This happy Australian pilot is Lindsay Miller in about 1962, flying what later became Super Chipmunk N7DW! He was a member of the Tasmanian Aero Club and continues today as its historian. Like all planes and people who have been around awhile, a great many changes have marked the lifetimes of both Lindsay and this hard working 1951 deHavilland DHC-1.
Chipmunk N7DW actually began life as a Royal Air Force primary trainer attached to the No. 4 Basic Flying Training School (BFTS). Sywell, Northhampton. (http://sywellaerodrome.co.uk/history.php) For what it’s worth, it was factory serial number C1-501, RAF registration WG-427. I haven’t dug up any photos of my specific plane from its RAF time, but these photos are likely squadron mate “Chippies” flying out of Sywell in the years following WWII and into the mid 1950s.
In 1956 WG-427 left the RAF for Australia, was certificated as VH-BSQ and served as a civil/military trainer for the Tasmanian Aero Club, Launceton. Upon arrival from Britain, staff and members began the tedious job of stripping the RAF paint and polishing the aluminium on their 4 new planes, Quebec, Romeo, Juliet, and Papa. Club members gathered for the photo below (Lindsay is on the left).
They removed the RAF Coffman cartridge starters leaving The “Armstrong” hand swing as the only start option. Lindsay says they then added the “club colours” to the rudders and had four “beautifully presented, highly polished, modern trainers” to replace the DH-82s Tiger Moths and Austers from the 1930s.
For the first time they had radios instead of lights for communication! Their Chippies had beautifully balanced controls, much better visibility, an extra 15 kts cruising speed could cope with stronger winds and crosswinds. (Even with its clipped wings, Chippy N7DW today remains a pussycat to land in gusty winds, with its long tail and wide gear stance).
“Quebec”, as the club members dubbed VH-BSQ, flew in Tasmania until 1965, when it was sold and converted as the third SA-29 “Spraymaster” at Bankstown, Australia, and recertified as VH-GEB. Chippy was a crop sprayer!! While it took on this arduous role with the same 145 HP Gypsy Major engine, it received many mods. The front cockpit seat and controls were removed to make way for a chemical hopper, the solo pilot was moved to the rear with a jacked up seat and raised flight controls, and a tall bubble canopy was installed. It also received a modern Scott tailwheel and spray/hopper controls (skin holes and some attachment fittings remained when the rebuild began in 2009!). It flew out of Tintinara, Southern Australia, and had at least one bad landing in a field resulting in major damage.
During the later 1960s it also worked for a living as a glider tug for the Adelaide Soaring Club, flying out of Gawler, Southern Australia. Note the tow rope attached in this photo. It was damaged here too, resulting in replacement of one wing. Beginning in 1969 it was stored for awhile in Sydney awaiting a plan for the next stage of its life!
During the mid 1960s the fine handling and aerobatic performance of the Chipmunk came to the attention of a number of world competitor aerobatic pilots, who began to develop modifications such as clipped wings and bigger engines. This was a time before today’s wide diversity of aircraft designed specifically for aerobatics, so competitors used a mix of homebuilts and various stock aircraft modified for aerobatics.
In 1966 Harold Krier started work on a “Super Chipmunk.” He and Art Scholl both took Chipmunks to the World Aerobatic Championships in 1966 and 1968. Australians, with many Chippys at hand, took note of these developments. With so many mods already, and with landing damage repairs underway, “VH-GEB” was a logical choice for joining the Supers already on the world stage!
Work remained unfinished, however, until Dean Whitaker, a former Australian aerobatic champion, imported 3 Aussie Chippys into the US. They included VH-GEB, now recertified as N7DW (using Dean Whitaker’s initials). The others were VH-CXZ and VH-GCE, which became N8DW and M13DW. All three continue to fly in the US.
After importing them, Dean sold N7DW to Doug Warren, who engaged Emil Bryson to complete the mods in Fort Worth, Texas. He certified it safe for flight in June, 1974, noting that he followed the Super mods of N24JH (which was originally a 1956 Canadian Chipmunk, now living in Washington owned by Bill Rogers). But all of these changes very much followed in the footsteps of Harold Krier and Art Scholl. With these mods, N7DW continued as a single seater, with the hopper serving as a ferry fuel tank.
But what made it a Super? The 145 HP Gypsy engine was replaced by a 260 HP Lycoming O-435 geared engine. It retained the Spraymaster dorsal fin, but the rudder received the first of many enlargements to handle the demands of the big engine. The wings were clipped, and the ailerons lengthened (stealing from the flaps) for greater roll rate. It flew in this configuration, looking very the much like this photo, until 1988.
It went through various hands during this period. In 1978 Doug Warren traded it for a Decathlon to airshow pilot Howard Davenport. Howard had been flying shows with the world famous Duane Cole beginning as a 17 year old in 1973. With Chippy as his new mount, he added an inverted ribbon cut to his routine, similar to Art Scholl’s.
But not for long! Howard tells the story that in 1979 he an Duane were in loose formation returning to Houston from a show in Silver City, NM, when the old pressure plummeted and temperature spiked. With the nearest airport 30 miles away, he signaled to Duane and they landed together near a rest stop on Interstate 10 near El Paso. They parked Chippy at the rest stop, had a chat with the friendly highway patrol, then took off in Duane’s Decathlon. Howard later returned with a truck and mechanic to get it home. With a destroyed engine, Howard had few prospects. Re-enter Doug Warren: he swapped a Super Taylorcraft for his old Chippy, now installing a 260 HP Lycoming IO-540, the same type engine it has today. Doug kept it until selling it to Iranian-American airshow pilot Nadir Fahm in 1987.
Nadir and his airshow partner Chuck Stockdale modified N7DW and a second Super Chipmunk, N66RP, to open cockpit then flew them as a formation team from 1988 to 2000.
Here’s Nadir and his airshow partner Chuck Stockdale talking with the press about flying N7DW and N66RP in airshows.