The Comet Racers Uncovered

Updated 20 Apr 2024

The story of the iconic winner of the greatest air race ever at a pivotal moment in aviation history has never been fully told, those of its stablemates even less so. Only five de Havilland DH 88 Comets were ever built. With one restored to flying condition and another on the way, an ever-growing community of enthusiasts have, bit by bit, been rooting through their past and unearthing their entrancing story. This 48-page book is the result of painstaking research over several years collating, expanding and analysing that body of knowledge. It focuses on the new, the arcane, and the cultural heritage of perhaps the most beautiful aeroplanes ever made. It is packed with facts and profusely illustrated with rare and informative photographs.

Large format, 48 pages. Monochrome interior, colour illustrations on back cover. ISBN 9-781716-095429.

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"Like the Comet, this is a class act" — Aeroplane

"...this beautiful art deco masterpiece" — Nick Stroud, Editor, The Aviation Historian

"This is a book written by an acknowledged authority on this subject which includes the great Mildenhall - Melbourne Air Race of 1934. Although only five original machines were built by de Havilland, specifically for the Great Air Race, the Comet Racers have achieved nothing short of cult status. With only one surviving flying example, the race winner 'Grosvenor House', there are replicas and re-builds to be found. Inextricably involved in the Comet story is the great British pioneer aviatrix Amy Johnson, and her husband Jim Mollison. Through painstaking research and careful study, Inchbald has brought the DH.88 Comet story bang up to date. No-one with an interest in the subject should be without this essential book." — Stuart P Evans


  • The Comet Breed: Overview, from their genesis to their makers, design, operators, restorers and engines.
  • Amy Johnson’s Black Magic: The first Comet and its lives as racer G-ACSP Black Magic, Portuguese trailblazer CS-AAJ Salazar and slow climb back towards the light.
  • The Lady in Red: The triumph of G-ACSS Grosvenor House, in the RAF as K5084, the rebuild of G-ACSS by Essex Aero in new livery, the return to the red dress and second rebuild.
  • The Mail Planes: The green racer turned mail plane G-ACSR, its French alter ego F-ANPY and stablemate F-ANPZ, and their final Armée de l'Air flowering as H608 and H609.
  • The Lost Boomerang: G-ADEF Boomerang, the Comet that didn't come back despite its name.
  • Facts and Figures: Builds, liveries, flights, people.
  • Derivatives and Replicas: Stillborn Comets, foreign derivatives and flyable replicas.
  • Copies and Models: Film props, iconic display pieces, scale model kits and miniatures. An Art Deco icon doesn't have to be able to fly!
  • Colour liveries and details (cover): Invaluable detail for recognition and reproduction.


These are errors and small omissions, ranging from minor typos to embarrassing howlers, which have come to my attention.

  • Copyrights page: Front cover, lower image of the Airepair replica in Black Magic livery. Copyright not known.
  • p.3 col.2: Should be Bernard Rubin, not Arthur.
  • p.7 col.2: Photo of F-ANPZ and G-ADEF should be on p.8.
  • p.9 table, p.11 col.2: The original Gipsy Six had a tapered crankshaft fitting for the propeller, it was not splined.
  • p.10 col.1: The R engine carburettors themselves were not turned sideways, they had short right-angle intake duct sections, and it is these which were turned to face forwards.
  • p.11 col.1: Luis Fontes' engine was a production Gipsy Six I, it was not modified until much later.
  • p.21: When Henshaw overshot his route to Athens, he found himnself over the Greek Pelopponese, not Turkey.
  • p.27 col.1: Should be Jean Batten, not Joan.
  • p.39 para.5 line 2: Thought not though.
  • p.46: Sharp and Scott's entries in the wrong order.
  • Back cover: H608 was later applied to G-ACSR/FANPY, not to F-ANPZ.
Front cover Back cover

More about the Comets

For more facts and photos which have emerged since I wrote this book, see More About the Comets.

See also ny take on The de Havilland Comet Racers for the Art Deco Society.