Prototype De Havilland DH91 Albatross E.2 landing showing original fin and rudder shape.
The DH Albatross was designed by Arthur Hagg as a long range mail plane and passenger airliner to Air Ministry specification 36/35.
Aerodynamic refinement was the driving consideration in the design of this elegant design and the result was a fantastically clean fuselage, which was combined with a retractable undercarriage and enormous attention to detail in achieving an engine installation with minimum frontal area. The Albatross also pioneered the monocoque fuselage plywood / balsa sandwich shell construction later to be used on the De Havilland Mosquito and Hornet.
The prototype (E2, later G-AEVV) flew for the first time on 20th May 1937 with power being provided by four air-cooled 525 hp Gipsy Twelve inverted-V engines installed in close-fitting nacelles. The monoplane wing was built upon the same principles as that of the DH88 Comet Racer which saw such success in the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race to Australia.
De Havilland DH91 Albatross prototype G-AEVV air to air showing revised fin shape.
Initially twin fins were fitted inset from the tail-plane tips, these being replaced following initial trials with a pair of fins mounted as endplates at the tail-plane tips. A retractable undercarriage was fitted, the large single wheels retracting inward into the wing root.
Development was not without its problems, notably a structural failure of the fuselage of the second prototype whilst undergoing overload trials on 27th August 1938. There was also a belly landing in March 1938 due to undercarriage problems.
De Havilland DH91 Albatross prototype G-AEVV & E.2, E.3. Note the extra windows in the airliner version (E.2).
Two aircraft (G-AEVV and G-AEVW) were built as mail carriers, followed by a further five configured as passenger aircraft, identifiable by the provision of additional cabin windows, split-slotted flaps. These latter aircraft had reduced fuel capacity compared with the mail plane versions.
For ease of reference all DH Albatross aircraft were christened with names beginning with ‘F’.
The first production aircraft (G-AFDI ‘Frobisher’) served with Imperial Airways until it was destroyed during a German air attack at Whitchurch in 1940.
Following the outbreak of war, the Albatross continued in service operating to Lisbon and Shannon and, later in RAF service, to Iceland. The two prototypes (Faraday & Franklin) were both destroyed during landing accidents at Reykjavik in 1941 and 1942.
Crash landings became a common fate for the DH Alabtross as the 4th example (G-AFDL ‘Fingal’ had previously been destroyed on arrival at Pucklechurch in 1940 and the 3rd (G-AFDK ‘Fortuna’) was destroyed in a crash landing accident at Shannon Airport in 1943.
De Havilland DH91 Albatross G-AEVW AX904 Franklin in RAF service.
The remaining aircraft continued in service until about mid-1944, when lack of spares resulted in the last two survivors (G-AFDM ‘Fiona’ and G-AFDJ ‘Falcon’ being broken up.
||Four 525 hp DH Gipsy Twelve inverted-V engines
||104 ft 8 in
||Mail 32,900 lb; Passenger 29,500 lb
||Passenger version: 22 passengers and four crew
||225 mph (Passenger)
||210 mph (Passenger)
||Mail 3,300 miles; Passenger 1,040 miles
Number Built and Variants
||Two mail carriers (G-AEVV, G-AEVW) and five airliners
No DH91 Albatross aircraft have survived.