Airco DH.6

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Airco DH.6
Type: Trainer aircraft
Design country:

United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom



First flight:




Number of pieces:

about 3000

The Airco DH.6 was a biplane made by the British aircraft manufacturer Airco . The machine was used by the Royal Flying Corps as a training aircraft during the First World War and was a popular aircraft in civil aviation in the post-war period.


The DH.6 was consistently planned by Geoffrey de Havilland , at the time chief designer of Airco, for the intended purpose as a training machine for the British air forces.

On the one hand, the aircraft should be cheap and easy to manufacture, but above all it should be cheap to repair. Therefore, the wings were designed in such a way that they could be exchanged easily. The fuselage was just as consistently straight without curves in order to keep production times and thus production costs as low as possible. Only in the first prototype was the rudder in the round shape typical of de Havilland, but was replaced by a simple, angular rudder in production. The cockpit, in which the flight instructor and his student found space in tandem in simple basket seats, was spartan, even for the standards of the time.

The DH.6 was powered by a 90 HP (67 kW) RAF 1a installed in the bow without cowling (engine casing), an engine already known to the ground crew from the Royal Aircraft Factory BE2 . A number of machines were also equipped with other engines, for example with the 90 hp (67 kW) Curtiss OX-5 or a Renault engine with 80 hp (60 kW).

The second criterion that de Havilland had set himself as a goal was an aircraft that was safe to fly, both for the student pilot and for his instructor. So the double steering could be disengaged; The instructor could thus take control of the machine, even if there were situations in which the instructor would normally have to "fight" against incorrect and dangerous steering maneuvers of his student. Previously at the Royal Aircraft Factory , De Havilland had studied flight stability and aircraft controls extensively. He incorporated these principles into the development of the DH.6, and so this machine was considered an extremely good-natured aircraft that also forgave flight errors. It was almost impossible to pull the DH.6 over or to spin it, the machine was still stable in the air even at the low speed of almost 50 km / h.

However, these advantages were at the same time disadvantages with regard to the training of military pilots, who were almost unfamiliar with critical flight situations after flying the DH.6. The machine was sometimes described as "too safe". In addition, it was very slow even for the time due to its weak motorization, the high weight due to its stability and the clumsy shape.

Later, the machines were made artificially unstable to make flight training more challenging.


During the First World War, 2282 machines of this type were produced, in total (with post-war production) about 3000 pieces. Production took place not only at Airco, but also in various other companies ( Grahame-White , Kingsbury Aviation, Harland and Wolff , Morgan , Savages, Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies and Gloucestershire Aircraft ).

A single copy of the DH.6 was bought by Canadian Airplanes Ltd. in July 1917. built, but there was no further production.


From 1916 the DH.6 was used as a training aircraft, but was replaced by the Avro 504K as the standard trainer at the end of 1917 . Then 300 DH.6 were initially used by the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) for patrol missions at sea. Although the machines turned out to be unsuitable for this task, it turned out that they were exceptionally "seaworthy" - cases were known in which they floated in the water ten hours after being ditched. As far as is known, a DH.6 was only involved in an attack on a German submarine on May 30, 1918; However, the UC49 boat escaped undamaged.

Due to their under-motorization, the actually two-seater machines were flown by only one crew member during operations with a bomb load. However, there were problems with the man-made instability; This made long flights a relatively strenuous affair for the pilots. In the middle of 1918, efforts were made to make some machines more stable again; specimens modified in this way were unofficially designated as DH.6A.

Towards the end of the war, around 1000 DH.6s were still in service with the RAF in subordinate tasks.

post war period

Since the RAF had no more use for the DH.6 after the end of the war, the remaining machines were initially parked as a reserve. From 1919 onwards, a large part of the aircraft was sold into civilian hands and mainly used in the leisure sector - here some aircraft were converted into three-seater, in which the pilot and up to two passengers could be accommodated. Some specimens were exported to South Africa and Australia and were in use there until 1921 and 1930 respectively.

A DH.6 was the first motor-powered aircraft operated by an English scout group in 1921 .

From 1921 around 60 machines were built under license by Hispano-Suiza in Spain - with improved lines, separate cockpits for flight instructors and students and equipped with the Hispano-Suiza 8 engine - and used as training aircraft by the Spanish Air Force.

Technical specifications

Parameter Airco DH.6
crew 2 (flight instructor and student pilot) or a pilot on anti-submarine patrol missions
length 8.32 m
height 3.29 m
span 10.95 m
Wing area 40.50 m²
Climb performance 1.1 m / s
Empty mass 664 kg
Max. Takeoff mass 923 kg
Top speed 113 km / h
Service ceiling 5500 m
Flight duration 2:45 h
Engine 1 × V8 engine RAF 1a (air-cooled) with an output of 90 PS (approx. 70 kW)
Armament no or approx. 50 kg bomb load for anti-submarine patrol missions


  • AJ Jackson: De Havilland Aircraft since 1909 , Putnam, 1962, 3rd edition 1978, ISBN 0-87021-896-4

Web links

Commons : Airco DH.6  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ AJ Jackson: De Havilland Aircraft since 1909 , pp. 90, 96