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De Havilland No1 Biplane

Geoffrey de Havilland's first aeroplane design
Geoffrey de Havilland's first aeroplane design
Geoffrey de Havilland’s first venture into controlled powered flight came in November 1909 when he attempted to test his first design which is now retrospectively known as de Havilland Biplane No1.
After an advance of £1,000 from his maternal grandfather, 27 year-old Geoffrey conceived and constructed his 3 bay, open-truss biplane in a rented workshop in Baron’s Court, Fulham. Working alongside partner Frank Hearle and his new wife Louise, in the summer of 1909 he transferred the various components of the new machine by lorry to Seven Barrows on Lord Carnarvon’s Hampshire Estate.
During his early years, de Havilland had pursued a career in the Automotive Industry where he worked as a draughtsman for the Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Company.  Later he joined The Motor Omnibus Construction Company Limited and it was here he was to design the bespoke engine (built by the Iris Motor Company) which was to power his new machine.
Despite an encouraging start, the first test ended in uncontrolled mayhem as after just 100ft of forward motion the left wings collapsed and the aircraft crashed.
de Havilland suffered only a minor injury when his wrist was struck by one of the still rotating propellers as he extricated himself from the wreckage.  Salvaging the important and expensive components, de Havilland borrowed further funding from his grandfather and returned to the drawing board.  
Finally, he achieved ’controlled-flight’ in De Havilland Biplane No2 in September 1910 the site of which is commemorated just off the A34 by a memorial stone.


Powerplant 1 x de Havilland Iris flat 4 engine – 45 hp
Span 36 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight 850 lb
Capacity 1 Pilot
Maximum Speed Unknown
Range Unknown

Number built




Despite many projects to recreate No2 Bi-plane, No1 has been widely ignored as a failure.


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