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Air Tattoo Salutes Chipmunk 70th

Published: 03 Jun 2016

The 70th anniversary of one of the most famous training aircraft of all time will be marked by the Royal International Air Tattoo next month. 

The de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk first took to the air in prototype form from Downsview, Toronto, on 22 May 1946. Seven decades later, RIAT will welcome seven Chipmunks for a special static display line-up, including the oldest airworthy surviving example.

Intended as a replacement for the superb DH82A Tiger Moth biplane with the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force, the monoplane Chipmunk went on to have an illustrious career, becoming the RAF's main elementary trainer. With a full design workload (courtesy of the revolutionary Comet jet airliner project among others) De Havilland decided to hand design responsibility for the new trainer to its Canadian subsidiary, De Havilland Canada. The type was built by de Havilland in Britain, at its Hatfield and Hawarden plants, as well as in Canada and Portugal; 735 were taken on by the RAF, out of a complete production run of around 1,280.

The RAF used them with Reserve Flying Squadrons, then University Air Squadrons and latterly Air Experience Flights, while the RAF Gatow Station Flight was a famous Chipmunk operator, on photo-reconnaissance duties over divided Berlin. The Royal Navy and Army Air Corps flew the type as a trainer, the AAC being the last to do so in 1997. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight still has two as tailwheel trainers, while others are on the strength of the Army and Royal Navy Historic Flights. Flight said in 1949 of Chipmunk's flying characteristics that it was "lively but completely without vice."

The DHC-1 has long been popular on the civilian market, especially after its retirement from military service. Many are now in private hands, and seven aircraft depicting different aspects of the Chipmunk's career will attend RIAT 2016. 

David Gillespie will provide G-AKDN, the oldest airworthy example - built in Canada in 1946, it was the 11th DHC-1 to roll off the production line, and has been shipped over from its home at Saskatoon, Canada, to Britain for this year's celebrations. 

The other aircraft are AVM Lindsay Irvine's G-ARMG, Roger Chamberlain's WK514/G-BBMO (the only Chipmunk ever to serve with RAF Fighter Command), WD286/G-BBMD of Ben Griffiths and Carol de Solla Atkin, Paul Green's WP973/G-BCPU (due to fly round the world in 2018), James Lewis's WP984/G-HDAE (newly painted in camouflage to depict the Army Air Corps' so-called 'Spitmunk'), and Marc de Ridder's Portuguese Air Force-marked example F-AZJV, based on the Franco-Belgian border.   

Photo credit: Eric Dumigan                                                  

“It was an epic spectacle, as magical as anything you've ever seen in the West End, and as loud as anything you've ever heard at Knebworth.”

Jeremy Clarkson, Television Presenter

“All the thrills, excitement and noise of a Grand Prix, but in the air!”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 Racing Driver

“This is the best airshow!”

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

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