1952: The Launch of the World’s First Regular Jetliner Service

May 2, 1952

The world’s first regular jetliner service made officially made its debut when a De Havilland DH 106 Comet operated by British Overseas Airways Corporation departed London, England, for Johannesburg, South Africa. “This trip officially established a radically new mode of travel that in this decade will become commonplace,” predicted Aubrey O. Cookman, Jr., the only American aboard that flight, in an article that appeared later that year in Popular Mechanics magazine. 

Thousands were on hand to cheer as the four-engine, dolphin-bodied, blue-and-white jetliner began its flight from London Airport that Friday afternoon. The jetliner completed its 6,724-mile (10,821.2-kilometer) trek above three continents altogether and arrived in Johannesburg 23 hours and 37 minutes after the takeoff from London — a few minutes ahead of schedule and about two-thirds of the normal flight time for a conventional airplane of that era. 

The total amount of time that the jetliner was actually airborne was 17 hours and 16 minutes — not including intermediate stops along the way in Rome, Italy; Beirut, Lebanon; Khartoum, Sudan; Entebbe, Uganda; and Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). There were 36 passengers, six crew members, and 30 bags of mail aboard that history-making flight. In addition to Cookman, other passengers included several businessmen, a dentist, and a chemist. Another passenger was a composer named Avril Coleridge-Taylor, who spent the flight working on a jet-age melody about that journey.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the introduction of the world’s first jetliner service, please check out https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/comets-tale-63573615/

One thought on “1952: The Launch of the World’s First Regular Jetliner Service

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  1. Great pity that due to a design fault three of these pioneering jets crashed within a year of entering service.

    Thanks for bringing that sad but important information to my attention. The additional context for those jets is very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

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