On 4 October 1958, the very first transatlantic jet services took flight. British airline BOAC flew two de Havilland Comet 4 aircraft – one from New York to London and one from London to New York – on this day.
Jet aircraft substantially reduced travel times. Flights on the Boeing Stratocruiser could take up to 20 hours to cross the Atlantic, so it really was the dawn of a new era.
First Transatlantic Jet Flight
At the time, there was intense competition between airlines to see who would be first to cross the Atlantic with jets. Pan American was the main contender and they flew the route just three weeks after BOAC.
Below is a short video about the delivery of the Comet 4 to BOAC. This British built aircraft operated the first transatlantic jet flight, though it did not operate there for a long time due to its limited range.
Peggy Thorne was a stewardess on the inaugural flight. She says, “It was so exciting to be the first – it was wonderful. There were all sorts of dignitaries on board, press and the chairman of BOAC. It was a thrilling experience. We served customers Madeira biscuits and coffee when they came on board, followed by cocktails and canapes, and then a five-course lunch with wines. Petit Fours followed and then there was Afternoon Tea! Our customers loved it – they ate and drank from when they got on board until the time they got off.”
The Comet seated 48 passengers in two cabins, Deluxe and First Class. Things have certainly changed, though it is still possible to eat and drink for the entire flight between New York and London. I did just that on the British Airways Club World London City service!
With BOAC having the first translatlantic jet flight and Pan Am the second, who was third? You can find out here, and it’s not a European or an American airline, contrary to what you may expect.
The power and efficiency of the jet turbine made a substantial difference in travel times. Frank Whittle’s invention has really reshaped the globe and is one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century.
Did you ever fly on the Comet or transatlantic back at the dawn of the jet age? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Mel Lawrence via Airliners.net
Peggy Thorne image via British Airways.