Society of British Aircraft Constructors show – Farnborough, Hampshire

Our families involvement with the SBAC show began in 1952. Ted Young was then with de Havilland at Hatfield. In those days the show was an annual event – and de Havilland were represented every year with various production and  development aircraft.

The air shows were usually took place in the September and lasted a week – the last weekend being open to the public. So de Havilland staff would be on duty all week – although the staff involved in sales and marketing would be busier during the trade days. The family visited during the trade days.

For the flying crews the highlights were the demonstration flights. Whatever one sees on a video it is impossible to appreciate the sheer sense of drama, the speed of some of the aircraft but, above all, the noise. Fantastic. And in those days the aircraft could fly very closely to the huge crowds – but not a close as before the accident of 1952 involving a DH 110 – when 31 people were killed.

The first SBAC show the author recalls was that of 1954. The family attended every show up to 1963.

As far as the Comet was concerned I can recall the Comet 4 being shown in the air display of 1958 – in BOAC colours. In 1959 the Comet 4B was displayed in BEA livery with John Cunningham at the controls. The last Comet I recall was in 1961 with was a Mk.4C destined and in the livery of MEA.

Footage of 1962 show 

The highlight of 1962 – where de Havilland were displaying the DH121 Trident – was seeing the BSEL Olympus Mk 320 engine – destined as the 593 to power Concord – underslung in a nacelle in the belly of Vulcan B1 [XA894]. In the display the 320 could clearly be seen with flashes of the after-burner kicking in as it supplemented the Vulcan’s own Olympus engines. It was a brilliant demonstration.

It was also the first time we saw the P1127 – Harrier Jump Jet 

Another thing that sticks in the memory was the chaos caused by EE Lightning’s as they taxied to the end of the runway. As the aircraft turned on the apron it’s exhaust jet swept an arc covering the grassy area in front of a beer marquee where the family, and many crews families, were seated in deck chairs. The problem was that not all the chairs were occupied – and so weighted down. Those that were not were sent flying as the jets exhaust caught them – the canvas acting like sails.



DH 106 Comets at the SBAC Farnborough

SBAC Show 1949 – featured prototype Comet 1 in bare metal G-ALVG

B&W footage. Comet at 1 min 59 sec

YouTube link

SBAC Show 1950 – Comet 1 G-ALVG featured BOAC livery

SBAC Show 1951 – Comet 1 seen in bare metal G-ALVG

Comet at 3 min 40 sec as bare metal and 3 min 47 sec on BOAC livery.

Poor image quality overlaid with Huntley Film Archives watermark. No sound.

YouTube Link

SBAC Show 1952. Two Comets featured in air displays.

Comet 1 – G-ALVG in BOAC livery.

CF-CUM a Mk.1A is also featured in the livery of Canadian Pacific.

SBAC Show 1953 – Comet 2 but in BOAC livery


SBAC Show 1954 – Featured the Comet 4 test bed the Mk.3 G-ANLO

SBAC Show 1955 – G-ANLO Mk.3 in BOAC livery

Comet appears 1 min 59 sec. to 2 min 27 sec

YouTube link

SBAC Show 1958 Two Comets featured.

Mk.3B – G-ANLO in BEA livery and a Mk.4 in BOAC colours

SBAC Show 1959

John Cunningham with 4B G-APMB ‘Walter Gale’ which was delivered to BEA in the November.

YouTube link 

SBAC Show 1961

Static display Comet 4C for MEA  Seen 1 min 26 sec into footage

YouTube link