THE HOME THE ” MOTH ” -sk ROUND THE WORKS OF THE DE HAVILLAND CO.
TO really appreciate a visit to the factory of the De Havilland Aircraft CO., Ltd., at Stag Lane, Edgware, one must in the first place know something of the career of Captain Geoffrey de Havilland, of the history of the firm which bears his name, and of the long line of aircraft which are known as D.H. machines. Without being aware of these facts one fails to grasp the significance of all that is to be seen there, and the visitor, ignorant of the past, may feel that it is ” just a factory where aircraft are made.” But to anyone conversant with aviation history, and who is not devoid of all imagination, a tour through the departments and shops of the D. H. establishment brings something more than interest. One realises the meaning of the phrase “the romance of industry,” and it strikes one that
romantic” is not too fanciful a word to use in connection with this business of aeroplane building.
Go back to the far-off days of 1909. There was a D.H. machine even then—the very first. And it was not only designed and built by Captain de Havilland, but flown by him also. It was, in fact, the aeroplane on which he taught himself to fly. Twenty-three years ago ! One can picture him struggling with the many problems which beset all those early pioneers of flight, and striving to overcome them. Disappointments, triumphs, hazards—all must have come his way. And then the War which forced to such an astounding extent the development of aircraft. From the start among the most successful
machines were those designed by de Havilland—the famous B. E., for example. The initials, it may be mentioned here, stood for Bleriot Experimental because the Bleriot was regarded as the prototype of all tractor aeroplanes. Then when Captain de Havilland joined the Aircraft Manufacturing Co., the series of D.H. craft began. The D.H.1 was a two-seater pusher, the ” 2 ” was a single-seater pusher scout, the ” 4 ” a twoseater general purpose machine of remarkable performance, and the a rotary engined tractor scout. All in their time made history in the Service. The D.H.9 was also a famous war
time production, of course, and while many readers may be too-young t o remember the ” 9 ” as it was in 1918, it will not be lin known to them since examples survive to this day. To a lesser degree the same may be said of the D.H.6, a trainer and submarinespotter of 19171918. So much for the D.H.
machines of pre-War and Wartime years.
In 1919 when commercial aviation was fighting for an existence, the machines which paved the way were De Havilland designed. There was the D.H.16—a modified 9a—which operated on the first London-Paris service ; there was the D.H.18 cabin machine, the D.H.34 and 37. In 1921, with all this wealth of experience behind it, the De Havilland Aircraft Co., Ltd., was formed. It started modestly with a small group of buildings in the seclusion of Stag Lane aerodrome—a place which was then practically unknown. Working through those difficult early post-War years its output was small, its development gradual. But progress was being made, nevertheless. Captain de Havilland gathered around him some able assistants, and such pilots as Cobham, Broad and Barnard combined in building up the reputation of the firm and its products. Stag Lane was definitely placed on the map, and with the corner turned in commercial aviation the De Havilland Company was well to the fore. When the early light aeroplane trials were held at Lympne in 1923, the little D.H. 53 monoplane appeared, and it is significant that while all other machines of its class are now extinct, there are still a few ” 53’s ” in use to-day. Two years later the first ” Moth ” was produced. To state that it was the forerunner of the most famous of all the Company’s productions is
not enough. Its introduction opened up a new era in flying ; it made the formation of the flying clubs a practical proposition, and hastened on the private flying movement in a way that few people had previously thought possible.
Of the subsequent progress which the De Havilland Company have made in improving the” Moth,” and of the many records which have been achieved with it, everyone who is interested in flying is fully aware. ” Moths ” are to be found in operation in nearly every part of the world, and they are not only sold abroad but built abroad under licence. These historic facts dating from 1909 are things which one does well to remember, which one cannot fail to remember when going round the works at Stag Lane. One enters the ” mill ” and sees the wing spars being made. Swiftly and with in
finite accuracy t h e wood is shaped, and drilled, and checked, to emerge presently in its familiar form. It is just one part of the whole machine, and its manufacture is apparently, a simple operation. But behind it is the experience of years and years. One visits the engine test department, where the D.H. ” Gipsy ” engines are roaring on
the brake. And one recollects that the first De Havilland machine was powered, like its descendant, with a De Havilland engine. Then in the erecting shop stand ” Puss Moths” and “Tiger Moths” and standard “Moths” in various stages of assembly. There is an atmosphere of efficiency and concentration. A completed machine is nearby with folded wings, and one is told that it has been specially fitted up for a forthcoming record attempt to the Cape. Twenty-two years ago a flip of ten minutes would have been considered no mean achievement.
Yet to-day the men who are responsible for the design, and making and erecting of these machines, which are capable of phenomenal performances, seemingly regard their craftmanship with complete equanimity, and one wonders if they are conscious of the part they are playing in the ceaseless move forward in the world of flight. So one’s tour of inspection continues, through the rough stores, the tinsmiths’ shop, drawing office, dope shop and so forth, till finally the aerodrome itself is reached. On the tarmac a new machine is seen, looking dull and drab in its rough
works finish.” A pilot clambers into the cockpit ; a moment or two and he takes off, climbing steeply into the haze of the bleak, March afternoon air.
The crisp note of the brand-new ” Gipsy ” rises, falls and rises again as the craft sweeps round in a series of aerobatic evolutions. Then the haze enshrouds it, and it is lost to view.
Another ” Moth ” has gone on test, and another machine has joined the great D.H. family.