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British Industrial History

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De Havilland: Gipsy Major

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Gipsy Major 50. Exhibit at the Shuttleworth Collection.
Gipsy Major. Exhibit at the National Museum of Flight.
Gipsy Major IF. Exhibit at the Shuttleworth Collection.
Gipsy III. Exhibit at the Shuttleworth Collection.
Gipsy-Six-R. Exhibit at the Shuttleworth Collection.
1930. Gipsy engine.
Dec 1939. Gipsy Twelve.
Gipsy Major engine from Saro Skeeter helicopter, on display at the Helicopter Museum in Somerset

Note: This is a sub-section of De Havilland.

Four-cylinder air-cooled in-line engine designed by Frank Halford.

The de Havilland Gipsy Major or Gipsy IIIA is a four-cylinder, air-cooled, inline engine used in a variety of light aircraft produced in the 1930s including the famous Tiger Moth biplane.

The engine was a slightly modified Gipsy III which was effectively a de Havilland Gipsy engine modified to run inverted so that the cylinders pointed downwards below the crankcase. This allowed the propeller shaft to be kept in a high position without having the cylinders blocking the pilot's forward view over the nose of the aircraft.

One initial disadvantage of the inverted configuration was the high oil consumption (up to 4 pints per hour) requiring regular refills of the external oil tank, this problem improved over time with the use of modified piston rings. The Major was a slightly bored out (118 mm from 114 mm) Gipsy III.

First built in 1932, total production of all Gipsy Major versions was 14,615 units.

1960 Flight testing of the turbosupercharged Major 215 (military, Major 140) had been in progress for over a year. As the powerplant of the Westland Skeeter helicopter it enabled the l hour rating of 220 b.h.p. to to be maintained to 4,000ft at ISA+30°C or to about 8,000ft under standard conditions[1]


  • Gipsy Major I
  • Gipsy Major IC - Higher compression ratio (6:1) and maximum RPM for racing use.
  • Gipsy Major ID - Fuel pump added, plus screened ignition harness and priming system.
  • Gipsy Major IF - Aluminium cylinder heads, 5.25:1 compression ratio.
  • Gipsy Major 7 - Military version of Gipsy Major 1D, increased climb RPM.
  • Gipsy Major 8 - Sodium cooled exhaust valves, cartridge starter for DHC Chipmunk.
  • Gipsy Major 10 - Electric starter option.
  • Gipsy Major 30 - Major redesign, bore and stroke increased. 6.5:1 compression ratio.
  • Gipsy Major 50 - Supercharged. 197 hp.
  • Gipsy Major 200 - Designed as a light helicopter engine. 200 hp.
  • Gipsy Major 215 - Turbo-supercharged helicopter engine. 220 hp.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. FLIGHT, 2 September 1960