Gordon Vogtherr’s interesting letter (Motor Sport, August) about the D.H.88 Comets of 1934 well recalls a great era in pioneer long-distance flying and what was, without doubt, one of the finest of all those flights – from Gravesend to Blenheim, New Zealand and back to Croydon; 26,500 miles in 261 hours 22 minutes flown by A. E. Clouston and Victor Ricketts in the third prototype Comet G-ACSS; a magnificent feat of airmanship, navigation and endurance.
That historic D.H.88 (Construction Number 1996) was the winner of tho MacRobertson Air Race from Mildenhall to Melbourne in October 1934, flown by Charles Scott and Tom Campbell Black. I well remember, as a Cambridge undergraduate, watching its dawn take off along with the other race competitors. Nineteen years later I was privileged to be crew member of the BEA Vickers Viscount V.700 prototype which exactly halved the Comet’s time of 70 hours 54 minutes to Melbourne in the course of the Heathrow-Christchurch Air Race of 1953.
Fortunately the D.H.88 G-ACSS – originally “Grosvenor House” – still survives after having been restored after the War by the de Havilland Technical School for display at the Festival of Britain Exhibition on the South Bank in 1952. It then went to D.H. at Leavesden and is now being rebuilt to original mint-condition by the Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden.
As Mr. Vogtherr records, five D.H.88 Comets were built; the first flown for the first time on 8th September, 1934.
1. G-AESP: “Black Magic”, for the Mollisons and sold to the Portuguese Government in 1935 as CS-AAJ.
2. G-ACSR: Un-named, for Bernard Rubin flown by Owen Cathcart-Jones and Ken Waller in the MacRobertson Race into fourth place and back to Lympne in 13 1/2 days. Sold to France in 1935 as F-ANPY.
3. G-ALSS: “Grosvenor House”, for A. O. Edwards flown by Scott and Campbell Black to win the MacRobcrtson Race followed by a distinguished career.
4. F-ANPZ: Built for France as a longdistance mail plane.
5. G-ADEF: “Boomerang”, for C. A. Nicholson for record attempt and crashed in the Sudan with propeller difficulties in 1935 after Campbell Black and J. C. MacArthur parachuted to safety.
Mr. Vogtherr’s reference ro the world’s last airworthy General Aircraft ST-25 Monospar “Universal” ZE-AFF (formerly G-AEJW; C.N.84) first flown in July, 1936, is encouraging news of another historic but almot forgotten aeroplane. Having worked at General Aircraft’s Croydon fsctory on Monospar ST-6 production in 1933 it is good to hear of one of the line still a Certificate or Airwothiness
Reigate, Surrey – Sir Peter Masefield