Chipmunks in the wild are nimble, diminutive
creatures with a streak of cute that runs from nose to tail. Maybe
that's why de Havilland Canada chose the name "Chipmunk" for
its inaugural product, the DHC-1.
It's agile, nimble, with a streak of cute
as long as its fuselage. And AirVenture 2010 boasts more than your
typical crowd of these capable birds.
Not counting at least one used as an aerobatic show ship, nine examples
of the venerable de Havilland Chipmunk visited EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
"That's the most we've ever
had," said Vic Stottlemyer, owner of one of the birds.
"They call it a poor man's
Spitfire," he added about the trainer. "And with that long
skinny nose you can dream a bit.
"A lot of the instruments are the
same, but the numbers on the airspeed indicator are significantly
For several decades after the Second
World War, budding military pilots in Canada, the United Kingdom and
several other countries, were introduced to flight in the fixed-gear
taildragger affectionately referred to as the "Chippie".
"It's a plus-six, minus-three G
airplane so you can do loops and rolls and spins and all that kind of
stuff," Stottlemyer said.
"What these things are known for is
being beautiful handling machines. That's why early on Harold Krier and
Art Scholl used them for their aerobatic routines.
"They are just known for being a
lovely flying airplane."
Birth of a legend…
As the war was winding down Sir Geoffrey de Havilland was looking for a
more modern trainer to replace the Gypsy Moth biplane. Design duties for
the project ultimately were assigned to de Havilland in Canada, and to
Wsiewolod Jakimiuk, a Polish engineer who managed to escape the German
invasion of his native country.
The resulting craft is a tandem two
seater with the distinctive de Havilland tail.
Power comes from a four-cylinder Gypsy
Major 10 engine. Plants in Canada, Great Britain and Portugal produced
nearly 1,300 copies of the design.
Stottlemyer's Chipmunk is a 1952
British-made model. It served with two different British training
squadrons before being shipped for training service with the Ghana air
Although the Ghanaian markings on the
plane differed only in the color of the roundels from the British
scheme, he returned the craft to its original British livery.
The balance of the plane is very
"The interior is exactly as it
was," Stottlemyer said. "The only thing I have put in is a
comm radio underneath the panel and a transponder over my left shoulder.
Otherwise it is exactly the way that it was … and it still has the old
P11 compass in front of the stick."
Keepin' em flying…
According to Stottlemyer, support for the planes is remarkable for such
an old type.
"BAE Systems has a small subsidiary
called the de Havilland Support Group," he said. "It is based
at Duxford in England. They issue the Airworthiness Directives and
Technical New Sheets.
"Essentially they are the
manufacturer's representative for these airplanes and they are wonderful
people to work with.
"Their mission is to keep these
things flying and flying safely. We are lucky to have that kind of
"I can't say enough about
Even though the airplane is a simple
design with not too much to fail, finding parts is not a large challenge
for a Chipmunk owner.
"Parts are not as plentiful as for
some of the American types," Stottlemyer said, "but there is a
worldwide network if you need to find them."
When asked about how much he gets to fly
his classic trainer, Stottlemyer said just as often as time and money
allow. "There's just so much history in these things."