BOAC’s final Comet 4 revenue flight

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  • AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Readers who are fans of airline nostalgia will appreciate this short clip of BOAC’s final Comet 4 revenue flight in 1965.

    How different commercial aviation was in those days.

    What intrigued me was the routing and the time taken for this Auckland-London flight.

    Flight BA721 took over 40 hours to fly Auckland-London with many en route stops.

    These were Sydney, Darwin, Singapore, Rangoon, Calcutta, Karachi, Damascus and Dusseldorf.


    transtraxman
    Participant

    It is surprising the short period the Comet 4s were used before retirement. However, I do believe that the majority, if not all, of the Comet 4s produced for both BOAC and BEA went off to Dan-Air for their package/charter flights. There they gave several years more service before being taken out of circulation.

    I also got the impression that BEA´s Trident and BOAC´s VC10/Super VC10 aircraft were also short lived wonders. Only the BAC 111 was an outright success especially with BUA. However, they were the end products of the British Passenger Aircraft industry. After that came the joint venture Concorde, leading to the European conglomerate, Airbus. Here the most important part of an aircraft, the wings, are produced in North Wales at Shotton — and long may that remain so.

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    dutchyankee
    Participant

    I loved this video, and it’s such a great insight into the history of those long trips. I collect timetables and menus from all airlines and have some amazing examples of BOAC menus from the 50’s and 60’s showing all the different stops en-route. Such great nostalgia, thanks for posting Alex.

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    canucklad
    Participant

    Remember watching a documentary on the downfall of the UK’s civil aircraft manufacturers . And the VC10 which was a superior aircraft to the 707 lost out simply because BOAC’s management team where SO pro Boeing that bad mouthed the excellent VC10 and earned the nickname Boeing Overseas Airways Corporation


    dutchyankee
    Participant

    Just to chime in again, not sure the VC10 was a superior aircraft, perhaps only to the initial 707/DC8 models, but certainly not once those aircraft had uprated engines. The VC10 was, I believe if not mistaken, a far costlier aircraft to operate, and was designed almost solely with BOAC in mind, which is never a good idea to simply design around one client’s needs. That said, I was lucky enough to fly on the VC10 (or does that mean just that I am old enough to have flown on her) on Gulf Air and BA, and it was always one of my favourites to fly on, and to see. It was certainly a much ‘sexier’ and attractive aircraft than any of the US competition.

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    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Hello dutchyankee, I don’t knw enough to comment on the VC-10’s fuel consumption and maintenance costs but I do know that it was really geared for the needs of the BOAC network and that its range was below that of later B707/DC-8 versions.

    Crucially in transatlantic use its maximum range would allow London-Chicago non-stop but it couldn’t make London to US West Coast non-stop whereas its rivals could.

    Compared to its rivals the VC-10 provided a smoother, quieter flight (as long as one didn’t sit towards the rear !).

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    cwoodward
    Participant

    I enjoyed the video but the Comet was very arguably the worst commercial jet aircraft ever built and I am certain that BA were pleased to see the back of it.
    Its safety record was catastrophic with 26 total hull losses and 16 fatal crashes killing a total of 420 passengers which for a small capacity aircraft is unheard of.

    There was however one good outcome from this flawed project – the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod long distance reconnaissance and electronic intelligence gathering aircraft that saw service with the RAF from 1969 until 2011. Although based on the Comet platform it was to all intents a very different aircraft and powered by 4 X Rolls-Royce Spey engines Of some 120 built only 5 were ever lost and most of these involved in ether the Falklands or Afghan campaigns at the time.
    A very successful aircraft that was perhaps interesting flown on only two of the 4 engines most of the time.

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    transtraxman
    Participant

    I agree the Nimrod seemed to give excellent service but to say that 120 aircraft were built in 42 years (fewer than 3 per year) is a success is rather an exageration. I know there is not a big market for electronic surveillance aircraft but how many Nimrods were exported? I have never heard of any, but I could be wrong.

    I also have no idea why the aircraft was cancelled after so many years to hand over the contract to Boeing. I do not believe it was to save money as stated at the time. maybe it was the desire for communality of hardware within NATO. However, I think compatibility of software is more important than communality of hardware. Probably a lot of backscratching went on in Whitehall.


    cwoodward
    Participant

    As the Nimrod was used almost exclusively by the UK RAF and for very specaalised purposes 120 builds is frankly a lot when compared to other very specialist aircraft derived from an existing platform.
    The upgraded on going project was cancelled due to substantial cost overruns and very long delays with no end to them in site. The RAF was desperate for a replacement. I agree all rather a pity and seemingly unnecessarily so – lax by all concerned.


    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    BEA was operating another variant namely the Comet 4B for a few more years.

    I would think the Comet 4B was designed for short-haul.

    In the late 1960s I was fortunate to make two flights with BEA’s Comet 4B.

    One was between LHR and EDI (in the days when BEA competed against BUA’s 1-11s ex-LGW by operating jet flights at peak times) and the other was a BEA student charter between AMS and LGW.

    As a teenager I was in awe of flying the Comet. At that time the only Western aircraft I had flown were BUA/BEA 1-11s and BEA Vanguards.

    My impressions were of an aircraft which climbed rapidly after take-off but which was so noisy in flight owing to those four old-tech jet engines.

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    cwoodward
    Participant

    The French Caravel was much noisier as I remember. Some would profess that things have changed little over the years!

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    alainboy56
    Participant

    @AMcWhirter
    This is not true.
    My late father was a S/E/O on VC-!0s and he regularly flew the BA591/592 LHR-LAX-LHR flights that actually were part of a rotation to Sydney through Honolulu.

    On why it failed, yes it was fully designed to BOAC specs for hot and high (and shorter) runways throughout Africa, but then the new CEO Giles Guthrie publicly rubbished it’s economies, and that was that.
    I did sell to a few African countries and the RAF flew it until only maybe 6 or 7 years ago

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    alainboy56
    Participant

    Flew on a BOAC Comet 4c BA931 ‘DD’ in 1959. LHR-Beirut-Karachi-Delhi-Calcutta-Bangkok-Hong Kong-Tokyo almost 23hrs of flight time.
    On the return trip nearly 2 months later ‘DO’ went ‘US’ in Singapore, so after more than a day’s delay, I was transferred to a Qantas Super Constellation that was proceeding monotonously through the skies onto Colombo, then Bombay-Karachi-Cairo-Istanbul-Rome and eventually to LHR after more than 31 hours of flight time, plus almost 13 on the Comet. With all the stops, it was nearly 4 days of travel.
    The ‘Golden Age of travel’ was just ‘taking off’ — if you will excuse my pun.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    cwoodward
    Participant

    @AMcWhirter
    This is not true.
    My late father was a S/E/O on VC-!0s and he regularly flew the BA591/592 LHR-LAX-LHR flights that actually were part of a rotation to Sydney through Honolulu.

    On why it failed, yes it was fully designed to BOAC specs for hot and high (and shorter) runways throughout Africa, but then the new CEO Giles Guthrie publicly rubbished it’s economies, and that was that.
    I did sell to a few African countries and the RAF flew it until only maybe 6 or 7 years ago

    alainboy56
    Thanks for the memories.
    I have a vague recollection of flying the VC10 out of Sydney through the US (or perhaps Canada – Toronto) to LHR. This would have been mid seventies.
    Would you know please could my recollection be correct or would the order have been V V

    What I do well recall that I enjoyed the flight (suspect that I could have been upgraded to first) and that the service and food were impeccable and that the interior of the aircraft was very quiet. Very noisy outside though as I recall.

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    AMcWhirter
    Participant

    Hello cwoodward,

    BOAC routed its Super VC-10 from Sydney via the Pacific to London via the US West Coast. Not Canada.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
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