De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth prototype E-1
The De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth prototype E-1 (later G-ACHD).

The prototype De Haviiland Aircraft Company DH85 Leopard Moth E-1 (later registered as G-ACHD) flew for the first time on 27th May 1933. Within just 5 weeks, the aircraft had taken victory in the Kings Cup Air Race, piloted by Geoffery de Havilland who covered the 831 mile course at an average speed of 139.51 mph.


Unlike the earlier De Havilland DH80 Puss MothDH80 Puss Moth, the DH85 Leopard Moth was designed from the outset to carry three occupants and featured a plywood, rather than steel tube fuselage construction. 


Externally, the two aircraft were similar, although the DH85 Leopard Moth undercarriage legs attached at the engine bulkhead, rather than to the forward wing root fitting. The wings also featured straight leading and trailing edges, with the leading edge being gently swept back.


De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-ACKL
De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-ACKL showing straight and slightly swept wing leading edge.


The DH85 Leopard Moth was very much an improved DH80 Puss Moth, offering the same attractions of long range and a degree of cabin comfort. The seating arrangement featured the pilot, sat up front, centrally ahead of a rear bench seat, accommodating two passengers. Like many other Moth variants, the wings could also be folded back to reduce hangar space and for easy towed-transport.


The type was immediately successful with a total of 132 aircraft being manufactured at Stag Lane and at Hatfield. 71 aircraft were built for a number of distinguished private owners who completed some notable long distance flights. These included a flight to Australia and back by Ken Waller in March and April 1934.


A French aircraft was also flown from Marseilles to Madagascar and back, whilst a Portugese aircraft completed a massive 43,500 mile round trip from Lisbon to Timor and back, via the Cape Verde islands.

De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-APKH at Middle Wallop
De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-APKH photographed at Middle Wallop
Some 44 Leopard Moths saw miltary service in Britain and in Australia during World War II, predominantly as communications aircraft although by the end of the conflict only 6 airframes survived.  
A number still remain airworthy today some 70 years after that maiden flight.



Powerplant One 130hp De Havilland Gipsy Major 1
Span 37ft 6in
Maximum Weight 2,225 lb
Capacity  Pilot and two passengers
Maximum Speed 137 mph
Normal Cruising Speed 119 mph
Range 715 miles


Numbers Built

Number built                              132 at Stag Lane and Hatfield



UK Survivors                              Six examples (G-ACLL, G-ACMA, G-ACMN, G-ACOJ, G-ACUS and G-AIYS) were listed on the UK civil register in March 2017, all of these then having current certificates of airworthiness. 

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