Christmas Mail Experimental Flight
From Broken Hill to Cape Town
1952 – First Flight
On 2nd May, 1952 the first regular jet flight, with a de Havilland Comet, left London with 36 passengers on board.
Flying 450-500 m.p.h. at 35 – 40,000 feet, these first pure jet airliners in the world completed the 6,700-mile flight in 23 hours, 20 minutes, including stops at Rome, Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe and Livingstone. Actual flying time was only 18 hours, 40 minutes. An alternate routing via Cairo instead of Beirut reduced the total distance by 450 miles and the journey by an hour.
The Comet, built by de Havilland, a British firm, was the backbone of the British commercial fleet. The early Comet was a four-engine aircraft, roughly the size of a small Boeing 737. It carried between 36 and 44 passengers, depending on its cabin configuration.
Despite the line’s overall success and longevity, the first Comets suffered from structural problems and the plane was involved in a number of accidents during the early and mid-’50s. The plane that made that first London-Johannesburg flight, designated G-ALYP by BOAC (a forerunner of British Airways), was also among the first passenger jets to be lost.
In 1924, four fledgling airlines, including Daimler Airways (a successor to AT&T) merge to form Imperial Airways Limited, operating from the new London airport at Croydon to all corners of the British Empire and the Continent. Imperial Airways had an office in Bulawayo.