De Havilland Enterprises - A History, Graham M. Simons

De Havilland Enterprises - A History, Graham M. Simons

Geoffrey de Havilland and the de Havilland company he founded were both crucial parts of the British aviation industry from its earliest days into the 1960s. This book looks at all of the aircraft designed by de Havilland or his company, including its Canadian and Australian subsidiaries, and those designed under the de Havilland name between the Hawker Siddeley takeover in 1960 and the loss of the company’s separate identify in 1963. This gives us a total of around 140 different designs, including some of the most important aircraft of the period (as well as a fair share of failed designs, projects and design studies that gained numbers).

Each aircraft gets a separate section, with some illustrations when possible. The majority get at least one plan, while most have photos of the aircraft (even if the only available photos only show small parts of the aircraft). Many are the normal exterior shots, including a good selection of de Havilland delivery pictures, but there are also plenty of interesting internal pictures, mainly showing the layout of the passenger aircraft.

I disagree with the author’s decision to cut the story of some of the later aircraft short at the point where de Havilland lost its corporate identity. This artificially cuts short the history of some of the later aircraft, and I would have preferred to have at least an overview of what happened next. This isn’t, after all, purely a history of the de Haviiland company, as it includes Geoffrey de Havilland’s early private designs and the aircraft he produced for AirCo, starting with the DH.1.

Perhaps the most impressive thing here is just how far aircraft came during the life of Geoffrey de Havilland. His first aircraft, the De Havilland No.1 of 1909, was a flimsy biplane, produced only six years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, and looking a lot like the early Wright Flyers. By the time he died his company had produced iconic aircraft, most famously the Mosquito, as well as a range of jet aircraft, including the world’s first commercial jet airline, the Comet. The company produced a series of passenger aircraft, so we also get an interesting view of how these changed over time - one image that sticks in my mind is the row of wicker arm chairs used as seating in one of the early inter-war passenger aircraft!

This is a useful reference work for anyone interested in de Havilland aircraft or the British aircraft industry, with a more balanced mix of civil and military types than was the case for many companies.

The Men
The Machines (one chapter per type)

Author: Graham M. Simons
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 318
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2017

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