de Havilland Swallow Moth

The de Havilland DH.81 Swallow Moth was aimed at the low-cost sporting aircraft market during the Great Depression. It was a single-engined two-seat low-wing monoplane; only one was built.

DH.81 Swallow Moth
Drawing of DH.81A configuration
Role sports aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer de Havilland Aircraft Co. Ltd
First flight 21 August 1931
Retired 3 February 1932
Number built 1


The DH. 81 Swallow Moth was a low-wing cantilever monoplane.[1] This arrangement and its plywood-covered fuselage and closely cowled 80 hp (60 kW) inline Gipsy IV engine gave it a very clean aerodynamic look. The wings carried ailerons that were horn-balanced at the wingtips and the empennage was of characteristic de Havilland form, with a balanced rudder. There was separate tandem seating for two, initially open, but later enclosed with a one-piece hinged cabin top. With this enclosure the aircraft was called the DH.81A and the top speed increased by 12 mph (19 km/h). The main undercarriage was simple, the legs reaching to mid-fuselage in front of the leading edge of the wing, with bracing struts fore and aft to the keel; the later Leopard Moth used a similar arrangement. A small tailskid completed the undercarriage.[1]

The Swallow Moth was first flown at Stag Lane Aerodrome by Geoffrey de Havilland on 21 August 1931.[2] Some alteration to the fin followed and the flight testing continued until February 1932. During this time the class B marking E-7 was allocated, but the Swallow Moth never reached the civil register. Its design influenced later de Havilland aircraft, particularly the 1938 Moth Minor.[3]


Original configuration with a two-seat open cockpit.
Prototype modified with an enclosed cabin and flown from November 1932.


Data from [3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Capacity: one
  • Length: 23 ft 6 in (7.16 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft 6 in (10.82 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 4 in (2.56 m)
  • Wing area: 149 ft2 (13.85 m2)
  • Gross weight: 1,330 lb (603 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy IV four-cylinder inverted inline air-cooled engine, 80 hp (60 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 117 mph (188 km/h)



  1. Jackson 1978, pp. 301–302.
  2. Jackson 1978, p. 301.
  3. Jackson 1978, p. 302.


  • Jackson, A. J. (1978). de Havilland Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam. ISBN 0-370-30022-X.
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