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The de Havilland Company, headed by Captain Geoffrey de Havilland, was a leader in the development of a light plane for sale to the English public. In 1923 the company entered the D.H. 53 Hummingbird in the Lympne trials, which was organized by the Air Ministry to encourage light plane development. However, the provisions of the trials called for the use of very small engines, and the Hummingbird lacked performance because it was underpowered. To remedy this, de Havilland introduced a more powerful plane, the D.H. 60, nicknamed the Moth, which was powered by a four-cylinder engine derived from a Renault V-8 produced during World War I. Introduced in 1925, the D.H. 60 became so successful that the entire supply of Renault engine parts was soon used up.
Accordingly, de Havilland and engineer Frank Halford designed a new engine producing more horsepower but weighing only 14 pounds more than the D.H. 60's engine. This new engine was known as the Gipsy, and when it was installed in a de Havilland biplane in 1928, the plane was called the Gipsy Moth.
By 1930 the Gipsy Moth had become England's most popular light plane for private flying. Inexpensive and easy to fly, the biplane made private flying possible for thousands of Britons. To meet the demand for this dependable aircraft, the de Havilland Company had to increase production from less than one aircraft per week to more than three per day. It wasn't long before 85 out of every 100 private planes in England were Moths produced by de Havilland.
Not only did this aircraft popularize private flying but it also accounted for a number of flight records. In 1930 Francis Chichester, after only 100 hours of flying time, piloted a Gipsy Moth solo from England to Australia, and Amy Johnson matched his feat, becoming the first woman to make the flight.
Throughout the 1930s, the Moth was
produced in several different versions. Finally, prior to World War II, it was
modified for use as a military training plane and renamed the Tiger Moth. Most of
the Royal Air Force pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain received their flight
training in the Tiger Moth.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004