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Aces of Aviation

De Havilland DH 80A Puss Moth of James Mollison

De Havilland DH 80A Puss Moth of James Mollison

De Havilland DH 80A Puss Moth, piloted by James Mollison in the first solo flight across the South Atlantic, in February 1933.

Wingspan: 11.20 meters.

Length: 7.62 meters.

Height: 2.13 meters.

Engine[s]: De Havilland Gipsy III of 120 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 201 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 3960 meters.

Range: 708 kilometers in normal conditions, 5795 kilometers with a supplementary fuel tank.

Jim Mollison should be recognized as one of the greatest trailblazers of that romantic period of the Aviation during the interwar period, when so many historical flights were effectuated by solitary men and women who opened long-distance routes that are nowadays flown by commercial airlines.

Born the 19th April 1905 in Glasgow, Scotland, Mollison was destined to the Royal Air Force in 1923, and transferred to the Reserve five years later as flight instructor. Later he moved to Australia, where he worked as pilot on airlines between Sydney and Melbourne. Influenced by the famous solo flight between England and Australia performed by Amy Johnson (who he later married), Mollison acquired a Havilland DH 60G Gipsy Moth, marked as VH-UFT, and in July 1931 he set a new record on a solo flight between Australia and England, flying from Wyndham to Pevensey Sands. During an attempt for a solo flight between England and Cape Town, which he made shortly after, he arrived to Egypt in a record time of 37 hours.

His next aircraft was a De Havilland DH 80A Puss Moth, marked as G-ABKG, which was modified by keeping only one seat and adding a supplementary fuel tank. With this aircraft Mollison achieved the record to Cape Town, which in that time was held by Peggy Salaman and Gordon Store; taking off from Lympne, in Kent, the 24th March 1932, and flying via the Sahara and the West Africa coast, he arrived to Cape Town after four days, 17 hours and 50 minutes.

Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart performed solo flights during 1932 crossing the North Atlantic in eastward direction, but Jim Mollison decided to perform a double trip, departing from Ireland. For this purpose he acquired a new DH 80A, marked as G-ABXY, which he named "The Heart's Content". He took off from a beach near Dublin the 18th August 1932, making a halt in Newfoundland and landing in Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, after a flight of 31 hours and 20 minutes, completing so the first solo flight crossing the Atlantic in westward direction.

Piloting again the DH 80A G-ABXY, the 6th February 1933 Mollison took off from Lympne toward Thies, in West Africa, from where he departed toward Port Natal, in Brasil, where he landed 17 hours and 40 minutes later. After another flight to Rio de Janeiro, Mollison and his aircraft returned to England by sea. Later, the DH 80A G-ABXY was sold to H. L. Brook for an attempt to beat the record to Australia, but the aircraft was damaged after having suffered a forced landing in Genholac, France, the 28th March 1934.

Shortly after, Jim Mollison, accompanied by his wife, performed a new crossing of the Atlantic flying a De Havilland DH 84 Dragon, and in the MacRobertson Air Race from England to Australia, the couple set a new speed record on the route between England and India, before their De Havilland DH 88 Comet were withdrawn from the race due to mechanical problems. During the Second World War, Mollison served in the RAF Ferry Command, crossing the Atlantic many times to transport American aircraft to England, and was appointed Member of the British Empire in 1946. He died in 1959.