Airco DH.5

1st Flight 1916

Airco DH.5

Military Users-Australian Flying Corps, Royal Flying Corps.

The Airco DH.5 was a British First World War single-seat biplane fighter aircraft.

Airco DH.5

It was designed and manufactured at British aviation company Airco.

Development was led by the aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland as a replacement for the obsolete Airco DH.2.

Airco DH.5

The DH.5 was one of the first British fighter designs to include the improved Constantinescu gun synchronizer, which allowed a forward-firing machine gun to fire through the propeller faster and more reliably than the older mechanical gears.

It was also one of the earliest biplanes to feature a marked back-stagger of its wings.

Airco DH.5

Despite these advances, by the time the DH.5 was fielded, it was already notably inferior to other fighters that had entered into production and thus proved to be both unpopular and unsatisfactory amongst the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).

As such, the type was quickly withdrawn from service as soon as supplies of the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 permitted.

Airco DH.5

By the time that trials had commenced in France, superior types such as the Sopwith Camel and the Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 were not far behind.

The performance of the new fighter was also inferior in most respects to the earlier Sopwith Pup.

Airco DH.5

The provision of a single machine gun at a time when most fighters carried two also meant the aircraft was considered to be somewhat under-armed for operations in 1917.

Nevertheless, on 15 January 1917, the DH.5 was ordered in quantity production in the form of two contracts for a combined 400 aircraft.

Airco DH.5

A total of four manufacturers were involved in producing the type: Airco (200), British Caudron (50), Darracq (200) and March, Jones & Cribb (100).

The design of the DH.5 was subject to extensive changes prior to entering mass production.

Airco DH.5

A substitute fuel system was adopted, which included an additional five-gallon gravity tank mounted above the upper wing and a pressured main tank directly behind the pilot’s seat.

The appearance of the aircraft was drastically changed via the revised fuselage, which now had an octagonal cross section and featured additional stringers around the area of the engine cowling.

Airco DH.5

Directional control was also altered, introducing a rudder that lacked a horn balance.

Unusually, some of these changes made the aircraft more complex to manufacture.

Airco DH.5

In terms of its construction, the main fuselage structure was produced in two sections that were butt-joined at an attachment point upon the rear-section struts.

Extensive use was made of plywood across the structure, while the remainder used conventional wire-braced wooden box-girden.

Airco DH.5

While some DH.5s were built with the original rubber bungee return springs on the ailerons, later-built examples used a system of pulleys and balance cables.

A major positive feature of the aircraft was its great structural strength, which was revealed during April 1917 in destructive testing.

Airco DH.5


Crew: 1

Length: 22 ft 0 in (6.71 m)

Wingspan: 25 ft 8 in (7.82 m)

Height: 9 ft 1 1⁄2 in (2.781 m)

Wing area: 212.1 sq ft (19.70 m2)

Empty weight: 1,010 lb (458 kg)

Gross weight: 1,492 lb (677 kg)

Fuel capacity: 26 imp gal (31 US gal; 120 L)

Power plant: 1 × Le Rhône 9J nine-cylinder rotary engine, 110 hp (82 kW)

Propellers: 2-bladed, 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m) diameter


Maximum speed: 102 mph (164 km/h, 89 kn) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)

Endurance: 2 hr 45 min

Service ceiling: 16,000 ft (4,900 m)

Time to altitude: 12 min 25 s to 10,000 ft (3,050 m)

27 min 30 s to 15,000 ft (4,570 m)


Guns: 1 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun

Bombs: racks for four 25 lb (10 kg) bombs under fuselage

Airco DH.5


Airco DH.1, Windsock Data File Special 1- J. M. Bruce.

Airco DH.2, Windsock Data File 48-B. J. Gray.

Airco DH.5, Windsock Data File 50- J. M. Bruce.

Airco DH.9, Windsock Data File 72- J. M. Bruce.

Airco DH.10, Windsock Data File 38- J. M. Bruce.

AIRCO: The Aircraft Manufacturing Company-Mick Davis.

The Complete book of fighters-William Green, Gordon Swanborough.


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