Sky Wars

Aeronautics has always been a favourite subject of mine, and so it seemed an obvious choice when selecting a case study for my series of lectures on Innovation and Design Management. A classic example of whether it is better to be first or second to market with a product is the story of De Havilland’s ‘Comet’, the first civilian jet aircraft to enjoy commercial success in the 1950s. All was going well for the UK manufacturer until a series of fatal crashes led to concerns about the Comet’s long-term safety, and panic set in.

Image Public Domain

Enter their American rival, Boeing, who had been waiting in the wings while developing their own jetliner, the Boeing 707. With the advantage of a few years in which to study and improve on the engine, the body and the interior, it was almost inevitable that they would produce a superior plane. Over the years, there were more fatalities from Boeing crashes than De Havilland – but that was because Boeing had seized the market for all time. Bad news for the British aero industry, and bad news for a die-hard plane spotter like me.

Dig deeper –

Invention or innovation?
Is it better to be first or best?
What drives innovation?