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De Havilland DH-4

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This object is on display in the Looking at Earth exhibition at the National Mall building.


The United States possessed no combat-worthy aircraft upon entry into World War I in 1917. Several European aircraft were considered. The British DH-4 was selected because of its comparatively simple construction and its apparent adaptability to mass production. It was also well-suited to the new American 400-horsepower Liberty V-12 engine. American-built DH-4s were dubbed the "Liberty Plane." By war's end, 13 Army Air Service squadrons, five of them bomber squadrons, were equipped with them. In addition, four combined Navy-Marine squadrons were flying DH-4s along the Belgian coast. Of the 4,346 DH-4s built in the United States, 1,213 were delivered to France, but of those only 696 reached the Zone of Advance. In the postwar period, the DH-4 was the principal aircraft used by the U.S. Government when air mail service began in 1918.

The DH-4 in the NASM collection was the prototype American-built DH-4, manufactured by the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company. This airplane was used in more than 2,600 experiments until its retirement in April 1919. It was also the airplane in which Orville Wright made his last flight as a pilot in 1918.

Transferred from the U.S. War Department.

Manufacturer: Dayton-Wright Airplane Co.

Date: 1917-1918

Country of Origin: United States of America

Dimensions: Wingspan: 13.0 m (42 ft 8 in)
Length: 9.3 m (30 ft 5 in)
Height: 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in)
Weight: Empty, 1,087 kg (2,391 lb)
Gross, 1,953 kg (4,297 lb)

Materials: Airframe: Wood Covering: Fabric

Physical Description:Two-seat, single-engine World War I biplane observation and bomber aircraft; 400-horsepower Liberty V-12 water-cooled engine. American-built version of a British design. Wings and tail natural finish overall. Fuselage light yellow on sides, brown on top.

Inventory number: A19190051000

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