Aviation Memorabilia Newsletter Since 1995

Aviation Memorabilia Newsletter

Since 1995

Subscriber Johanna Scher sent in the following:

The article 'The Whispering Giants', in NetLetter  #1491, brought back many memories.

In 1959 my husband Eric Scher was an agent 'grade 1' in Vancouver when the CP Air trans Canada route opened. He applied for and got the position of agent grade 2 in Montreal.

Getting to YUL was not that easy, as airline personnel were not allowed to travel across Canada directly, but we had to go to Mexico, stay there overnight and then take the flight to Montreal.

Our daughter was 1 year old at the time and a handful, but we had a wonderful time as the CP crew had an overnight stay in Mexico as well and included us in their activities.

It was wonderful to have so many friends take care of our daughter. Once in Montreal we stayed there until 1974 when we were transferred to Lima, Peru.

Subscriber Erik Zuyderduyn sent in this comment to Ken Pickford's attention: 

Hi Ken,

Regarding the article on the RCAF Comet in NetLetter #1491, could you also add a piece on the Canadian Pacific Air Lines purchase of the Comets, which never saw service.

The first one met its demise in Karachi. I have the full story somewhere, but can't find it. I'm sure that you do. Stay well and keep up the good work.


Ken's response:

Canadian Pacific Air Lines ordered two De Havilland Comet 1 aircraft in 1949 for intended use on the Honolulu-Nadi (Fiji)-Sydney portion of the Vancouver-Sydney route, some flights with a stop at Auckland. All flights would also include a fuel stop at Canton Island, a remote atoll between Honolulu and Nadi. Due to the Comet's insufficient range, the Vancouver-Honolulu sector would be operated by Douglas DC-6B propeller aircraft.

The first CPA Comet (actually the second built), named Empress of Hawaii and registered CF-CUN, was lost March 3, 1953 in a takeoff accident at Karachi, Pakistan, a fuel stop on its delivery flight from London Heathrow to Sydney. All 5 CPA crew and 6 passengers were killed. The passengers were De Havilland employees. That was the first fatal accident involving a commercial jet. The circumstances were very similar to a BOAC Comet lost on takeoff from Rome about 5 months earlier, fortunately with no fatalities.

The cause of both accidents, where the aircraft failed to become airborne, was determined to be a problem with the design of the wing which lost lift if the aircraft was rotated beyond a certain angle on takeoff. The wing was subsequently modified to correct that problem which was unrelated to the subsequent catastrophic Comet crashes due to structural failure that resulted in the grounding of the early Comets in April 1954.

After the Karachi accident, CPA cancelled the Comet order and the other CPA Comet, CF-CUM, named Empress of Vancouver, not yet delivered, was sold to BOAC. That aircraft had been displayed in CPA livery at the Farnborough Airshow in 1952. After the Comet grounding, it was used by the British government for structural testing. The nose section survives at the De Havilland Aircraft Museum in Hertfordshire about 30 km north of London, not far from the site of the former De Havilland factory at Hatfield where all Comets were built.

Editors' Note: Due to copyright we cannot show thumbnails of the following images, however, we can provide links to the original websites.

Additional photos links:

CF-CUM at Farnborough, September 1952


CF-CUN at Hatfield factory 1952


Two photos of same aircraft in BOAC livery, registered G-ANAV, while chartered to South African Airways for several months prior to the April 1954 grounding. Note dual BOAC/SAA markings.