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 2, 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 No1.
During his early years, de Havilland had pursued a career in the Automotive Industry alongside his brother Ivan, who he simply idolised. He worked as a trainee draughtsman for the Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Company although later he joined The Motor Omnibus Construction Company Limited. It was here that he was to design the bespoke engine (built by the Iris Motor Company), which was to power his new flying machine.
After an advance of £1,000 from his maternal grandfather (The Reverend Charles de Havilland), 27 year-old Geoffrey conceived and constructed his first 3 bay, open-truss biplane, in a rented workshop in Baron’s Court, Fulham, West London.
Working alongside partner Frank Hearle and his new wife Louise, in the summer of 1909 he transferred the various components of the new machine by lorry to a field known as Seven Barrows, deep into Lord Carnarvon’s Highclere Castle Estate, near Newbury.
Despite an encouraging start, the first test ended in uncontrolled mayhem as after just 100ft of forward motion, the left wings collapsed and the aircraft crashed to the ground.
de Havilland himself suffered only a minor injury when his wrist was struck by one of the still rotating propellers as he extricated himself from the wreckage. Salvaging the important and expensive components, de Havilland borrowed further funding from his grandfather and returned to the drawing board.
de Havilland finally achieved ’controlled-flight’ in his de Havilland Biplane No2, in September 1910 on the site of which is now commemorated just off the A34 by a memorial stone and only accessible on foot.
|Powerplant||1 x de Havilland Iris flat 4 engine – 45 hp|
|Span||36 ft 0 in|
|Maximum Weight||850 lb|
|1||de Havilland No1 Aircraft|
None - (Despite many projects to recreate No2 Bi-plane, No1 has been widely ignored as a failure).