The de Havilland Aircraft Company was a British aviation manufacturer founded in 1920. Initially, de Havilland concentrated on single and two-seat biplanes. These included the Gipsy and Tiger Moths. These aircraft set many aviation records, many piloted by de Havilland himself.
One of de Havilland’s trademarks was that the name of the aircraft type was painted on using a particularly elegant Roman typeface, all in capital letters. When there was a strike at the plant, the artisans who painted the name on the planes used the same typeface to make the workers’ protest signs.
The high-performance designs and wooden construction methods culminated in perhaps the most famous de Havilland aircraft—the Mosquito, constructed primarily of wood because of the shortage of aluminium during the Second World War. The company followed this with the even higher-performing Hornet, which was one of the pioneers of the use of metal-wood and metal-metal bonding techniques.
After the Second World War, de Havilland continued with leading-edge designs in both the military and civil field, but several public disasters doomed the company as an independent entity.
Hawker Siddeley bought de Havilland in 1960 but kept it as a separate company until 1963. In that year it became the de Havilland Division of Hawker Siddeley Aviation. De Havilland also pushed into the new field of long-range missiles, developing the liquid-fuelled Blue Streak. It did not enter military service but became the first stage of Europa, a launch vehicle for use in space flight.
De Havilland returned to the airline world in 1962 with a three-engine jetliner, the Trident. However, he designed it to fit the needs of one airline and one man: MRAF Sholto Douglas later Lord Sholto Douglas, chairman of British European Airways. Other airlines found it unattractive and turned to a rival tri-jet: the Boeing 727. De Havilland built only 117 Tridents, while Boeing went on to sell over 1,800 727s.