The first prototype De Havilland Aircraft Company DH61 (G-EBTL) flew in December 1927 and was named ‘Canberra’, being intended for use in Australia to replace the smaller DH50J. The prototype was powered by a 450 hp Bristol Jupiter VI engine although the majority of the production machines used the 500 hp Jupiter XI.
The De Havilland DH61 accommodated 6 to 8 passengers in a glazed and enclosed cabin in the centre of the fuselage, with the pilot seated in an open cockpit to the rear.
The 2nd and 3rd aircraft (G-CAJT & G-CAPG) were tested on the River Medway at Rochester from June 1928, on Shorts-built floats to evaluate their seaplane operational capability. These aircraft were intended to carry fire fighters in Canada to remote river and lake locations close to the scene of forest fires.
A total of nine De Havilland DH61 aircraft were built, seven of which were exported to Australia or Canada.
Two of the Australian aircraft (G-AUJB / VH-UJB 'Apollo' and G-AUJC / VH-UJC 'Diana') were the first Qantas aircraft to be equipped with toilets.
Both aircraft suffered engine issues, generally during the first year of service recording 18 engine failures within 12 months. By 1935, they simply became obsolete and so both were sold to operators in New Guinea.
However one aircraft (G-AUJB / VH-UJB Apollo) was notably used during the first Australia to England Air Mail Service, flying 17 bags of mail from Brisbane to Darwin on 25th April 1931, with the payload then passed onward to ‘Southern Cross’ (a Fokker F.VIIb tri-motor) flown by Charles Kingsford Smith, for final delivery.
The De Havilland DH61 was retired from Qantas service in 1935 due to the unreliability of their Bristol Jupiter XI engines.
The final De Havilland DH61 (G-CARD) was also exported to Canada, where it is believed to have been extensively modified to fit a Pratt & Whitney Hornet engine, being re-registered (CF-OAK). At a later date, another (G-CAPG) was modified to a similar standard.
One aircraft (G-AAAN) was used by in the UK by the Daily Mail for rapid news gathering, equipped with a dark room that could be used in-flight, to process film negatives. It also carried a motorcycle so that its reporters could be as mobile as possible on arrival at their destination.
The aircraft was later sold to the National Flying Service before being acquired by Western Australian Airlines in 1931.
Sir Alan Cobham was notable for his exploits in De Havilland DH61 (G-AAEV) ‘Youth of Britain’, as part of his 21-week Tour of Britain promoting aviation in 1929. During the tour, Cobham flew over 60,000 miles and visited 110 towns. He carried 40,000 passengers, including 10,000 school children experiencing their first flights.
This aircraft was fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VIC engine and configured for ten passengers to maximise the potential for passenger flying.
The aircraft was named ‘Youth of Britain’ and AJ Jackson reports that thanks to the generosity of Sir Charles Wakefield, some 10,000 schoolchildren were given free flights during the 21 week tour.
|Powerplant||One 500 hp Bristol Jupiter XIF engine|
|Span||52 ft 0 in|
|Maximum Weight||7,000 lb|
|Capacity||Pilot in an open cockpit and 6 – 8 passengers in an enclosed cabin|
|Maximum Speed||132 mph|
|Cruising Speed||110 mph|
|Total of 9 aircraft||Comment|
|G-EBTL later G-AUTL||‘Canberra’ registration cancelled September 1936|
|G-CAJT||Destroyed October 1928|
|G-CAPG||Modified to Hornet power and in use until February 1941|
|G-AUHW||Operated New Guinea from 1932, destroyed November 1934|
|G-AAAN later VH-UQJ||Daily Mail, then to Australia, scrapped September 1936|
|G-AUJB later VH-UJB||‘Apollo’ crashed in New Guinea May 1935|
|G-AUJC||‘Diana’ crashed New Guinea October 1935|
|G-AAEV||Alan Cobham ‘Youth of Britain’ crashed Broken Hill January 1930|
|G-CARD later CF-OAK||Re-engined and modified with P&W Hornet engine, crashed May 1936|
None, although the QANTAS Founders Museum at Longreach, QLD has a full-size replica of VH-UJB 'Apollo' on display.