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Early WW1 Designs From the Aircraft Manufacturing Co

Airco DH.2 and DH.5, designed by Geoffrey de Havilland

Early in 1915 the British had not worked out how to produce an interrupter mechanism which would allow their machine guns to fire through a spinning aircraft propeller. So (now legendary) aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland designed the Airco DH.2 as a 'pusher' with the prop at the rear of the small fuselage, which would allow the the pilot to fire a Lewis machine gun directly forward.

During 2002, Walt Refern's DH-2 was purchased from a museum in Idaho and shipped to New Zealand. On arrival the aircraft received some remedial work and new livery featuring the colours of 24 Sqn Royal Flying Corps, as it appears here.  Photo: © Alex Mitchell, Historical Aviation Film Unit Pilot: Simon Paul

In 1915 the DH.2 was legendary aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland's second design for the Aircraft Manufacturing Company.

Originally the DH.2 was configured to have a flexible mounting for the .303 in. Lewis machine gun so that the pilot could place it in the left or the right hand side of the cockpit pod. Subsequently the machine gun was firmly mounted to the centre of the fuselage centre allowing the pilot to aim the aircraft instead of the gun. This turned the DH.2 into a capable fighting machine despite its most challenging opposition during the first half of 1916 being the modern looking Fokker E.III 'Eindekker' which as the name indicates, was a monoplane. Powered by the 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape the DH.2 would serve as a front line fighter in France for the whole of 1916.

The Airco DH.5 was one of the first WW1 British fighters to be developed which featured an interrupter mechanism to allow the gun to fire through the spinning prop. Designer Geoffrey de Havilland was well aware of the visibility benefits afforded by his early DH.2 design, and so the backward stagger of the DH.5's top wing was his attempt to provide the pilot of this 'tractor' aircraft with the same degree of visibility as that of the older 'pusher' design.

The overall design of the DH.2 was quite successful, and the type helped to win air superiority back for the British after a period of significant defeats at the hands of the German Fokker Eindeckker monoplane. Unfortunately the 110hp Le Rhone rotary engine in the DH.5 did not provide that aircraft with sufficient power to perform well at high altitudes and it was never as succesful as the DH.2.

Pioneer replica builder Walt Redfern was the first to make plans available for full scale Fokker Dr.1 and Nieuport 24 aircraft, and he subsequently also produced a fine reproduction DH.2 which was designed for homebuilders. The Redfern DH.2 featured some changes to the airframe, including the use of 4130 chrome-moly steel tube in areas like the fuselage pod where timber was originally used, and the use of a 125 hp Kinner radial in place of the original Gnome Monosoupape rotary.

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