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de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk

The de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk is a two-seat, single-engine aircraft that has been extensively used as a primary trainer aircraft. The basic configuration of the aircraft included a low-mounted wing and a two-place tandem cockpit, which was fitted with a clear perspex canopy covers the pilot/student (front) and instructor/passenger (rear) positions and provided all-round visibility. The Chipmunk uses a conventional tailwheel landing gear arrangement and is fitted with fabric-covered flight control surfaces; the wing is also fabric-covered aft of the spar. In terms of handling, the Chipmunk exhibited a gentle and responsive flight attitude. Early production aircraft were only semi-aerobatic, while later production models were almost all fully aerobatic.

The structure of the Chipmunk makes heavy use of metal, the majority of the airframe being composed of a stress-skinned alloy; this allowed the adoption of thinner wings and consequently provided for increased performance as well as a greater degree of durability. Numerous features were incorporated in order for the type to better perform in its trainer role, including hand-operated single-slotted wing flaps, anti-spin strakes, disc brakes on the wheeled undercarriage, a thin propeller composed of a solid lightweight alloy, the adoption of an engine-driven vacuum pump in place of external venturi tubes to power cockpit instrumentation, electric and Coffman cartridge engine starters as alternative options, cockpit lighting, onboard radio system, and an external identification light underneath the starboard wing.

In civilian service, individual aircraft would often be modified. Examples of these adaptations include extensive modification programmes in order to perform competitive aerobatics, for which aircraft are often re-engined and fitted with constant speed propellers and inverted fuel systems; larger numbers of Chipmunks have been tasked as dedicated glider tows. It has become commonplace for Chipmunks to be re-engined, typically using the 180 hp Lycoming O-360.


Immediately following the conclusion of the Second World War, there was a desire amongst some figures within Canadian aviation circles to take advantage of the recently expanded aircraft manufacturing industry which had been rapidly built up in Canada during the peace years.

Out of this desire, it was decided to embark on developing aircraft which would replace designs which were obsolete in light of the rapid advances made during the war in the aviation field. One such company, de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd, was interested in developing their own aircraft designs, and chose to focus on producing a contemporary aircraft for pilot training, specifically intending for the envisioned type to serve as a successor to the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane trainer, many thousands of which having been widely used during the recent war by various military services and had been developed prior to the conflict.

de Havilland Tiger Moth

Wsiewołod Jakimiuk, a Polish pre-war engineer, served as the principal designer and led the design team in the development of the new aircraft, which became known as the Chipmunk. He designed a cantilever monoplane that incorporated numerous advances over typical trainer aircraft then in widespread service.

These included an enclosed cockpit complete with a rear-sliding canopy, and various aerodynamic features to manage the aircraft's flight performance. Strakes were fitted to deter spin conditions and stall breaker strips along the inboard leading edges of the wing ensured that a stall would originate in this position as opposed to the outboard section.

The Chipmunk would become the first indigenous aircraft design to be produced by de Havilland Canada.

The Chipmunk prototype, CF-DIO-X, first flew on 22 May 1946 at Downsview, Toronto, piloted by Pat Fillingham, a test pilot who had been seconded from the parent de Havilland company. The prototype was powered by a 145 hp de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C air-cooled reciprocating engine, this was replaced on the production version of the Chipmunk by a 145 hp inline de Havilland Gipsy Major 8 engine.

de Havilland Canada constructed the type at their factory in Downsview, Toronto, Ontario, where they produced a total of 217 Chipmunks during the 1940s and 1950s, the final example of which having been completed during 1956. In addition, a total of 1,000 Chipmunks were produced under licence in the United Kingdom by British aircraft manufacturer de Havilland; manufacturing was initially performed at the company's facility at Hatfield Aerodrome, Hertfordshire; it was later decided to transfer production to another of their plants, located at Hawarden Aerodrome, Broughton near Chester. A further 66 Chipmunks were licence-manufactured by OGMA (Oficinas Gerais de Material Aeronáutico), at Alverca from 1955 to 1961 in Portugal for the Portuguese Air Force.

Both British-built and early Canadian-built Chipmunks are notably different from the later Canadian-built RCAF/Lebanese versions. The later Canadian-built aircraft were fitted with a bubble canopy, which replaced the multi-panelled sliding canopy that had been used upon early Canadian-produced Chipmunks, along with all of the Portuguese and British-built aircraft.

Canadian-built RCAF/Lebanese version

On the early-built canopy, the rearmost panels were intentionally bulged in order to provide the instructor's position with superior visibility. British-built Chipmunks also differed by a number of adjustments to suit the expressed preferences of the RAF. These included the repositioning of the undercarriage legs, the adoption of a variable-pitch propeller, anti-spin strakes, landing lights, and an all-round stressed airframe.

At one point, work was being conducted on a derivative of the Chipmunk which featured an extensive cabin modification in order to accommodate a side-by-side seating arrangement; the aircraft, which was referred to as the DHC-2, ultimately remained unbuilt. The DHC-2 designation was subsequently reallocated to the company's next product, the DHC-2 Beaver.

DHC-2 Beaver

Photo Karsten Palt

General characteristics

Crew: 2, student & instructor

Length: 7.75 m

Wingspan: 10.47 m

Height: 2.1 m

Wing area: 16.0 m²

Empty weight: 646 kg

Loaded weight: 953 kg

Max. takeoff weight: 998 kg

Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C, 145 hp


Maximum speed: 120 knots at sea level (140 mph is also given)

Cruise speed: 90 knots

Range: 225 NM

Service ceiling: 15,800 ft

Rate of climb: 900 ft/min

Wing loading: 57.82 kg/m²

Power/mass: .072 hp/lb

Military operators


  • Belgian Air Force In 1948, the Belgian air Force acquired two DHC-1 for evaluation as a possible replacement for their De Havilland Tiger Moth trainers. In the end, they choose the Stampe SV.4 instead and the two Chipmunks were sold off to the civilian market in 1955.


  • Burma Air Force


  • Royal Canadian Air Force


  • Royal Ceylon Air Force


  • Royal Danish Air Force


  • Egyptian Air Force


  • Ghana Air Force


  • Irish Air Corps


  • Iraqi Air Force


  • Israeli Air Force - One aircraft only.


  • Royal Jordanian Air Force


  • Kenya Air Force


  • Lebanese Air Force


  • Royal Malaysian Air Force


  • Portuguese Air Force

  • Squadron 802, Águias (Sintra)

  • Air Force Academy (Academia de Força Aérea, Sintra)

Saudi Arabia

  • Royal Saudi Air Force


  • Spanish Air Force - One aircraft only.


  • Syrian Air Force

Southern Rhodesia

  • Rhodesian Air Training Group 4 Flying Training School. One aircraft WG354 preserved by South African Airforce Museum


  • Royal Thai Air Force, developed as RTAF-4

United Kingdom

  • British Army - Army Air Corps

  • Basic Fixed Wing Flight

  • Army Air Corps Historic Aircraft Flight

  • Royal Air Force

  • RAFVR RFS, No.8 Sqn, No.31 Sqn, No.114 Sqn, No.275 Sqn, No.613 Sqn, No.663 Sqn, RAF Gatow (Berlin) Station Flight, University Air Squadrons, Air Experience Flights (Air Training Corps), Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

  • Royal Navy - Fleet Air Arm

  • 771 NAS

  • 781 NAS

  • 727 NAS Britannia Royal Naval College Flight

  • Royal Navy Historic Flight


  • Uruguayan Air Force


  • Zambian Air Force


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