de Havilland Dragon Rapide


de Havilland Dragon Rapide
DH.89 Dragon Rapide/Dominie
Role Short-haul airliner
Manufacturer de Havilland
First flight 17 April 1934
Primary user Royal Air Force
Number built 731

The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a British short-haul passenger airliner of the 1930s.

Contents

Design and development

Designed by the de Havilland company in late 1933 as a faster and more comfortable successor to the DH.84 Dragon, it was in effect a twin-engined, scaled-down version of the four-engined DH.86 Express. It shared many common features with the larger aircraft including its tapered wings, streamlined fairings and the Gipsy Six engine, but it demonstrated none of the operational vices of the larger aircraft and went on to become perhaps the most successful British-built short-haul commercial passenger aircraft of the 1930s.

Operational history

Prewar operations

Rapide of Isle of Man Air Services on a scheduled service at Manchester (Ringway) Airport in 1938
G-ADAH, built in 1935 and used by Hillmans Airways and Allied Airways until 1947. On display at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, UK.

The prototype aircraft first flew at Hatfield on 17 April 1934 and 205 were built for airlines and other owners all around the world before the outbreak of World War II. Originally designated the "Dragon Six" it was first marketed as "Dragon Rapide" although later it was popularly referred to as the "Rapide". With the fitting of improved trailing edge flaps from 1936, they were redesignated DH.89As.

The type entered service with UK-based airlines in the summer of 1934 with Hillman Airways Ltd being first to take delivery in July. Railway Air Services (RAS) operated a fleet of Rapides from August 1934 on routes linking London, the north of England and on to Northern Ireland and Scotland. The RAS DH.89s were named after places on the network and (eg) "Star of Lancashire".[1]

Isle of Man Air Services operated a fleet of Rapides on scheduled services from Ronaldsway Airport near Castletown to airports in north-west England including Blackpool, Liverpool and Manchester. Some of their aircraft had been transferred to them after operation by Railway Air Services.

One famous incident involving the use of a DH.89 was in July 1936 when two British MI6 intelligence agents, Cecil Bebb and Major Hugh Pollard, flew Francisco Franco in one from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, at the start of the military rebellion which began the Spanish Civil War.[2] You can see today in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Museum of Spain.

World War Two

DH.89B Dominie Mark II in Dutch Air Force livery

At the start of World War II many (Dragon) Rapides were impressed by the British armed forces and served under the name de Havilland Dominie. They were used for passenger and communications. Over 500 further examples were built specifically for military purposes, powered by improved Gipsy Queen engines, to bring total production to 731. The Dominies were mainly used by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy for radio and navigation training.

Other civilian Rapides continue to fly for UK airlines as part of the Associated Airways Joint Committee (AAJC). The AAJC co-ordinated the UKs wartime scheduled services which were entirely operated on over-water routes.

Many ex RAF survivors entered commercial service after the war, and 81 were still flying on the British register in 1958. Dominie production was by both de Havilland and Brush Coachworks Ltd, the latter making the greater proportion.

Postwar operations

The DH.89 proved an economical and very durable aircraft despite its relatively primitive plywood construction and many were still flying in the early 2000s. Several Rapides are still operational in the UK and several suppliers still offer pleasure flights in them. A Rapide can be seen in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Two Rapides are still airworthy in New Zealand. There is a Dragon Rapide flying with the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and another one based in Yolo County, California. Two are operated by Classic Wings for pleasure flights in UK.

Variants

De Havilland DH-89A Dragon Rapide G-AIYR at Old Warden airfield
De Havilland DH-89A Dragon Rapide in flying condition, at Duxford aerodrome
D.H.89
Twin-engined light transport biplane. First production version.
D.H.89A
Improved version, fitted with a landing light in the nose, modified wingtips and cabin heating.
D.H.89A Mk 4
One D.H. 89A aircraft, powered by two de Havilland Gipsy Queen 2 piston engines, fitted with constant speed propellers.
D.H.89A Mk 5
One D.H.89A aircraft, powered by two de Havilland Gipsy Queen 3 piston engines, fitted with variable-pitch propellers.
D.H.89A Mk 6
One D.H.89A aircraft fitted with Fairey X5 fixed-pitch propellers.
D.H.89M 
Military transport version. Exported to Lithuania and Spain.
D.H.89B Dominie Mk I
Radio and navigation training version.
D.H.89B Dominie Mk II
Communications and transport version.

Operators

Civil

 Argentina
 Australia
 Brazil
Rapide of VARIG preserved at Rio de Janeiro
 Canada
 Finland
  • Aero Oy operated two aircraft.
 Iceland
 India
 Iraq
 Ireland
 Latvia
  • Valsts Gaisa satiksme
 Lebanon
 Malaysia
 Netherlands
 New Zealand
 Palestine
  • Palestine Airways (British Mandate of Palestine)
  • Aviron
 Paraguay
  • Aerocarga Asociados ACA
 Romania
 South Africa
 Spanish State
  • Iberia
 Switzerland
 United Kingdom
 Yugoslavia

Military operators

 Australia
 Belgium
  • Belgian Air Force (Seven operated from 1946)
 Canada
 Egypt
  • Royal Egyptian Air Force
 Finland
 Nazi Germany
 India
 Iran
  • Imperial Iranian Air Force
 Israel
 Jordan
 Lithuania
 Netherlands
 New Zealand
 Peru
 Portugal
 Southern Rhodesia
  • Southern Rhodesian Air Force - Four aircraft.
 South Africa
 Spain
  • Spanish Republican Air Force operated three D.H.89M.
 Spain
 United Kingdom
 United States
  • United States Army Air Force
 Uruguay
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia
  • Royal Yugoslav Air Force - One aircraft impressed into military service in 1940.

Accidents and incidents

  • On 2 October 1934 G-ACPM of Hillman's Airways crashed into the sea off Folkstone, Kent causing the death of the pilot and the six passengers.
  • On 26 January 1935, G-ACPO of Hillman's Airways, operating a mail flight from Aldergrove Airport, Belfast to Stapleford Aerodrome, Abridge, Essex via Speke Airport, Liverpool, Lancashire crashed at Derbyhaven, Isle of Man, whilst attempting to divert to Ronaldsway Airport during bad weather.[3]
  • On 28th June 1946 VP-KCU Crashed landed out of fuel near Lamu Kenya. No loss of life.
  • On 15 April 1947, G-AHKR of British European Airways crashed into Slieu Ruy whilst operating a scheduled passenger flight from Speke Airport, Liverpool, Lancashire to Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man. There were only minor injuries amongst the six people on board.[4]
  • On 10 June 1948, G-AIUI of Hargreaves Airways crashed at Cronk ny Arrey Laa, Isle of Man. Seven of the nine people on board were killed. The aircraft was operating a scheduled passenger flight from Speke to Ronaldsway.[5]
  • 10 July 1951, G-ALXJ of the Air Navigation and Trading Company crashed into the sea off Laxey, Isle of Man, killing the pilot. The aircraft was operating a scheduled cargo flight from Squires Gate Airport, Blackpool, Lancashire to RAF Jurby instead of its normal destination of Ronaldsway Airport, which was fogbound.[6]
  • 19 February 1954, G-AFMF crashed into Simonburn Common near Hexham. Pilot and 7 passengers escape with minor injuries.[7]
  • 29 June 1957, G-AGUE of Island Air Services crashed on take-off from Ramsgate Airport, Kent on a local pleasure flight. The aircraft was written off but all on board escaped uninjured.[8]
  • 16 July 1960, OY-DZY of Zonens Redningskorps crashed shortly after take-off from Copenhagen Airport, Denmark. The aircraft was chartered by the Danish Football Association to transport soccer players to a test match in Jutland. All eight passengers are killed; the pilot survives but has one leg amputated.[9][10]

Specifications (Dragon Rapide)

1944 de Havilland DH89a Dragon Rapide 6

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Capacity: 8 passengers
  • Length: 34 ft 6 in (10.5 m)
  • Wingspan: 48 ft 0 in (14.6 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 3 in (3.1 m)
  • Wing area: 340 ft² (32 m²)
  • Empty weight: 3,230 lb (1,460 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 5,500 lb (2,490 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × de Havilland Gipsy Six inline engine, 200 hp (149 kW) each

Performance

Notable appearances in media

A de Havilland Dragon Rapide, the Sky Gypsy, appears in Out of Time, an episode of the BBC science fiction television series Torchwood, in which one is accidentally flown through a "transcendental portal" and travels from 1953 over 50 years into its passengers' future. Aircraft registered as G-ACZE appears in the 1990 BBC production Agatha Christie's Poirot, "Peril at End House". Dragon Rapides appear in several films including The Maggie, The Captain's Paradise, Fathom, and the 1995 film adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III.

A 1986 Spanish film, Dragon rapide[11], covers its historical use by Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

See also

Related development

Related lists

References

Notes

  1. ^ Jackson, 1978, pp.362-363
  2. ^ Alpert, Michael BBC History Magazine April 2002
  3. ^ Poole 1999, p. 12.
  4. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 120-21.
  5. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 121-22.
  6. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 126-27.
  7. ^ ASN Aircraft accident 19-FEB-1954 de Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide G-AFMF, accessed 08 November 2011.
  8. ^ Humphreys 2001, p. 169.
  9. ^ "I dag er et trist jubilæum for dansk fodbold", Politiken, 16 July 2010, accessed 09 September 2011.
  10. ^ CNAPG Dragon Rapide Individual Aircraft History Page, accessed 09 September 2011.
  11. ^ [1]

Bibliography

  • Hamlin, John F. The De Havilland Dragon Rapide Family. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2003. ISBN 0-85130-344-7.
  • Jackson, A.J. De Havilland Aircraft since 1909. 1978. Putnam & Company Ltd. isbn 0-370-30022-X
  • Humphreys, Roy (2001). Kent Aviation, A Century of Flight. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2790-9. 
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919-1972: Volume II. London: Putnam (Conway Maritime Press), 1988. ISBN 0-85177-813-5
  • Poole, Stephen (1999). Rough Landing or Fatal Flight. Douglas: Amulree Publications. ISBN 1 901508 03 X. 

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