The second World War had seriously affected Great Britain’s abilities to proceed with airliner development, and it was realised that the USA would have virtual domination in this field unless steps were taken to catch up. The Brabazon Committee was formed in 1943 to look into Britain’s post war aviation prospects, and a series of recommendations was issued in 1944; one of these was to produce an advanced turbojet powered airliner for BOAC.
The De Havilland company pursued design concepts which led to the D.H. 106 Comet in 1946, and in a very short period of time the first prototype flew of 27 July 1949. The Comet 1 first entered BOAC service in May 1952, becoming the world’s first jet passenger aircraft. With the improved Comet 2, orders from airlines around the world rapidly increased until the tragic losses of two BOAC Comet 1 in January and April 1954; the cause of these losses remained a mystery until exhaustive testing revealed hitherto unknown problems connected with metal fatigue, and thereafter all Comets were subjected to extensive redesign and rebuilding.
The Comet 3 re-emerged as the Comet 4, which BOAC ordered in quantity in 1957. From 1958, British European Airways orders rose to 14 of the modified Comet 4B, which featured a lengthened fuselage giving high-density seating for up to 86 passengers, and a reduction of the wing span and deletion of the leading edge fuel.