SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

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My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

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Geoffrey de Havilland (1882 - 1965)

Issue: 07-2012By Group Captain (Retd) Joseph Noronha, Goa

He and his company designed and built a large number of aircraft, including the Moth family—the Giant Moth, Hawk Moth, Puss Moth, Swallow Moth, Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, Leopard Moth, and Hornet Moth—used as private planes, trainers and light airliners

Making motorcycles and steam cars is a stepping stone towards building aeroplanes—or so Geoffrey de Havilland thought. Born on July 27, 1882, in Buckinghamshire, England, the young Geoffrey was of a mechanical bent. In the summer of 1908, he sweet-talked his grandfather into giving him his £1,000 inheritance in advance. Then he quit his job, engaged a mechanic, Frank Hearle, and began making a plane of wire, wood and cloth. Geoffrey’s wife Louise was roped in to stitch the stiff linen fabric stretched over the wings. A 45-hp engine provided power to the twin pusher-propeller machine. Geoffrey had little knowledge of aircraft designing and no training whatsoever in flying. This did not deter him from getting into the plane at the Hampshire downs and coaxing it to get airborne, helped by Hearle. But although the aircraft had a better aerodynamic shape than earlier biplanes, it stubbornly remained earthbound. When it finally did lift off, it came down with a crash about 100 feet away and was wrecked. Fortunately, de Havilland was unharmed. He managed to salvage the engine and some material from the site and took them back to the workshop, determined to rebuild the machine.

The aircraft that next emerged was stronger and simpler in concept with a single propeller. Barely six months later, in early 1910, the new plane took to the air and Geoffrey taught himself to fly. His confidence grew in leaps and bounds, so much so that he soon took Hearle, then his wife and eight-week-old son, for joyrides. Thereafter progress was rapid. In 1912, his BE.2 aircraft set a new British one-passenger altitude record of 10,560 feet. When the British Army decided to induct aeroplanes, de Havilland and Hearle produced some of Britain’s first military machines. World War I broke out in 1914 and the BE.2 became the standard aircraft of the Royal Flying Corps. Then de Havilland designed a number of new planes in quick succession. They included single and twoseat fighters and single and twin-engine bomber aircraft. Most of the planes were manufactured by Airco, where he was employed. The Airco DH.4 was easy to fly, could travel at over 100 mph and had a high ceiling of 23,500 feet. It was rated the best single-engine bomber of the war. It was mass-produced in the United States after that country entered the conflict in 1917, and the 5,000 planes manufactured remained in service through much of the 1920s. Overall 33 per cent of Allied aircraft strength and 95 per cent of all American wartime production were machines designed by de Havilland. His design philosophy was simple and direct. “I like a thing to look right,” he once remarked, “If it does not, although I may not be able to prove it wrong scientifically, I have often found out later that it is.”

After World War I ended, the de Havilland Aircraft Company was founded in 1920 (eventually absorbed into Hawker Siddeley). He and his company designed and built a large number of aircraft, including the Moth family—the Giant Moth, Hawk Moth, Puss Moth, Swallow Moth, Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, Leopard Moth, and Hornet Moth—used as private planes, trainers, and light airliners. These kick-started the flying club movement in Great Britain and many parts of the British Empire and made the company financially successful. During World War II their most successful product was the twin-engine Mosquito, a high-speed, all-purpose fighter-bomber of plywood construction. Faster than the Spitfire, it went into squadron service in 1941 and could outfly virtually anything in the air. It played a formidable role in World War II and some consider it the most versatile military aircraft ever built. In 1944, de Havilland was knighted for designing the Mosquito.