Warbirds Online continues our series on Australian Flying Corps (AFC) aircraft of WWI and today we feature the Airco DH.5 Scout of 1916.
This Scout (Fighter) aircraft was designed by the famous Captain Geoffrey de Havilland and was unique in that the top wing of the biplane was moved to the rear of the lower wing by 27 inches. The type was developed through 1916 and entered service in early 1917 and served throughout that year. The pace of aircraft development was such that by December 1917 the DH 5 was largely obsolete and was being replaced in front line service by the S.E.5a and Sopwith Camel amongst other types. The DH 5 was also hampered by a poor reputation (undeserved in retrospect) and it was also only armed with a single .303in Vickers machine gun at a time when most allied scouts were armed with two, although it was also able to carry 4 X 25 pound bombs which were used by the AFC 2 Sqn pilots to great effect in the land battle of Cambrai in France in 1917. Powered by a Le Rhone 9J 9-cylinder rotary engine, developing 110 horsepower, which for some reason had a reputation for damaging valves in the DH 5 but not in various other designs to which it was fitted. A total of 552 DH 5 aircraft were produced by AirCo as well as British Caudron, Darracq (of France), and March, Jones, and Cribb.
The AFC No2 Sqn was established in 1916 (at that time titled No 68 Sqn RFC) and moved from the Middle East to the UK in 1917 where it was issued with the DH 5 as her initial equipment. Moving to France in September 1917 she was involved in intense fighting in the ground attack role and also undertaking the Scout (fighter) role with several victories to its credit despite also suffering heavy casualties. In December 1917 the 2 Sqn DH5s were replaced by the S.E.5a.
Five RFC squadrons eventually operated the type operationally and in the training role (Nos. 24, 32, 41, 64, and 65) and two AFC units were also handed the DH.5 (No.2 and No.6 (Training) it is also thought several aircraft were in use by 7 Sqn AFC).
Many of the DH 5 survivors in RFC and AFC service were retired to training roles back in the UK and as with most training aircraft they were rapidly destroyed in accidents or just worn out.
Contemporary records reveal that a total of 72 DH 5 aircraft were received by the AFC units and it can be said to have served well at a pivotal time for the AFC if not spectacularly. A number of the AFC DH 5s were presented to the AFC by fund raising efforts by Australian citizens and organizations under the “Australian Air Squadrons Funds scheme” including A9242, A9415, A9432, A9245, A9197 and A9395. A9197 and A9245 both carried the presentation name ‘New South Wales No 16, The Upper Hunter Battleplane’ and were funded by the citizens of Scone and surrounding areas at a cost of 2,700 pounds each.
No complete DH 5 survived WWI however some components are in store at various museum collections. In addition, a flying replica DH 5 was constructed in the United States by John Shiveley and now resides in New Zealand at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim, New Zealand in the colors of A9242, a 2 Sqn AFC aircraft and carries the presentation inscription “New South Wales No 14. Women’s Battleplane”. This presentation aircraft was purchased by subscription of 2,700 pounds by the Women of NSW and others and was later replaced by A9395 after it was damaged beyond repair.
Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) DH.5
Specifications (Data from British Aeroplanes 1914–18)
- Crew: one
- Length: 22 ft 0 in (6.71 m)
- Wingspan: 25 ft 8 in (7.83 m)
- Height: 9 ft 1½ in (2.78 m)
- Wing area: 212.1 ft² (19.7 m²)
- Empty weight: 1,010 lb (459 kg)
- Loaded weight: 1,492 lb (676 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Le Rhône 9J 9-cylinder Rotary engine, 110 hp (82 kW)
- Maximum speed: 102 mph (89 knots, 164 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
- Endurance: 2 hours 45 min
- Service ceiling: 16,000 ft (4,878 m.)
- Climb to 10,000 ft (3,050 m): 12 min 25 s
- Climb to 15,000 ft (4,570 m): 27 min 30 s
- Guns: 1 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun
- Bombs: racks for four 25 lb (10 kg) bombs under fuselage
© John Parker 2018