Tag Archives: de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd.

24 May 1930

Amy Johnson lands at Darwin, Australia. (Fox Photo/Getty Images)
Amy Johnson lands at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. (Fox Photo/Getty Images)

24 May 1930: After a 19-day, 11,000-mile (17,700 kilometers), solo flight from Croyden Aerodrome, London, England, 26-year-old Miss Amy Johnson arrived at Darwin, Australia, in her de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, G-AAAH, named Jason.¹ She was awarded a £10,000 prize from the Daily Mail newspaper.

Amy Johnson was awarded a prize of 10,000 by the Daily Mail for her flight. (DailyMail.com)
Amy Johnson was awarded a prize of 10,000 by the Daily Mail for her flight. (DailyMail.com)

Miss Johnson’s flight was made in 18 legs. From London, she flew to Aspern, Austria; San Stefano, Republic of Turkey; Aleppo, French Mandate of Syria; Baghdad, Kingdom of Iraq; Bandar-Abbas, Persia; Karachi, Sindh; Jhansi, British India; Allahabad, British India; Calcutta, British India; Insein, Burma; Bangkok, Kingdom of Siam; Singora, Siam; Singapore, Straits Settlements; Tjomal, Samarang, and Sourabaya, Dutch East Indies; Atambua, Dutch Timor; andacross the Timor Sea to Darwin, Northern Territory, Commonwealth of Australia.

Route of Amy Johnson’s flight to Australia, 5–24 May 1930. (FLIGHT, 30 May 1930, No. 1118, Vol. XXII, No. 22, at Page 578.

For her accomplishment, she was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.). She was also awarded the Harmon Trophy, “for the most outstanding international achievements in the arts and/or science of aeronautics for the preceding year, with the art of flying receiving first consideration.”

Amy Johnson with her DH.60 Gipsy Moth at Calcutta, May 1930. (DailMail.com)
Amy Johnson with her DH.60 Gipsy Moth at Calcutta, 12 May 1930. (DailMail.com)

Her Gipsy Moth is in the collection of the Science Museum, London, England.

Amy Johnson was a rated Engineer (aircraft mechanic) and Navigator, as well as a licensed Pilot. She had set many flight records, both individually and with her husband, James Mollison, whom she had married in 1932. He proposed to her during an airplane flight, only eight hours after having met her.

Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.
Amy Johnson arrives at Darwin in her DH60G, G-AAAH, 24 May 1930.

During World War II, Amy Johnson flew for the Royal Air Force as a First Officer of the Air Transport Auxiliary (equivalent to the RAF rank of Flight Lieutenant). On 5 January 1941, at approximately 3:30 p.m., Johnson bailed out of the Oxford and parachuted into the Thames Estuary. The airplane crashed into the river a short distance away and sank.

Amy Johnson’s parachute was seen by the crew of HMS Haslemere, a barrage balloon tender assigned to the Channel Mobile Balloon Barrage in the Estuary. They attempted to rescue her and in the process, the ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Walter Edmund Fletcher, Royal Navy, dove into the water. In the cold temperatures and rough conditions, Fletcher died. For his effort to rescue Johnson, he was awarded the Albert Medal, posthumously.

In recent years, stories have emerged that the AS.10 was shot down after Johnson twice gave the incorrect response to a radio challenge. Tom Mitchell, an anti-aircraft gunner of the 58th (Kent) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment, at Iwade, a small village along the shore of the Thames Estuary, said in 1999 that he shot her down under orders, firing 16 shells at the Oxford. The men of the battery were ordered to never mention the incident. There were contemporary reports that a destroyer had also fired on Johnson, though the Admiralty denied this.

Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G G-AAAH. (Mirrorpix)

The de Havilland DH.60 was a light-weight, two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane. The fuselage was covered with plywood and the wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric. It was 23 feet, 5½ inches (7.150 meters) long with a wingspan of 29 feet, 0 inches (8.839 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded parallel to the fuselage, giving it an approximate width of 9 feet (2.7 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 3 inches (1.295 meters). The vertical gap between the wings was 4 feet, 10 inches (1.473 meters) and lower wing was staggered 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) behind the upper. Both wings had 3.5° angle of incidence and 3.5° dihedral. There was no sweep. Empty, the DH.60 had a weight of 764 pounds (346.6 kilograms) and loaded weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).

The original DH.60 Moth, which first flew in 1925, was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 4.503 liter (274.771-cubic-inch-displacement) A.D.C. Aircraft Ltd., Cirrus inline 4-cylinder overhead valve (OHV) engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The direct-drive engine produced 60 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 65 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The Cirrus was 0.983 meters (3.225 feet) long, 0.908 meters (2.979 feet) high and 0.450 meters (1.476 feet) wide. It weighed 260 pounds (118 kilograms). The A.D.C. Cirrus was designed by Major Frank Bernard Halford, who later designed the de Havilland Gipsy engine, as well as the Goblin and Ghost turbojet engines.

The DH.60G Gipsy Moth was first produced in 1928. It was powered by a 318.09-cubic-inch-displacement (5.212 liter) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy I inline 4-cylinder direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5:1. It was capable of producing 130 horsepower, but de-rated to 100 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m. The Gipsy I was 40.5 inches (1.029 meters) long, 29.9 inches (0.759 meters) high and 20 inches (0.508 meters) wide. It weighed 285 pounds (129 kilograms).

The Gipsy Moth has a cruise speed of 85 miles per hour (137 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 102 miles per hour (164 kilometers per hour). Range for the standard aircraft is 320 miles (515 kilometers). The service ceiling is 14,500 feet (4,420 meters).

De Havilland built 8 pre-production and 31 production DH.60 Moths. 595 DH.60s of all variants were produced at Stag Lane.

Amy Johnson's de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London.
Amy Johnson’s de Havilland DH.60G Gipsy Moth, Jason, G-AAAH, at the Science Museum, London. (Science Museum)

¹ Amy Johnson’s father, John William Johnson, provided £600 to pay for the airplane. He worked for Andrew Johnson & Knudtzon and Co., Ltd., which used “Jason” as a trademark. The Automobile Association’s badge appears on the Gipsy Moth at the Science Museum, although it was not present on the airplane during her record-breaking flight.

Amy Johnson

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 May 1952

B.O.A.C. de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, G-ALYP, departs London, 2 May 1952. (British Airways)

2 May 1952: At 15:12 GMT, the British Overseas Airways Corporation’s de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, G-ALYP, departed London for Johannesburg, South Africa, with 36 passengers and a crew of 7. The approximate 7,000 mile (11,265 kilometer) flight was expected to take 23 hours, 40 minutes with intermediate stops at Rome, Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe and Livingstone. There were crew changes at Beirut and Khartoum. BOAC’s chairman, Sir Miles Thomas, joined the flight at Livingstone for the final stage.

G-AYLP arrived at Johannesburg at 14:38 GMT, 3 May, fourteen minutes ahead of schedule. This was the very first regularly-scheduled revenue passenger flight for a jet airliner.

The AAP reported on the Comet’s arrival at Entebbe:

Record-shooting Comet nears end of long jet flight

KHARTOUM, Sat.: The Comet airliner opening the first jet passenger service is now hurtling across Africa at nearly 500 m.p.h. on the last stages of the London-Johannesburg flight.

The Comet arrived at Entebbe, Uganda at 3.30 p.m. Adelaide time, exactly on schedule.

The eight-miles-a-minute jet will stop next at Livingstone.

It is now on the fifth and second-last leg of its southward dash.

At Beirut the first crew, skippered by Capt. A.M. Majendie, handed the plane over to a fresh crew with Capt. J.T Marsden as skipper.

A third crew, commanded by Capt. R.C. Alabaster, took over at Khartoum.

Official air mileages on the plane’s route are:

London–Rome 930
Rome–Beirut, 1,385.
Beirut–Khartoum, 1,330.
Khartoum–Entebbe, 1,090.
Entebbe–Livingstone, 1,320.
Livingstone–Johannesburg, 608.
Total, 6,663 miles.

Reached 525 m.p.h.

Between Rome and Beirut, the plane established a new world record by reaching 525 m.p.h, beating its own previous trial performances.

The plane is carrying 36 fare-paying passengers and a crew of five.

During the flight, passengers relaxed luxuriously in the dove-grey and dark-blue pressurized cabin as the Comet, hurtling along at more than 230 yards a second, created an impression of motionless suspension.

One of the two women passengers sketched out during the flight the first music ever written in a jetliner.

“It is the ‘Comet Prelude,’ ” explained Miss Avril Coleridge-Taylor, who is the daughter of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, famous composer, who died in 1912.

Miss Taylor, who is in her early forties, is to conduct a symphony concert in South Africa.

The first man to book on the Comet, Mr. Albert Henshaw, 63, of Lincolnshire, has been flying since World War I.

“I’ve been in them all and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

“This may be as near to heaven as I’ll ever get—and it’s well worth it.”

Mother better

Another passenger is Steven Naude, a young South African who was given a mercy seat in the Comet to Johannesburg when he heard that his mother was lying dangerously ill in Bethlehem, Northwestern Free State.

The latest message from Cape Town reports a slight improvement. —AAP

The Mail, Adelaide, South Australia, Saturday, 3 May 1952, Page 2, Columns 2–4.

A BOAC de Havilland Comet jet airliner, en route to Johannesburg from London, breaks its journey at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1952. (Ministry of Information official photographer)
“A BOAC de Havilland Comet jet airliner, en route to Johannesburg from London, breaks its journey at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1952.” (Ministry of Information official photographer)

The de Havilland Comet was the first commercial jet airliner and its introduction had revolutionized the industry.

DH.106 Comet 1 G-AYLP (Works No. 06003) was the first production airplane and was very similar to the two prototypes. It can be visually identified by its square passenger windows.

The Comet I was flown by a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator. The airliner could carry up to 44 passengers. (B.O.A.C. configured the airliner with 36 passenger seats.)

The airplane was 93 feet (28.346 meters) long with a wingspan of 115 feet (35.052 meters) and overall height of 27 feet, 10 inches (8.484 meters). The wings were swept 20°, as measured at ¼ chord. The fuselage had a maximum outside diameter of 10 feet, 3 inches (3.124 meters), and 9 feet, 9 inches (2.972 meters) inside. The Comet 1 had an authorised maximum all-up weight of 107,000 pounds (48,534 kilograms).

Cut-away illustration of de Havilland Comet I G-ALYP by artist Laurence Dunn. (Aerosurance)

The Comet I was powered by four de Havilland Engine Co., Ltd., Ghost 50 Mk.I turbojet engines. The Ghost was a single-shaft centrifugal-flow turbojet with a single-stage compressor, 10 combustion chambers and a single-stage turbine. It was rated at 5,000 pounds of thrust (22.24 kilonewtons) at 10,250 r.p.m. The Ghost 50 had a maximum diameter of 4 feet, 5 inches (1.346 meters), length of 10 feet, 1 inch (3.073 meters) and dry weight of 2,218 pounds (1,006 kilograms). When first placed in service, the engines required a combustion chamber inspection at 125 hour intervals. A complete overhaul was required every 375 hours. The Ghost was the first turbojet certified for civil airliner operations.

A de Havilland Engine Company advertisement in the Illustrated London News, circa 1950.

The Comet I had a maximum cruising speed of 490 miles per hour (789 kilometers per hour), True Air Speed, and operating altitude of 35,000 to 40,000 feet (10,668–12,192 meters). The airliner’s fuel capacity was 6,050 Imperial gallons (27,504 liters, or 7,266 U.S. gallons) giving a practical stage length of 2,140 miles (3,444 kilometers). The maximum range was 3,860 miles (6,212 kilometers).

Twelve DH.106 Comet 1 airliners were built.

G-ALYP suffered catastrophic explosive decompression while flying over the Mediterranean Sea, 10 January 1954. This was the first of two accidents caused by metal fatigue in the fuselage as a result of expansion and contraction during pressurization cycles. The DH.106 Comet I fleet was grounded and the aircraft were removed from service.

De Havilland Comet 1 G-AYLP (www.crash-aerien.news)
De Havilland Comet 1 G-AYLP (www.crash-aerien.news)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 April–1 May 1947

Flight Lieutenant H.B. Martin DSO, DFC, RAFVR, 23 June 1943. (Australian War Memorial UK0235)
Flight Lieutenant Harold Brownlow Morgan Martin DSO, DFC, RAFVR, 23 June 1943. (Australian War Memorial UK0235)

30 April–1 May 1947: Squadron Leader H.B. “Mick” Martin, D.S.O., D.F.C., pilot, and Squadron Leader Edward Barnes “Ted” Sismore, D.S.O., D.F.C., navigator, departed from Heathrow Airport, London, England, at 20:06 D.B.S.T., 30 April, in a Royal Air Force Transport Command de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR.34. They flew to Brooklyn Airport, Capetown, South Africa, arriving at 17:35 D.B.S.T., 1 May.

Martin and Sismore with their DH.98 Mosquito at Capetown, South Africa, 1 May 1947.

The total duration of the 6,717 mile (10,810 kilometer) flight was 21 hours, 31 minutes, 30 seconds. This included a 20 minute refueling stop at El Adem, Libya, and a 25 minute stop at Kisumu, Kenya.

Martin and Sismore cut 23 hours, 36 minutes off of the existing record speed for the route set by Flying Officer A.E. Clouston and Mrs. Betty Kirby-Green with a DH.88 Comet, G-ACSS, 14–16 October 1937. ¹

For their record-breaking ² long-distance flight, Martin and Sismore were awarded the Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

Flight Lieutenant E.B. Sismore, RAFVR (The Telegraph)
Flight Lieutenant E.B. Sismore, RAFVR, with a DH.98 Mosquito. (The Telegraph)

Their airplane was a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito PR.34, a very long range, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. It was the fastest of all Mosquito variants. The identification of their Mosquito is undetermined.

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito was designed and built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company, Limited. It was a twin-engine aircraft constructed primarily of wood. The airplane was flown by a pilot and navigator/bombardier. It was produced in bomber, fighter-bomber, night fighter and photo reconnaissance versions.

The PR.34 was 41 feet, 6 inches (13.649 meters) long, with a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters) and overall height of 15 feet, 3 inches (4.648 meters). Its empty weight was 16,630 pounds (7,543 kilograms) and  it had a gross weight of 25,500 pounds (11,567 kilograms)

The Mosquito PR.34 was powered by two liquid-cooled, fuel injected and supercharged, 27.01 liter (1,648.96 cubic inch) Rolls-Royce Merlin 113/114 single overhead camshaft 60° V-12 engines which produced 1,430 horsepower at 27,250 feet (8,306 meters) with 18 inches of boost (1.24 Bar). These engines used S.U. single-point fuel injection. The Merlins drove three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic constant-speed, quick-feathering, propellers with a diameter of 12 feet, 0 inches (3.658 meters) through a 0.420:1 gear reduction. The Merlin 113 weighed 1,650 pounds (748.4 kilograms) while the 114 was slightly heavier, at 1,654 pounds (750.2 kilograms). The 114 drove a second supercharger for cabin pressurization.

The PR.24 had bulged bomb bay doors to accommodate an 869 gallon auxiliary fuel tank and could carry a 200-gallon (909 liter) “slipper” tank under each wing. The total fuel capacity  of the London–Capetown Mosquito was was 1,267 Imperial gallons (5,760 liters).

The DH.98 Mosquito PR.24 had a maximum speed of 422 miles per hour (679 kilometers per hour) at 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). Its service ceiling was 43,000 feet (13,106 meters) and it had a range of 3,340 miles (5,375 kilometers).

There were 181 PR.24s built, with 50 of those constructed by the Percival Aircraft Company.

Mosquito PR.34 (Imperial War Museum Catalogue number ATP 13464B)
The first Mosquito PR.34, RG176. (Imperial War Museum Catalogue Number ATP 13464B)
AM H.B.M. Martin RAF
AM H.B.M. Martin RAF

(Acting) Squadron Leader Mick Martin (later, Air Marshal Sir Harold Brownlow Morgan Martin, K.C.B., D.S.O. and Bar, D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., Royal Air Force), was one of the few No. 617 Squadron Avro Lancaster bomber pilots who participated in Operation Chastise, the raid on the Ruhr Valley hydroelectric dams in 1943, to survive the war. (He flew ED909/G, AJ P, “Popsie.” Remarkably, his airplane also survived World War II.) Air Marshal Martin retired from the RAF in 1974. He died 3 November 1988 at the age of 70 years.

(Acting) Squadron Leader Ted Sismore (later, Air Commodore Edward Barnes Sismore, D.S.O., D.F.C. and Two Bars, A.F.C., A.E., O.D. (K.), ³ M.B.I.M.), was known as the best long-range low-level navigator in the Royal Air Force. He was the lead navigator for the attack of Amiens Prison, 18 February 1944, and the raid on the Gestapo headquarters at Copenhagen, Denmark in 1945. Air Commodore Sismore retired from the Royal Air Force, 23 June 1976. He died 22 March 2012 at the age of 90 years.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.
The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

¹ FAI Record File Number 13242

² This flight does not appear to be an official Fédération Aéronautique Internationale record.

³ Order of Dannebrog, Degree of Knight, conferred by His Majesty the King of Denmark, 18 March 1949.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 April 1954

De Havilland DH.106 Comet 1 G-ALYY, 1953. (Zoggavia)
De Havilland DH.106 Comet 1 G-ALYY, 1953. (Zoggavia)

8 April 1954: South African Airways Flight 201, a chartered British Overseas Airways Corporation de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, aircraft registration G-ALYY, departed Rome at 1832 UTC, bound for Cairo. The Comet was under the command of Captain Wilhelm K. Mostert, with First Officer Barent J. Grove, Navigator Albert E. Sissing, Radio Officer Bertram E. Webstock, and Flight Engineer August R. Lagesen. Air Hostess Pamela L. Reitz and Flight Steward Jacobus B. Hok were in the passenger compartment with the 14 passengers.

As the airliner climbed toward 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), they made several position reports. Last heard from at 1907 UTC, radioing an expected arrival time at Cairo, the Comet disintegrated in flight and fell into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Searchers found a debris field and floating bodies the next day near the volcanic island of Stromboli. All 21 persons aboard were killed.

This was the second catastrophic failure of a DH.106 in just three months. BOAC immediately grounded its entire Comet fleet, and the British Air Ministry revoked the airliner’s certificate of airworthiness. Production of the airliner at de Havilland was halted.

The first crash had been presumed to be a result of an in-flight fire, and the second, an uncontained turbine engine failure. But an extensive investigation eventually determined that the cause of both crashes was the in-flight break up of the fuselage pressure hull. Metal fatigue of the fuselage was caused by the repeated expansion and contraction of pressurization cycles. Cracks in the aluminum skin formed at corners of the passenger compartment windows and then spread outward. This resulted in catastrophic explosive decompression.

The DH.106 Comet 1 was the first production version and was very similar to the two prototypes. It can be visually identified by its square passenger windows. It was flown by a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator. The airliner could carry up to 44 passengers.

The airplane was 93 feet (28.346 meters) long with a wingspan of 115 feet (35.052 meters) and overall height of 29 feet, 6 inches (8.992 meters). The Comet 1 had a maximum takeoff weight of 110,000 pounds (49,895 kilograms). It was powered by four de Havilland Engine Company Ghost 50 centrifugal flow turbojet engines, producing 5,000 pounds of thrust, each. This gave it a cruising speed of 460 miles per hour (740 kilometers per hour) and cruise altitude of 42,000 feet (12,802 meters). The airliner’s range was 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers).

Twelve DH.106 Comet 1 airliners were built.

The de Havilland Comet was the first commercial jet airliner and its introduction had revolutionized the industry. The two disasters were a blow from which the company never really recovered.

The first production de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, G-ALYP, in formation with the two prototypes, G-ALVG and G-ALZK. G-ALYP also broke up in flight, 10 January 1954. (Ed Coates Collection)
The first production de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, G-ALYP, in formation with the two prototypes, G-ALVG and G-ALZK. G-ALYP also broke up in flight, 10 January 1954. (Ed Coates Collection)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 March 1938

De Havilland DH.88 Comet G-ACSS, New Zealand, 1938. (National Library of New Zealand)

26 March 1938: RAE Farnborough civilian test pilot Arthur Edmond Clouston ¹ and newspaper correspondent Victor Anthony Ricketts ² landed at Gravesend, Kent, England, completing a 26,450-mile (42,567 kilometers) round trip flight from London to New Zealand and return. Their airplane, a twin-engined de Havilland DH.88 Comet, G-ACSS, named Australian Anniversary in honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Australia, finished the course in 10 days, 21 hours, 22 minutes.

The Comet was one of three built especially for the 1934 MacRobertson Trophy Air Race, England to Australia, which it won with an elapsed time of 70 hours, 54 minutes.

De Havilland DH.88 Comet c/s 1966 was purchased by Arthur Octavius Edwards (better known, simply, as A.O. Edwards), and registered G-ACSS, 4 September 1934. Edwards named the airplane Grosvenor House, after a luxury hotel in Park Lane which he had developed from “the biggest and most spectacular” mansion in London.

Two de Havilland DH.88 Comets, G-ACSP and G-ACSR, at RAF Mildenhall prior to the 1934 MacRobertson Trophy Air Race Race. The third airplane, number 46, is Jackie Cochran’s Gee Bee R-6H racer, “Q.E.D.” (BAE Systems)

In June 1935, G-ACSS was “taken charge” by the Air Ministry for flight testing. It was re-painted silver and assigned the RAF identification K5084. While undergoing flight testing, the Comet was damaged during a landing at the Aircraft & Armaments Engineering Establishment (A&AEE) at RAF Martlesham Heath and sold as scrap. It was purchased by Frederick E. Tasker, an architect famous for his Art Deco buildings, and rebuilt by Essex Aero Ltd., Gravesend. The racer was once again airworthy by June 1937. It carried the identification mark “E.1” on the fuselage before reverting to G-ACSS. Flown by A.E. Clouston, it competed in the Istres–Damascus–Paris air race of August 1937, placing fourth.

De Havilland DH.88 Comet K5084 (c/n 1996) in Royal Air Force markings. © IWM (MH 5416)

In November 1937, Clouston flew G-ACSS from London to Cape Town and return, establishing records in both directions. The Comet was again re-painted, this time beige, and re-named The Burberry after its new sponsor, Burberry Ltd., makers of the classic gabardine “trench coat.”

The Comet was placed in storage and scavenged for parts during World War II. De Havilland employees restored G-ACSS in 1951. It was donated to The Shuttleworth Collection in 1965.

Group Captain A.E. Clouston, D.S.O., D.F.C., A.F.C., Royal Air Force. Oil on canvas by William D. Dring, 1945. (Royal Air Force Museum)
Flight Lieutenant Victor Anthony Ricketts, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. (Collection of Carole Ricketts Tozer)

The de Havilland DH.88 Comet was a two-place, twin engine monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was built of wood, with a framework covered with spruce plywood for the skin of the fuselage, and a layer of doped fabric covering the wings.

The airplane was 29 feet, 0 inches (8.839 meters) long with a wingspan of 44 feet, 0 inches (13.411 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 0 inches (3.048 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,930 pounds (1,329 kilograms) and loaded weight of 5,500 pounds (2,495 kilograms).

The Comet was powered by two air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 9.186 liter (560.573-cubic-inch-displacement) de Havilland Gipsy Six R engines. The Gipsy Six was an inverted, inline six-cylinder, direct-drive engine. The R version had the compression ratio increased from 5.25:1 to 6.5:1, and produced 223 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff. The engines turned two-bladed, variable pitch propellers.

The Gipsy Six R engine was designed by Major Frank Bernard Halford CBE FRAeS, who had designed the four-cylinder de Havilland Gipsy engines and would later design the Goblin and Ghost turbojet engines. Halford was awarded the Silver Medal by the Royal Aeronautical Society for his work on the DH.88 Comet in the MacRobertson race.

The DH.88 had maximum speed of 255 miles per hour (410 kilometers per hour). Its range was 2,925 miles (4,707 kilometers). The service ceiling was 19,000 feet (5,791 meters).

Two additional DH.88 Comets were built. Of the five, one crashed in the Sudan in 1935. The crew safely bailed out. Two more were destroyed in a hangar fire at Istres, France, in June 1940. G-ACSP, Black Magic, which had been flown by Jim and Amy Mollison in the MacRobertson Trophy Race, was located in Portugal and is under restoration at Derby Airfield, England.

G-ACSS has been restored to flying condition and is in the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome, Bedfordshire, England.

De Havilland’s experience with the Comet led directly to their success with its big brother, the famous World War II fighter bomber, the DH.98 Mosquito.

¹ Air Commodore A.E. Clouston C.B. D.S.O. D.F.C. A.F.C., Royal Air Force (29162)

² Flight Lieutenant Victor Anthony Ricketts D.F.C., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (77341), flying a DH.98 Mosquito B Mk IV with No. 248 Squadron, was killed in action 12 July 1942.

De Havilland DH.88 Comet G-ACSS, photographed 7 September 2014. (Woldere via Wikipedia)
De Havilland DH.88 Comet G-ACSS, photographed 7 September 2014. (Woldere via Wikipedia)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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