The Chipmunk was designed to succeed the de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane trainer that was widely used throughout the Second World War. As might be expected after the technical advances of the war years, the Chipmunk was a radical change from its comparatively primitive predecessor. The Chipmunk is a single engine, two seat tandem control, all metal, low wing monoplane with conventional tail wheel landing gear and fabric covered control surfaces. Designed by Wsiewolod Jakimiuk, the DHC-1 Chipmunk was the first postwar aviation project of de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd.. The aircraft was also manufactured by de Havilland in the UK where it was designated as the T.10.
UK production began at the DH Hatfield factory but later relocated to Hawarden Airport near Chester and the combined production was around 1000 aircraft of which 735 were for the RAF. Although designed as a primary trainer, following successful trials at RAF Boscombe Down, it was the fully aerobatic version of the Chipmunk that was ordered – the first of 735 aircraft for the RAF and 1000 to be made in the UK.
While they initially served with reserve and university squadrons they also saw service in Cyprus on internal security flights during the conflict in 1958 and from 1956 to 1990 the Chipmunks of the RAF Gatow Station Flight were used for covert reconnaissance over the Berlin area. Chipmunk T.10s were also used as primary trainers by the Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm.
British (and also early Canadian and Portuguese-built) Chipmunks all have the characteristic multi-paneled sliding canopy with bulged rear panes to assist the visibility of the instructor. Later Canadian built RCAF and Lebanese versions all have a bubble canopy.
The last Chipmunks in military service are still operated by the Royal Navy and Army historic flights and the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, to provide pilots with experience of handling tailwheel aircraft.
The Chipmunk’s long service was due, in part, to its exciting aerobatic abilities and superb flying characteristics. It is also capable of being radically uprated to dramatically improve its aerobatic capability. These aircraft are known as Super Chipmunks and are still flown on the air show circuit in the USA by such legends as Art Scholl, Harold Krier, Skip Volk, Greg Aldridge and Jim Maroney. It is also a mechanically straightforward and reliable aircraft and, consequently, many ex-military Chipmunks are still operational. In fact more than 500 Chipmunk airframes remain operational with more being refurbished to airworthy status every year.
Its excellent performance characteristics, both as a trainer and for more advanced uses, made it an extremely popular aircraft and it was widely used by many air forces during the post war years. Today, the Chipmunk remains popular with flying clubs and individuals around the globe.
Entering service in 1950, the Royal Navy acquired a dozen ex-RAF aircraft in 1965 to replace the Tiger Moths of the Britannia Royal Naval College Air Experience Flight at Roborough (known as Britannia Flight), with the first entering service in 1966. Additional to the Roborough aircraft, 771 and 781 Squadrons also operated examples for communications and glider towing duties from RNAS Culdrose and RNAS Lee-on-Solent together with the Station Flights of RNAS Yeovilton, Lossiemouth and Culdrose. After 27 years of sterling service the Chipmunk was finally retired from Royal Navy service in 1993.