The Comet Disaster

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic talk, debate, discussion


The de Havilland Comet was the first commercial jet aircraft and ushered in the “Jet Age” on 2nd May 1952 by taking fare-paying passengers from London to Johannesburg. This aircraft contained several new technologies to allow the aircraft to operate economically and to enhance the flying experience for passengers. For several months the aircraft led the world by halving journey times and offering comfort levels which could not be matched on other piston-engined aircraft. However, two accidents in 1954 grounded the Comet fleet and the subsequent investigation has ensured that the Comet remains a notorious example of fatigue failure.
This high-profile incident encouraged much work in the field of fatigue, and this has led to a much better understanding of the science of fatigue and the use of fracture mechanics to evaluate the life of components and structures.
This talk will look at the history of the Comet aircraft, from concept to entry into service, review the accident investigation, and use modern analysis to review the fatigue failure that sparked the research. Using this analysis, the general perceptions of the causes can be examined and a likely chain of events which led to the failure is proposed.

The Speaker
Prof. Paul Withey joined the University of Birmingham School of Metallurgy and Materials in 2018 after a career at Rolls-Royce, culminating as the Engineering Associate Fellow in Casting Technology. Paul’s interests revolve around investment casting with a focus on single crystal casting for aerospace components.

Period29 Apr 2019
Event titleThe Comet Disaster
Event typeOther
LocationBristol, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal