Tag Archives: de Havilland Aircraft Company

17 April 1923

Lieutenant Harold R. Harris, United States Army Air Service, 1922.
First Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris, Air Service, United States Army, 1922.

17 April 1923: At Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, First Lieutenant Harold Ross Harris set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Speed Records, flying a modified de Havilland XDH-4L powered by a Hall-Scott Liberty 375 engine. Lieutenant Harris averaged 184.03 kilometers per hour (114.35 miles per hour) over a 1,500 kilometer (932.1 miles) closed circuit,¹ and 183.82 kilometers per hour (114.22 miles per hour) over a 2,000 kilometer (1,242.7 mile) course. ²

Harold R. Harris was an important figure in the development of aircraft following World War I. He served as Engineering Officer for the U.S. Army at McCook Field and flew many experimental aircraft, setting records for speed and altitude, and worked on the development of airplanes, engines and other equipment. Harris was the first man to use a parachute to escape an airplane during an actual in-flight emergency. In civil aviation, he was an executive with the company that would become Pan American World Airways. During World War II, he was chief of staff of the Air Transport Command, retiring with the rank of brigadier general, and then returning to commercial aviation as a vice president of Pan Am and later president of Northwest Airlines.

The XDH-4L was a variant of the Airco DH.4, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine biplane intended as a bomber, but the type served in virtually every capacity during World War I and the years following. At McCook Field, American-built DH-4s were commonly used as test beds for engines and other aeronautical equipment.

The standard Airco DH.4 had a crew of two. It was 30 feet, 8 inches (9.347 meters) long with a wingspan of 43 feet, 4 inches (13.208 meters) and height of 11 feet (3.353 meters). Empty weight was 2,387 pounds (1,085 kilograms) and loaded weight was 3,472 pounds (1,578 kilograms). British-built DH.4s were powered by a 1,240.54-cubic-inch-displacement (20.33 liter) liquid-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle overhead cam 60° V-12 engine which produced 375 horsepower. A gear-reduction system kept propeller r.p.m. below engine speed for greater efficiency.

American-built DH.4 airplanes were produced by the Boeing Airplane Company, Dayton-Wright Airplane Company, Fisher Body Corporation, and Standard Aircraft Corporation. Most were powered by the Liberty L12 engine.

The Liberty L12 aircraft engine was designed by Jesse G. Vincent of the Packard Motor Car Company and Elbert J. Hall of the Hall-Scott Motor Company. It was a  water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,649.336-cubic-inch-displacement (27.028 liter) Liberty L-12 single overhead cam (SOHC) 45° V-12 engine with a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The Liberty produced 408 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The L-12 as a right-hand tractor, direct-drive engine and it turned turned a two-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller. The Liberty 12 was 5 feet, 7.375 inches (1.711 meters) long, 2 feet, 3.0 inches (0.686 meters) wide, and 3 feet, 5.5 inches (1.054 meters) high. It weighed 844 pounds (383 kilograms). This engine was produced by Ford Motor Company, as well as the Buick and Cadillac Divisions of General Motors, The Lincoln Motor Company (which was formed by Henry Leland, the former manager of Cadillac, specifically to manufacture these aircraft engines), Marmon Motor Car Company and Packard. Hall-Scott was too small to produce engines in the numbers required.

Following World War I, many DH-4s were rebuilt by Boeing and Atlantic Aircraft. An improved version, the DH-4M, used a tubular steel framework instead of the usual wood construction. DH-4s remained in service with the United States Army as late as 1932.

De Havilland XDH-4L, U.S. Army Air Service  serial number A.S. 64593, was used for engineering tests at McCook Field. It carried project number P193 painted on its rudder. At the time of the world speed records, it was powered by a Hall-Scott Liberty 375, a 375 horsepower version of the Liberty V-12 engine. The rear cockpit was faired over and a 185 gallon (700.3 liter) fuel tank installed for long range flights.

de Havilland XDH-4L A.S. 64593, FAI World Speed record holder. (FAI)
De Havilland XDH-4L A.S. 64593, FAI World Speed Record holder. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9318

² FAI Record File Number 9319

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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22 February 1925

Captain Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, OM, CBE, AFC, RDI, FRAeS (27 July 1882–21 May 1965)
Captain Geoffrey de Havilland, O.B.E., in the cockpit of an airplane, circa 1925. (Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

22 February 1925: At the de Havilland Aircraft Company airfield at Stag Lane, Edgeware, London, Geoffrey de Havilland, O.B.E., took his new DH.60 Moth, c/n 168 (later registered G-EBKT), for its first flight.

The DH.60 was a light-weight, two-place, single-engine, single-bay biplane. The fuselage was covered with plywood and the wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric. It was 23 feet, 5½ inches (7.150 meters) long with a wingspan of 29 feet, 0 inches (8.839 meters) and overall height of 8 feet, 9½ inches (2.680 meters). The airplane was designed so that the wings could be folded parallel to the fuselage, giving it an approximate width of 9 feet (2.7 meters). The wings had a chord of 4 feet, 3 inches and the lower wing was staggered slight behind the upper. Both wings had significant dihedral. Empty, the DH.60 had a weight of 764 pounds (346.6 kilograms) and loaded weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).

An A.D.C. Cirrus aircraft engine at the Science Museum, London. (Nimbus227)

The Moth was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 4.503 liter (274.771-cubic-inch-displacement A.D.C. Aircraft Ltd., Cirrus inline 4-cylinder overhead valve engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.4:1. The direct-drive engine produced 60 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m., and 65 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. The Cirrus was 0.983 meters (3.225 feet) long, 0.908 meters (2.979 feet) high and 0.450 meters (1.476 feet) wide. It weighed 260 pounds (118 kilograms). The A.D.C. Cirrus was designed by Major Frank Bernard Halford, who later designed the de Havilland Gipsy engine, as well as the Goblin and Ghost turbojet engines.

De Havilland built 8 pre-production and 31 production DH.60 Moths. 595 DH.60s of all variants were produced at Stag Lane.

The prototype de Havilland Aircraft Company DH.60 Moth, G-EBKT.
The prototype de Havilland Aircraft Company DH.60 Moth, G-EBKT. (Unattributed)

On 29 May 1925, Alan Cobham flew the prototype from Croydon to Zurich and back in 14 hours, 49 minutes. Cobham also flew the Moth in The Kings Cup Air Race, though weather forced him to land short of the finish. It placed second in a follow-up race.

The G-EBKT was used as a demonstrator for de Havilland for a brief time before being sold to Sophie C. Elliot Lynn, 26 March 1926. She flew the Moth in the Paris Concours d’Avions Economiques in August 1926. (Mrs. Elliott Lynn later became Mary, Lady Heath.)

Sophie Elliott Lynn with her pale blue de Havilland DH.60 Moth, G-EBKT. (Unattributed)
Sophie Catherine Elliot Lynn with her pale blue de Havilland DH.60 Moth, G-EBKT. (A Fleeting Peace)

In 1927, G-EBKT was sold to the London Aeroplane Club. It crashed at Dennis Lane, Stanmore, Middlesex, 21 August 1927, injuring the pilot and a passenger:

On Sunday afternoon, Pilot Officer Stanley Pritchard-Barrett, flying on D.H. “Moth” G-EBKT with his wife as passenger, crashed in the grounds of the residence of Major Sir Maurice FitzGerald,Bt. He was severely injured about his head, and his wife, who was a passenger, had a leg broken. The machine fell from a height of about 90 ft.

The London Aeroplane Club “Moth” is apparently a complete write-off.


G-EBKT’s registration was cancelled 20 January 1928.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 November 1940

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito, marked W4050, takes off on its first flight at Hatfield, 25 November 1940. (BAE Systems)
Geoffrey Roal De Havilland

25 November 1940: De Havilland Aircraft Company’s Chief Test Pilot, Geoffrey Roal de Havilland, Jr., and engineer John Walker, made the first flight of the DH.98 Mosquito prototype, E0234, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. The multi-role combat aircraft was constructed primarily of layers of balsa covered with layers of birch, then a layer of doped cotton fabric. It was powered by two Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines.

The DH.98 had been predicted to be 20 miles per hour (32 kilometers per hour) faster than the Supermarine Spitfire, but was actually much faster. In testing, the prototype reached 437 miles per hour (703 kilometers per hour). The construction materials took advantage of plentiful supplies of wood, and also made workers who were not in the standard metal aircraft industry able to take part.

The prototype de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito, W0234, outside the Assembly Building, 19 November 1940. (BAE Systems)

The prototype was rolled out 19 November 1040, painted overall yellow. It had a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters). Its gross weight was 19,670 pounds (8,922 kilograms). The production Mosquito B. Mk.IV was 40 feet, 6 inches (12.344 meters) long with a wingspan of 54 feet, 2 inches (16.510 meters) and height of 12 feet, 6 inches (3.810 meters). Its empty weight was 15,318 pounds (6,948 kilograms) and the maximum weight was 21,462 pounds (9,735 kilograms).

W4050 was powered by two liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,648.96-cubic-inch-displacement (27.01 liter) Rolls-Royce Merlin Mk.21 single overhead camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engines, producing 1,460 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. at 10,000 feet (3028 meters), with 10 pounds (0.69 Bar) of boost, and driving three-bladed de Havilland Hydromatic propellers through a gear reduction.

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito,W4050, in the field behind Salisbury Hall (where it was designed and built) just before its first flight, 25 November 1940. (HistoryNet)

The Mk.IV had a cruise speed of 265 miles per hour (426 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and maximum speed of 380 miles per hour (612 kilometers per hour) at 21,900 feet (6,675 meters). It was the world’s fastest operational airplane at the time.

The prototype had a service ceiling of 34,000 feet (10,363 meters) and range of 2,180 miles (3,500 kilometers).

Mosquito bomber variants could carry four 500 pound bombs, but had no other armament. Fighters were armed with four 20 mm cannon and four .303-caliber machine guns in the nose.

6,411 DH.98 Mosquitoes were built in England, 1,134 in Canada and 212 in Australia. It was produced in bomber, fighter, night fighter, fighter bomber and photo reconnaissance versions.

The prototype DH.98 Mosquito, W4050, at Hatfield, Hertfordshire. (Royal Air Force)

W4050’s (the prototype’s Royal Air Force identification) fuselage was damaged while taxiing at Boscombe Down, 24 February 1941, and had to be replaced with one intended for a second prototype, W4051. It remained at de Havilland and was used to test different engines, armaments and versions. After a series of tests conducted in December 1943, the prototype Mosquito was permanently grounded. It was used as an instructional airframe and later placed in storage.

In September 1958, W4050 was turned over to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre. Today, the restored prototype DH.98 Mosquito is at the museum at London Colney, Hertfordshire, England.

The Mosquito prototype with camouflauged upper surfaces as it appeared at Boscombe Down, (de Havilland Aircraft Museum)
The Mosquito prototype with camouflaged upper surfaces as it appeared at Boscombe Down, 1941. (de Havilland Aircraft Museum)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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14–18 November 1932

Amy Johnson Mollison with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, Desert Cloud, London, 14 November 1932. (Unattributed)
Amy Johnson Mollison with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, Lympne Aerodrome, London, 14 November 1932. (Unattributed)

14–18 November 1932: Amy Johnson, CBE, (Mrs. James A Mollison) flew her new de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, c/n 2247, registration G-ACAB, from Lympne Aerodrome, London, England, to Cape Town, South Africa, a distance of approximately 6,300 miles (10,140 kilometers) in a total elapsed time of 4 days, 6 hours, 54 minutes. This broke the previous record which had been set by her husband, Jim Mollison, by 10 hours, 28 minutes.

A contemporary news article described the event:

FLIGHT, November 24, 1932


Beats her Husband’s Cape Record by 10½ Hours

THERE are few, we think, who will not admit that Mrs. J.A. Mollison (Miss Amy Johnson) has accomplished a really remarkable feat in her latest flight—from England to Cape Town in 4 days 6 hr. 54 min., thus beating her husband’s previous record for the same journey of 4 days 17 hr. 22 min. by 10 hr. 28 min.

Not only is the flight a magnificent achievement as far as the time taken is concerned, but as a feat of endurance, pluck, good piloting and navigation, it must be placed foremost in the list of great flights.

Throughout the flight Mrs. Mollison had had only 5 hours’ sleep!

As reported in last week’s issue of FLIGHT, Mrs. Mollison set out from Lympne, in her D.H. “Puss Moth” (“Gipsy Major”), Desert Cloud, at 6.37 a.m. on November 14, and at 7.30 p.m. arrived at Oran, on the North African coast, 1,100 miles distant. She made an hour’s stop to refuel en route at Barcelona, and after a halt of 4 hours at Oran she started off on a night flight across the Sahara Desert towards Gao and Niamey.

At this stage some anxiety was felt owing to the absence of news concerning her progress for over 24 hours. Then came the news that she had landed safely at Gao (some 1,300 miles from Oran) at noon, November 15—having thus successfully accomplished a most difficult flight across the desert, without landmarks, at night. After a short stop for refuelling Mrs. Mollison left for Duala, but after flying for about an hour she noticed that her tanks were almost empty. She at once returned to Gao and found that they had put in only 10 galls. instead of 42 galls.!

After this irritating delay she proceeded once more, arriving safely at Duala in the evening, and continuing, after a short halt, towards Loanda. On this stage, during the night, the oil circulation caused her some trouble, and so she landed the next morning at Benguela (Port. W. Africa) to set matters aright.

Fortunately, the trouble was not serious—probably a portion of the Sahara in the filters—and she was able to proceed after a delay of some 9 hours. A halt to refuel was made at Mossamedes in the evening of November 17 and then came another night flight on the final stage of her journey.

Meanwhile, news of her start on the last hop reached Capetown, and from midnight November 17–18, huge crowds made their way to the Municipal aerodrome—although Mrs. Mollison could not possibly arrive much before midday. There were, therefore, several thousand people on the aerodrome by the time she arrived.

Mrs. Mollison appeared somewhat unexpectedly, from inland, shortly after 3 p.m., and it was not until the machine was about to land that the crowd realised that it was the Desert Cloud. She landed at 3.31 p.m. (1.31 p.m. G.M.T), and immediately the cheering crown broke down the barriers and surrounded the machine. It was some time before she could get out of her machine, but eventually she was got into a car, and before driving away she waved to the crowd and said: “Thank you very much for your great welcome. I said I would come back, and I have done so. It is really too kind of you to give me such a welcome.”

Safely inside the aerodrome building, Mrs. Mollison spoke over the telephone to Mr. Mollison, after which she was taken to some friends, where she could obtain some well-earned sleep.

1st day     Lympne–Oran (1,100)

2nd  ”        Oran–Gao (1,400)

3rd   ”        Gao–Duala (1,150)

4th   ”        Duala–Mossamedes (1,350)

5th   ”        Mossamedes–Cape (1,300)

(Concluded on page 1141)

JOHNSON, Amy, CBE, with her de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Wind, at Lympne Aerodrome, 14 November 1932


(Concluded from page 1133)

Needless to say, Mrs. Mollison has received numerous messages of congratulation, amongst which were the following: —From H.M. the King: “Please convey to Mrs. Mollison hearty congratulations on her splendid achievment. I trust that she is not too exhausted. —George, R.I.”

From Lord Londonderry, Secretary of State for Air: “On behalf of the Air Council I congratulate you most warmly on the successful completion of your magnificent flight.”

Messages were also sent by the Royal Aero Club and Royal Aeronautical Society, Lord Wakefield, etc.

Mr. A.E. Whitelaw, the Australian philanthropist—who gave Mr. Mollison £1,000 in recognition of his Australia flight—is presenting a cheque for £1,000 to Mrs. Mollison in recognition of her achievement.

— FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer and AirshipsNo. 1248 (Vol. XXIV, No. 48.), 24 November 1932 at Pages 1133 and 1141.

The de Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., DH.80A Puss Moth was a single-engine high-wing monoplane with an enclosed cabin for a pilot and two passengers. It was constructed of a tubular steel frame covered with doped fabric. The airplane was 25 feet (7.620 meters) long with a wingspan of 36 feet, 9 inches (11.201 meters) and height of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). The Puss Moth had an empty weight of 1,265 pounds (574 kilograms) and gross weight of 2.050 pounds (930 kilograms).

G-ACAB was powered by a 373.71-cubic-inch-displacement (6,124 cubic centimeters) air-cooled de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted, inline 4-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 5.25:1. It produced 120 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m and 130 horsepower at 2,350 r.p.m. The engine weighed 306 pounds (138.8 kilograms).

The DH.80A had a cruise speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 108 miles per hour (174 kilometers per hour). The airplane had a service ceiling of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters). The standard DH.80A had a range of 430 miles (692 kilometers), but The Desert Cloud had additional tanks which increased its range to over 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

De Havilland built 284 DH.80A Puss Moths between 1929 and 1933. Only eight are known to exist. G-ACAB, then owned by Utility Airways, Ltd., was destroyed in a hangar fire at Hooton Park, Cheshire, 8 July 1940.

Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made teh return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d' Avions)
Amy Johnson flew this de Havilland DH.80A Puss Moth, G-ACAB, The Desert Cloud, from England to South Africa, 14–18 November 1932. She made the return flight the following month. (Arch. B. Bambeau via Fan d’ Avions)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 May 1952

BOAC de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, G-ALYP, departs London, 2 May 1952. (British Airways)

2 May 1952: At 15:12 GMT, British Overseas Airways Corporation’s de Havilland DH.106 Comet 1, G-ALYP, departed London for Johannesburg, South Africa, with 36 passengers and a crew of 7. The approximate 7,000 mile (11,265 kilometer) flight was expected to take 23 hours, 40 minutes with intermediate stops at Rome, Beirut, Khartoum, Entebbe and Livingstone. There were crew changes at Beirut and Khartoum. BOAC’s chairman, Sir Miles Thomas, joined the flight at Livingstone for the final stage.

G-AYLP arrived at Johannesburg at 14:38 GMT, 3 May, fourteen minutes ahead of schedule. This was the very first regularly-scheduled revenue passenger flight for a jet airliner.

The AAP reported on the Comet’s arrival at Entebbe:

Record-shooting Comet nears end of long jet flight

KHARTOUM, Sat.: The Comet airliner opening the first jet passenger service is now hurtling across Africa at nearly 500 m.p.h. on the last stages of the London-Johannesburg flight.

The Comet arrived at Entebbe, Uganda at 3.30 p.m. Adelaide time, exactly on schedule.

The eight-miles-a-minute jet will stop next at Livingstone.

It is now on the fifth and second-last leg of its southward dash.

At Beirut the first crew, skippered by Capt. A.M. Majendie, handed the plane over to a fresh crew with Capt. J.T Marsden as skipper.

A third crew, commanded by Capt. R.C. Alabaster, took over at Khartoum.

Official air mileages on the plane’s route are:

London–Rome 930
Rome–Beirut, 1,385.
Beirut–Khartoum, 1,330.
Khartoum–Entebbe, 1,090.
Entebbe–Livingstone, 1,320.
Livingstone–Johannesburg, 608.
Total, 6,663 miles.

Reached 525 m.p.h.

Between Rome and Beirut, the plane established a new world record by reaching 525 m.p.h, beating its own previous trial performances.

The plane is carrying 36 fare-paying passengers and a crew of five.

During the flight, passengers relaxed luxuriously in the dove-grey and dark-blue pressurized cabin as the Comet, hurtling along at more than 230 yards a second, created an impression of motionless suspension.

One of the two women passengers sketched out during the flight the first music ever written in a jetliner.

“It is the ‘Comet Prelude,’ ” explained Miss Avril Coleridge-Taylor, who is the daughter of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, famous composer, who died in 1912.

Miss Taylor, who is in her early forties, is to conduct a symphony concert in South Africa.

The first man to book on the Comet, Mr. Albert Henshaw, 63, of Lincolnshire, has been flying since World War I.

“I’ve been in them all and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

“This may be as near to heaven as I’ll ever get—and it’s well worth it.”

Mother better

Another passenger is Steven Naude, a young South African who was given a mercy seat in the Comet to Johannesburg when he heard that his mother was lying dangerously ill in Bethlehem, Northwestern Free State.

The lastest message from Cape Town reports a slight improvement. —AAP

The Mail, Adelaide, South Australia, Saturday, 3 May 1952, Page 2, Columns 2–4.

A BOAC de Havilland Comet jet airliner, en route to Johannesburg from London, breaks its journey at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1952. (Ministry of Information official photographer)
“A BOAC de Havilland Comet jet airliner, en route to Johannesburg from London, breaks its journey at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, 1952.” (Ministry of Information official photographer)

The de Havilland Comet was the first commercial jet airliner and its introduction had revolutionized the industry. The DH.106 Comet 1 was the first production version and was very similar to the two prototypes. It can be visually identified by its square passenger windows. It was flown by a pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer and navigator. The airliner could carry up to 44 passengers.

The airplane was 93 feet (28.346 meters) long with a wingspan of 115 feet (35.052 meters) and overall height of 29 feet, 6 inches (8.992 meters). The Comet 1 had a maximum takeoff weight of 110,000 pounds (49,895.2 kilograms). It was powered by four de Havilland Engine Company Ghost 50 centrifugal flow turbojet engines, producing 5,000 pounds of thrust, each. This gave it a cruising speed of 460 miles per hour (740.3 kilometers per hour) and cruise altitude of 42,000 feet (12,801.6 meters). The airliner’s range was 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers).

Twelve DH.106 Comet 1 airliners were built.

G-ALYP suffered catastrophic explosive decompression while flying over the Mediterranean Sea, 10 January 1954. This was the first of two accidents caused by metal fatigue in the fuselage as a result of expansion and contraction during pressurization cycles. The DH.106 Comet I fleet was grounded and the aircraft were removed from service.

De Havilland Comet 1 G-AYLP (www.crash-aerien.news)
De Havilland Comet 1 G-AYLP (www.crash-aerien.news)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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