- Much of the history are first-hand experiences or from long-term employee interviews
- Many of the photographs were taken by the author and have not been previously published
- The wartime development of the Mosquito is covered as well as jet engine pioneering development
- Three generations of jet airliners were produced at Hatfield – Comet, Trident and BAe146 – plus the development of advanced Airbus wings
With the approach of the Second World War, the de Havilland Aerodrome at Hatfield went through a major expansion, concentrating on Mosquito production as well as pioneering the development of jet engines that led to the Vampire jet fighter.
Early commercial aircraft were the Dove and Heron, but the major pioneering programme was the Comet, the world’s first commercial jet airliner. The DH.108 tailless research aircraft based on the Vampire fuselage was used to investigate the effects of the speed of sound, exceeding Mach 1 on 9 September 1948.
The de Havilland jet airliner developed through the Trident, which was the first aircraft capable of automatic landing with passengers in all weathers, leading to the BAe 146 Whisper Jet, Britain’s most successful jet airliner. In addition to developing turbojet engines, the Engine Company also developed rocket engines.
The Propeller Company developed air-to-air guided missiles and the Blue Streak stage 1 booster space rocket. Other types developed were the Sea Vixen naval strike fighter and the DH 125 business jet.
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Philip Birtles started work as an engineering apprentice at the de Havilland Aircraft Company in September 1957. Following the completion of his training, he was appointed as PA to John Cunningham—the famous Second World War night-fighter ace. Philip held a number of marketing positions over the remainder of his career in the aerospace industry, taking early retirement when Hatfield Aerodrome finally closed at the end of 1993. He spent over forty years as a trustee of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, and he has written over thirty-five books.