Chipmunk Aircraft: 75 Years In The Skies

The Chipmunk was the RAF's primary trainer aircraft from the late 1940s and continues to be used by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of when the Canadian-designed de Havilland Chipmunk took to the skies for the first time.

From the late 1940s, the Chipmunk became the RAF's primary trainer aircraft.

Chipmunks replaced the Tiger Moth as an initial pilot trainer, offering relatively modern features such as flaps, brakes, radio and an enclosed cockpit.

The RAF's Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) has two Chipmunks, helping training fighter pilots to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes as they have the same tailwheel landing gear – two wheels at the front and one at the back – as opposed to the 'tricycle' formation of modern aircraft. 

The Duke of Cambridge at RAF Coningsby flying a de Havilland Canada Chipmunk in 2015 (Picture: MOD Crown Copyright).

They have a two-seat tandem cockpit and are powered by a de Havilland Gypsy Major engine. 

The 'Chippies' are the least displayed aircraft on the BBMF fleet, but they are used year-round for training.

The Duke of Edinburgh learned to fly in the aircraft and made his first solo flight in a Chipmunk on 20 December 1952.

In later years, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York also received their initial pilot training in Chipmunks.

Cover image: Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Chipmunk WG486 returns to RAF Coningsby following a major servicing in 2015 (Picture: MOD/Crown Copyright).