After World War II, the US government decided that this country needed to have the best, biggest, and fastest transatlantic steamship. The government learned that the British liners Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth had proven to be invaluable strategic assets as troop carriers during WWII. So the government had Newport News, VA shipyards build and launch the SS United States.
On its maiden voyage in 1952, the SS United States set the all-time maritime speed record for crossing the Atlantic: a little less than 84 hours, nearly a third faster than the record set by the Queen Mary. But in that same year, a British airline introduced the first jet passenger plane which, within a couple of years, was carrying people across the Atlantic in under six hours. The SS United States lost money every time it sailed; and the ship, designed for 30 to 40 years of service, was bankrupt in 12 years and spent the next quarter-century rusting away at a pier in Turkey.
The SS United States fully achieved the government’s national goal of building the best transport ship of its kind in history, in the world. But it was the wrong “best." There is no way you can say the Newport News shipbuilders failed. They were the best in the world, and they built the best ship in the world. They didn’t need to be reorganized or retrained or any of the usual nostrums of reform. They increased the top speed of a transport ship from around 30 knots to over 40 knots – a huge improvement. But there was no way then or now to get a ship to go 500 knots.
DeHavilland Associates is named in honor of that first jet passenger airplane – the DeHavilland Comet – which represented a quantum leap forward in transportation, just as DHA works to unleash a quantum leap forward in education.