World’s First Jet Air Liner Makes Flight Debut (Oct, 1949)

World’s First Jet Air Liner Makes Flight Debut

Britain jumped the global gun in the race for commercial air supremacy with a recent announcement that its giant de Haviland Comet, first all-jet air liner, had made successful flights. After nearly three years under construction in secrecy, the sleek, sweptback-wing craft has been unveiled. Above, it is shown in its first test flight at Hatfield, England. Four Ghost turbojet engines, each developing 5,000-lb. thrust, are designed to give the jet liner a cruising speed of 500 m.p.h. A pressurized cabin will permit it to fly at 40,000 feet. Expected to be in commercial use by 1952, the Comet will carry 36 passengers and a crew of four. Sixteen of the planes are being built.

  1. bobby j says: September 13, 20119:04 am

    As a comparison an Airbus 380 in an all peasent configuration can carry 853 passengers.

  2. Mitch says: September 13, 20119:07 am

    Avoid the window seats!

  3. Devak says: September 13, 20119:20 am

    the whole thing was a tragic learning experience. Several crashed and the cause was found to be problems with the basic construction of the plane….particularly the outer skin and the rivet system around windows.

  4. Matthias says: September 13, 201112:06 pm

    The Comet had square windows with corners. The planes structure developed cracks from the corners causing a total collapse. This is the reason why after the Comet, all windows of planes with pressurized cabins have round windows.

  5. Hirudinea says: September 13, 20111:53 pm

    It bugs that the Comet beat the Jetliner (… ) into the air by just two weeks!

  6. Toronto says: September 13, 20112:29 pm

    Hiru: The Jetliner, the Clunk, the Arrow. AVRO never did quite get the marketing idea right, did they?

  7. Sean says: September 14, 20114:42 am

    What did sticking the engines through the wing roots like that do to structural integrity? It looks pretty, but you’d have to think that it’d kill any chance of building the wings as a continuous structure.

  8. Toronto says: September 14, 20117:37 am

    Sean – it was fairly common on early jets to have the engines – or at least the intakes – located at the wing root for aerodynamic reasons. As a design feature, it seemed to have died out fairly quickly.

    Note that even non-root engines were sometime mid-wing, so a continuous spar must have taken some bends. See the Avro Jetliner here: http://farm3.static.fli…

  9. Robert says: September 14, 20112:39 pm

    The Brits were big on burying turbojet engines in the wing roots – they believed this was the most efficient configuration. However, it introduced structural complications and the later generation high bypass turbofan engines with larger diameters couldn’t be installed this way. I have a recollection of reading that it was primarily a US innovation, popularized by Boeing, to use pod mounted engines. With careful design, numerous practical advantages were obtained without any loss of aerodynamic efficiency.


  10. Hirudinea says: September 14, 20113:24 pm

    @ Toronto – Well its pretty hard to sell your products when the government keeps canceling them and cutting them up!

  11. christoph says: September 14, 20115:17 pm

    Podded engines are much more easily accessible for maintenance than buried engines, that’s why todays passenger aircraft always have podded engines, but high performance aircraft like jet fighters never.

  12. Litcanmnus says: September 14, 20118:19 pm

    There is a 1949 BBC film about the Berlin Airlift which shows may of the early ‘jet-aeroplanes’, including a Comet, I believe; and includes several minutes worth of ‘flying boats’.

    The film is located at the Perlinger Archive, and I believe it available for free-down load==but check the ‘use info’ at their site…

  13. Litcanmnus says: September 14, 20118:32 pm

    oops, my bad. I watched to BBC aviaonics in a row last eve. This one has about the early jets:… (1951)

  14. Landless peasant says: September 19, 201110:00 am

    Amazingly the Comet (with redesigned windows) was still flying commercial flights as late as 1982 and the basic airframe was still flying (although without windows, apart from at the front naturally) as the BAE Nimrod in RAF service as late as this year, in both air-sea rescue and electronic intelligence-gathering roles.

    Putting the engines in the wing roots is marginally more aerodynamic (and a hell of a lot prettier, and that still mattered in those days) than putting them in nacelles, which wasn’t a later innovation – the ME262, the very first operational jet fighter, had its engines in nacelles.

    As has been pointed out though having them buried makes maintenance much more complex, prevents the use of more-efficient high-bypass turbofans, and crucially means that in the event of a turbine failure you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose the entire wing (and hence the plane) to either direct structural damage or fire as bits of turbine blade look for the quick way out.

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