These iconic aircraft were designed by a genius

From Vixens and Vampires to Moths and Mosquitos, Geoffrey de Havilland created some of the most influential planes in history.

Geoffrey Morrison
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Geoffrey Morrison
1 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

de Havilland Aircraft Museum

Set in the countryside north of London, the de Havilland Aircraft Museum is dedicated to the legendary aircraft designer and the company he founded.

For the full story behind this tour, check out Vixens, Vampires and Mosquitos: Check out the legendary planes of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

2 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Dove 8

When you first arrive, an oddly shaped, quirky-looking Dove 8 greets you. 

3 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Seating for few

Eight passengers could cruise in comfort up to 187 mph/301 kph. 

4 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


If the huge windows and cool seat coverings didn't give it away, this cockpit sure shows its post-war origins. 

5 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

4 by the door

Just adjacent to the gift shop and cafe is the nose of a Comet 4. The cockpit inside is beautifully restored. 

6 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Seating for four

Given how similar it looks to modern aircraft, it's easy to forget how far technology has come. Not only does the Comet have a flight engineer, but a navigator as well. The navigator doubled as the radio operator.    

7 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

One-third of a Trident

The front portion of the DH 121 Trident, a groundbreaking plane with a disappointing history

8 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Too small

The initial Trident seated only 101 passengers. Later models sat 180, but by then Boeing's similar 727 dominated the market. Wendover Productions has a great video on why we don't see trijets anymore.

9 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Crewed in style

Apparently this bathroom was just for the crew. Don't see that much anymore.

10 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The Trident was 10 years after the Comet. There's still an engineer, but the radio operator/navigator is gone. In the middle of the console, the orange rectangle is a moving map.

11 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The Systems Panel Operator had a lot of systems to operate on his panel.   

12 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


A Sea Vixen with its nose open to reveal its radar array.

13 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The GEC Mk.18 air interception radar. The dish could pivot to track a target.

14 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Original Comet

This is the only surviving example of a first-generation Comet with the infamous square windows.

15 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

From the inside

A closer look at the deadly square windows. Unbeknownst to engineers at the time, the square windows would create significant stress in the surrounding metal, causing rapid fatigue and eventually structural failure. This aircraft was one of three intended for testing, but the first two were enough to determine what was happening.

16 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

You are now free to smoke

Period seats on the right side of the plane, images of the models troubles on the left. Hard to see, but the seats have ash trays in the armrests.

17 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Under construction

The museum is working to restore the cockpit to reflect how it looked in its day.

18 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Not hip to be square

The square windows from the outside. Real Engineering has a great video on why the square windows failed.

19 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


One of several Mosquitos, probably de Havilland's most famous design. These planes were absolute beasts.

20 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


Nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder" it was, as you'd figure from that name, made almost entirely of wood. This is actually the prototype from 1940. It was built nearby, and has been preserved here since 1959.

21 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Need for speed

Its light weight and massive engines made it one of the fastest planes of its day. This is the only surviving  World War II prototype in the world. Inception to flying prototype took less than a year.

22 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


It was such a versatile platform, it was used as a bomber, a fighter, an intruder and even for high-speed photo reconnaissance. 

23 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


This Mk.VI had four Browning .303 machine guns and four 20mm canons.  

24 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Sea Venom cockpit

A painstakingly restored cockpit from a Sea Venom.

25 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Seating for two... barely

They did a great job on the restoration. It looks brand new, not 61 years removed from the factory. 

26 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

In the back

Behind the main hangars sit some of the larger aircraft. 

27 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Vampire trainer

This Vampire T.11 was the training version.

28 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


Twin-boom aircraft are by far my favorite. Is that just me? The Vampire was the second jet-powered aircraft used by the RAF.

29 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Two stick

The trainer version was adapted from the two-seat night fighter, but is largely the same as other Vampires.

30 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

BAe 146

Most of a high-winged British Aerospace 146 short-haul airliner. 

31 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


Design work was started by Hawker Siddeley in the early '70s, who had bought de Havilland 10 years prior. By the time it went into production, Hawker Siddeley had become British Aerospace. 

32 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

World flier

Built in 1983, this 146-100 flew for airlines all over the world, including Brazil, Canada, the US, the UK and more. 

33 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Four engines

Rare for a small regional jet, the 146 had four Lycoming ALF 502R-3 turbofan engines.

34 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The midsize biz jet 125 started life at de Havilland, but was developed and built by Hawker Siddeley after they were bought out. It had an impressive run, with production finally ending in 2013.

35 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


A cross-section of the structure of the 125's wing, an aluminum honeycomb for strength and light weight. 

36 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The small cabin of the 125 is surprisingly cozy, with its shag carpet and yellow tones. It didn't feel much larger than the Cirrus Vision Jet I flew last year.

37 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

First of its kind

This is actually the first production 125. Once it entered its service life, it was an engine development testbed, and was a communications aircraft for Concorde engine development. 

38 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Teal bird

A de Havilland Heron, which was developed from the Dove you saw earlier. Longer, with double the engines, this Mk.2 version had retractable landing gear. It flew in Scotland for 13 years until 1969.

39 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

When you need to go...

Talk about an efficient use of space. The entryway into the cabin doubles as the bathroom. 

40 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Beautiful view

This is one of the airiest cabins I've ever been in. The windows are enormous. This Mk.2D variant had a more upscale interior.

41 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Slow and steady

With an unpressurized cabin and four 250hp inline-6 engines, the Heron offered an adequate 183 mph/295 kph top speed.

42 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


This Cierva C.24 is a unique aircraft, built by the de Havilland company, but using a design by Juan de la Cierva. Most of the parts are from in-era (1930s) de Havilland aircraft like the Puss Moth. As an autogyro, the rotor is unpowered and must have forward motion to maintain lift.

43 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The DH.82 Queen Bee, one of the first remote-controlled target aircraft. Essentially an early model drone, some believe this is where that term came from.

44 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


It's fascinating to see these early controls, decades before joysticks or PlayStation controllers became ubiquitous. The controls worked using compressed air created by an air pump, which was powered by the wooden propeller you see in the upper left.

45 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


Unlike modern drones, this one could be flown in person, if necessary. 

46 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The Chipmunk was a two-seat trainer, designed by de Havilland Canada. This example was built in the UK. All told, nearly 1,300 were built.

47 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Tiger Moth

A wildly successful design, de Havilland built around 9,000 Tiger Moths, most intended as training aircraft.

48 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


This example was used as a trainer in WWII, then as a crop duster post-war. It flew for 22 years, and was restored by the museum in the '90s. 

49 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Interview with...

This Vampire is slightly older than the T.11 outside. Built in 1949, it served with the Swiss Airforce. Its Goblin 3 turbojet was good for a 548 mph/882 kph top speed.

50 of 50 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET


The Swiss added a Martin-Baker ejection seat in 1960.

And so ends our tour of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum. Check out Vixens, Vampires and Mosquitos: Legendary planes of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum for more info.

More Galleries

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features and Settings on Your iPhone
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

17 Hidden iOS 17 Features and Settings on Your iPhone

18 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work
iphone 15 in different color from an angled view

Go Inside the Apple iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro: See How the New iPhones Look and Work

21 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos
Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

Yamaha motorcycle and instrument designers trade jobs (pictures)

16 Photos
CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

CNET's 'Day of the Dead Devices' altar (pictures)

9 Photos
2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

2007 Los Angeles Auto Show: concept cars

14 Photos