MIAMI – Today in Aviation, Dan-Air (DA) operated the last commercial flight of a de Havilland Comet aircraft in 1980, G-BDIW.

The type, which had been delivered from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in august 1975, operated a special enthusiasts charter flight from London Gatwick (LGW).

The Comet had joined DA’s fleet in 1966. Its introduction made the carrier the UK’s second independent airline (after British United) to put a pure-jet airliner into service.

Two Comet 4s (G-APDK and G-APDO) were initially acquired from BOAC. All of DA’s Comets would be heavily modified to work on the airline’s growing IT charter market. Four abreast seating was changed to five abreast to carry more passengers. Additionally, floors were strengthened to cope with the additional weight, and galleys were redesigned. 

G-APMD was sourced from British European Airways and joined the airlines in September 1972. (Photo: Steve Fitzgerald (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

World’s Largest Comet Operator


With cheap examples readily available on the second-hand market, the Comet was the perfect aircraft to operate DA’s IT flights. In total, the carrier would own 49 of the type, making it the largest operator of the Comet in the world.

While the Comet fleet was the backbone of DA’s fleet, not all of the airframes owned were flown, however, with many acquired for spares use.

The Comet allowed the airline to commence its first transatlantic charters to Trinidad as well as open its first foreign base in Berlin (TXL).

The early 1970s saw the acquisition of a pair of Boeing 707 long-haul jets for use on affinity group and Advance Booking Charter flights to Canada and the United States. In 1973, Dan-Air became the first British airline to operate the Boeing 727 trijet, which would mark the end of service of the Comet at DA.

By the late 1970s, the cost of running these fuel-thirsty jets had skyrocketed. The Comet was subsequently replaced by the Boeing 727 and 737.


featured image: The Comet proved to be the backbone of Dan-Air’s fleet for many years and was the perfect fit for the airline’s IT Charter work. Photo: Piergiuliano Chesi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons