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
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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

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Dove 8

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

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Seating for few

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

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

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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. 

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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.    

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One-third of a Trident

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

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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.

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Crewed in style

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

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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.

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

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

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

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Original Comet

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

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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.

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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.

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Under construction

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

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Not hip to be square

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Sea Venom cockpit

A painstakingly restored cockpit from a Sea Venom.

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Seating for two... barely

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

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In the back

Behind the main hangars sit some of the larger aircraft. 

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Vampire trainer

This Vampire T.11 was the training version.

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

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Two stick

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

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BAe 146

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

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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. 

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World flier

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

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Four engines

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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When you need to go...

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

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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.

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Slow and steady

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Tiger Moth

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

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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