Our guests at The Comet Hotel London Hatfield can’t help but notice our aviation links. From the large scale model aeroplane on our lawn, to the air memorabilia that decorates our walls. Opened in 1936, the original Comet Hotel was named for the locally built de Havilland Comet DH.88 racing aeroplane, The building was actually designed around the footprint of the aircraft, which gives our Deco home its unusual and iconic shape. But why aircraft? What is the link between Hatfield and aviation?
Hatfield is a place with deep roots in the history of aviation. From early pioneering efforts to cutting-edge aerospace innovations, Hatfield’s skies have witnessed the evolution of flight and played a pivotal role in shaping the aviation industry in the United Kingdom and beyond.The story of Hatfield’s aviation heritage can be traced back to the early 20th century. In 1930, the de Havilland Aircraft Company established its operations in Hatfield, setting the stage for a remarkable journey in aerospace history. Led by visionary engineer Geoffrey de Havilland, the company quickly gained recognition for its innovative designs and groundbreaking technologies.
In 1934 significant works were undertaken at the nascent airfield and a large factory and imposing Art Deco administration buildings were constructed. A flying school building was added, which also housed flying control. Shortly after, the original Comet Hotel opened its doors, catering to the aviation mad clientele of Hatfield, in an era of glamour and innovation.
The Creation of the de Havilland Comet
One of the pivotal moments in Hatfield’s aviation history occurred with the creation of the de Havilland Comet, the world’s first jet airliner. Introduced in 1949, the Comet revolutionised air travel by reducing flight times and increasing passenger comfort. Its sleek design and advanced engineering made it a symbol of progress and the epitome of British aviation prowess.
The company’s contributions extended beyond commercial aviation. During World War II, de Havilland’s facilities in Hatfield were instrumental in producing military aircraft, including the iconic Mosquito fighter-bomber. This agile and versatile aircraft earned a reputation for its speed and effectiveness, playing a crucial role in numerous wartime operations.
Hatfield’s aviation legacy also includes its connection to the legendary Sir Geoffrey de Havilland himself. His passion for aviation innovation led to the establishment of the de Havilland Technical School in 1944, which later became the Hatfield College of Technology. This institution played a significant role in training generations of engineers and aviation enthusiasts, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s educational landscape.
However, Hatfield’s aviation journey was not without challenges. The de Havilland Aircraft Company merged with other firms to form British Aerospace (BAe) in the 1970s. Subsequently, in the 1990s, Hatfield experienced a profound shift as aerospace activities were scaled back, leading to the closure of the historic airfield in 1993. This event marked the end of an era in Hatfield’s aviation history.
Yet, Hatfield’s skyward spirit persisted. In the early 2000s, the site underwent redevelopment, transforming the former airfield into the Hatfield Business Park. While the physical infrastructure of aviation had transformed, the spirit of innovation continued to thrive in the region. Aerospace companies and research institutions still retained a presence, contributing to the ongoing legacy of Hatfield’s aviation heritage.
The de Havilland Aircraft Museum
Today, Hatfield’s aviation story lives on through various avenues. The de Havilland Aircraft Museum, situated near the original site, preserves the rich history of the de Havilland Aircraft Company and its contributions to aviation. The museum showcases a collection of aircraft, artefacts, and memorabilia, offering visitors a glimpse into the past while celebrating the spirit of innovation that defined the region.
Hatfield stands as a testament to the remarkable journey of aviation history, and we at The Comet Hotel London Hatfield are proud to be a part of this rich legacy. From the pioneering efforts of the de Havilland Aircraft Company to the creation of revolutionary aircraft and the transformation of the landscape, Hatfield’s skies have witnessed the soaring heights of human ingenuity. While the physical landscape has evolved, the indomitable spirit of innovation and exploration continues to resonate, ensuring that Hatfield’s aviation legacy remains an enduring part of its identity.
Discover more about de Havilland and the story of aviation with a visit to the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. For information on opening times and exhibits, please click HERE