The de Havilland DH.60 Moth is a 1920s British two-seat touring and training aircraft that was developed into a series of aircraft by the de Havilland Aircraft Company.
The DH.60 was developed from the larger DH.51 biplane. The first flight of the Cirrus powered prototype DH.60 Moth (registration G-EBKT) was carried out by Geoffrey de Havilland at the works airfield at Stag Lane on 22 February 1925. The Moth was a two-seat biplane of wooden construction, it had a plywood covered fuselage and fabric covered surfaces, a standard tailplane with a single tailplane and fin. A useful feature of the design was its folding wings which allowed owners to hangar the aircraft in much smaller spaces. The then Secretary of State for Air Sir Samuel Hoare became interested in the aircraft and the Air Ministry subsidised five flying clubs and equipped them with Moths.
The prototype was modified with a horn-balanced rudder, as used on the production aircraft, and was entered into the 1925 King’s Cup Race flown by Alan Cobham. Deliveries commenced to flying schools in England. One of the early aircraft was fitted with an all-metal twin-float landing gear to become the first Moth seaplane. The original production Moths were later known as Cirrus I Moths.
Three aircraft were modified for the 1927 King’s Cup Race with internal modifications and a Cirrus II engine on a lowered engine mounting. The original designation of DH.60X (for experimental) was soon changed to Cirrus II Moth; the DH.60X designation was re-used in 1928 for the Cirrus III powered version with a split axle. The production run for the DH.60X Moth was short as it was replaced by later variants, but it was still available to special order.
Although the Cirrus engine was reliable, its manufacture was not. It depended on components salvaged from World War I–era 8-cylinder Renault engines and therefore its numbers were limited by the stockpiles of surplus Renaults. Therefore, de Havilland decided to replace the Cirrus with a new engine built by his own factory. In 1928 when the new de Havilland Gipsy I engine was available a company DH.60 Moth G-EBQH was re-engined as the prototype of the DH.60G Gipsy Moth.
Next to the increase in power, the main advantage of this update was that the Gipsy was a completely new engine available in as great a number as the manufacture of Moths necessitated. The new Gipsy engines could simply be built in-house on a production-line side by side with the production-line for Moth airframes. This also enabled de Havilland to control the complete process of building a Moth airframe, engine and all, streamline productivity and in the end lower manufacturing costs. While the original DH.60 was offered for a relatively modest £650, by 1930 the price of a new Gipsy-powered Moth was still £650, this in spite of its state-of-the-art engine.
A metal-fuselage version of the Gipsy Moth was designated the DH.60M Moth and was originally developed for overseas customers, particularly Canada. The DH.60M was also licence-built in Australia, Canada, the United States and Norway. Also in 1931 a variant of the DH.60M was marketed for military training as the DH.60T Moth Trainer.
In 1931 with the upgrade of the Gipsy engine as the Gipsy II, de Havilland inverted the engine and re-designated it the Gipsy III. The engine was fitted into a Moth aircraft, which was re-designated the DH.60G-III Moth Major. The sub-type was intended for the military trainer market and some of the first aircraft were supplied to the Swedish Air Force. The DH.60T was re-engined with the Gipsy III and was re-designated the DH.60T Tiger Moth. The DH.60T Tiger Moth was modified with swept back mainplanes; the cabane struts were also moved forward to improve egress from the front cockpit in case of emergency. The changes were considered great enough that the aircraft was re-designated the de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth.
Apart from the engine, the new Gipsy Moth was still a standard DH.60. Except for changes to accommodate the engine the fuselage remained the same as before, the exhaust still ran alongside the left side of the cockpits and the logo on the right side still read ‘De Havilland Moth’. The fuel tank was still housed in the bulging airfoil that formed the centre section of the upper wing. The wings could still be folded alongside the fuselage and still had de Havilland’s patented differential ailerons on the bottom mainplanes and no ailerons on the top ones. Colour options still remained as simple as before: wings and tail in “Moth silver”, fuselage in the colour the buyer chose.
As there was no real comparison between the original DH.60 and the new DH.60G, the Gipsy Moth quickly became the mainstay of British flying clubs as the only real recreational aircraft in the UK. By 1929 it was estimated that of every 100 aeroplanes in Britain, 85 were Moths of one type or another, most of them Gipsy Moths. This in spite of the fact that with de Havilland switching from the Cirrus to its own Gipsy engine, surplus Cirrus engines were now pouring into the ‘free’ market and a trove of Cirrus powered aircraft like the Avro Avian, the Klemm Swallow or the Miles Hawk started fighting for their share of the flying club and private market.
Although replaced in production by the DH.60G-III Moth Major and later by the DH.82 Tiger Moth, the Gipsy Moth remained the mainstay of the British flying scene up to the start of WWII. The war however marked the end of the Gipsy Moth and post-war it was quickly replaced by ex-RAF Tiger Moths pouring into the civilian market.
DH.60 Moth in flying clubs
In retrospect one can say that the first DH.60 arrived at the right spot at the right time. Next to the Moth’s maiden flight, 1925 also marked the birth of the first five Royal Aero Club flying schools and because of its simplicity and reliable powerplant, the Moth was the aircraft of choice to equip the clubs. Vice versa, the clubs gave de Havilland a secure supply of orders. De Havilland could then use this aspect of marketing to concentrate on developing the Moth further into a mass-produced, mass market aircraft. The Moth made the aero clubs at least just as much as the aero clubs made the Moth. Because of this head start, the Moth became the mainstay of the clubs even long after more modern aircraft became available.
With de Havilland’s habit of painting the wings and tailplane of the Moth in silver also came the clubs’ habit of distinguishing their aircraft by painting their fuselage in one distinctive club colour. Aircraft of the London Aero Club had a yellow fuselage (plus yellow struts and wheel caps); those of Newcastle a red one. Green stood for the Midlands and blue for Lancashire. Registration letters were black on the wings and, depending on the club colour, either black or white on the fuselage.
As the Royal Aero Club marketed the idea of flying clubs to other members of the Commonwealth, the de Havilland Aircraft Company followed suit and soon established subsidiaries in Australia and Canada to stock the local flying clubs there with Gipsy Moths. Canadian Moths were offered with a detachable canopy for winter flying. Other factories to licence-build the Gipsy Moth were the Larkin Aircraft Supply Company in Australia (which built 32 for the RAAF). Although built for flying clubs rather than for individual air cruising, the Australian Moths were the DH.60 L “Luxury” version and were delivered with their fuselages sporting the L’s characteristic two-tone colour scheme rather than the fuselage entirely painted in the club colour as was customary in British flying clubs. Other manufacturers were Morane-Saulnier in France (40 built) and a company called Moth Aircraft Co. in the U.S. (18 built).
DH.60 Moth in private use
Most Gipsy Moths belonged to flying clubs, but after the Prince of Wales purchased a Gipsy Moth (G-AALG) for his own private flying, the aircraft became popular with high society. In addition the Moth was used for many record flights. The ‘Lonely Flyer’ Sir Francis Chichester flew his Gipsy Moth from England to Australia, further to New Zealand and then across the Pacific to Japan. Although he originally planned to fly around the Earth, a crash in Japan convinced him to switch to sailing. (Out of respect for his aircraft, he named his yachts ‘Gipsy Moth II’, ‘Gipsy Moth III’ and most famously ‘Gipsy Moth IV’.) Of the aviatrixes, London secretary Amy Johnson flew her Gipsy Moth (G-AAAH “Jason”) 11,000 mi (17,703 km) to Australia and Jean Batten used a Gipsy Moth for her flights from England to India and England to Australia (the aircraft used to fly to India was G-AALG borrowed from Victor Dorée, who then owned the plane. In March 1928 Mary Bailey flew her Cirrus Moth solo from Croydon to Cape Town, a trip of three weeks, and returned the following year.
DH.60 Moth in military service
Although the DH.60T was aggressively marketed as a military trainer, response was rather lukewarm. In particular the RAF initially purchased only a handful of aircraft for testing and found that many aspects of the Moth did not suit their method of military flight training. However, by 1931 the RAF had acquired 124 DH.60M Moths and these were used by the Central Flying School and other training units until 1939.
Moth trainers were however ordered by a number of foreign air forces including those of Argentina, Australia (as noted above), Austria, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the flying arm of the Danish Navy. Finland licence-built 22 Moth trainers, but equipped them with the old Cirrus engine.
Two Gipsy Moths were purchased by the Paraguayan government during the Chaco War. They were used as liaison aircraft. One was lost in a fatal accident at Ñu-Guazú Air Force Base and the other survived the war. It was transferred to the Paraguayan Aeroclub in 1936.
The bulk of military Moths however were civilian sport aircraft impressed by their countries air forces and used as trainers and liaison aircraft. Like this, civilian Moths ended up flying for both the Nationalist and Republican air forces during the Spanish Civil War. This was repeated on a larger scale during the Second World War where Moths ended up flying, amongst others, for the air forces of Egypt, New Zealand, China (with several captured ex-Chinese aircraft flying for the Japanese), Ireland, Italy, Iraq, Belgian Congo, Dutch East Indies (later taken over by the Indonesian AF), South Africa, New Zealand and the U.S. Navy.
Crew: Two, One pilot and passenger or student
Length: 23 ft 11 in (7.29 m)
Wingspan: 30 ft 0 in (9.14 m)
Height: 8 ft 91⁄2 in (2.68 m)
Wing area: 243 sq ft (22.6 m²)
Empty weight: 920 lb (417 kg)
Loaded weight: 1,650 lb (750 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy I, 4 cylinder, upright, in-line piston engine, 100 hp (75 kW)
Maximum speed: 102 mph (89 knots, 164 km/h)
Cruise speed: 85 mph (74 knots, 137 km/h)
Range: 320 mi (278 nmi, 515 km)
Service ceiling: 14,500 ft (4,420 m)
Rate of climb: 500 ft/min (2.5 m/s)