Aviation pioneer Geoffrey de Havilland designed and built 2 aircraft which pre-date the designation 'DH', which was introduced upon his joining The Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) during the First World War.
This page, and that of the De Havilland Biplane No. 1, chart his early attempt and success of achieving controlled flight.
Geoffrey de Havilland’s first venture into controlled powered flight came in November 1909, when he attempted to test his very first design, now retrospectively known as de Havilland Biplane No.1. Whilst the machine is reported to have left the ground in a series of small hops, this could only be substantiated by his partner and best friend Frank Hearle.
In any case, the attempt ended in disaster with the almost immediate failure of the wing structure and the destruction of the aircraft.
Somewhat dejected and very short of funds, de Havilland returned to his Fulham Road Workshop with the remnants of Biplane No. 1 to contemplate his future.
Geoffrey set about modifying his design, having now gained painful knowledge of what not to do. In an unusual vote of financial faith from maternal his grandfather (against the wishes of his mother Alice, Jeannette) he built what was to become De Havilland Biplane No.2.
Re-using the Iris engine that he had designed for the earlier machine, De Havilland Biplane No.2 reflected other contemporary designs of the day, following the general lines of the Farman III that had achieved successful flight in 1909.
Configured as a two-bay pusher biplane, it incorporated an elevator carried on booms in front of the wing. The pilot would be seated on the lower wing, precariously in front of the engine and with a second elevator and a rudder behind the wings. A pair of ailerons mounted on the upper wing, would be expected to deliver lateral control.
On 25th September 1910, de Havilland finally achieved his childhood dream as the Biplane No. 2 took to the air at Seven Barrows, on the Highclere Estate of his good friend Lord Canarvon. This first controlled flight signalled the start of what would become one of the most successful and illustrious aviation careers in the world.
A number of further hops at Seven Barrow turned into sustained ‘flights’ and in December 1910, Geoffrey successfully demonstrated the De Havilland Biplane No. 2 at The Army Balloon Factory at Farnborough. Government officials were impressed, both with the flying machine and the man, so much so that in addition to buying his prototype aircraft for £400, they also offered him a position as a designer and test pilot at the quickly changing government facility.
Geoffrey de Havilland along with several other pilots flew the De Havilland Biplane No.2 at Farnborough where it was redesignated FE1. Sadly, in the summer of 1911, it was crashed by pilot by Lt. Theodore J. Ridge although it was to be rebuilt as the FE2.
In reality, the FE2 was a new design utilising as many components as possible, This was to hide the development work being carried out at Farnborough as at this stage they were not permitted to build aircraft from scratch - but that is another story.
|Powerplant||1 x De Havilland Iris flat 4 engine – 45 hp (3kw)|
|Span||33 ft 0 in|
|Gross Weight||1,100 lbs|
|1||De Havilland No. 2 Aircraft|
None - Original aircraft crashed and recreated as FE2.