British Overseas Airways Corporation Flight 781 Crashes

BOAC Flight 781 departed Rome, Italy on a flight to London, England.

While climbing through 27,000 feet, the plane experienced a sudden in-flight break-up and crashed into the Mediterranean Sea near the Island of Elba. All 35 passengers and crew on board were killed. Following this accident, the Comet fleet was taken from service and subjected to numerous modifications in areas believed to have been the origin of the yet-unknown failure. The fleet was returned to service in late March 1954.

Thirty-five people are missing, feared dead, after a Comet jet airliner crashed into the Mediterranean.

The plane - a British Overseas Airways Corporation jet - was on its way from Singapore to London. It came down in the sea about 20 minutes after taking off from Rome, in Italy, on the last leg of its journey.

Fifteen bodies have been recovered so far. There were 10 children among the passengers. World War II correspondent Chester Wilmot, was also among those missing.

Gerry Bull, a former BOAC engineer, said that when he inspected the aircraft in Rome he looked for "incidental damage." He did not find any, so he believed Flight 781 was fit for flight. Bull and the same team of engineers later examined South African Airways Flight 201 before its final flight.

On 10 January 1954, the flight took off at 09:34 GMT for the final stage flight to London. 31-year old Alan Gibson, who served as the captain, was one of the youngest pilots at BOAC.

At about 09:50 GMT a passing BOAC Argonaut G-ALHJ was in contact with Captain Gibson. During a radio communication about weather conditions, the conversation was abruptly cut-off. The last words heard from Captain Gibson were "George How Jig, did you get my..". About this time wreckage was seen falling into the sea by a fisherman.

Heathrow Airport initially listed Flight 781 as being delayed; around 1:30 PM the airport took the flight off of the arrivals board.