The Comets

Michael Shrimpton analyzes the destruction of the De Haviland Comets in 1954 and comments on the week's other big stories, apart that is from psycho Bella finally getting treatment in Home and Away!


There are other things going on in the world, including the odd race riot, but with NASA embarking on a new chapter in the history of space exploration now is a good time to talk about the DVD’s sabotage of the De Havilland Comets. The Anglo-American failure to uncover the DVD’s sabotage operation cleared the way for the wrecking of other airline projects. Boeing eventually paid the price with sabotage ops against the 707, 777 and, most recently, the 737-Max. Tragically, the astronauts of Apollo 1 also fell victim to a DVD sabotage operation, and the crew of Apollo 13 very nearly did. It is never too late to clear the name of a good company and a fine aircraft.

DH Comet Yoke Peter making history, about to depart on the world’s first passenger jet service.

Most people know the story, or think they do. The DH 106 Comet was the world’s first jetliner, but was ahead of its time. It had square windows whose frames were vulnerable to metal fatigue, the windows on two airliners blew out and the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough found the cause in a ground-breaking investigation, which for the first time used water tanks to stimulate the effect of pressurization cycles on airframes. The RAE report changed the way pressurized airliners were designed, and other companies, including Boeing and Douglas, benefited from De Havilland’s mistakes.

Only none of the above is true, save that the Comet was the world’s first jetliner and was way ahead of its time, indeed in some ways (for example its flight control system) it was more advanced than the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. Its windows weren’t square – as Brian Rivas makes clear in one of the more recent books on the aircraft, De Havilland Comet 1949-1997 (all marks) (Haynes, 2016), the windows had radiused corners.

Partly because they had rounded corners the windows weren’t especially vulnerable to metal fatigue and were more than good for the projected service life of the aircraft. There was no known instance of a Comet 1 window failing in flight.

The RAE in fact failed to find the cause of either of the 1954 crashes, Yoke Peter and Yoke Yoke. They never examined the crucial part of Yoke Peter (the lower rear cargo hold) and never even looked at the wreckage of Yoke Yoke, which still sits on the floor of the Mediterranean. The water tank was a De Havilland, not an RAE, invention, and was first used in the design of the Comet, to simulate the effect of repeated pressurization cycles.

Aside from some detailed analysis of the stress build-up at the corners of windows the RAE report had no influence on aircraft design at all. The Boeing 707 prototype, the 367-80, had already flown by the time the report came out. No design changes at all were introduced on either the Boeing 707 or Douglas DC-8 as a result of the Comet crashes.

Roll-out of the Boeing 707 prototype, in the same year that the Comets were brought down.

Since the CIA Head of Station Rome, William Colby, knew perfectly well that both Comets had been blown up with improvised explosive devices this made sense. Boeing and Douglas were major contractors for the US military and each company had good Deep State connections. Indeed, as I suggest in Spyhunter, it may even have been Bill Colby (a friend of a friend) who warned Hollywood producer Victor Pahlen to get off Yoke Peter. Pahlen was allegedly in a tearing hurry to get back to LA so he got off the world’s fastest airliner and caught a later, slower flight instead. Somebody warned him!

Pahlen, who died in 1981, was an interesting character in his own right, by the way. He later befriended Errol Flynn and they co-owned a movie theater together in, of all places, Havana Cuba. He was the sort of man to have intelligence connections. People who owned movie theaters and other places of entertainment in Havana during the Battista dictatorship often did. I doubt the Mafia boys paid the full price for their tickets!

Rivas’s book contains an excellent technical analysis of the Comet and its development. Where he fails with respect is in his analysis of the 1954 disasters which led to the Comet’s unlawful, bad faith grounding. With respect he committed a major mistake for an author of a book commenting on aircraft crashes – he failed to keep up to date with the literature.

So what happened?

As I explain in Spyhunter, which was published two years before De Havilland Comet 1949-97 (all marks), a DVD agent named Hertzog planted IEDs in the lower cargo hold of both aircraft, with timed barometric fuzes to make sure that they came down over water thought to be too deep for recovery. (The Jerries got it wrong over Yoke Peter – the wreckage was recovered by the Royal Navy, thanks to the brilliantly innovative use of underwater TV cameras.)

Unsurprisingly, both Comets blew up at about the same time after leaving the same airport (Rome Ciampino), at about the same altitude, 27,000 ft, without broadcasting a Mayday message. (The Germans were jamming the air traffic control and guard frequencies, but in any event the IEDs were placed in such a way as to trip all four generators and cut the power supply to the radios.) Yoke Yoke, the South African Airways Comet, which was brought down on April 8th 1954, was destroyed over deep water, around 500 fathoms. Recovering her wreckage was way beyond the technology of the time.

Technological developments since 1954 mean that recovering it now would be feasible – technically feasible that is, not politically. GO2 penetration of the Cabinet Office means that any attempt by the Navy to start a search would swiftly be called off. Germany is still desperate to prevent the truth getting out, not least as the attacks on both Yoke Peter and Yoke Yoke were sanctioned by the West German war criminal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who should have been executed, nicely of course, in 1954.

The placement of the IEDs of course explains the rather obvious gap in Yoke Peter’s wreckage. You might think that it would have occurred to Sir Arnold Hall’s supposedly enquiring mind that the facts that the aircraft had disintegrated in mid-air and that a chunk of its wreckage was missing might just be connected. Hall however knew all along that both Yoke Peter and Yoke Yoke had been blown up. He wasn’t interested in finding out the causes of the Comet crashes –he already knew, the bastard, no offense intended.

The reassembled wreckage of Yoke Peter – no lower cargo hold!

Like most official inquiries, including Lord Cohen’s report for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (C.A.P. 127, 1955) the RAE inquiry was a farce. The conclusions of almost all official inquiries in Britain are agreed in advance with the Cabinet Office. If a chairperson shows signs of independence, as sometimes happens, he or she is replaced, sometimes even twice. (It’s not unknown for there to be a game of musical chairs at the start of an official inquiry until a suitably tame one is found.)

With every respect Brian Rivas really ought to have spotted this. Having correctly recounted that both Comets Yoke Peter and Yoke Yoke broke up at around 27,000 ft he goes on to describe the propaganda exercise by Hall in which a 1/10th scale Perspex model of a Comet 1 fuselage was detonated with a small explosive charge at an equivalent altitude of 40,000 ft., the Comet’s ceiling. What does that tell us? The cabin pressure in both Yoke Peter and Yoke Yoke at the time hull break-up sequence commenced was only about 5 psi.

As I point out in Spyhunter the RAE report was a phony for five other reasons:


(1)    The number of equivalent hours the Yoke Uncle fuselage spent in the test tank was under-reported – it was nearer 23,500 than the 9,000 figure given to Lord Cohen, who being as bent as a three bob note, no offense intended, timidly accepted the obviously nonsensical 9,000 figure. Yoke Yoke’s airframe only had 2,704 hours on it. Yoke Peter’s wasn’t that much older – they were almost brand new aircraft.


(2)    In order to get it to break Yoke Uncle’s fuselage was subjected to massive overpressures, unwittingly revealed in a documentary which showed the pressure gauge in the bottom left hand corner (very shabby work by someone).


(3)    The wings were constructed out of the same alloys and were subjected, as in most aircraft, to greater cyclical stress. Any weakness in the Comet 1 airframe would have shown up in the wings first, indeed did in the case of Yoke Uncle. BOAC Comets were regularly inspected and no cases of wing cracks were reported, nor was any evidence of wing cracking found in the Yoke Peter wreckage, nor for that matter in any Comet.


(4)    Yoke Uncle fractured at a window – hence the obsession with the supposedly ‘square’ windows – but RAE concluded, albeit incorrectly, that the hull break-up sequence commenced at the ADF ‘window’. This wasn’t a window at all, but an aerial panel on the top of the fuselage. For all the talk about square windows there is not a shred of evidence that a Comet 1 window ever failed in flight, and


(5)    The only piece of ‘wreckage’ showing any sign of metal fatigue at all was that ADF panel, but it was not recovered from the ocean floor by the Royal Navy. After RAE failed to find any evidence of metal fatigue (unsurprisingly, since De Havilland had done their stress calculations correctly) it was miraculously produced like a rabbit out of a hat by the Italian Navy. When I first pointed this out some years ago a veil of secrecy was passed over the part number. (I suspect that’s because it came off a French Comet 1A and the part number is wrong for a Comet 1.)


At least Brian Rivas has the decency to acknowledge that De Havilland were aware of the problem of metal fatigue and designed the Comet fuselage with a safety factor of two and a half. Put another way the Comet 1 fuselage was designed to withstand more than four times the cabin pressure at 27,000 ft. He also accurately recites that the strengthened Comet 4 fuselage test sections were subjected to 120,000 pressurization cycles, equivalent to a whopping 480,000 flying hours, more than any jet airliner has ever accumulated.

Put another way, the Comet 4’s fuselage was massively over-engineered. Many years later, when Dan Air’s Comets were being broken up at Lasham Airfield in Hampshire, they had to bring in special tools to do the job. The immense strength of the Comet 4 airframe was amply demonstrated on August 27th 1959 when Captain Llense of Aerolineas Argentinas decided to try and land his aircraft (LV-AHP) on a mountain, instead of on the runway at Asunciợn-Silvio Pettirossi International Airport. De Havillands, sensibly, recommended to Comet pilots that they land their aircraft on runways, as opposed to mountainsides.

The nearly intact of fuselage of LV-AHP after the impact.

In fairness to poor old Captain Lense, who got clobbered by a tree, the weather was decidedly marginal and there was no ILS. Apart from him only one other person, an elderly lady who decided to have a heart attack (airplane crashes are usually noisy affairs and can be quite upsetting for some passengers) all 50 souls aboard walked off the airplane. Most airports are not built on mountainsides – we’re not talking Air America landing a Pilatus Porter in Laos here. The impact point was nearly six miles from the runway threshold. (I suspect that the unfortunate Captain Llense was attempting to land on Runway 20.)

Put shortly, LV-AHP impacted high terrain at approach speed. Had it been any other type of airliner it would probably have broken up on impact. The airline’s president, Air Commodore Juan Güiraldes, praised the great strength of the Comet, at least he did until he was leant on and told that the plane which crashed was only a moderately strengthened version of a supposedly weak aircraft two examples of which had allegedly fallen out of the sky of their own accord after leaving Rome Airport. (It’s a funny sort of metal fatigue that only ever occurs on British-registered aircraft flying out of only one airport!)

At least Brian Rivas gives some actual data for the skin thickness of the Comets. Reading other books you would think that the skin of the Comet 1 was ridiculously thin. In fact it was only .013” thinner than that of the Boeing 707. Moreover Boeing actually reduced the skin thickness for the domestic model of the 707, the 720, which was not a noticeably weak aircraft.

One method of determining the structural weight of an aircraft is to look at its empty weight. Interestingly the ratio between the empty and maximum take-off weights of the Comet 1 was about the same as that for the Boeing 707-320B.

De Havilland used the latest high-strength alloys, DTD564/L73 and 764C/L90, in the construction of the Comet 1, combined with revolutionary Redux chemical bonding, successfully trialed on the DH Hornet twin-engined fighter in World War II. Chemical bonding gave a much more even distribution of stress than traditional riveting techniques.

A United Caravelle – notice the distinctive nose section.

One topic Rivas and all other writers on the Comet carefully ignore is what modifications, if any, were made by Sud-Aviation to their elegant Caravelle airliner, which used the Comet 1 front fuselage. Given the degree of secrecy surrounding the Caravelle’s skin thickness I entertain a shrewd suspicion that all first-generation Caravelles flew with a standard Comet 1 front fuselage.

Since it was more than strong enough for its intended purpose there was no reason to change. Paris were in on the sabotage of Yoke Peter and Yoke Yoke, having allowed Hertzog and other DVD sabotage experts to study Air France Comet 1s on overnight stays in Beirut in order to determine the best placement for the IEDs. (All the Germans needed after that was a flight with a high proportion of children aboard it, for the shock value – they carefully waited until the end of the school holidays.)

Lord Cohen’s spurious accident report was not the only joke judicial report on the Comet, no offense intended. Charles Haddon-Cave QC, as he then was, (he was made a judge not long after, indeed he was a member of the Court of Appeal which with respect mistakenly denied me permission to appeal my wrongful bomb hoax conviction) knocked out a report which was almost as silly, no offense intended, on the tragic loss of Nimrod MR2 XV230 near Kandahar, Afghanistan, on September 2nd 2006. The Nimrod of course was a military version of the Comet. Haddon-Cave completely missed the fatal flaws in the Cohen Report, which accepted the corrupt RAE report as gospel.

Very frankly, there is longer any excuse for authors of books on the De Havilland Comet to recycle the metal fatigue theory. It has been demolished, utterly. The Royal Navy should be instructed to recover the remains of Yoke Yoke from the floor of the Mediterranean, which would settle the matter beyond all doubt. Until the wreckage is recovered there should be regular satellite surveillance of the area to deter interference with the wreck site.

The death of George Floyd

Notice that I am avoiding the use of the word ‘murder’. I am not convinced that George Floyd was murdered. I suspect that the preliminary findings of the Medical Examiner were nearer to the truth than the final finding, by which time the issue had become hopelessly politicised.

You may hear more talk of ‘excited delirium’, a state which can be induced by narcotics use. First responders are trained to put people in a state of excited delirium onto the ground and to prevent them from flailing their arms and legs around by restraining them. The toxicology report is now in and Floyd had consumed non-lethal quantities of fentanyl and crystal meth before his death. These drugs can however induce a state of excited delirium, which in turn often leads to death.

There are troubling aspects to the case, in particular the application of pressure to the back and neck and the apparent lack of response by the officers to the detainee’s lack of breathing. I can quite see a wrongful death suit against the police department succeeding, indeed I don’t imagine that it would be defended, but a murder conviction, even murder three, may be problematic.

The prosecution’s big problems in my view will be causation, the presence of dangerous drugs in Floyd’s system and the training given to police officers on excited delirium. The left of course haven’t ceased ranting since the video came out but Derek Chauvin is entitled to due process. Let’s see what the jury decides.

Because Floyd was African-American and Chauvin white the radical left have assumed that race was a motive. I’m not so sure that the officers actually killed Floyd, because I’m not convinced that asphyxiation was the cause of death, and I’m even less sure that if they did kill him that death was intended. It turns out that Chauvin and Floyd both worked together as bouncers at the same Minneapolis night-club. It’s fairly clear that they knew each other and equally clear that we don’t yet have the full story.

I respectfully congratulate President Trump on his leadership in this crisis. It’s difficult to see how even a wrongful police killing in Minneapolis justifies liberating a wide-screen TV from a store in Santa Monica. Peaceful demonstrations are fine but many of the demos have not been peaceful. I respectfully associate myself with everything that has been said on the subject by General Barr.

The witch-hunt against Dominic Cummings

We have witch-hunts in England too! Indeed I’ve been the victim of one myself, as all y’all may know. The one against Dominic Cummings, architect of the great 2016 Leave victory, has been a doozy. The Remainer media have been gunning for him.

Ignoring his explanation that the media had breached his right to privacy by publishing photos of his house in north London, following which he had received death threats, the media have unanimously decided that Dominic breached the lock-down rules. Like cases should be treated alike, of course, but there have been no other reported cases of a family relocating to a place of safety after receiving death threats.

The side-trip to Barnard Castle is a bit more difficult to defend but was scarcely a hanging offense. The same cannot be said for the attempt to murder the Prime Minister and Dominic himself. That’s right – I used the ‘m’ word.

At no stage has anyone come forward with an innocent explanation of how it is that the First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the wife of his chief adviser managed to come down with Covid-19. As presently advised it looks as though GO2, which has access to Downing St via assets in the Cabinet Office, planned a double hit with a view to a Starmer-led coalition government coming in which would apply to Brussels for a two year extension to the EU transitional period.

It is known that rebel Remainers on the Tory back-benches have been in discussions with Sir Keir ‘von’ Starmer, the fanatically pro-EU Labour leader, who is on record as favoring an extension request, which would probably cost UK plc in the region of $500 billion. In theory there are enough Remainers left on the Tory benches to undermine the government’s majority. The SNP and the LibDems both want to see the UK crushed under the European jackboot (putting the matter as neutrally as I can) for a further two years. (It is not known how many Tory Remainers were in on the plan to assassinate Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.)

Der Kabinettratsführer, Ritter Mark ‘von’ Sedwill, is also known to favor an extension. To what extent he was in on the plot to assassinate Johnson and Cummings (who at one point fled Downing St), is unclear. I am not of course accusing him of anything and am content to leave the matter to the proper authorities.

It’s worth noting that the battle over British membership has been a bloody business and that no fewer than two leaders of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell and John Smith, have been assassinated over the EU – Hugh, a friend of a friend, over EEC membership and John, whom I met, over his opposition to joining the euro. The 2016 campaign saw GO2 assassinate a nice Remain MP, Jo Cox, in the hope that Leave would be blamed. At least three other political assassinations, each laundered through German-sponsored Irish terrorist organisations, have been linked to the EU: Ross McWhirter, Airey Neave DSO MC MP and Ian Gow MP.

The Patton Assassination

I have no wish cause my VT colleague Ian Greenhalgh undue alarm but I entirely agree with his post last week (May 23rd) on the Patton Assassination. As I state in Spyhunter General George S. Patton Jnr was assassinated in December 1945 by OSS operative Daniel Bazata. Patton was the finest general of World War II and arguably the finest since Julius Caesar. Indeed in a battle between armies led by General Patton and Julius Caesar I wouldn’t put my money on Big Julie. Italian generals have never been very successful, except in Gaul.

That’s for next week however, riots, assassinations and Chinese bio-weapons permitting. I shall also be making a comparison with the 1942 assassination of the brilliant British commander Lieutenant-General William ‘Strafer’ Gott, Winston Churchill’s choice, ahead of General Montgomery, to lead the 8th Army, about which there have been revelations in this month’s Flypast magazine from Hugh James DFM, the pilot of Gott’s aircraft. Watch this space!


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  1. The Beginning, The Middle, and DVD Now
    The fact is that Canaris considered a turnaround through new weapons possible and hoped that he would do everything for it. If he was increasingly critical of the Nazi leadership since about 1937/38, it did not mean to commit treason against the people and the fatherland. Perhaps he would have acted differently if the Allies had not acted so criminally, but if the overthrow of the regime had made an honorable peace possible. But that was not the case. This is unfortunately the truth. The enemy thought like Napoleon, who once said that he loves betrayal, but hates the traitor. Those who resisted the misery of their own nation only received contempt from the Allies. Canaris was not one of them, which is why people either don’t talk about it or talk about it wrongly.

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