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De Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk

The de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd was established in 1928 as a sales outlet, assembly plant, and maintenance facility for aircraft of the British parent company's design and manufacture. During the time period 1939-1945, the company built over 3,000 Mosquito bombers, Tiger Moths, and Anson trainers In 1946, the British-designed Fox Moth was manufacured at Downsview, as the Canadian division prepared to launch its own design, the DHC-1 Chipmunk trainer. That was followed by the DHC-2 Beaver, which was designed for northern Canadian bush operations and found a home in civil and military roles worldwide.

De Havilland's Chipmunk was the first true postwar aviation project of De Havilland Canada. Designed and built at Downsview, Toronto in 1945, the DHC-1 was conceived as a primary military trainer, replacing the venerable DH82C Tiger Moth used to train pilots during the Second World War. Built to ‘full fighter characteristics’, the Chipmunk was the first true postwar aviation project of de Havilland Canada. This tandem, two-seat, single-engined aircraft was the standard primary trainer for the Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Air Force and several others through much of the post-Second World War years.

The Chipmunk was designed to succeed the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane trainer that was widely used during the Second World War. Wsiewolod Jakimiuk, a Polish engineer, created the first indigenous design of the aircraft at de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd.

It is an all-metal, low wing, tandem two-place, single engine aircraft with a conventional tail wheel landing gear and fabric-covered control surfaces. The fuselage was of all metal, stressed skin construction as were the fin and tail plane. The single spar wing had a stressed skin leading edge, while the rear portion of the wing was fabric covered. The wing was stressed for 9g, a factor which contributed to its popularity as an aerobatic aircraft. A clear perspex canopy covers the pilot/student (front) and instructor/passenger (rear) positions.

De Havilland Aircraft of Canada started design of a primary trainer to replace the legendary Tiger Moth in October 1945 and the prototype flew seven months later. The prototype of this model, designated DHC-1, flew for the first time at Downsview, Toronto on 22 May 1946 with Pat Fillingham, test pilot from the parent de Havilland company, at the controls. The production version of the airplane was powered by a 145 hp (108 kW) in-line de Havilland Gipsy Major 8 engine while the prototype was powered by a 145 hp (108 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C four-cylinder inverted in-line engine.

This model had been produced for the basic training of military pilots and had desirable flight characteristics for aerobatics. Two Chipmunk aircraft were evaluated by the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at RAF Boscombe Down. The Canadian Army accepted its first DHC-1 Chipmunks in 1948. They were used for elementary pilot training at the Canadian Joint Air Training Centre, Rivers, Manitoba, as well as for training pilots in ranging and directing artillery fire.

The fully-aerobatic Chipmunk version was ordered as basic trainer for the Royal Air Force. The Royal Canadian Air Force also adopted the Chipmunk as basic trainer. The RCAF ordered its first Chipmunks in 1952, only after a number of design modifications were completed. The most obvious one was the replacement of the built up cockpit canopy with an interchangeable bubble type. British-built and early Canadian-built Chipmunks are notably different from the later Canadian-built RCAF/Lebanese versions. The later Canadian-built airplanes have a bubble canopy, while early Canadian, and all Portuguese and British examples have the multi-panelled sliding canopy, the rearmost panels of which are bulged for better instructor visibility. The last of the 217 Canadian built Chipmunks was delivered to the RCAF in the fall of 1956. The aircraft continued to operate with the Canadian military until the end of 1971 and with the RAF until the end of the 1970s.

It was hoped that this new trainer would be adopted by military and civil training schools throughout the British Commonwealth. Faced with strong headwinds including post war foreign currency restrictions, a massive supply of ‘cheap’ surplus wartime trainers and an undeserved reputation regarding spinning, this sprightly trainer “based on full fighter characteristics” had a slow birth, but over the fullness of time has grown to become an iconic aviation legend. The Chipmunk was eventually a great military success. At least 26 countries flew the DHC-1 as trainer aircraft, selfs the Belgian Air Force got 2 aircraft for evaluations but it’s the Stampe & Vertongen SV4bis who was choosen to replace the Tiger Moth fleet. From the 1950s onward, the Chipmunk also became a popular civilian aircraft, being used for training, aerobatics and crop spraying. Most civilian aircraft are ex-military like the two Belgian plane that became respectively OO-PSC (ex C1) and OO-MER (ex C2).

Over the years, several of these aircraft were modified, particularly to enhance their performance in aerobatics, and were renamed Super Chipmunks. On an original Chipmunk, the attachment of the lower part of the main spar is connected by two connecting links that, on installation, allow shims to be added to fill in lateral space, thereby removing stress on the front fitting. This characteristic was not retained on the Super Chipmunk, whose lower fittings on either side of the central fuselage structure were lengthened to attach directly to those of the wings.

Models DeHavilland DH.C1 Chipmunk 21, DH.C1 Chipmunk 22, and DH.C1 Chipmunk 22A airplanes are also identified as CHIPMUNK 22A, CHIPMUNK DHC-1T10, CHIPMUNK T.10 MK-22, DH.C1 MK22A, DHC-1, DHC-1 CHIPMUNK, DHC-1 CHIPMUNK 22, DHC-1 SERIES 22, or DHC-1 T.MK. In all, 1283 DHC-1 aircraft were built under different licences around the world. By another account, a total of 1,291 de Havilland Chipmunks were produced between 1946 and 1958; 217 in Canada; 1,014 in the UK, and 60 under license in Portugal.

Its long service was due in part to it being fully aerobatic with flying characteristics similar to the Spitfire, which made it a delight to fly. Because of the design’s rugged airframe and reliable engine, many Chipmunks are still being flown today. Affectionately known as the “Chippie”, or “Poor Man’s Spitfire”, over 500 DHC-1 Chipmunk airframes remain airworthy with more being rebuilt every year.

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Page last modified: 30-03-2014 18:36:06 ZULU