Classic Aircraft - The De Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk

By Luzanne Keyter

The Chippie, as it is affectionately known, was designed by WJ Jakimiuk of de Havilland Canada in 1959. Designed to succeed the iconic de Havilland Tiger Moth as a primary trainer for the Royal Air Force amongst others, the de Havilland Chipmunk flew for the first time on 22 May 1946 at Downsview, Toronto in Canada.

The all metal, low wing, tandem-seat stressed skin monoplane's prototype was powered by a 145-hp (108-kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C and most Canadian versions were built with multi-panelled sliding canopies and later versions with a clear Perspex bubble canopy.

Manufacturing started in 1948 and 218 fully aerobatic Chipmunks were built in Canada between 1946 and 1951. In the United Kingdom, 1014 Chipmunks were built with the RAF receiving 735 of them for the Oxford University Air Squadron, and replacing the Tiger Moth at all 17 other university air squadrons. Another 60 aircraft were built under license in Portugal.

Different variants of the Chipmunk were built to accommodate needs of different air forces around the world, including Canada, Portugal, Burma, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt and Iraq amongst others.

After WWII, the Chipmunk also became a popular civilian aircraft for training, aerobatics and crop spraying.

The Super Chipmunk, specially converted to become a better aerobatic aircraft, was fitted with a 260-hp (194-kW) Avco Lycoming GO-435 engine. An example single-seat, sporting retractable landing gear, was flown in American colours for the 1970 world aerobatic championships. The control stick also received a 76 mm extension for better control during extreme aerobatic manoeuvres.

Specifications: De Havilland Chipmunk T.Mk 10

Tandem two-seat primary trainer

One 145-hp (108-kW) De Havilland Gipsy Major 8 inline piston engine

Maximum speed - 138 mph (222 km/h) at sea level
Cruising speed - 116 mph (187 km/h)
Service ceiling - 15,800 ft (4,815m)
Range - 280 miles (451 km)

Empty - 1,425 lb (646 kg)
Maximum take-off - 2,014 lb (914 kg)

Wingspan - 34 ft 4 in (10.46 m)
Length - 25 ft 5 in (7.75 m)
Height - 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)
Wing area - 172 sq ft (15.97 sq m)

In 1999, Gilles Leger developed a kit version of the aircraft to satisfy a growing homebuilding market around the world. Today the Chipmunk remains a popular private aircraft, used for sport and aerobatics, as well as pilot training and tailwheel endorsements.

According to The de Havilland Aircraft Association of South Africa, a non-profit volunteer organisation based in Johannesburg, there were about 41 de Havilland Chipmunks that saw service in South Africa. Their website contains a page that list all know Chipmunk aircraft with their construction numbers, registrations, histories and photographs where possible. The association is dedicated to all de Havilland aircraft that have seen service in South Africa and carried South African registrations and their website can be viewed at

Classic Aircraft

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