The theme of flight runs through much of our programme, just as it did through Amy Johnson’s life. But we are also fascinated by other forms of flight, not least the flight of insects such as the moth. The moth has a very special place in aviation history because Geoffrey de Havilland, a pioneering aircraft engineer, designer and manufacturer was also a lepidopterist from a very early age. It was his passion for moths that lead him to name many of his planes after these insects!

The de Havilland Moths were a series of light aircraft, sports planes and military trainers designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. In the late 1920s and 1930s they were the most common civil aircraft flying in Britain and during that time every light aircraft flying in the UK was commonly referred to as a ‘Moth’, regardless if it was de Havilland-built or not.

The first Moth was the DH.60 – a straight-winged two-seater bi-plane. To enable storing the plane in small spaces, the DH.60’s wings could fold backwards against the fuselage, “Like a moth” remarked Geoffrey de Havilland, an avid lepidopterist and so the plane was nicknamed Moth from the drawing board on. The Moth was also one of the first light aircraft to be mass-produced and was available to a much wider section of the general public than previous aircraft designs.

First variations of the name began with changes in the engine used for the DH.60. Early variants included the Hermes Moth, Genet Moth and Gipsy Moth (which Amy flew to Audstralia). As the DH.60 became more and more popular, de Havilland decided to cash in on the fame of the original by giving each of his new designs a name ending with Moth.

First of them was the DH.61, a giant 5-passenger biplane aptly called Giant Moth. Other Moths include the Leopard Moth and Hornet Moth cabin biplanes, the Puss Moth cabin monoplane and the Moth Minor low-wing two-seater. The most famous of the moths however, if nothing then for sheer numbers, is the DH.62 Tiger Moth, a biplane trainer used during World War II in Britain and the aircraft on which all World War II RAF pilots learned to fly.

Here is a detailed list of the various de Havilland aircraft using the name Moth:


NameSerialTypeMoth named after
Moth, Gipsy Moth and Moth MajorDH.60biplaneLymantria dispar
Giant MothDH.61biplane, 8 passengers
Tiger Moth RacerDH.71monoplanesome of the Arctiinae (erebid moths)
Hawk MothDH.75monoplane, 4 seatssome of the Sphingidae
Puss MothDH.80AmonoplaneMegalopyge opercularis or Cerura vinula
Swallow MothDH.81monoplane
Tiger MothDH.82biplanesome of the Arctiinae (erebid moths)
Fox MothDH.83biplaneMacrothylacia rubi
Leopard MothDH.85monoplaneZeuzera pyrina or Hypercompe scribonia
Hornet MothDH.87biplaneSesia apiformis
Moth MinorDH.94monoplane