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 All Comet jet airliner services of the British Overseas Airways Corporation have been temporarily suspended.  Announcing this decision, which was taken voluntarily, the corporation said last night that their action had been taken to enable a thorough technical examination of  every airliner in their Comet fleet to be carried out.
 The two French companies owning Comets have also decided not to fly them “for a few days,”  but the Royal Canadian Air Force has decided not to ground its two Comets.
 No more bodies of victims of the Comet airline crash near Elba on Sunday had been recovered last night.




By Our Aeronautical Correspondent
 British Overseas Airways Corporation announced last night their intention to suspend temporarily their Comet jet airliner services from midnight onwards, “to enable a minute and unhurried technical examination” of every aircraft in their Comet fleet to be carried out.
 A statement from the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said that the Minister had informed the Canadian and French Governments of this decision, “so that such an action may be taken as is considered necessary in relation to the Comets operating in Canada and France.”
The B.O.A.C.  statement was as follows:-
 British Overseas Airways Corporation announce that as a measure of prudence their normal Comet passenger services are being temporarily suspended, to enable a minute and unhurried technical examination of every aircraft in their Comet fleet to be carried out at their maintenance headquarters at London Airport.
 This examination will be conducted in closest collaboration with the de Havilland aircraft and engine companies (makers of the Comet aircraft and the Ghost engine) and with the Air Registration Board. The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has been consulted and concurs with this decision of the corporation. No Comet passenger service will operate after midnight, G.M.T., tonight. Notification of the resumption of services will be published by the corporation.


A B.O.A.C. spokesman emphasised that the decision to withdraw the Comets from service temporarily had been taken voluntarily by the corporation.  The airliners  had not been “grounded,” which  would imply  an order  to withdraw them. The B.O.A.C. decision was taken after a day of conferences at London Airport and in London. After  speaking on the telephone to corporation representatives in Rome Sir Miles Thomas, the chairman, presided over discussion at London Airport  attended by Sir Victor Tait, B.O.A.C.  Operations Director;  Mr R E Bishop, chief designer and a director of de Havilland Aircraft Company, who headed the design team responsible for the Comet; Mr R E Hardingham, chief executive of the Air Registration Board, the body responsible for the airworthiness requirements for British civil aircraft; Captain M J R Alderson, manager of the B.O.A.C. Comet  fleet; Captain G S Brown, head of the corporation’s accidents investigation department; and Captain J Johnson, who was in command of B.O.A.C. Argonaut airliner which was in radio communication with the Comet G-ALYP over Elba  while both were flying from  Rome to London on Sunday morning.


Later in the day, Sir Miles Thomas was in conference with Mr Lennox-Boyd, the Minister of Transport and Civil  Aviation, who was accompanied by Sir Frederick Handley Page, a council member and one of the vice-chairman of the Air Registration Board,  Sir Gilmour Jenkins, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, and Sir George Cribbett, Deputy Secretary.  After this meeting , Sir Miles Thomas had a talk with Professor A A Hall, director of the Royal  Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, Hampshire, where a detailed technical examination is being made of the wreckage of the B.O.A.C.  Comet which during crashed during an unusually severe storm on May 2, 1953, a few minutes after taking off from Dum Dum airfield, Calcutta, on a flight from Singapore to London.  All 43 occupants of the airliner were killed.
 In accordance with normal procedure, the  inquiry into the accident to the Comet G-ALYP, which was lost with 29 passengers and a crew of six on board, will be conducted by the Italian Government, from whose territory the aircraft had last taken off. Several British officials,  who had flown out  to Rome on Sunday night were assisting in the preliminary inquiries yesterday. They are Mr T R Nelson, a Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation senior inspector;  Mr B Morris, a senior investigating officer of the Ministry’s accidents investigation branch; Mr B J Folliard, of B.O.A.C.’s accident investigation  branch; Dr A S R  Peffers, deputy director  of the corporation’s medical service;  Mr H A Hornblow, B.O.A.C. traffic inspector, and Mr P J Detmold, one of de Havilland Aircraft Company’s field service engineers.
 It is understood that Sir Miles Thomas and Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, head of the aircraft and engine companies bearing his name, will both take an active part in the technical examination of the Comets. The manufacturers began to work out an examination schedule with B.O.A.C. yesterday.
 All the B.O.A.C. Comets in active service were due to reach their destinations before midnight, the last one being due at Singapore  at 11 p.m. G.M.T.  Another landed at Tokyo at 5.25 a.m. yesterday, and the third at Johannesburg at 1.47 p.m.  Carrying no loads, except  perhaps small amounts of mail, these aircraft will be flown back to London Airport for their technical examinations.
 A number of other airliners have been withdrawn from service temporarily or grounded  at various times by the British  airline corporations.  B.O.A.C. aircraft involved were: Solent flying-boats, withdrawn June, 1948, reintroduced October, 1948 (modifications to wingtip floats): Argonauts, grounded September, 1949, reintroduced October, 1949, (minor motor modification): Constellations grounded July, 1946, reintroduced September, 1946,  (modifications to electrical wiring): Stratocruisers, withdrawn  January, 1953, reintroduced some days late  (engines seizing up owing to oiling troubles).


In May, 1953, British European Airways temporarily withdrew their Viking airliners, which had exceeded 9,000 hours’ flying, for inspection because of modifications required for these  aircraft flying under tropical conditions. In the following month B.E.A.  announced that 17  out of the fleet of 41 Vikings had been withdrawn from service temporarily for replacement  of wing spar fittings as a precautionary measure.  In 1949, after two Tudor IV airliners had disappeared in mysterious circumstances during flights over the Atlantic. British South  American Airways  (now amalgamated with B.O.A.C.) suspended this aircraft from service  pending an investigation of each individual  aircraft, and the Minister of Civil Aviation ordered their grounding “as a measure of prudence.”
 Apart  from B.O.A.C. operators of Comets I and IA are Air France, the French U.A.T. company, and the Royal Canadian Air Force.  B.O.A.C. have been using them on services between the United Kingdom and Johannesburg, Tokyo, Singapore and Colombo.  To date these airliners have accumulated over 30,000 hours flying.




From Our Own Correspondent       Rome, Jan.11

 The official investigation, conducted by General Coppi, into yesterday’s Comet airliner disaster near Elba, opened to-day with a preliminary discussions in Rome between Italian officials and the British experts from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the B.O.A.C. and de Havillands, who arrived here by air early to-day.
 The Italian and British investigators subsequently left for Porto Ferraio, the chief town of Elba, to continue inquiries near the scene of the disaster, which occurred about 10 miles south of the island.  The 15 bodies which have been recovered are in the chapel of the cemetery of the village of Porto Azzurro, the fishing village nearest to the scene of the accident, where they were landed last night.  The villagers are reported to have piled flowers around the bodies.
 In addition to the many aviation officials, both Italian and British , to reach the Island to-day. Mr Murphy, the British vice-consul in Florence, is in Elba to review any consular questions that may arise.  Identification of the bodies is not likely to prove difficult when contact has been made with the relatives. Italian sources report that the bodies are of seven men, five women, and three children. They include two children about nine or ten years old; two girls of about 17, apparently sisters; an oriental woman of about 25; a girl about 20; a child of eight; a man aged 35 to 40: and probably the airliner’s stewardess.


In spite of further search to-day by mine-sweepers and other vessels, in a fairly rough sea, no further bodies are yet reported to have been found, though such items as over-night travelling bags and small pieces of wreckage  were still being recovered from the sea. The local doctor at Porto Ferraio has given his opinion that all those whose bodies have been found must have been dead before the aircraft crashed.
 There seems  general agreement among witnesses that the aircraft broke up in the air before crashing into the sea.  The British Ambassador in Rome, Sir Ashley Clarke, has sent a message to the Italian  Ministry of civilian officials for their “magnificent services” after the crash.




A list of 29 passengers on board the Comet airliner which crashed into the sea south of Elba on Sunday was issued by B.O.A.C. in London yesterday. It includes the names of six children. The aircraft carried a crew of six.  Two of the passengers were Americans,  three inhabitants of Bahrain, and one of a Syrian from Damascus. Three of the passengers were B.O.A.C. staff, six were relatives of B.O.A.C. staff and one was a B.E.A. captain. The list is:-
JOINED AT SINGAPORE - Mr J P Hill (B.O.A.C. staff), of Singapore; Mr J Steel, of George Wimpey and Co., of London.
JOINED AT BANGKOK - Mr F J Greenhouse, of Horley, Surrey; Master R Sawyer-Snelling (14), son of B.O.A.C. staff , of Bangkok; Captain R V Wolfson (B.O.A.C. staff) of Bishop’s  Stortford, Herts.
JOINED AT RANGOON - Mr Chester Wilmot, of Aylesbury.
JOINED AT KARACHI - Mrs Dorothy Baker. of Wilmette, Illinios, United States; Mr H E Schuchmann (American), of the Macmillan Company of New York.
JOINED AT BAHRAIN - Mr Bernard Butler, of Blidworth Notts:  Miss N Khedouri (15) and Miss R Khedouri (13) of Bahrain: Mr J  Bunyan, Mrs A Bunyan, and child, of Stirling; Mr J B Crilly (B.O.A.C. staff) and Brenda Crilly, child, of Bahrain; Miss L Yateen (17), of Bahrain;
JOINED AT BEIRUT - Mrs K E Geldard, wife of B.O.A.C. staff, Miss G Geldard, and Master Geldard, of Beirut; Mr S Naamin, of Damascus; Mrs E S MacLachlan, wife of B.O.A.C. staff, of Cairo; Mr J Y Ramsden, of Shell Petroleum Company, Beirut.
JOINED AT ROME - Captain C A Livingstone (B.E.A. captain), of Stirling.
B.O.A.C. state that the home addresses of five other passengers are not known, and it has not yet been possible to contact the next-of-kin. These were: A Crisp, Miss E Fairbrother, a passenger named Israel, Mr D Leaver, and Mr T S H Moore.


OTTAWA. Jan. 11 - A spokesman of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which has two Comets in Canada, said today that the B.O.A.C. notification of the temporary suspension of Comet services did not indicate that continued operation of the Comets was unsafe, and pending the receipt of information on the cause of the crash there was no reason to ground the Comets, here.
 The R.C.A.F. Comets are used chiefly to exercise Canada’s air defence  system. They fly deep into the Artic or out over the Atlantic, returning at unannounced times and places to give practice to radar crews. - Reuter


PARIS, Jan, 11 - The two French air companies owning Comets to-night decided to suspend their Comet services “for a few days.”  - Reuter



HULL VALUED AT £500,000  

The Comet was  almost entirely insured in the London market, the British Insurance Association states. The hull insurance alone totals £500,000 - which figure, according to City reports, is well spread among the companies and Lloyd’s.
 There will be additional claims under insurance on the cargo and under accident and life insurance policies on passengers and crew.  The amount of cargo insurance involved is expected to be made known in London soon.



The Postmaster-General has been advised that letters, postcards, printed papers, and air parcels, including forces mail, from Malaya, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak, posted on January 7 and 8, were carried in the Comet. Mails loaded at Bangkok, Rangoon, Karachi, Bahrain, and Beirut may also be involved.

From THE  TIMES    (London)    12th January  1954

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