19 May 1917 – New DH5 crashes

In an effort to find a replacement for the aging DH2, Airco designer Geoffrey de Havilland has devised the DH5. The design was an attempt to combine the forward view of a pusher aircraft with the performance of a tractor aircraft. The result was an aircraft with a pronounced backward stagger – 27 inches in all.

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William Teasdale Hall

The aircraft was delivered to 24 Squadron at the beginning of May and they have been practicing with it since then.

Today, Captain William Teasdale Hall was killed testing the aircraft (in this case A9364). His wings were seen to fall off as he tried to pull up from a steep dive during a test flight.

This and other mishaps led to a widespread and unfounded belief that its unorthodox layout imparted a high stalling speed and made recovery from a spin difficult. In fact the DH5 was strong, fully aerobatic, and a pleasant aeroplane to fly.

The view now is that the DH5 was massively unpopular amongst pilots. However reports in Flight Magazine at the time suggest that this was not the case at least initially.

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One of 24 Squadron’s DH5s

However, as time went on it became clear that the DH5 was not suited to aerial combat. There were two main reasons for this. First, the unusual layout left a significant blind spot behind the pilot – the location from where most attacks came from. Secondly, the performance of the aircraft tailed off rapidly at altitude and it and tendency to lose height rapidly in combat. Thirdly its single Vickers gun left it rather undergunned for the time when most enemy fighters had two guns, Ultimately it just wasn’t anywhere near as good as its contemporaries the SE5 or the Sopwith Camel and in fact the existing Sopwith Pup was probably a better aircraft.

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