The prototype De Havilland Aircraft Company DH53 Hummingbird (G-EBHX) was first flown on 2nd October 1923 and along with its sister aircraft 'Sylvia II' (G-EBHZ) it was entered into the 1923 Daily Mail Light Aeroplane Competition, held at Lympne in order to find the most economical light single seat British aeroplane.
Many of the entries were motor gliders but the De Havilland DH53 was a more 'workman-like' strut-braced, low wing monoplane of conventional proportions, albeit fitted with a low power 750 cc Douglas motorcycle engine.
The competition was held in late October 1923, and although the type was not rewarded with competition prizes it demonstrated an economy of 59.3 miles per gallon. It also showed its strength by performing aerobatic manoeuvres that would surely have been beyond the capability of a number of the other contestants.
In 1924, a further 12 aircraft were built at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware, all named De Havilland DH53 Hummingbird after the prototype with eight of these being delivered to the Air Ministry for trials.
Six aircraft made their public debut in a race at the 1925 Hendon RAF Display whilst the remaining two were used as ‘parasite aircraft’, being launched and recovered from below the Airship R33. The eight RAF aircraft were sold on the civil market from 1927.
Of the remaining four aircraft, three were exported to Australia and one for Aero Prague. A final aircraft was produced for an order for Russia.
All of the production aircraft were powered by the 698 cc 26 hp Blackburn Tomtit twin cylinder inverted V engine.
Alan Cobham successfully flew a De Havilland DH53 (G-EBHX) to Brussels in 1923 for the Aero and Automobile Show. Although it was winter-time, Cobham elected to fly solo across the snow-covered fields of Flanders although he was forced by headwinds to abandon the return flight after finding himself in exceptionally low cloud. After a few minutes however, he realised that in fact he was in a steam cloud, having been overtaken by a slow-moving freight train on the rail track he was following.
He abandoned the little aircraft and caught the next train and ferry home!
Sadly, the prototype was lost in a fatal accident at Old Warden in July 2012 although images and video footage is still available on the internet.
|Powerplant||Production aircraft: One 26hp Blackburn Tomtit engine|
|Span||30 ft 1 in|
|Maximum Weight||565 lb|
|Maximum Speed||73 mph|
|Cruising Speed||60 mph|
Fuselage of J7326 at DH Museum; G-EBHX was preserved in flying condition with the Shuttleworth Collection, until an accident in July 2012