As I said... I went back for more Shute!

Neville Shute. No Highway. London: Vintage Books, 2009 [1948]. Not about the Comet and its metal-fatigue induced accidents, because it was written before the prototype even flew.

Neville Shute. Pastoral. London: Vintage Books, 2009 [1944]. A Bomber Command romance.

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6 thoughts on “Acquisitions

  1. J Campbell

    Question whether No Highway was not about the Comet? Shute (who knew all the players) wrote it just after inadequate thrust forced a lightening. thinner sections all round.

    The fake investigation concentrated on a new magic idea of metal fatigue (known for nearly 100 years) ignoring:

    de Havilland's appalling structural record, basically all DH planes had in flight structural failures requiring fixes (the Mosquito started when the prototype was taxiing and the fuselage failed)

    Glue (Redox?) didn't work as advertised especially with temperature cycling hence more stress on the rivets in the window frame reinforcements which were only to hold it while the glue set.

    Note the fake investigation did not attempt to get any testimony from N.S. Norway..

  2. Post author

    It seems unlikely to me, unless there's some direct evidence of a connection. He'd been out of the aircraft manufacturing game since before the war. I would have thought the R101 disaster a more likely template (as he helped design and flew on the rival R100). And I don't see why the inquiry would have called upon Shute; he had nothing to do with the Comet and by that time he was living in Australia.

  3. The data on the Comet airliner is out there in the public domain in multiple accurate accounts (the actual failed structure was of fibreglass ADF aerial apertures, commonly called 'windows' - of G-ALYP and are in the London Science Museum's collection, on show a couple of years ago).

    Likewise the background to Shute's 'No Highway' and its coincidental overlap with the later real accidents is easily explored. A read of the book shows clearly that it is an interesting coincidence, but no prediction, and the character of the engineer is both over-precise in the predicted failure and shows he is rather flaky in other parts of his life. It's a novel, not 'faction'.

    DH are often over-rated in adulation, but their success can be perfectly well measured in LSd and production numbers, as well as thousands of aircraft which did not have in flight structural failures. The costs of the Comet accident, and their other failures are hardly mitigated or obscured to a moderately careful researcher, and are, I'd suggest, commiserate with their maintaining a role near the leading edge of aviation development.

  4. That particular bit of Comet structure came to the Science Museum along with the RAE's in-house collection post-privatisation. It used to be in the museum's Blythe House stores, but for the past year or two it's been on (semi-temporary) display in the Dan Dare and the Birth of High Tech Britain exhibition. A quick poke around on the Museum's (rather good) object wiki brings up this page with some more detail and a nice picture or two.

  5. Thanks Jakob. I saw it in the DD&tboHTB exhibition in mid-2008, the last time I was in the UK. I'm surprised the exhibition is still on, I'd assume it was extended 'by popular demand'.

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