Case Study 9.1: Dehavilland’s Falling Comet

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Case Study 9.1: DeHavilland’s Falling Comet The DeHavilland story is a fascinating example of a well-respected organization that sought to be first to market with a radical new technology and cut some important safety corners, with disastrous results. The story highlights the problems when innovations in design are pushed too far, too quickly. With its unique design and all the additional features that made it radical, the Comet should have been slowly integrated into production and use, instead of being rushed to market. DeHavilland knew that Boeing was at work on its own design, the 707, and felt the need to be first to market. In this rush, they cut a number of safety corners with disastrous results. Questions: 1) How could risk management have aided in the development of the Comet? DeHavilland was producing an aircraft that was so revolutionary in so many ways that they may have become overawed by the push in technology for its own sake. Certainly, the original Comet included several radical design elements (embedded engines in the wing root, square windows, pressurized cabin, and so forth) that any one of them could have been a significant advance on its own. Putting them all together into the same new aircraft design without adequate testing was a disaster. The question of how much testing is enough is difficult to answer but certainly, with so many innovations in one design, it is clear that they did not engage in sufficient risk assessment and design testing. 2) Discuss the various types of risk (technical, financial, commercial, etc.) in relation to the Comet. Develop a qualitative risk matrix for these risk factors and assess them in terms of probability and consequences. This question asks students to identify the wide variety of risks that were present in this aircraft. Commercially, DeHavilland had a huge investment in
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