The story of de Havilland’s flying Chipmunk

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Chipmunk in the new hangar at the museum at Salisbury Hall. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Chipmunk in the new hangar at the museum at Salisbury Hall. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

de Havilland Aircraft Museum

There’s a road in Salisbury Village, Hatfield, called Chipmunk Chase. Here Alistair Hodgson, curator of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, explains more about the plane that gave the road its name.

Like most successful companies, Hatfield’s de Havilland Aircraft Company established many overseas branches.

One of the largest was de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd.

Based in Downsview near Toronto, the company was started up in 1928 to meet the growing Canadian demand for DH Moth aircraft.

From then until the end of the war, de Havilland Canada built over 1,500 Tiger Moth aircraft and 1,134 Mosquitos, and even built fuselages of Tiger Moths for export back to Britain.

DH C1 Chipmunk in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan DaviesDH C1 Chipmunk in the new Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Hangar at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Picture: Alan Davies

After the Second World War, the company started to develop designs for its own market and the first of these was the DHC-1 Chipmunk – DHC stood for de Havilland Canada.

This was a simple two-seat training aircraft to replace the Tiger Moths that were still in widespread use as trainers, despite being nearly obsolete.

The Chipmunk’s pilot and instructor sat in tandem – i.e. one behind the other – in an enclosed cockpit.

The aircraft was mainly made of metal with fabric-covered wings, and used a more modern version of the trusty Gypsy Major engine, similar to the Tiger Moth before it.

A close-up of the crest of Birmingham University Air Squadron. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumA close-up of the crest of Birmingham University Air Squadron. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The Chipmunk first flew in May 1946 with a British de Havilland test pilot, Pat Fillingham, at the controls.

Chipmunks served with distinction, not only with the training squadrons of the Royal Air Force but with the air forces of about 15 other nations.

They were built by de Havilland in the UK as well as in Canada, and were built under licence in Portugal.

Many Chipmunks survive in flyable condition to this day, and the ‘Chippy’ is a much-loved favourite of private owners and historic aircraft pilots.

Flying classroom: the front cockpit where the student pilot would have sat in the Chipmunk. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumFlying classroom: the front cockpit where the student pilot would have sat in the Chipmunk. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum’s Chipmunk is a T Mk.10 aircraft.

Over its service life it flew with various RAF flying schools and with the University Air Squadrons of Manchester, Wales and Birmingham Universities.

We restored in the colours of Birmingham University Air Squadron, where it would have been used to give flying lessons to students who were interested in joining the Royal Air Force after graduating.

■ The museum preserving Hatfield’s aviation heritage is based at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. The museum is signposted at Junction 22 of the M25.


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