De Havilland Company

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De Havilland Company

De Havilland Company is considered to be one of the most productive and innovative British aircraft manufacturers. It was founded in 1920 by Sir Geoffrey de Havilland who was knighted for his outstanding contribution in aircraft engineering.  By the end of 1921 de Havilland Company opened its own flying school and established an airplane hire service.

During the years, de Havilland Company has produced a number of various aircrafts, including civil and military jet planes, biplanes, gliders, piston-engine monoplanes, autogyros, and experimental aircraft. Initially de Havilland concentrated on the design of civil aircraft since the airline market at the time was rather poor. However, in 1921, Alan Samuel Butler became the company’s chairman and significantly invested in it thus giving de Havilland an opportunity to diversify the spheres of its activity and develop new models of the aircraft (The History of de Havilland, 2007). For many years de Havilland had also efficiently cooperated with the Air Ministry of the Royal Air Force the RAF.  The company started working for the RAF in mid-1918. This cooperation continued until 1931 and resulted in prolific manufacturing of the light military planes.

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The company is famous for its innovations. In the mid-1930s, when metal aircraft structures were widely employed, de Havilland introduced innovative approach to the usage of wood in the aircraft construction (The History of de Havilland, 2007). This innovation significantly improved the company’s reputation, due to which later de Havilland became a major supplier of military aircraft equipment during the World War II. For example, the innovative wooden-frame DH-88 Comet, a light racing plane, was considered a breakthrough in the aviation industry. The woodworkers were rather numerous in England, and this facilitated the production of wooden-structure aircrafts. Further developments in this direction resulted in the creation of the widely recognized Mosquito fighter-bomber.

The first significant success of de Havilland was the DH-4, a two-seat bomber that was first manufactured in 1916 (The History of de Havilland, 2007). Its construction was relatively simple and could be easily adapted for mass production. DH-4 was used during the war as observation biplane as well as bomber aircraft. It was included in the arsenal of most Air Service squadrons.  In the post-war period, starting from 1918, it became a popular mail delivery aircraft in the USA.

Among the well-known de Havilland developments were the light aircrafts of the so-called “Moth family” that first were conceived in 1925.  These were small single-engine aircrafts designed by Geoffrey de Havilland for the purposes of recreation and civil training (The History of de Havilland, 2007). They were the most popular type of civil aircraft at the time. However, the series included also sport planes and small military planes. The first Moth was a two-seater biplane DH-60.  In time the series was expanded, and new models of the Moths were designed, such as Giant Moth, Hawk Moth, Swallow Moth, Tiger Moth and others.

The DH-61 Giant Moth was a single-engine 5-passenger biplane designed in 1927 and introduced to the mass production in 1928. Some models of the Giant Moth could accommodate around 8 passengers. It was mostly used for mail services, especially in Australia (The de Havilland Moth Club, 2000).

The DH-75 Hawk Moth was a four-seat high-wing cabin monoplane designed as a light air-taxi and other civil uses. It was equipped by the wheel and ski undercarriage. The Hawk Moth was operated in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia (The de Havilland Moth Club, 2000).  

The DH-81 Swallow Moth was designed as a low-wing cantilever monoplane. It was first tested in 1931. The plane was considered simple and easy to operate and aimed at the low cost sporting aircraft market of the Great Depression time (The de Havilland Moth Club, 2000). However, only one sample was constructed, and in 1932 the Swallow Moth was retired from the production.

The first model of DH-82 Tiger Moth was flown in 1931. It was one of the most well-knows planes of the Moth generation. This aircraft was used mainly by the Elementary and reserve flying schools. Its innovative features were inverted engine, improved forward view, and modified construction of the wings that facilitated the descent with parachute and provided easy exit from the cockpit (The de Havilland Moth Club, 2000).

The Moths were extremely popular, and other planes of the similar constructions were often nicknamed “Moths” regardless of whether they were produced by de Havilland or not.

As the examples of other famous aircrafts developed by de Havilland company it is possible to cite DH. 110 Sea Vixen, Comet 4, DH 82 Tiger Moth, and the Trident.

DH 110. Sea Vixen is a two-engine all-weather jet fighter. Its first prototype was designed in 1951. It was extremely advanced model, and within a year it could surpass the speed of sound. During the next years, the Sea Vixen was considerably improved. The ejector seats were redesigned, the hatch cover was modernized to become frangible so that it became possible to eject through the hatch, etc. The Sea Vixen provided efficient radar and missile and was considered as a new generation bomber (Sea Vixen. Royal Navy Carrier Jet, 2014). However, the Sea Vixen was rather complicated to control, and the accidents were not rare. For example, between 1960 and 1970, more than 51 casualties were registered.

The Comet 4 production started in 1929. Its principal innovative feature was that it was powered by a gas turbine engine rather than propellers. During its first year of functioning, the Comet transported 28 000 passengers and covered more than 104 million miles. It was a real breakthrough for that time, and de Havilland continued developing new models of this aircraft (Maltby, 2009).  However, after a series of accidents in 1950s, the company had to stop manufacturing of Comets. The production was resumed later, after the structural defects had been revised.  The Comet had several variants, such as Comet 1A, Comet 1X, Comet 1XB and others.

The Trident was conceived in 1950s at the request of British European Airlines that wanted to exploit a new haul jet airliner (The Trident Preservation Society, 2004). The first plane of this type was produced in 1962 and starter to be used regularly in 1964. It was initially conceived as a large aircraft with considerable passenger capacity.  However, later its dimensions had to be reduced, only to be modified again later, after British European Airlines discovered that a large craft was indeed necessary. The Trident was rather similar to modern Boeing 757. It was the first model equipped with a stretched fuselage and able to lift more than 180 people.  However, the Trident had a significant defect.  The pilots considered it difficult to take off due to the low drag wing and insufficient speed.  For this reason the aircraft received the nickname “gripper” (The Trident Preservation Society, 2004).

De Havilland Company has been expanding considerably throughout the years, and currently it has several subsidiaries in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries.  The first overseas subsidiary was established in 1927 in Australia, first in Melbourne, and then it moved to Sydney. However, this subsidiary development was not very quick until the World War II when active manufacturing of DH 82 Tiger Moth began. During the war, Australian de Havilland subsidiary produced DH-G1 that was its particular innovation. It was a troop-carrying glider widely employed in 1942. The company also developed mass manufacturing of the Mosquitoes, some of which remained in use till 1953 (The History of de Havilland, 2007). Now the de Havilland subsidiary in Australia is the property of Boeing Company.

De Havilland Canadian branch was established in 1928. Its principal purpose was the construction of the Moth planes to train the Canadian pilots. Later this subsidiary merged with the Bombardier group of aviation companies. However, in 2005 its rights were purchased by Viking Air Ltd (The History of de Havilland, 2007).

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In 1939, de Havilland subsidiary was opened in New Zealand. The reason for this was the increasing demand for Tiger Moth aircraft. The subsidiary flourished during the World War II, equipping the Royal New Zealand Air Force. However, in 1964, it was purchased by Hawker Siddeley International NZ Ltd (The History of de Havilland, 2007).

Although the principal specialization of de Havilland is the production of aircrafts, the company also manufactured aero engines. The most famous and successful power units produced by de Havilland were those of Gypsy type, including later developments, such as the Gypsy Major, that was often used on de Havilland’s light aircraft. De Havilland was also a serious competitor to Rolls-Royce and Metrovick in the production of jet engines (The History of de Havilland, 2007).

In 1960, de Havilland was incorporated into the Hawker Siddeley Company. The reason for this was the excess of small aviation companies in Great Britain. The government required merging of some of these companies to avoid surplus. Though currently de Havilland products are labeled “Hawker Siddeley”, they still remain famous all over the world, and the demand on them does not decrease. Aircrafts developed by de Havilland are considered classic, and the company’s contribution into the aviation industry must not be underestimated.