de Havilland Giant Moth

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DH.61 Giant Moth
DH.61 Apollo Airmail 1929.jpg
The arrival of QANTAS DH.61 'Apollo,' bringing the first air mail to Brisbane on April 23, 1929. Notice the pilot's open cockpit behind the wings.
Role Transport Biplane
Manufacturer de Havilland
First flight December 1927
Introduction 1928
Number built 10

The de Havilland DH.61 Giant Moth was a 1920s British large single-engined biplane transport built by de Havilland at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware. Intended primarily for use in Australia, a number were also shipped to Canada.


The interior of the De Havilland DH.61 showing four passengers in the eight passenger capacity cabin. QANTAS 1929
Inaugeration DH.61.jpg

Following the success of the de Havilland DH.50J in Australia, the company was asked to design a larger replacement using a Bristol Jupiter engine. The cabin had room for six to eight passengers with the pilot in an open cockpit behind the wings. The aircraft took only 10 weeks to design and the prototype first flew in December 1927. Following test flights in England, the aircraft was sent to de Havilland Australia in Melbourne. After reassembly, the prototype first flew on 2 March 1928 and was used on scheduled services between Adelaide and Broken Hill by MacRobertson Miller Aviation. The prototype was originally called Canberra which was used as a type name until it was changed to Giant Moth.[1]

A total of 10 aircraft were built, including one in Canada built from components with the rest coming from the Stag Lane production line. Three aircraft for Canada (G-CAPG), (G-CARD) and (G-CAJT) were fitted with Short Brothers floats at Rochester before one was delivered to Canadian Vickers. This aircraft (G-CAJT) was sent to Western Canada Airlines Ltd. on a rental arrangement. During a proving flight on 23 October 1928, the Giant Moth suffered structural damage in the air and crashed at Calgary, Alberta in a non-fatal accident.[2] The other DH.61s continued to fly in Ontario in fire-fighting operations. One Giant Moth (CF-OAK) was modified from parts and flew with a Pratt & Witney Hornet engine.[3]

Three aircraft were used in Australia on air mail services by Australian Aerial Services Ltd and QANTAS. The two QANTAS Giant Moths, Apollo (G-AUJB) and Diana (G-AUJC), were acquired in April [4] and May 1929respectively.[5] They were the first QANTAS aircraft equipped with toilets.[6] The airline took them out of service in 1935 because the Bristol Jupiter XI engines were unreliable.[6] Apollo was sold that year and crashed near Mubo, New Guinea, on 9 May 1938.[4]

Another aircraft, Geraldine (G-AAAN), was bought by the Daily Mail to carry a photographer and his motorcycle around the United Kingdom.[7] The aircraft would land at the nearest airfield to the story. This aircraft was also equipped with a dark room to enable the photographs to be developed on the return journey.[7] Later, it was sold to National Flying services and renamed Leone.[7] Western Australian Airways acquired it in the early 1930s; it served Western Australia from 1931 to 1935.[7][8] When the airline encountered financial difficulties, the Giant Moth was sold to New Guinea Airlines.[9] G-AAAN crashed on 20 August 1935, while landing at Wau, New Guinea.[9]

One aircraft (G-AAEV) named Youth of Britain, modified to carry 10 passengers, was used by Sir Alan Cobham in an aviation promotional tour of the United Kingdom lasting 21 weeks and ending on 7 October 1929.[10] During the tour, Cobham flew 60,000 miles (97,000 km), visited 110 towns and took aloft 40,000 passengers, including 10,000 schoolchildren free of charge.[10] Among those who experienced their first flight in Cobham's Giant Moth was Eric Lock, who grew up to become a Royal Air Force fighter ace during the Battle of Britain.[11]

After the tour, Cobham sold the Giant Moth to Imperial Airways, intended to be used for survey flights. Its use was short-lived as G-AAEV was lost in a crash landing on 19 January 1930.[1]



Data from Jackson 1973, p. 99

General characteristics




  1. ^ a b Moss, Peter W. " D.H. 61 Giant Moth." Air Pictorial, May 1971, p. 181.
  2. ^ Molson 1974, p. 43.
  3. ^ Jackson 1987, p. 260.
  4. ^ a b Coates, Ed. "G-AUJB de Havilland D.H.61 Giant Moth." Ed Coates' Civil Aircraft Photograph Collection. Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  5. ^ Coates, Ed. "VH-UJC de Havilland D.H.61 Giant Moth." Ed Coates' Civil Aircraft Photograph Collection. Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  6. ^ a b "de Havilland DH61 Giant Moth 'Apollo' (Replica)." Qantas Founders Museum (archive). Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Howell, Ian. "The De Havilland DH61 Giant Moth in Western Australia." The Airways Museum & Civil Aviation Historical Society. Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Western Australian Airways." Royal Australian Air Force Association (W.A. Division) Inc. (archive). Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  9. ^ a b Coates, Ed. "VH-UQJ de Havilland D.H.61 Giant Moth."Ed Coates' Civil Aircraft Photograph Collection. Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Sir Alan Cobham's tour ended." Flight Magazine, 11 October 1929. Retrieved: 26 August 2017.
  11. ^ "P/O E S Lock." Battle of Britain London Monument (archive). Retrieved: 26 August 2017.


  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft since 1919, Volume 2. London: Putnam, 1973. ISBN 0-370-10010-7.
  • Jackson, A.J. De Havilland Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam, Third edition, 1987. ISBN 0-85177-802-X.
  • Molson, K.M. Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: James Richardson & Sons, Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-919212-39-5.

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