Entex 1/72 DeHavilland No. 1 Biplane

KIT #: 8448
DECALS: None required
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: First issued in the late sixties, sometimes seen at swap meets.


Geoffrey DeHavilland’s  first attempt at building an airplane came in May, 1909, when he built his No. 1 Biplane in a rented workshop from rough design sketches.  Mrs. DeHavilland did the fabric work, and F.T. Hearle helped with the design and construction.  In May, 1909, the semi-completed airplane was carried by truck (lorry) to Seven Barrows, near Newbury, Berks, where an additional six months were consumed in final adjustments before flight tests could be conducted.  The plane had a wing span of 36 ft., a length of  29 ft,  and a gross weight of 850 lb., easily fitting into the current American Light Sport category. It was powered by a 45 hp. DeHavilland Iris four cylinder water cooled engine driving two opposite rotating metal props by means of a chain drive mechanism. The landing gear consisted of four bicycle wheels, two amidships, and one at either end.   There were two horizontal surfaces, a fixed one at the rear, and a moveable unit in front.  A small rudder was above the rear airfoil, and lateral control was achieved by small ailerons on the wingtips.

The plane’s career was very short lived.  In December, 1909, the first flight attempt met with disaster. To start with, DeHavilland had never flown an airplane before, and this was his undoing.  He took off , but after becoming airborne, he overcorrected on the elevator control, imposing excessive stress on the wing structure.   The wing failed, and the plane crashed to the ground from a lofty altitude of fifteen feet.    DeHavilland was uninjured, but the plane was a total write-off. However, the engine was salvaged for future use. Not an auspicious start, but DeHavilland made up for it with his future creations, including the DH-4, Mosquito, Vampire, and Comet, not to mention my favorite, the Tiger Moth.

 The Kit Series

 This series of six different airplanes was first  produced   by Renwal , and then  Fuji, and Entex  in the late sixties, and included the Wright Flyer, Curtiss Pusher, Avro Triplane, Bleriot XI,  Antoinette, Voison-Farman (Voisin?), and DeHavilland No. 1. The kits consisted of styrene skeletal  frameworks, some of which were to be covered by a thin tissue paper called ‘Aeroskin”.  The idea was to cover the wings and control surfaces with this paper, and brushing on liquid plastic cement, which would permanently attach the paper, much like the fabric covering on early aircraft.  The result was a translucent component which could be attached to the airframe, making a surprisingly realistic model.  Later Renwal kits used printed fabrics, and these were to be glued to the surfaces of various World War I fighters.  I bought several of these in the sixties when they first came out, but was not as impressed with them as I was with the “Early Bird” series.

 Molded in dark brown or black styrene plastic, these were very intricate kits.  However, detailing was quite heavy, leading one to believe that they were build from 2 x 4’s, when photos show the structures to be much lighter.  The “Aeroskin” paper was beige colored, simulating unpainted linen fabric, which was common at the time.  I have built all of these kits except for the Bleriot, opting for the Frog kit instead.  If you are interested in a unique model building experience, these kits will certainly provide it.


The instructions are printed on a large sheet, consisting of three 8 ˝ by 11 inch sheets, covering all three aircraft.  In this case, the Entex kit, No. 8448, includes the Voison, (Voisin?), Antoinette, and Dehavilland No.1.  All of the parts are listed by number and function, while a strip drawing shows the assembly steps in recommended order.  There are no decals, and the only painting required is on the wooden and metal components, such as the major fuselage structures, engines, wheels, and propellers.

 I discovered a couple of problems with the kit right at the beginning.  First, the engine and seat do not look much like those in the photos I found on line, and the props, while close in outline, are identical, whereas those on the airplane rotate in opposite directions.  Apparently, DeHavilland anticipated propeller torque and “P” factor, opting for a chain drive twin prop arrangement similar to that used by the Wright  Brothers. I used the kit engine, although it does not look much like an engine. The radiator is much too thick.  See the photo for comparison.


I trimmed all of the components, and immediately applied the ‘Aeroskin” fabric to the wing panels, elevators, and rudder.  The fuselage assembly came next, with a couple of small rectangular braces in the forward part, giving it a measure of rigidity.  Next came the engine, which consisted of a small cylindrical shape with trunnions similar tothose on an old cannon.  The engine mounts on two small “engine stands” which are glued to the lower fuselage longeron.  The location of the engine is not too clear in the instructions, and this is critical because the engine has to line up with the chain drives, which are mounted to the rear, and which connect to a pair of struts which are attached to the rear spars of the lower wings.  The problem is that the instructions say to mount the lower wing to the fuselage, but the instructions imply that both spars are to be attached to the lower fuselage.  This creates a much lower almost zero angle of incidence, whereas the actual wing has a fairly high angle, and the rear spar has to hang free to achieve the proper angle.

 I ended up building up the biplane wing structure and then attaching the whole thing to the fuselage, lining things up with the prop mounting struts.  I had to enlarge all of the strut mounting holes with a drill, taking care not to drill through the other side of the wings.  The struts can be attached with Tenax or any liquid solvent.  Once the wing structure was attached, and the chain drive was lined up properly, I attached the forward elevator and tailplanes. The landing gear and wheels were tedious to install, but when this was accomplished, the model was ready to sit on its wheels.  The props went on last, and these merely were glued to the crankshafts.  No spinning props on this baby.  I added a seat belt to the seat, and the model was ready to rig.


 After the fabric was dry, I brushed on a layer of Testor’s Glosscote, which acts as lacquer dope does on actual aircraft fabric. It tightens it a little, and gives a more realistic finish.  Then I rigged the model with very fine electronic wire, as any biplane that is not rigged is incomplete, in my opinion.  The rigging is fairly easy, because since it is a 3 bay biplane, with four sets of struts on each side, each of the wires can be made in quantities of eight.  Mass production at its finest.



Of all seven models, this one is probably the most difficult.  However, all of them are buildable, and only the Bleriot  is duplicated by another manufacturer, Frog.  These kits are a challenge, but they are certainly impressive on a model shelf, and they definitely fill a gap in my model collection, as I have tried to span aviation history from the early days until the nineteen fifties.  Come on.  Try one of these.  If you can get good results, you have arrived as a modeler.

 Brian Baker   

February 2012

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