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de Havilland

Aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland began his career in automotive engineering, building motor cars and motorcycles. Around 1907 he became interested in the fledgling aviation industry and devoted the rest of his life to designing, building and flying aircraft.

His first design, a biplane, broke up as soon as it left the ground on its maiden flight in December 1909. Mr. de Havilland built his first machine at his own cost. On its trial it travelled some forty yards down a slope under its own power, then it rose too steeply into the air, and when it was corrected by Mr. de Havilland, who piloted it, the strain proved too great for the struts, which were made of American whitewood; the left main plane doubled up, and the machine, falling heavily to the ground thirty-five yards from its startingpoint, was totally wrecked. The great things of the air have most of them been done by survivors from wrecks. Fortunately, de Havilland wasn't badly injured but the only item salvaged from the crash site was the engine.

Mr. de Havilland went to work again on a much improved machine, designed to be an army biplane; in December 1910 he became a member of the staff of the balloon factory at Farnborough, and had a main hand in the best of the Government aeroplane designs. His second design was more successful and de Havilland piloted his new biplane on its first flight from Newbury, Berkshire in September 1910. That same year, de Havilland was offered the position of designer and test pilot at the new Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough. His biplane design was bought by the factory for 400 and became the FE.1, the first of an illustrious line of designs.

In May 1914, he joined The Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) as its chief designer. The design of the Airco machines was throughout been the work of Capt. G. de Havilland. They were on this account formerly termed 'de H. machines,' and under this appellation earned a well-deserved reputation during the War. The first of these machines made its appearance early in 1915, and was a two-seater machine of the pusher type fitted with a 70 h.p. Renault engine. It was followed by the de H. 1 A, practically identical in dimensions and construction, but fitted with a 120 h.p. Beardmore engine. The performance of this machine was quite good for the engine power available. The de H. 4 machine was one of the most successful machines produced during the war, and was used for all purposes. It is a tractor biplane of good clean design. Various types of engine have been fitted to this machine, the first being a B.H.P. 200 h.p. The engine power has been gradually increased until at the present time some of these machines are fitted with 450 h.p. Napier engines. The engines most frequently fitted are the Rolls-Royce 250 h.p. and 350 h.p. types.

Since the Great War the passenger accommodation on this machine has been enclosed to form a cabin capable of seating two persons, and in this form the de H. 4 was used for many journeys between London and Paris in connection with the Peace negotiations. An Airco 4 R (de H. 4 fitted with the 450 h.p. Napier 'Lion') won the the Aerial Derby in 1919. However, after the First World War, the aviation industry suffered a slump and de Havilland found himself out of work.

Undeterred, he formed the de Havilland Aircraft Company in September 1920 at a site near Hendon Aerodrome with financial support from Holt Thomas, the owner of Airco. de Havilland became increasingly frustrated with the Air Ministry's procedures so he decided to concentrate on commercial aircraft. The company designed and built the very successful Moth series of light aircraft which brought it financial stability.

Geoffrey de Havilland then moved his operation to Hatfield in Hertfordshire, where it continued to produce world-class aircraft. During the Second World War, de Havilland built many aircraft for the Air Ministry, the most famous of which was the Mosquito - the 'wooden wonder' which was built almost entirely of wood because aluminium was difficult to obtain. de Havilland was knighted in 1944 for his services to the aviation industry.

After the War, aircraft development continued at a fast pace and on 27 July 1949, the DH.106 Comet made its first flight. The Comet entered service with BOAC in 1952 and became the world's first commercial jet airliner. However, de Havilland faced problems with the Comet's design and increasing competition in the market. The commerical aircraft industry went through a period of consolidation and a number of famous aviation companies were absorbed into bigger groups. Sir Geoffrey de Havilland remained in control of the company until it was acquired by the Hawker Siddley Group in 1960.

De Havilland's Portsmouth factory, which was opened in 1934 and was their Airspeed Division, was shut down in June 1962, except for the toolroom and machine shop. Of the 1,800 men employed there as recently 50 as September 1961, some 1,500 will lose their jobs, and only about 300 would be left. During the past few years the main construction work at this factory had been on the Sea Vixen and more recently on the Trident, but the plant was capable of all types of aircraft construction, from toolroom to large airframe units. The teams were broken up. The plant was closed, and one of the largest employers in the Portsmouth area disappeared.

This left the de Havilland factory at Hatfield, which could be described as the hub of the whole enterprise, because it did the initial development work on most contracts before they are farmed out to the other factories. By early 1962 this factory had 3,500 employees.

DH.1Fighter plane
DH.2 Fighter plane
DH.4 bomber
DH.5 Fighter plane
DH.9 Bomber
DH.10 Bomber
DH.60 MothTraining plane
DH.60G Gipsy MothTraining plane
DH.61 Giant MothTransport plane
DH.75 Hawk MothTransport plane
DH.84 Dragon Transport plane
DH.85 Leopard Moth Transport plane
DH.86 Transport plane
DH.98 Mosquito Bomber
DH.100 Vampire 29 Sep 1943 jet fighter
DH.101 Not built High speed bomber with Napier Sabre engines to Specification B.11/41
DH.102 Mosquito II Not builtMosquito replacement to Specification B.4/42, with two-stage Merlin engines
DH.103 Hornet 28 Jul 1944 twin-engine fighter
DH.104 Dove 25 Sep 1945 8-passenger airliner
DH.105 Not built Single-engined elementary trainer to Specification T.23/43
DH.106 Comet 27 Jul 1949 first jet airliner
DH.108 Swallow 15 May 1946 prototype jet aircraft
DH.109 Not built Naval strike aircraft to Specification N.8/49
DH.110 Sea Vixen 26 Sep 1951 two-seat naval fighter
DH.112 Venom 02 Sep 1949 jet fighter
DH.113 Vampire NF.10 night fighter variant
DH.114 Heron 10 May 1950 small airliner
DH.115 Vampire T.11 trainer variant
DH.116 Sea Venom not built modernized Sea Venom project
DH.121 Trident 09 Jan 1962 three-engine jet airliner
DH.125 Jet Dragon 13 Aug 1962 medium corporate jet

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Page last modified: 25-08-2016 12:35:46 ZULU