Like all good British-built Chippies N7DW began life in the Royal Air Force in 1951, SERNO BF-370. It then emigrated to Australia in 1956 to join the Tasmanian Aero Club as VH-BSQ. With surplus Chipmunks in easy supply, by 1965 both Britain and Australia began converting a handful of them to crop sprayers. Chippy earned a new moniker as an SA-29 Spraymaster, registered VH-GEB. Ever the working plane, Chippy later became a glider tug, in the process suffering multiple landing accidents including replacement of one wing.
After its last accident in Australia it was disassembled and stored starting in May 1970. This was the heyday of Art Scholl’s Super Chipmunks so in April 1971 work began at Bankstown near Sydney to similarly convert it. Work stalled. Dean Whitaker of Morerra, LA, rescued it along with two other Aussie Chippies which he imported to the US in May 1972, eventually certificated N7DW, N8DW and N13DW (all still flying today). Whitaker immediately sold N7DW and N8DW to Doug Warren in Big Spring, Texas. Over the next two years Warren completed N7DW’s Super Chipmunk mods. Modeled on Pappy Spinks’ design they clipped the wings 19” each side, enlarged and beefed-up the rudder, extended the ailerons by stealing from the flaps, sheeted the wings with 0.20 aluminum, and installed a single place bubble canopy and O-435 engine with inverted oil.
After flying it in shows for a few years, in June 1978 Doug Warren made a trade with Howard Davenport: Chippy for a Decathlon and some cash. Howard had been flying airshows with Duane Cole starting when he was 17 years old in 1973. With Chippy as his new mount he added an inverted ribbon cut to his routine, similar to Art Scholl’s. Until he lost oil pressure on a trip home from a show, fried the engine and landed it on I-10 near El Paso. Doug Warren bought it back, installed an IO-540 and continued airshow flying until he sold it again in 1987 to Iranian-American pilot Nadir Fahn.
Nadir and his airshow partner Chuck Stockdale modified N7DW to open cockpit in 1988. Together with Chuck’s father and brother they also modified Chipmunk N66RP to the same open cockpit configuration then flew them as a two-ship team. Over the next 12 years they flew the circuit with support of several sponsors including Tag-Heuer, developing a formation routine that included a tailslide to an inverted ribbon cut by sister ship N66RP. Chipmunk 66RP carries on today still wearing Stockdale’s red and black Mystery Ship scheme, now owned and flown by Bob Rosen of East Hampton, Long Island.
Retired from performances in 2000, Chippy N7DW eventually made it into the capable hands of Bruce Moore in 2003 who began breathing new life into him by replacing the engine, fuel bladders and engine mount before I took the baton in 2009. Over the next 5 years and 5,000 hours, I completed a major rebuild to breathe new life into a tired, hard workin’ bird.
|Registration Number||Date of Manufacture|
|Trainer and Airshow Performer||Super Chippy|
|deHavilland DHC-1 Super Chipmunk||31 feet (clipped)|
|Overall length:||Empty weight:|
|25 feet 5 inches||1600 pounds|
|Gross weight:||Fuel capacity:|
|2200 pounds||22 gal, 151 miles low cruise|
|Oil capacity||Engine type:|
|8 qts||IO-540, 260 HP|
|Propeller type:||Max Speed|
|Rate of Climb||Cruise Speed|
|2500 fpm||120 Kts|
|Service Ceiling||Number of Crew|
|Number Built||Number Surviving|
|1200(British, Canadian)||38 Super Chippies in the US|
When I bought it in 2009 I knew it was a project plane but had no idea of the scope of work needed. I relished the project, but hoped to do the work piecemeal so I could fly it some. That plan ended when I lost a part of the cowling in flight, with no replacement unless I figured out how to make it. That began the rebuild in earnest.
There was no chance of bringing it back to stock after a 45-year string of mods, nor did I want to. I did find, however, that whatever deHavilland built was solid. The problems I had to fix were all in the mods or from various landing accidents and hard use as a crop sprayer or on the airshow circuit. So I replaced many of the old mods with my own new set! For example, the control system is a kludge of deHavilland and homemade parts, and the fuselage structure is beefed up in many places, and the large turtleback was added for aesthetics and to hide a steel roll-over bar. New parts all started out as paper templates fit in place. Vans RV builder sites were a big help for systems, while the new firewall-forward is somewhat similar to a Pitts S-2C.
Because I had lost the right cheek cowl overboard, I went to carbon fiber for the replacement. I built the male molds and John Hogansen made all the final parts. This gave me a chance to update a klunky snout – it was very old school, built before LoPresti and all the recent advancement in intake design for cooling and drag reduction. The new one delivers a little ram kick, perfect oil temps and 300 degree CHTs!
The wings had already been modified for aerobatics, including clipping 19” from each tip and extending the ailerons by stealing from the flaps. The wing fabric had already been replaced with .020 aluminum. I had to do very little except replace a chunk of leading edge skin, rebuild the ailerons which were coming apart, and treat surface skin corrosion.
The fuselage of many Super Chippies have been re-skinned because the original fuselage skin is very thin, especially at the tail. I should have re-skinned mine – it may have been less work than all the stripping inside the fuselage, and patching all the holes and dented skin. The firewall was
so full of holes, it looked like it had been hit with buckshot so I replaced it with a heavy gauge polished stainless firewall. I also had to completely disassemble the top longerons, double and rebuild them starting at the firewall. All systems are new. I also built new panels but kept it looking mostly classic with round gauges.
I added new structure under the floors to support the controls, smoke tank and battery. I made good friends with the English wheel, shotbags and hammers while making new fairings and a tailcone. Scheme Designers assisted with the scheme and artwork, and KD Aviation in Trenton-Robbinsville, NJ did the terrific paint. I was going after an elegant Golden Age look.
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