De Havilland DH-9, E-8894 (G-CDLI)
- De Havilland DH-9
- Operator: Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd.
- Year of Manufacture: 1918
- Powered by: one 230hp Siddeley Puma.
- Colour Scheme: Royal Flying Corps / Royal Air Force (1918)
The engine chosen for the DH-9 was the new 200 hp Siddeley Puma, ordered straight off the drawing board. The engine was not a successful design, but nevertheless that was all there was, and both the DH-9 and the Puma were ordered in large numbers. In fact the DH-4 was not designed as a bomber, but only after it was in service was it found to be useful in this role. The DH-9 can therefore claim to be one of the first true strategic purpose-built bombers manufactured in Britain, with bomb bays within the fuselage structure.
Despite the aircraft’s shortcomings, it became one of the most produced aircraft of the 1st World War with over 2,000 examples being made.
The DH-9 was utilised in a great number of bombing raids over Germany and over the Western Front; it also saw service in an anti-submarine role, in the Middle East and Indian sub-continent. Due to the large numbers available after the war, the type continued on in numerous guises, both in military roles in every corner of the Empire and also in the conversion to airliners and long distant courier aircraft.
Although produced in huge numbers and despite a long career after the war, surprisingly few still exist. There is one in the Musee de L’Air in Paris, and one in the Saxonwold museum in South Africa. There is also a civilianised version in Australia; however, there were none in the British National Collection. Rumours of two or three secreted away in India abounded for years and their discovery and recovery to the UK by Aero Vintage took many years of negotiation and organisation. Aero Vintage Ltd director, Guy Black, was determined to ensure that one at least was preserved in the UK in a national museum, and the other restored to fly.
E-8894, now registered G-CDLI which has the most degraded woodwork, will be restored to fly with an original Puma engine. The other DH9 recovered, D-5649, is being restored to non-flying status with a high standard of conservation and original content, for the Imperial War and will be displayed, unsuspended in the new Airspace hanger, by the time this new building is opened to the public for the first time.
E-8894 was one of a batch of 200 DH-9 aircraft ordered on the 23rd March 1918 under contract no. 351/418/C.296 (BR.394) from the Aircraft Manufacturing Co. Ltd., of Hendon. As far as is known, it probably saw no military action before being placed in storage and sent to India under the Imperial Gift Scheme.
An excellent Puma engine has been found, and once restored to fly, this genuine 1st World War aircraft will not only be the only 1st World War bomber flying, but also the only Imperial Gift aircraft flying anywhere in the world.
Both aircraft have been restored in the Retrotec workshops in East Sussex.
First engine runs were held at Duxford on 19 October 2018 and on the 13 May 2019, E-8894 made its maiden, post-restoration flight at Duxford, piloted by Dodge Bailey.
Large image: Drew Gardner
Small image: Darren Harbar