De Havilland D.H.88 Comet

1934

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De Havilland D.H.88 Comet

Designed specifically for the 1934 Victorian Centenary Air Race from Mildenhall to Melbourne, for which the prize money was donated by Sir Mac- Pherson Robertson, the de Havilland D.H.88 Comet attracted three orders before the February 1934 deadline which had been stipulated by the manufacturer for guaranteed delivery before the Race in October. Purchasers were Mr A. O. Edwards, managing director of the Grosvenor House Hotel, Bernard Rubin, and Jim and Amy Mollison. The Comet was of wooden construction throughout, the front section of the fuselage containing three large fuel tanks behind which were two tandem seats for the pilot and copilot. Two high compression de Havilland Gipsy Six R engines were installed, driving Ratier two-position propellers which were set to fine pitch before each flight. These went into coarse pitch automatically at 241km/h, when a sealing disc in the spinner opened to release the unit's internal pressure and thus activate the control mechanism. Other notable features included the provision of manually retractable landing gear and split trailing-edge flaps.

Hubert Broad flew the first Comet, that intended for the Mollisons, at Hatfield on 8 September 1934. Its Certificate of Airworthiness was issued on.9 October and certificates for the other two aircraft on 12 October, just eight days before the Race. Dawn on 20 October saw the departure of the first contestants, including the Mollisons' Black Magic, Owen Cathcart-Jones and Ken Waller's G-ACSR (owned by Rubin) and C. W. A. Scott and T. Campbell Black in Grosvenor House. Black Magic accomplished successfully the non-stop London-Baghdad leg but was forced to retire with engine trouble at Allahabad. Cathcart-Jones and Waller, after getting lost and being forced to land in Persia, struggled through to Melbourne to finish fourth in the speed section. They flew straight back, with mail and film, to set an out-and-return record of 131/2 days. Scott and Black were the speed section winners, covering the course in 70 hours 54 minutes; Grosvenor House is now preserved by the Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden, Bedfordshire. Two more Comets were built, one as a mailplane for the French government and the other for Mr Cyril Nicholson, who sponsored two unsuccessful attempts on the London-Cape record. During the second attempt the crew baled out over Sudan, on 22 September 1935.

FACTS AND FIGURES

© The short-ranged Comet 1 only carried 36 passengers, albeit in great comfort. The Comet 3 was to be the transatlantic version, but only one was built.

© The Comet breakups were traced to cracks emanating from the aperture for a square radio antenna and the corners of windows.

© Poor cockpit instrumenration contributed to the early Comet accidents as the pilots had trouble judging the correct take-off angle in hazy conditions.

3-View 
De Havilland D.H.88 CometA three-view drawing (700 x 686)

Specification 
 MODELD.H.88
 ENGINE2 x de Havilland Gipsy Six R inline piston engines, 172kW
 WEIGHTS
  Take-off weight2413 kg5320 lb
  Empty weight1288 kg2840 lb
 DIMENSIONS
  Wingspan13.41 m44 ft 0 in
  Length8.84 m29 ft 0 in
  Height3.05 m10 ft 0 in
  Wing area19.69 m2211.94 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
  Max. speed381 km/h237 mph
  Cruise speed354 km/h220 mph
  Ceiling5790 m19000 ft
  Range4707 km2925 miles

Comments
John Walton, e-mail, 25.11.2021 17:10

I regret that there is an error on this otherwise excellent and enjoyable website.
The 'Facts and Figures' has 3 comments. I cannot comment on the 3rd but the first two do not refer to this aircraft but the post-WWII Comet jet passenger aircraft that had such tragic crashes following metal fatigue failures as described in the comments.

reply

Frank Bryan, e-mail, 10.11.2014 13:35

I remember this event as a 4year old living in Mildenhall.I have a back and white photo of it I took before in left Southend where it was parked in the years before Shuttleworth took it over to restore.

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Dries Venter, e-mail, 23.07.2013 16:11

I have no coments I just want to know were I can get plans for this beautiful baby

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Barry Donovan, e-mail, 24.11.2011 21:56

I own a controlling share in an authentic Comet replica that is being constructed in New Zealand. This share is for sale. The aeroplane is 2 /3 complete, with all remaining parts available. Interested parties please email me.

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Alan Filby, e-mail, 18.12.2010 11:11

Does anyone know what happened to the replica DH 88 being built by George Lemay during the 1990's in Alberta Canada?
When I last saw it construction was well advanced and George had a couple of men helping him with the project.
At that time George also had a Beech D17, DH Dove, and a DH Rapide along with various other light aircraft in his hangars.

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fred, e-mail, 03.10.2010 21:26

For those who want more information on this plane contact The Shuttleworth Collection. Old Warden. Biggleswade. Bedfordshire. They have the Comet among their collection.

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Manolis, e-mail, 23.05.2010 22:30

i'm intrested to find construction drawings of this fantastic aeroplane in order to built a replica. Does anybody knows were can i find it? thank you in advance.

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Brian Lawrence, e-mail, 01.09.2010 21:31

Does anyone know the colour,and name of the third aircraft GADEF?

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Eli V. Nielsen Denmark, e-mail, 11.01.2010 12:16

She ist beautiful to look at.
Where can I get a model of this aircraft and
price. ? Thank you for your kindness.
many kind regards your´s Eli V. Nielsen, DK

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John King, e-mail, 02.01.2010 03:19

I am trying to get a photograph of the Comet's instrument panel so that I can make a reasonably accurate replica for the 1 /6th scale model I am currently building.

Can anyone help with this?

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Bruce, e-mail, 05.11.2008 05:04

I have researched one of the co-winners of the 1934 Melbourne Centenary Air Race Tom Campbell Black, he with C.W.A. Scott won the race in "Grosvenor House" G-ACSS. I found it to be an amazing era. I set up a web site to commemorate the men and machines. I am sure you will enjoy a visit. www.tomcampbellblack.150m.com

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ED, e-mail, 18.02.2008 10:56

I am born of the last half 20th century. This airplane has been retired for a feww decades, but through general knowledge. Question was this aircraft an air speed holder in aircraft records?

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EMBER, e-mail, 22.12.2007 23:49

MY FATHER FOUND ONE OF THESE IN 1951, AND BOUGHT IT FOR 50,000 DOLLORS (PAID IT OFF OVER THE YEARS). TO THIS DAY IT STILL IS AIRWORTHY, BUT HAS A TENDENCY TO ROLL A BIT TOO MUCH. IT'S LOGGED 153hrs 45min.

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charles ward, e-mail, 18.02.2007 14:43

I have a limited edtion print of DH88 from an original oil signed by the artist Norman W Clark. It records a time of 77hrs 23sc. The print was commisioned in 1984 to commemorate the 50th anniversary. My print is No.10 I can if you e-mail me send you a picture

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Charles Ward, e-mail, 01.03.2007 14:38

Please disregard the the communication of the 18th Feb.
Thank you. Charles ward.

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Charles Ward, e-mail, 01.03.2007 14:35

I have a print in my possession of Grovesnor House from an original oil commisioned in 1984 to commemorate the race.The artist is Norman W Clark and it gives a time of 77hrs 23min. This Time was also mentioned during a recent programme on the Mosquito screened by the History Channel. I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you and investigate the matter. Yours sincerely Charles Ward

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