France, from September 1953 to January 1954.

Following the first Comet crashes, it was WFU and returned to Hatfield in February 1954 for mods. It was due to return to AF in April 1954, but that was pre-empted by the loss of modified G-ALYY, after which the Comet CofA was withdrawn and Air France lost interest in the type.

Comprehensive history of the Cosford airframe at http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documents/collections/84-A-1186-DH-Comet-1XB-XM823.pdf

8th Jan 2013, 08:41
Proplinerman - Here's a quick hangar ironwork removal job .....


8th Jan 2013, 18:48
Thanks very much for that aviate1138: you're obviously much more of a dab hand in Photoshop than I am!

Re that surviving AF fuselage at London Colney, with the original windows: here's a link to a more complete view of her;

667 London Colney 11-9-07 DH Comet 1 1024 | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/48975048@N06/5836771237/)

And here's a link to a photo I took of a Comet 2 that was still around in the 1970s, but sadly is no longer with us:

Comet at Strathallan Sept 1976 | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/48975048@N06/8355029840/)

Am I right that there is now only one Comet 2 left, a gate guardian outside a RAF station somewhere down south?

8th Jan 2013, 19:02
I have just come across this thread, and I know the original question was some time ago. My late father was a flight engineer on the Comet 1, and later the Comets 2 and 4. I have got his log books, and see that between 24 April and 27 April 1954 he was part of the crew that brought G-ALYW from Colombo back to London. The remarks in his log book were "Special Cat flight after withdrawal of C of A. Max Press Alt 20,000' Max diff press 2.5psi" I also see that he was part of the crews that a month earlier had conducted the C of A test flights to G-ALYS and G-ALYW.

Referring to the OP's friend, he was also on G-ALYW with captain Rodley on part of the tour of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret on 1 July 1953 covering the legs Kartoum - Entebbe - Salisbury, and there are entries in 1958 showing that he flew with Captain Langtry on Comet 2E's.

8th Jan 2013, 20:28
on part of the tour of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret on 1 July 1953 covering the legs Kartoum - Entebbe - Salisbury

Forgive the thread drift, but I was at 5 FTS (RAF Thornhill) when the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret made their 1953 tour of Rhodesia and snapped this photo of her inspecting the RAF Guard of Honour.


20th Jan 2013, 12:56
Any ideas why this Comet fuselage is being driven through the middle of Chester ? It has approached from the east and is turning south. By the vehicles I would guess 1950s.

Pickford's Scammell and a DeHavilland Comet fuselage - Chester Cross | Flickr - Photo Sharing! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/26237061@N07/5640477658/)

20th Jan 2013, 13:20
Some Comet 2 fuselages were built by Short Brothers in Belfast, transported by sea to Liverpool docks, and then by barge to Chester.
The final part of the journey was completed by road through Chester city centre to the DH factory at Broughton.

I believe the mention of Woodford in the Comet photo caption is incorrect, although many years later some Nimrod (HS801) fuselages were built at Broughton and taken by road to Woodford.

It's perhaps interesting to note that some 60 years later, Airbus at Broughton still use the barge / ship / road routine, although not via The Cross in Chester! A380 wings are taken by barge to Mostyn dock on the River Dee, transferred to a ship that sails to Pauillac, near Bordeaux, for onward delivery by road to Toulouse.

Four Wings
28th Jan 2013, 12:41
A personal reminiscence: in 1953 at 16 I flew to Singapore for school holidays. outward was on G-ALYU, which I always understood was the one later tested to destruction at Farnborough. I read somewhere it blew up about 1,000 hours after when I flew on it. I returned on G-AMAV, a CP 1A, a type not often mentioned. My memory is that it was a 44 seater cf the 1's 36 seats - anybody confirm this?
I have a poor photo of the outward Comet 1 at Rangoon (refuelling stop).
My mother was a senior ground stewardess for Mansfields (BOAC's GHA) at Kallang - she took the job to earn my fare - and she told me the same story about the 'recovery' of the outlying Comets - flown back unpressurised at lower altitudes. Goodness knows how many refuelling stops - the great disadvantage of the Comet 1 as a pax was the short sectors; take off up like a fighter, to over 40,000 ft as I recall, then down like a stone to the next call. I was shattered when I got to S'pore.
Another story from my mother was that Comet pilots who had scrapes (particularly the tail bumper) were Yorked - demoted to the York freighter service. I remember a stewardess on the outward Comet showing me their freight: trays of day old chicks kept warm in the galley - yes, genuine freight for a Singapore battery farm. And radio isotopes in wing tip containers.

Four Wings
28th Jan 2013, 12:45
And another item: I still have a letter from my mother In Singapore to me at school in England that was recovered from the Calcutta Comet crash - complete with Indian Post rubber stamp recording it as such.

28th Jan 2013, 15:23
Very interesting accounts.

A number of aircraft took place in different tests at Farnborough; ALYU was indeed the one which blew in the testing tank, but was sufficiently intact at the end to be roaded over to the fire training school at Stansted, where it was further abused by trainee firemen for several years, finally being broken up there in 1963.

ANAV is indeed the Comet 1A aircraft passed to BOAC after the first CP aircraft crashed on delivery and they refused the second one. I never noticed it had a substantially increased seating arrangement. The nose of this aircraft is still extant, in the Science Museum store at Wroughton.

Did we link to this before ? It's a detailed account of the loss of the first CP aircraft, but contains a lot of previous and subsequent detail as well, including details of the Farnborough tests


29th Jan 2013, 07:55
On the 8th January, Proplinerman asked:
"Am I right that there is now only one Comet 2 left, a gate guardian outside a RAF station somewhere down south? "

Only one complete airframe, yes. It is XK699, which is displayed on the main gate at Lyneham.

pax britanica
29th Jan 2013, 11:56
The Gatwick Comet you refered to was I belive used for ground handling training-towing and pushbacks etc. I do not know its origins and as you say the outboard wing sections were missing to although I am sure it was a comet IV which variant is hard to tell without the outer wings

29th Jan 2013, 12:28
There were actually two Comets used for sundry training purposes at Gatwick over time, both inevitably ex Dan-Air machines. One was Comet 4 6414, G-APDM, retired in 1973, and the other was Comet 4B 6422, G-APMB, retired the previous year. I can remember seeing the one still there in the 1990s as well.

Using an old aircraft for training the tug drivers seems to have been a BAA thing - there was a Trident at Stansted in BA colours and quite well presented also until the early 1990s, long after they were finally retired from service, which was sometimes up against a gate at the terminal, and must have foxed visiting spotters who saw it from a distance !

29th Jan 2013, 12:58
Thanks for the replies.

Since posting my original question I've done a little research and found that this aeroplane was scrapped in 2004. I think she was used by Channel Airways until being grounded and converted to a training tool.

29th Jan 2013, 14:04
APMB, the Comet 4B, was the ex-Channel one. They only operated it for about 18 months, then it was grounded when the airline went under in January 1972. Dan-Air picked it up in April of that year, then in December it was retired. They might not have put it into service at all in that time - the Channel Comets were badly looked after, I recall one loading for Palma at Manchester in August 1971, a few months before their end, with what is undoubtedly the worst paint condition I have ever seen on an aircraft actively in service - discoloured and dirty, multiple old BEA liveries partly showing through, odd bits of spray paint here and there.

29th Jan 2013, 14:30
APMB was operated by Dan Air until at least the summer of 1977, as we flew on it - returning from Mahon, Menorca to Birmingham at that time.

Checkout this thread for mention of this flight and details of Dan Air Comet retirement dates:

30th Jan 2013, 08:48
Thanks for your reply re the Comet 2 at Lyneham G-ANTZ-and long may it survive.

Dan Winterland
30th Jan 2013, 10:48
There was a thread awhile back which pointed out that the Boeing Dreamliner nose section looked very much like the Comet's. Quite apt considering the 787 looks like it will be out of service for a long time until a redesign is effected.

3rd Feb 2013, 16:35
Comet II of 216 Sqdn at Lyneham 1957