Historic de Havilland Comet moved to new hangar at aircraft museum

PUBLISHED: 19:52 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 20:42 29 November 2019

DH Comet F-BGNX is lifted on to the concrete apron in front of the new hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: Garry Lakin

DH Comet F-BGNX is lifted on to the concrete apron in front of the new hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: Garry Lakin

Garry Lakin

The world's sole surviving de Havilland Comet 1A with its original 'square' windows is being moved into its new hangar in Hertfordshire.

DH Comet F-BGNX is lifted on to the concrete apron in front of the new hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: Garry LakinDH Comet F-BGNX is lifted on to the concrete apron in front of the new hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: Garry Lakin

After 34 years on display outside at the de Havilland Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, DH106 Comet 1a F-BGNX was lifted by crane on to the concrete apron and then towed into the just completed near £2 million hangar.

Still with its original 'square' windows, the first jet-powered commercial airliner now has pride of place in the hangar.

The de Havilland Comet pioneered jet travel with its maiden flight on July 27, 1949, with World War Two night fighter ace John 'Cat's Eyes' Cunningham at the controls.

"The Comet has been on display outside ever since it arrived at the museum in 1985 and it is absolutely essential we get it under cover to preserve this historic aircraft," said museum marketing director Mike Nevin.

The Air France DH106 Comet1A at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. It is the only remaining example of a Comet fuselage with the original square windows. Picture: Alan DaviesThe Air France DH106 Comet1A at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. It is the only remaining example of a Comet fuselage with the original square windows. Picture: Alan Davies

"Even when built of metal, airframes still deteriorate when exposed to the weather and ours was beginning to suffer."

The Comet, one of three which Hatfield-based de Havilland sold to French national carrier Air France in 1952, had been stripped completely of all fixtures and fittings in preparation for water pressure tank testing at Farnborough in 1954 following the total loss of two Comet 1A jet airliners into the Mediterranean off the Italian island of Elba and in the Bay of Naples.

The piece of aviation history is currently undergoing major restoration and refurbishment at the Hertfordshire museum dedicated to preserving the heritage of the de Havilland company.

When it arrived at the museum in 1985, its wings, empennage (tail assembly), engines, undercarriage, flight deck, 44 passenger seats, four flight deck seats and even the cabin floor of the aircraft had all been removed, leaving the fuselage just an empty tube.

"It is a tremendous job to recreate what it looked like in service," said Mike.

"But our restoration volunteers have managed to source almost the entire flight deck equipment and instruments and the seating for the passenger cabin, and what they can't get they are fabricating on site so that when they have finished it will be as close to the original as possible."

READ MORE: Hatfield celebrates 70th anniversary of the Comet - the world's first jet airliner

The Comet's move was the first part of a major programme to relocate the majority of the museum's collection into the new hangar.

The new building will be named the 'Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar' and has been built with a National Heritage Lottery grant and support from other donors as part of the 'Museum for the 21st Century' project.

The new hangar and its complement of aircraft and other display and information items will welcome its first visitors when the museum reopens to the public on Sunday, February 16, 2020.

For more on the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk

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