Hello everyone! I am looking for a contemporary perspective of the Comet 1, one of my favourite jetliners of all time. If any of you flew it AT THE TIME (ie, 1952-1954) I would like to hear your experience. If not, are there any sites or links for a first-person account of the Comet 1?
The first Jet-airliners are a fascinating story. I once tried to compare the first (COMET) and the second (TU-104):
Nearly everybody knows that the Comet 1 was the first commercial jetliner and many know that the TU-104 was the second one and some months the only one operating worldwide after the grounding of the Comet I.
Both have similarities and big differences.
Starting with the the history of their origins:
The Comet had no direct military design to start with, the Tu-104 had a sound and successful military design ( Tu-16) to start with. Both used engines of military air planes.
Different design traits:
Looking from above the Comet looks like a bat and the Tu-104 like a bomber, so the Comets speed potential was much more restricted (750 km/h TAS), the TU could fly much faster (950 km/TAS), but was much more difficult to handle at low speeds.
By pure numbers the Comet 1 had a much lower maximum weight (47,6 to), less carrying capacity (44 passengers) and a similar range. The Tu-104 A weighted 75 to and could carry up to 70 passengers. The Comet 1 needed four engines and the TU-104 only two.
In aerodynamics the TU-104 already applied a modern design principle: the area-rule.
In terms of flight controls the Comet already had boosted primary flight controls, the Tu-104 still pure mechanical ones, so the controls were much more pleasant in a Comet.
Both design developed into more capable machines but the Comet III and IV were bigger and flew much farther than a TU-104A or even TU-104B.
In commercial terms the TU-104 “sold better” and its civil service ended 1979 the Comet IV service ended 1981.
The Comet IV design did find a second life as the Nimrod, the Tu-16 the military “cousin” of the Tu-104 is still Chinas front line nuclear bomber vastly revamped as Xian H-6.
The Comet 1XB the military version of the RCAF did Atlantic crossing regularly same did also the Tu-104 but due its range limits doing refuelling at Kevlavik.
The Price of coming soon:
Both airplanes suffered tragedies in their early service life: The Comet I suffered two in-flight breakups due to disintegration of its pressure vessel which ended the success of the Comet 1 and restricted a late success of the Comet IV. The TU-104 had an aerodynamic flaw, which led in two cases to the loss of elevator control and to the deadly loss of both air-planes. The designers at Tupolev learned from the Comet tragedy the importance of structural integrity of the pressure vessel but Mr. Tupolev himself did not belief his test-pilots who experienced the loss of elevator control at high altitudes, backward centre of gravity and turbulence, blaming “reckless flying” as reason. The problem was later solved by changing the incidence of the elevator.
In service life the safety of both air-planes were not very good, but most of the accidents were attributed to pilots error. Both air-planes were difficult to operate not having modern helpers like ground proximity warning, stick pushers etc.
Means the chances to sit in a TU-104 and crashing were a little lower than in a Comet but the chances to survive were clearly better in the Soviet air-plane even against the public belief in the Soviet Union. The children there sang to the tune of Chopin's funeral march: “The TU is the best air-plane of the world, but better take the train!”
The training of the pilots for the “new wonder” seems was more thorough in the Soviet Union, the AEROFLOT pilots even had to fly the “cousin” TU-16 to familiarise with this new kind of flying, Soviet ATC had special procedures for the “Dart” (ATC codeword for the TU-104) avoiding mixing slow traffic with the Tu-104 on approaches, so the 104 got a straight in short approach at 300 km/h, avoiding nasty behaviour below that speed.
The Comets I up to the IV C had superior Take Off and Landing characteristics, the TU-104 needed much longer runways to take off and land, had a brake chute instead of spoilers and its wheel brakes where not so efficient as in the Comet. So the runways for the TU-104 service had to be enlarged giving a reason to develop the smaller “sister” TU-124 dedicated for a real regional service having very short take off and landing runs. But also the Comet I had at its introduction problems with her handling at take-off as no knowledge existed about runway stalls and the handling of a jet at take-off is different from a propeller driven airplane.
Both air-planes needed navigators but the TU-104 housed its navigator in a glass nose like the WWII bombers sitting above its weather-radar. The Comet I had more advanced radio-navigation and even the Zero-Reader flight director. The pilots of the TU-104 had to read the raw-data and mentally translate it into the mental image of the spatial situation. But both air-planes had Loran and Astrocompass, the TU-104 a very advanced complex astro-navigation instrument called DAK capable to follow a star, moon or sun automatically and so calculating the actual position. The TU-104 had also a compass system capable of grid and great circle navigation. So one cannot say the Soviet Jet was inferior in its navigation possibilities it was different, thanks to the geographic conditions of the area of its operations.
The Comets and the Tu-104 were simulated for FS 9 and FSX.
The Comet 1 and 2 by Jens B. Kristensen, The Comet 3 to 4C by David Maltby, The TU-104 by Mihail Stepanov offers the best realisation.
The Comets by David Maltby are a superior work of flight simulation only lack the navigator station the real Comets had.
Post by aerofoto - HJG Admin on May 16, 2023 10:30:09 GMT
Means the chances to sit in a TU-104 and crashing were a little lower than in a Comet
The attrition rate in regard to the early COMET's was quite high (as applied to the TU-104 too) .... BUT .... apart from the Elba and Naples BOAC accidents (structural failure causing explosive decompression and complete disintegration of both of these aircraft), the other COMET 1/IA accidents were largely attributable to "aircraft handling and limitations".
Jetliners were new during the early to mid 1950's and airlines and their crews were still learning to operate them .... unfortunately sometimes the hard way.
A number of early BOAC COMET I/IA losses were caused by crews over-rotating the aircraft on TO (this was also the attributed cause of the CPA aircraft loss on its delivery flight) .... and to the extent thar the engines on these aircraft were then deprived of adequate airflow and which affected their performance .... as well as the aircrafts wing also becoming stalled too .... causing the affected aircraft to lose lift for TO and fail to become airborne.
COMET I and IA aircraft were also known to suffer little margin for error during T/O and landing. This resulted in a number serious accidents occurring to BOAC, CPA, and UAT aircraft during the types early operational service. Whilst first attributed to "Pilot "Error" (over rotation during T/O in particular), closer analysis of these accidents later proved that the wing design of early COMET models was particularly susceptible to suffering reduced lift at high AoA and which also deprived the engines of vital airflow .... resulting in aircraft failing to accelerate to T/O speed and not then achieving sufficient lift to become completely airborne as a consequence of this ground stall phenomenon. Both COMET I and IA aircraft were also criticized, by some crews, for a lack of "feel" and over-responsiveness of their powered controls. This particular failing was reasoned to be one of a number of contributory factors involved with the loss of BOAC COMET I, G-ALYV, near Calcutta with the loss of all 43 POB on May 2nd 1953 .... ironically the 1st anniversary of the COMET's entry to service. These issues prompted aerodynamic and technical improvements being incorporated into later COMET models.
These technical limitations forced both engine intake and wing LE design alterations being applied to these aircraft from the COMET II.
Again it was a new era for aircraft .... in as much as for the crews flying them too.