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De Havilland DH77

A lightweight single seat monoplane fighter designed around the Napier Rapier engine.
De Havilland DH77 The sole example of the De Havilland DH77, showing the closely-cowled Napier engine and wide undercarriage track.
 
The DH77 was built to Air Ministry Specification F.20/27, which called for a single seat interceptor fighter of short-range with exceptional climb and manoeuvrability.
 
After 1926, De Havilland military prototype designs (including the DH77) were outsourced to W.G. Carter at Gloster Aircraft Co Ltd. who worked in very close collaboration with De Havilland engine designer Major Frank Halford.  This was a purely commercial decision as the time the De Havilland Design Team were concentrating solely on civilian aircraft types.
 
Construction of the DH77 was initiated as a private venture, light-weight prototype which was designed around the novel Napier Rapier engine. This specification sought a short-range, fast-climbing interceptor capable of high-altitude operation whilst carrying a minimum of equipment.
 
The Rapier light-weight engine was designed with four sets of cylinders arranged in an ‘H’ configuration and driving two crankshafts, geared together to provide final drive to the propeller. This arrangement resulted in minimum frontal area, albeit with an increase in complexity.
 
When tested, the DH77’s performance proved to be inferior to the heavier (and considerably more powerful) Hawker Hornet biplane, which offered higher speed and better rate of climb.
 
The DH77 was a diminutive aircraft and its empty weight was low at 1,655 lb, compared with the Hawker Hornet at 2,409 lb. Armament comprised two Vickers guns faired into the fuselage sides. Unusually, an all-moving tail-plane was fitted, designed to provide excellent control power and to ensure good spin recovery characteristics.
 
Despite its comparatively low-power, a clean maximum speed of 204 mph was achieved at 10,000ft, reducing to some 185 mph with a full military load.
 
The sole prototype was taken into RAF charge (as J9971) for test and evaluation and the first flight took place on 11th July 1929.  The aircraft was further trialled at Martlesham Heath from 12th December 1929 before being delivered into service at RAE Farnborough on 8th December 1932 where it underwent additional testing.  Eventually, it was returned to Martlesham Heath where sadly, it remained until June 1934.
 
The Hawker Hornet was selected for production and entered RAF service as the Hawker Fury.

 

De Havilland DH77 A fine air to air photograph of the De Havilland DH77.

 

Specification

Powerplant One 301 hp Napier Rapier I 
Span 32 ft 2 in
Maximum Weight 2,279 lb
Capacity & Armament Pilot and two Vickers machine guns
Maximum Speed 203 mph at 10,000ft (unladen); 182 mph with full military load

Numbers Built

Number built                       Single prototype only J9971                                                             

Survivors

None