Greater Manchester’s lost restaurant plane that served cocktails from its cabin

There was a time when hungry diners looking for somewhere a little different to dine in Manchester could book a table on a plane that had been reinvented as a restaurant and cocktail lounge.

In the 1970s, customers would venture to Pomona Docks to board a 21-year-old plane – known as the Comet – to enjoy a delicious meal or a drink in its lounge “cabin” cocktail. The brainchild of Liverpool businessmen George ‘Jud’ Evans and Colin Peers of Compass Catering, the Comet was built by De Havilland Aircraft Company Limited at Hatfield and first flew in 1953.

After being decommissioned in 1974, the ex-RAF aircraft was purchased by Compass Catering and flown to Manchester by a crew of six from Wyton Air Base in Cambridgeshire. The plane cost £10,000 and had its wings, tail and fins removed for the 12-mile journey to Salford.

READ MORE: Clipper cards, Saver Sevens and ‘vomit-coloured’ tiles: Lost bus stop under Manchester’s Arndale

READ MORE: Greater Manchester’s Lost Supermarkets – How many have you shopped at?

This was not the first unusual venture for George and Colin, who already had two nightclubs under their belts, including a floating Liverpool nightclub called Clubship Landfall, comfortably moored in Salthouse Dock.

This was followed by North Westward Ho! – a floating nightclub in the early 1970s, bobbing gently on the calm waters of Salford’s Pomona Docks. The North Westward Ho was so popular that the owners soon acquired the De Havilland Comet, parking the RAF aircraft adjacent to the ship as an added attraction for their patrons.

Sven Evans, the eldest of George Evans’ children, has memories of the Comet as a child. Sven, 60, told the MEN: “They wanted to expand and make it a whole attraction.”

Try MEN Premium for FREE by clicking here to find no ads, fun puzzles and cool new features.

“They had a lot of contacts in the army and navy and stuff like that because of the clientele they had, so maybe there was some kind of connection there. They bought the Comet from the MOD (Ministry of Defence) and flew it. last flight ever.”

On 10 May 1974, the Liverpool ECHO reported how the two Liverpool businessmen had bought a 500mph plane with over 80 seats, but that the RAF Comet transport command plane would be “grounded” on the canal side Manchester Ship Canal. as a restaurant and bar.

The wings of the De Havilland Comet were detached so that it could be transported on the highway in a truck(Image: Evans Family Archive)

It read: “Colin Peers, 38, of South Road, Aigburth, and George Evans, 39, of Gerards Lane, Halewood, already have a converted tanker landing craft – Clubship ‘Landfall ‘ – in Liverpool’s Collingwood Dock and a converted ship. The Isle of Wight ferry from Pomona Dock in Manchester as a restaurant and bars. Now the Comet, which is due to be added to the fleet, will fly into Manchester Airport on Monday with Mr Evans and Mr Peers on board.

“The RAF crew will remove the wings, tail and fins and transport them by road to the Ship Canal two miles from central Manchester. It will then be reassembled and converted to accommodate around 50 diners.”

Join WhatsApp Group Top Stories and Breaking News by by clicking this link

At the time, Mr Peers said: “The idea started about two months ago when we wondered whether to put a small aircraft on the site just as an attraction. I discovered that we could buy the Comet which had flown practically all over the world and I thought it would not only be an attraction but also useful.”

George Evans’ daughter, Freja Evans Swogger, 57, remembers the excitement of local television news about the Comet as a child.

“They bought this plane, the Comet, and they had to take some or all of the wings and they had to transport it on the side of the highway,” she said.

“When I was a kid I didn’t understand that to do that you had to put it on the back of a big truck. I thought they drove it down the highway like a car without wings.”

The plane was later reassembled (Image: Evans Family Archive)

In 1974, the Daily Mirror reported on the grounded comet and the success of the business. At the time, Colin Peers said, “Get the customer looking for a trick.”

“But the service and the food have to be good. I couldn’t survive on a gimmick with nothing to back it up.”

Join our Greater Manchester history, memories and people Facebook group here.

As a child, Sven said he spent quite a bit of time on North Westward Ho and remembers the comet’s arrival. He said: “Down in Pomona Dock it was a children’s paradise. There were so many things to play with and when I was a boy I made swings and dens.”

“I think I only went on the Comet once when they were still in the process of being converted and they built a cocktail lounge there, but I confess I never saw it in operation for its intended purpose.”

“I remember sticking my head around the door because I was an eight-year-old boy and they were saying it’s dangerous, we can’t let you get lost in there,” he added. “I think they didn’t want me to go into the cockpit and turn things on and off or play with things.”

“They converted the flight deck into a cocktail lounge and left most of the pilot and navigator seats in the positions where drinks were served. “All the aircraft equipment, switchboards and navigation equipment were left in place, so it must have been. enough experience.”

The De Havilland Comet lay in the Pomona docks in Salford in the 1970s(Image: Evans Family Archive)

Looking back on the Comet as an adult, Sven said he thought his father and Colin’s idea was “amazing and risky”. “It was imaginative and daring, quite out of the box,” he said.

“It takes guts to do something like that, to have that kind of imagination and to continue as a business, financially and otherwise. I think they were both trying to offer something new and very different.”

Do you love Greater Manchester’s past? Subscribe to our new nostalgia newsletter and never miss a thing.

Decades later, the business now lives only in our memories and photographs.

In the early 1980s, the Comet is said to have been scrapped, the cockpit section being sold to a collector. It is believed that by 2000, what was left of the comet had been scrapped.

The Comet is not the only plane to be converted into a restaurant in Greater Manchester. In Bolton, roadside restaurant Steaks on a Plane is housed in a former Boeing 737 aircraft.

Does this story bring back any memories? Let us know in the comments section below.