Saturday, 15 September 2012

The 2012 Malcolm Wightwick Memorial Lecture

6:00pm – Wednesday, 19 September 2012
National SCOUT Centre, Level 1, 1 Kaiwharawhara Road, Wellington, NZ

de Havilland: The man and DH aircraft types to the end of WW2 with emphasis on impacts on
New Zealand by Des Underwood

Aircraft enthusiasts will know that the “DH” designation is attributed to aircraft types designed by the aviation pioneer and aircraft designer Captain Geoffrey de Havilland (later Sir Geoffrey, OM, CBE, AFC, RDI, FRAeS) who was known as ‘DH’ to friends and colleagues. He was awarded an OBE in 1918 and AFC in 1919. He was made a CBE in 1934 and was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

The memorial lecture will relate the story of ‘DH’ who determined that the only way to learn about aviation was to build and fly an aircraft of his own making. On achieving this notable feat in 1909, DH’s career in aviation design blossomed prior to WW1 and led to a lifelong involvement in aviation in a company that he founded.

The de Havilland Aircraft Company, went on to produce a range of mainly light aircraft and small airliners all part of the DH brand. These aircraft were mainly developed in the UK but some were produced by a number of subsidiary companies in Canada and Australia. In other areas, including NZ, the aircraft were and sold and supported by a variety of regional agents and service centres.

DH types featured in a number of record breaking races and events including the DH 88 Comet Racer. One of these Comets was flown by Arthur Clouston to Blenheim as an add-on to the Australian Anniversary air race from the UK.

In noting the 75th anniversary celebrations of the RNZAF this year, it is notable that DH types have made-up some 21% of all types purchased and operated by the RNZAF (both in NZ and overseas). This made de Havilland the largest RNZAF aircraft supplier. The DH82 Tiger Moth was built in NZ at the factory of the de Havilland Aircraft Company at Rongotai on the site of the current passenger terminal at Wellington Airport.

The first DH type in NZ dates back to the Imperial Gift aircraft of 1919. A large variety of DH types have been imported over the intervening years and still fly today with numerous private operators, as well as the RNZAF Historic Flight.

An important part of the development of the DH brand in the UK involved the DH Technical School. From 1922, the DH Tech School produced aircraft apprentices who contributed hugely to the skill and talent needed to staff and manage the multi-national company that DH Aircraft Company became. As Malcolm Wightwick was a ‘De Havilland’ apprentice who served with the company both in the UK and in NZ, this lecture attempts to connect DH’s impact on aviation in New Zealand with Malcolm’s appointment at the Rongotai facility in 1964, his notable contribution to the Royal Aeronautical Society in NZ and especially the Wellington Branch and the NZ Division.

The presenter’s introduction to aviation started with the Tiger Moth in the Ag role and barn-storming at air shows in the eastern Bay of Plenty and followed his own engineering career with the RNZAF, where he was involved with a number of DH types. The lectures will be supported by photos and video clips.

Coincidentally, the first flight of a ‘new’ DH 98 FB Mk 26 Mosquito is due to fly at Ardmore on 29 September 2012 following its re-build by AvSpecs.

To learn more of Geoffrey de Havilland, the DH aircraft types and their relevance to NZ till 1945, then plan to attend the 2012 Malcolm Wightwick Memorial Lecture.

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