de Havilland DH.88 Comet

The de Havilland DH.88 Comet was an aircraft designed for one very specific purpose – to win the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race for Britain. It set many aviation records during the race and afterwards as a pioneer mail-plane.

Developing nation: Britain.
de Havilland.
Number built: 5.
Type aircraft: Racing Aircraft.
First flight: 8 September 1934.

The D.H. 88 project was inspired by a gold cup and a £10,000 prize put up in March 1933 by Sir MacPherson Robertson, a Melbourne industrialist, for the winner of an 11,000 mile air race between England and Australia.

A total of five Comets were built of which three were ordered for the England-Australia race: one to be flown by Tom Campbell Black and Charles Scott (red G-ACSS, named Grosvenor House); another by the Mollisons (black G-ACSP, named Black Magic); and a third by Cathcart Jones and Ken Waller (green G-ACSR, unnamed). Other entries included a Boeing 247D and a KLM DC-2.

Tom Campbell Black and Charles Scott won the Melbourne race in 71 hours 18 seconds.

Last resting places

Grosvenor House has been restored to flying condition as it was in the MacRobertson race, and is housed at the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden in England.

Black Magic was found in a ruinous condition in Portugal in 1979. It is currently undergoing restoration in Derby, England.
G-ADEF crashed in Sudan September 22, 1935. The crew escaped by parachute.

G-ACSR and F-ANPZ were destroyed in a hangar fire at Istres in France in June, 1940.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 8.8 m (29 ft)
  • Wingspan: 13.4 m (44 ft)
  • Height: 2.7 m (9 ft)
  • Wing area: 19.7 sq m (213 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 1,400 kg (3,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,520 kg (5,550 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2x de Havilland Gipsy Six R, 285 hp (190 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 415 km/h (255 mph, 224 kn)
  • Range: 4,710 km (2,925 mi, 2,541 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 5,800 m (19,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 6.2 m/s (1,200 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 127 kg/sq m (26.1 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 133 W/kg (0.0811 hp/lb)

All pictures courtesy of Zijde Aviation Photo and Publishing, Rob Vogelaar / Marcel van Leeuwen