Kenya - The Frustrations of the Comet 4, by Don Ford (circa 1962)

Image: comet 4

The Comet may have been a superb flying machine but for the poor duty officer trying to cram passengers, baggage, mail and freight into its tiny interior, it could be highly frustrating.

Extreme measures were often required. On one occasion in Nairobi in the early sixties, I was faced with an overbooking of eleven passengers and no seats to Johannesburg available for a fortnight.

However, there was a glimmer of light when the aircraft arrived as it had hold 5 (I think) in the centre of the cabin, where three rows of seats had been taken out to accommodate mail. There was very little mail there, and East African Airways also operated Comets.

So, with the help of EAA engineers, we borrowed nine seats, and fitted them into the BOAC aircraft, with a request to Johannesburg to send them back soonest. With the use of two jump seats we cleared the overbooking and sent a telex to London telling them what had happened.

We had no instant communications in those days, but I did hear later of comments about "bloody young duty officers who think it’s OK to change the aircraft configuration down the routes."

Anyway I got rid of my overbooking, although I should not have liked the air safety people to look at the load sheet; nor would the captain probably.

Most captains were helpful, although we can all remember some who weren’t! When we could not get all the baggage into the holds on the Comet, which was often, we could always put a couple of bags behind the back row in the first class.

One captain, whose name I remember to this day, said he wasn’t having that, so I told him the bags would have stay to behind. He could not have cared less until I told him the two bags I had left over were his and the first officer’s!

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