Size matters

Why is the DH51 so important?

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While in Kenya as G-KAA and then VP-KAA, the DH51 went through the hands of several owners including Tom Campbell Black, later one of the MacRobertson Air Race co-winners. It is pictured with DH104 Dove VR-TBB, newly delivered in 1948 to Nairobi-based Williamson Diamonds. KEY COLLECTION

Sometimes, just sometimes, size does matter. Take de Havilland’s early forays into making aeroplanes for the private buyer. The DH51 was too big. The DH53 was too small. The DH60 was just right. A simplification, yes, but there is a good deal in it. As ever, context is important. As the 1920s progressed, it was obvious that a market existed for private-owner aircraft, but how to fulfil it? Enterprising companies often felt hamstrung by the regulatory requirements placed on them by the Department of Civil Aviation, and the Lympne light aeroplane trials, with hindsight, served largely to muddy the waters. The DH53 was conceived for the first such event in 1923, and did well without winning. The following year, de Havilland elected not to enter the contest at all.

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