THE LOG – YEAR BY YEAR
1953 – first year on Comets
Aircraft registration and type:
G-AMXA, XB, XC. Comet 2
Between 4th November and 29th December Comet 2s were flown on Production test flights. Tested were G-AMXA, XB and XC. Test Pilots: Messrs. Peter Buggé, Pat Fillingham and John Cunningham.
During the last couple of months of ‘53 18 hrs. 20 min. accumulated as Engineer rating E11. These flights also served as familiarization flights prior to being checked-out on the type.
G-AMXA Comet 2
During January G-AMXA was put through further production tests during which LEFY was acting EII. Upon completion of the Comet Aircrew Course he obtained his EI rating. When operating on Comet 2s he was from now on E1 rating.
Flights resumed on the 5th April with ‘XA being put through production tests to evaluate it’s cruising characteristics. On the 6th April – more cruising and trim changes were tried. On the 7th – XA’s stall characteristics were evaluated. JC commanded these flights.
F-BGNZ Comet 1A
8th April saw a switch to a Comet 1A, registered – F-BGNZ this aeroplane had been purchased by Air France. Here production tests were being performed after modifications. (Incidentally this aircraft had been delivered to Air France the previous July).
G-AMXD Comet 2.
20th August saw Comet 2 G-AMXD make its maiden flight. This lasted 1 hr. 20 min. – PF was at the controls. This particular aircraft was to play a substantial role in future Comet development.
G-ALYT Comet 2X
December saw experimental tests on the Comet 2X with JC. This aeroplane started life as a Comet 1 (G-ALYT). The Ghost 50 engines were replaced with the more efficient axial-flow Avon 501s (6,500lb.st) for test purposes. Later slightly more powerful Avon 502s (6,660lb.st.) were substituted. This example was used for development testing prior to the introduction of the production Comet 2 destined to be powered by Avons. In all other respects the 2X was the same as the Comet 1.
The Log notes: E.E.L.3 in Green (prob. refers to low pressure in Green hydraulic system – which controls flaps, air brakes undercarriage, u/c doors, nose-wheel steering and brakes) and vent and jettison checks performed (for fuel).
Total hours flown by LEFY by the end of the year was 27 hrs. 40 min.
G-ALYT Comet 2X
7th January experimental testing resumed with the 2X with. Messrs. Cunningham, Buggé and Peter Bois in command. Testing included – Fuel vents, experiments using dyed fuel (as a tracer), vent synchronization and venting from numbers 1, 2 and 3 tanks. No 3 Engine Climb, checking centre tank vents and flush intakes in zone 3. These tests continued through to June.
G-AMXD Comet 2
22nd June more production tests on the Comet 2 G-AMXD with PB. Measured landings were evaluated.
G-AMXE Comet 2
18th July saw the first flight of G-AMXE which lasted 40 minutes.
Then on the same day a 25 minute hop was made to Cambridge where XE was converted to 2R specification, by Marshall’s of Cambridge, for signals duties. (R = Reconnaissance). This aircraft was re-registered as XK663 and allocated to RAF192 Sqd.
G-ALYT Comet 2X
20th July saw the 2X undergoing experimental tests again: zone 3 cooling checked, outside air temperature – calibrations were made and de-icing system checks performed.
G-AMXD Comet 2
22nd November G-AMXD underwent a 2hrs. 40min. flight with the Aircraft Registration Board’s airworthiness test – Chief Pilot Dave Davies aboard.
XK669 Comet 2R
During December production tests were performed on XK669 – formerly G-AMXB.
This had been converted to a T.2 (T for Training) and subsequently underwent a full test schedule after its first flight on 9th December, PB was in command. On 21st December – stalls were performed and on the 23rd the log notes – stalls and photography with Dove.
End of year hours were 61.
XK669 Comet 2
In January, April and May the XK669 was production tested; it was listed for the full standard schedule tests, air function of split bus-bar (electrical system), vibrators on instrument panel, radio and elevator limit switch, another ‘schedule’ test, radio testing GEE Mk 111 and DME (a navigational aide called Distance Measuring Equipment), performance evaluation, stand-offs, stalls, radio DME.
On 25th May Dave Davies of the ARB took the Comet for its acceptance flight which lasted 2hrs. 30 min. 216 Squadron took delivery of XK669 on the 8th June and shortly after it entered regular service.
XK670 (converted to T.Mk.2 i.e. T.2)
On the 7th June a 2hr. 5 min. flight initiated an RAF Crew training programme.
So throughout the month RAF crews – including Wing Commander Sellick – spent their days making a number of local and cross country flights. An example of the latter was made on 13th June. XK670 departed from Hatfield and visited N. Ireland, Stornoway, Shetlands, N. Foreland and back to Hatfield. The flight time was 4hrs.
A total of 54 hrs. RAF Crew training was undertaken and the period culminated with a special flight to Moscow.
The Moscow flight began on 22nd June with a 40 minute flight to London Heathrow. Then on 23rd June from Heathrow to Moscow’s Vnukova Airport. The flight time was given as 4hr. 30 min.
On 29th June the return trip was made via Heathrow to Hatfield.
On the 3rd July a direct flight from Hatfield to Moscow (flight time 4hrs. 10 min.). At Vnukova a demonstration flight was arranged for members of the Russian Aviation Industry. Log time of 1hr. 20min. is quoted for this demonstration flight. The return flight was made the same day direct to Hatfield.
Training continued away from Hatfield. Between 12th July and 10th August almost daily flights were made from RAF Lyneham – the flights were under the supervision of de Havilland crews. Amongst those on the course were W/C Sellick, S/LDR Harper, F/LT Jackson and F/LT Hart.
(Note: Both XK669 and XK670 were later converted to C.Mk.2s specification, that is, they had strengthened freight doors fitted as did all 216 Comet 2s)
XK695 Comet 2
Training moved further afield when on 24th September XK695, under S/LDRs Harper and Hanson, ‘695 flew via El-Adem and Aden to Bahrein arriving on the 25th (total flight time 13hrs. 25 min.). The return journey began on 26th September and was made to Lyneham via El-Adem (total flight time 9hrs. 45 min.).
XK696 Comet 2
In October ‘696 underwent routine production testing with PF.
The year ended with XK697 undergoing production tests and further tests on its radar.
LEFY total hours were 331hrs. 20min. by the end of 1956.
XK699 Comet 2
2nd February saw XK699 have its maiden flight which lasted 4hrs. 15 min. Three further flights were completed ‘schedule testing’ by the 15th. It was handed over to 216 Sqd. on the 22nd.
XK663 Comet 2 (Log. entry reads:T.Mk2 90 Group)
From 22nd February XK663 underwent schedule testing with particular attention being paid to the 112 volt electrical system, Bullet de-icing, radar checks, checks on cabin temperature, performance checks and auto-trim evaluation. These checks were completed by the 21st March after twelve flights.
On 22nd March Dave Davies (ARB) took a 2hr. 45 flight. Minor problems were detected and these were later rectified. Peter Buggé did a final 35min. check flight the following day. Certificate granted XK663 was handed over to 192 Sqd. on 19th April.
Mysteriously on 13th September this aircraft was destroyed in hanger fire.
G-ANLO Comet 3
This was the only Comet 3 to fly and became a valuable test-bed for the Comet 4.
Having had its first flight in 1954 it was at Hatfield for experimental tests to do with stability. On this particular flight LEFY acted as EII – he had not then been checked out on the Comet 3. Incidentally the Comet 3 could not be fully pressurized which must have made for some uncomfortable flights at higher altitudes with the crew on oxygen.
XK715 Comet 2 (C.Mk.2)
was the first production Comet to be built at Chester. On 6th May production tests began with a 40 min. flight to Hatfield. This was to be standard practice with Chester built Comets.
Testing was completed by the 31st May after six flights, one of which included a ‘green system failure’ (hydraulics) delaying the programme on the 10th. Officially 216 Sqd. took delivery of ‘715 on the 22nd May before testing was complete.
G-ANLO Comet 3 (now equipped with Avon 523s in place of its earlier 502s)
June was spent with experimental tests on the Comet 3 evaluating engine handling and sound measurements. Having been checked out on the Comet 3 LEFY was operating as E1 again.
Royal Canadian Air Force VC 5302 – Comet 1A
Between 3rd and 9th July production tests were performed. JC supervised tail down takeoffs – when it was thought particular problems could occur at high AUW and high ambient air temperatures (see Comet 1A Karachi loss).
G-AMXK Comet 2E
On 10th July ‘XK had its first flight. With PBu in command it lasted 1hr. 10 min. The 2E was equipped with Avon 504s located in the inner nacelles with Avon 524s, which were being evaluated for the Comet 4, in the outer positions.
Schedule testing, with the same crew, began on the 11th with a 4hr. 5 min. flight. Once schedule testing had been completed testing would be concentrated on Avon 524 assessment – which was the main purpose of the 2E.
G-ANLO Comet 3
Experimental testing resumed on 18th July with Messrs. Cunningham and Wilson. Log entries disclose flights were taken evaluating jet pipes No’s 1 and 2, a demonstration for Tasman A.A. and performance evaluation took up much of the month. A demonstration flight too was given to Mexican (Mexicana) Airline representatives on the 26th July.
Testing continued into August with performance checks, aft Centre of Gravity, Stand-offs, radio equipment testing (this involved comparing H.F. aerials with a Britannia – G-AOVB), there were forward-limit takeoffs and checks at 40,000ft with an RAE Venom. Cruising at 25,000ft completed that phase of testing – the Comet 3 having completed some 59hours 25 minutes flying spread over 27 separate flights with LEFY as E1 Ft/E.
G-AMXD (2E – two Avon 504s and two 524s).
After modification to 2E this Comet made a delivery hop to Heathrow airport from Hatfield. ‘XD was then handed over to BOAC for route proving and to build up engine hours for certification purposes. The ARB required a minimum of 1000 hrs. between major engine overhauls. Between Sept.57 and Early 58 this target was achieved and by the time the Comet 4 was launched the 524 was certified to 1500 hrs. 2E G-AMXK played an equally important role in the testing programme and was also used by BOAC.
G-ANLO Comet 3
Experimental testing continued during September with an assessment of stick forces.
Experimental tests resumed on 19th September with PBu in the right-hand seat. Log entry reads: J.P. 4 fuel, J.P. 4 and avimo pitot (J.P. being jet pipe and a pitot is a sensor set in the external airflow).
On 24th a 4hr. 15 min. flight was made to El-Adem and from there on to Aden (5hrs 10min). The following day the journey continued to Singapore via. Ceylon (6 hr. and 4hrs. 25 min. resp.). From Singapore five flights totalling 12hrs 15min. were made to ‘check aircraft and engines in extreme turbulence’. This was done by flying into Cumulo-nimbus cloud in penetration trials (it is thought that such extreme turbulence caused the break-up of BOAC’s G-ALYV whilst climbing after takeoff from Calcutta on 2nd May 1953). These trials ended at Changi.
On 1st October they returned via Ceylon and Aden and, on the 2nd, via El-Adem to Hatfield.
Having returned to the UK experimental testing continued on XK695 with J.P.4 at 35 degrees, side static evaluation, side static and J.P.4 at 50 degrees
This was followed by a final check flight prior to its re-issue to Transport Command on 4th November.
XK655 (T.Mk.2) (90 Group) and ex -G-AMXA.
was brought back from (Marshall’s) Cambridge to Hatfield on the 28th November.
Production testing continued until the end of the year.
At the end of 1957 LEFY had totalled 559hours 25 min. flying Comets.
XK655 Comet T.2
Production testing continued throughout January, February and early March with JC and/or PF taking command of some twenty flights in all.
G-ANLO Comet 3
Another flight on 6th May with PW – practising coupled approaches to 200 ft.
On 20th May a ‘series schedule’ was completed after further modifications.
G-APDA Comet 4.
This was the first production Comet 4. It had made its maiden flight on 27th April 1958.
The 4th June saw LEFYs first flight in a Comet 4 – he acted as EII. On this trip coupled approaches were performed.
On 10th June – back as EI on a Comet 2 – a routine test flight after the aircraft had undergone further modification.
G-APDA Comet 4
On 12th June the team began a long and extensive test programme evaluating the first production Comet 4s and were directly comparing with their test results with data previously obtained on the Comet 3 development prototype.
Between 12th June and 10th July Messrs. Cunningham, Buggé, Fillingham and Wilson logged 25 flights totalling some 69hours 45 min.
Parameters evaluated included – de-icing temperature checks, determining its aft Centre of Gravity, handling, evaluating the new search radar and cabin pressure systems, the A.D.F. system, determining the forward C.of G., general handling and performance, auto pilot, a new pressure controller, and again aft C.of G. handling. A long 7hr. 25 min. cruise gave much valuable data, and enabled the test team to evaluate new pressure packs, yaw damper checks, aft C.of G. and auto pilot, de-icing and yaw damping as well as finding time for some demonstration flights.
An odd production test flight on Comet 2 ‘XK interrupted Comet 4 ‘DA testing.
G-APDA (Comet 4)
On 12th July, with JC, tropical trials commenced with a flight to Khartoum from Hatfield. (6hrs. 40 min.). Measured takeoffs in the heat were made. Assessment of the effects of hot oil and fuel were also made in Khartoum. Between 14th and 15th trips were made to test extremes – Khartoum hot fuel – Wadi Halfa cold fuel. Aircraft handling with high outside air temperatures were assessed too.
On 16th ‘DA moved on to Nairobi from Khartoum (3hrs. 15 min.) and there tail-down takeoffs, measured takeoffs, acceleration stops, more measured takeoffs and tail-downs were undertaken. Interspersed were various demonstration flights. Measured takeoffs (no.3 engine) and demonstration stops preceded a move to Entebbe on 22nd July (1hr. 20 min.). Here ice trials were performed and a demonstration was given to various airlines before returning to Hatfield via Rome on the 29th. The return flight took 9hrs. 30min.
Back in Hatfield the buffet boundary and autopilot were tested.
On 9th August PF and LEFY only ferried XK699 from Prestwick to Chester. The 40 minute trip was made so that ‘699 could have a star-board wing repaired – it was damaged after hitting a tree on approach to Turnhouse airfield, Edinburgh.
Two flights on the 22nd and another on the 26th August from Chester ‘schedule testing’ after a major overhaul.
G-APDB (Comet 4)
On 3rd September, with PW, the forth production test flight of ‘DB.
Testing continued – evaluating cruising, performance, buffet boundary and Performance Envelopes (PE’s). Much essential data had been obtained on the first production Comet 4 ‘DA – with all subsequent type 4s far less testing was necessary. Essentially production testing was undertaken to determine whether the aircraft under test was up to standard – that is within clearly defined limits with respect to equipment operation and operation overall.
So within days (on the 8th) the Aircraft Registration Board took a 3hrs. 30 min. certification flight. Following this on the 12th September ‘DB was flown to London, Heathrow prior to its’ handing over to the Corporation which took place on the 30th.
G-APDE (the first Comet 4 built at Chester).
20th September – maiden flight to Hatfield – 1hr. 35 min.
On the 21st and 22nd September, with PF, a full test schedule and performance estimations were made. This Comet underwent final checks on the 2nd October and delivered to BOAC.
XK699 (Comet 2)
Had completed its repair to the damaged s/b wing. A 1hr. 15 min.flight was undertaken to check for problems.
G-APDD Comet 4
On the 5th and 6th November resp. there were the 1st and 2nd production test flights with PF (totalling 8hrs. 45 min.). With JC the 3rd and 4th Prod. Test. Flights – both on the 7th of the month (3hrs. 15 min.) and with PF the 5th Prod. Test. Flight on the 10th (1hr. 30 min.)
A demonstration flight was laid on and some snags were sorted out on the 11th with JC. On 17th and 18th – this time with PF, there were performance tests for BOAC. Acceptance by the airline – represented by Capt. Wallace – came after a 55 min. flight on the 18th. Total testing on ‘DD was 25hrs. 05 min.
G-APDH Comet 4
The next Comet 4 tested was the second of the type to be built at Chester. A 2 hr. test flight from Chester to Hatfield was undertaken on 21st November and a 4hrs. 30 min. second production test flight with PF was completed on the 22nd.
On 1st December testing was interrupted when a special flight was made with JC to Nice. There Aristotle Onassis (owner of Olympic Airways) and his family were brought back to the U.K. (Hatfield) the same day. The outward flight is logged as taking 1hr. 45 min. and the return flight as 2hrs. 5 min. Onassis was purchasing Comet 4Bs – hence the courtesy shown by the Company.
After this trip a third production test flight was undertaken on the 5th December with the final check and acceptance by BOAC on the 6th.
G-APDF Comet 4.
With PF the maiden flight was on the 11th December and it lasted 3hrs. 05 min.
G-ANLO Comet 3
The year ended with PW making cold air unit checks on the 12th December.
LEFY total hours to date were 851 hrs. 20 min. all on Comets.