On 2nd May 1952, the world’s first passenger jet aircraft took off to carry 36 passengers from London to Johannesburg.  The de Havilland DH 106 Comet operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation reduced the overall journey time by a third, although it still required 5 stops en route – in Rome, Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe, and Livingstone – in order to refuel.  The crew was also replaced in Beirut and Khartoum due to the length of the flight.

One of the passengers was journalist Aubrey O. Cookman, Jr. who wrote for the American-produced Popular Mechanics magazine.  In an article written shortly after the flight, he wrote that his fellow passengers included a dentist, a chemist, a policewoman, a composer, and a number of engineers and businessmen.

Despite the significant differences to the conventional propeller aircraft journey, and the fact that this was the first passenger journey on a jet aircraft, the ticket cost exactly the same amount of money – £175 single or £315 return – and travel insurance premiums remained the same.  Fortunately for the passengers and crew, the flight went successfully

However, the Comet aircraft’s reputation suffered irreparable damage due to three devastating accidents just a year after its first commercial flight, which led to many airlines switching to new models such as the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8.  Despite this, the Comet does still fly in the guise of a military aircraft called the Nimrod.

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© Scott Allsop