De Havilland
DH85 Leopard Moth

An updated version of the Puss Moth designed from the outset to carry three occupants.
De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth prototype E-1 The De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth prototype E-1 (later G-ACHD).

The prototype DH85 Leopard Moth E-1 (later registered as G-ACHD) flew for the first time on 27th May 1933 and within just 5 weeks the aircraft took 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 DH80 Puss Moth, the DH85 was designed from the outset to carry three occupants and featured a plywood, rather than steel tube fuselage construction. 


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


De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-ACKL Air-to-air photograph of De Havilland DH85 Leopard Moth G-ACKL showing straight and slightly swept wing leading edge.


The Leopard Moth was very much an improved 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, including 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 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.