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Comet Racer returns to Hatfield for de Havilland anniversary


DH88 Grosvenor House Comet RacerImage copyright
Darren Harbar Photography

Image caption

Three de Havilland DH88s were produced for private owners for a 1934 England-Australia race at a subsidised price of £5,000 each.

A classic 1930s plane is due to fly in a display over the town where it was built for what is thought to be the first time since the early 1990s.

The de Havilland DH88 Comet Racer is known for winning the 1934 England-Australia MacRobertson Air Race.

It will fly over the original de Havilland airstrip in Hertfordshire to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the DH 106 Comet – the world’s first commercial jet airliner.

No airworthy DH 106s remain.

This Comet Racer – the G-ACSS Grosvenor House – will take its place instead and fly on 27 July over Ellenbrook fields – the site of the old de Havilland airport.

Image copyright
Geograph / Nigel Cox

Image caption

A model of a Comet Racer has recently been returned to The Comet hotel, which used to be a landmark on the A1 until that section of the dual carriageway was moved

The de Havilland Aircraft Company Ltd opened an aerodrome in Hatfield in 1930 and the Comet Racer was developed by Sir Geoffrey de Havilland for the MacRobertson Air Race, from Mildenhall in Suffolk to Melbourne, Australia.

The G-ACSS Grosvenor House won it with a time of 70 hours and 54 minutes.

Image copyright
Geograph / Malcolm Campbell

Image caption

A replica of the de Havilland DH 88 Comet registration G-ACSS used to hang from the ceiling of the Galleria Shopping Centre in Comet Way, Hatfield

It flew in displays at Hatfield in the 1980s and early 1990s, but there is no record of it displaying there since.

This display organised by Hatfield Town Council is part of a week of events celebrating the first flight of the DH 106 Comet in 1949.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The DH 106 Comet was the first commercial jet airliner

Council leader Lenny Brandon said: “The 27 July is the 70th anniversary of the first flight of any jet liner anywhere in the world, which happened at Hatfield and that needs shouting from the rooftops because the jet airliner opened up the world.”

Image copyright
Darren Harbar Photography

The DH88 Comet Racer – G-ACSS

  • Built for the 1934 race, G-ACSS was evaluated by the RAF and appeared in the 1936 Hendon Pageant
  • After several accidents in the RAF it was sold to a private owner, renamed The Orphan it came fourth in the England-Damascus Air Race, 1937
  • Having been renamed The Burberry, it spent World War Two stored at Gravesend, Kent
  • It was given to the Shuttleworth Collection, Bedfordshire in 1965
  • After modifications and successful test flights in 2014, it is a regular performer at Shuttleworth air displays

Source: The Shuttleworth Collection

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