So two gentlemen pilots departing in a brand new experimental aircraft, with difficult handling characteristics at a maximum weight which had not been tested until the flag fell at 0630 on the twentieth of October 1934. What would be uppermost on their minds? Scotty sums up the matter, “The week at Mildenhall, as an experience, was worse than the flight itself”. The deep set fear of failure, be it mechanical, skill based or even more disastrously failure of the men of 1934, would have weighed heavily.
The Comet really was not ready; there had been reliability problems with the engines, the aircraft as a whole was tremendously fast, but the systems were untested and more importantly if the aircraft did not breakdown, it was difficult to land on a long smooth runway. What would it be like at night, with a poor surface and a short landing run all at weights yet to be tested? While trying to resolve all the difficulties with the technology, administration and paperwork would have been equally troubling. The bureaucrats would be having a field day requiring numerous certificates, overflight permissions and inspections. Finally, there is the small matter of cost. £10,000 was up for the speed prize- a life defining sum of money for the winners, but if second or third, or worse a failure to finish, there was also a huge amount to lose, without even considering the aeroplane and losing the prize. A life defining loss, a huge gamble on unproven technology, the unknown and all with the world media watching.