Cat's eyes John Cunningham first to fly the Comet

JOHN Cat's Eyes Cunningham CBE, a wartime hero, was the first to man to fly the Comet. He was de Havilland's chief test pilot and had joined the company in 1938. During the war he was used by the RAF as a night fighter and was credited with 20 kills,

JOHN 'Cat's Eyes' Cunningham CBE, a wartime hero, was the first to man to fly the Comet.

He was de Havilland's chief test pilot and had joined the company in 1938.

During the war he was used by the RAF as a night fighter and was credited with 20 kills, 19 of those being at night.

And therefore his nickname, Cat's Eyes, was developed as propaganda to cover up the usage of AI (aircraft interception) and to encourage the eating of carrots.


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Cunningham survived the war as a group captain and afterwards returned to de Havilland as a test pilot.

And his standards were supposedly extremely high for the time.

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In 1946, he succeeded Geoffrey de Havilland Jr as chief test pilot, following the latter's death while test-flying the DH.108 Swallow over the Thames estuary.

After a few years Mr Cunningham went on to be the original jet airline pilot as he took off in the Comet.

He said at a later date about the airliner: "I assumed that it would change aviation, and so it has proved.

"It was a bit like Concorde."

Throughout his life he achieved many accomplishments and his rewards included the Distinguished Service Order and Distinguished Flying Cross.

Cunningham died in 2002. A year later, in his memory, a new street was named after him - Cunningham Avenue.

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