Pioneering through disaster . . .

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 seems well on the way to joining Amelia Earhart's ill-fated trip as one of the world's enduring aeronautic mysteries. But air travel remains one of the safest ways to travel - it's safer to get on a plane than into a bathtub.

My bathtub, at least. And certainly any tub ever contemplated by Alfred Hitchcock.

It got that way because of outstanding engineering - and, unfortunately, a great deal of trial and error, as this BBC feature reminds us:

The development of fast jet flight led to the death of legions of test pilots, notoriously during the 1950s. But these accidents led to technical improvements and changes in operations and legislation that were to make civil aviation increasingly safe.
Among the most shocking were the three occasions, within a year, when brand new de Havilland Comet airliners broke up in flight. Launched into service with BOAC in 1952, the Comet was the world’s first jet airliner. It was a beauty. It could cross the Atlantic in style and, for a moment, it looked as Britain might truly lead the Jet Age. And, yet, because the nature of metal fatigue, new construction techniques and repeated re-pressurisation of airliner cabins was little understood, early Comets were to fail in spectacularly fatal fashion.
In 1953 and 1954, three Comets broke up soon after taking off killing all on board, two over the Mediterranean as they climbed in January and April that year from Rome’s Ciampino airport, and a third caught in a thunder squall on the Calcutta to Delhi leg of a BOAC flight from Singapore to London. Comet flights were suspended, and production of the British jet was halted.

The full story, definitely worth reading, is here.

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