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De Havilland Comet 4B airliner, serial no 6438, 1960.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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The Comet became the world's first commercial jet airliner when it entered service with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) in May 1952. Unfortunately a serious design flaw in the aircraft led to a series of crashes, and the whole fleet was grounded in 1954. It took four years to investigate the cause of the accidents and remedy the problem, and by the time the much-improved Comet 4 series emerged the Douglas DC 8 and the Boeing 707 had achieved domination of the new and growing market for jet airliners. This Comet, in the livery of Dan Air, is pictured at the Science Museum's Wroughton airfield in Wiltshire.
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