de Havilland Dragon Rapide

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DH.89 Dragon Rapide/Dominie
Dragon rapide g-aeml flying arp.jpg
Role Short-haul airliner
Manufacturer de Havilland
First flight 17 April 1934
Primary user Royal Air Force
Number built 727[1]

The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a 1930s short-haul biplane airliner developed and produced by British aircraft company de Havilland. Capable of accommodating 6–8 passengers, it proved an economical and durable craft, despite its relatively primitive plywood construction.

Developed during the early 1930s, the Dragon Rapide was essentially a smaller, twin-engined version of the four-engined DH.86 Express, and shared a large amount of common features, such as its tapered wings, streamlined fairings and Gipsy Six engines. First named the "Dragon Six", the type was marketed as "Dragon Rapide" and later simply known as the "Rapide". Upon its introduction in summer 1934, it proved to be a popular aircraft with airlines and private civil operators alike, attaining considerable foreign sales in addition to its domestic use.

Upon the outbreak of the World War II, many of the civil Rapides were impressed into service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy. Referred to in military service by the name de Havilland Dominie, the type was employed for radio and navigation training, passenger transport and communications missions; hundreds of additional Dominies were also constructed during the war. Other Rapides continued to be operated by British airlines throughout the war under the auspices of the Associated Airways Joint Committee (AAJC). Postwar, many military aircraft were returned to civilian service. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, de Havilland introduced a Dragon Rapide replacement, the de Havilland Dove.

Design and development[edit]

Origins[edit]

During summer 1933, the de Havilland aircraft company commenced work upon an aircraft to meet an Australian requirement, producing a four-engined faster passenger aircraft capable of seating ten passengers DH.86 Dragon Express.[2] An important feature of the DH.86 was the newly developed and powerful Gipsy Six engine, a six-cylinder variant of the four cylinder Gipsy Major engine. The DH.86 would serve as the a key starting point for the later DH.89.[2]

During late 1933, a team at de Havilland, lead by aircraft designer Arthur Ernest Hagg, began working on a new design, intended to be a faster and more comfortable successor to the earlier DH.84 Dragon. The new aircraft was, in effect, a twin-engined, scaled-down version of the four-engined DH.86 Express.[2] It shared many common features with the earlier DH.86 Express, including its tapered wings, streamlined fairings and fuselage, as well as the same Gipsy Six engines.[2] However, the DH.89 demonstrated none of the operational vices of the Express.

On 17 April 1934, the prototype conducted its maiden flight at Hatfield Aerodrome, Hertfordshire.[2] Flown by senior de Havilland test pilot H.S. Broad, it was powered by a pair of 200 hp Gypsy Six engines. Even prior to the prototype's first flight, plans to proceed with serial production of DH.89 had already received the go-ahead from management.[2] During May 1934, airworthiness trials commenced at RAF Martlesham Heath using the prototype; during one such flight, upon attaining a speed of roughly 175 MPH, the tip of the aircraft's nose buckled. In response to this event, a maximum permissible speed of 160 MPH was implemented for all DH89.[2] Upon the conclusion of trials, the prototype was sold.[2]

By November 1934, series production of the Rapide had reached full swing.[3] Originally referred to as the "Dragon Six", the aircraft was first marketed as the "Dragon Rapide", although the type later came to be popularly referred to as simply the "Rapide".[2] Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, 205 aircraft were manufactured for airlines and other private owners all around the world. The Rapide is perhaps the most successful British-built short-haul commercial passenger aircraft to be produced during the 1930s.

Further development[edit]

In response to the issuing of Specification G.18/35 by the British Air Ministry, de Havilland decided to design and produce a single prototype of a modified Rapide for undertaking coastal reconnaissance.[3] Trials using the prototype, K4772, were performed between April and June 1935 at RAF Martlesham Heath and RAF Gosport. However, it ultimately lost out to its rival, the Avro Anson.[3] K4772 was later used by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in automatic landing trials before being broken down for spares. Work on a militarised version of the Rapide was not wasted as multiple sales were soon completed with other military customers, the first of which being to the Spanish government in December 1935.[3]

Sensing demand for the type, de Havilland continued to modify the Rapide's design following its entry to service, creating both refinements and entirely new derivatives as a result. Aiming to produce a faster version of the Rapide, a smaller, lighter and externally cleaner version, designated as the DH.90 Dragonfly, emerged; first flying in August 1935, the DH.90 failed to achieve a similar rate of sales to the Rapide and production was terminated in 1938 after 67 aircraft had been completed.[4] In November 1935, the 60th airframe to be produced, G-ADWZ, was modified and used by de Havilland as a trials aircraft. Fitted with elongated rear windows, cabin heating, thickened wing tips, and a strengthened airframe to allow for an elevated gross weight of 5,500 lb, G-ADWZ later participated in trials at Martlesham Heath, after which the higher gross weight was cleared for service.[4]

In response to the announcement of an air race between Britain and Johannesburg, South Africa, de Havilland's design team produced a specialised variant of the Rapid, designated as the DH.92 Dolphin.[4] This one-off derivative featured a retractable undercarriage, an expanded wingspan of 53 ft 7 in, a modified nose section, and an increased all-up weight of 6,600 lb; however, flight tests in August 1936 revealed there to be no performance improvement over the standard Rapide, leading to the sole Dolphin being scrapped months later.[5]

In November 1936, in response to suggestions that the addition of flaps would aid in landing, a single Rapide was modified in order to explore their functionality.[6] Based on this performance, in February 1937, de Havilland announced that flaps would be fitted to all production aircraft from that year onwards, while other improvements such as a downwards-facing recognition light and metal propellers could be fitted as options. From 1937, to signify the fitting of improved trailing edge flaps, aircraft thus equipped were accordingly re-designated as DH.89A; earlier-built Rapides were commonly retrofitted to this standard during their service life as well.[6]

Operational history[edit]

Prewar operations[edit]

Dragon 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.

During July 1934, the first production Rapide, G-ACPM, performed the type's public debut at Hatfield with its entry into the 1934 King's Cup Race.[2] While having achieved an average speed of 158 MPH, G-ACPM had to be withdrawn from the race during Heat 9 of Round 2 when the wing sustained damage caused by hail while flying over Waddington, Lincolnshire. Another purpose-built Rapide, ZK'-ACO, was entered into the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race; fitted with three additional fuel tanks within the fuselage to extend the aircraft's range to 1,000 miles, the aircraft, flown by Squadron Leader J.D. Hewett and Mr C.E. Kay, took sixth place in the handicap race and fifth place in the speed race.[7]

In the summer of 1934, the type entered service with UK-based airlines, with Hillman Airways Ltd being first to take delivery in July. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was another early company to purchase the Rapide; used for quick communications purposes between individual oil fields spread out over vast distances, the aircraft quickly became popular in the oil industry, with the Iraq Petroleum Company and the Asiatic Petroleum Company also procuring their own Rapides.[3]

From August 1934, Railway Air Services (RAS) operated a fleet of Dragon Rapides 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, for example "Star of Lancashire".[8] 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 its aircraft had been transferred to it after operation by Railway Air Services.

During late 1935, the first of an initial batch of 16 Rapides were shipped to the manufacturer's Canadian branch, de Havilland Canada, for modification and re-sale purposes.[3] Canadian aircraft received various changes, including an extended dorsal fin and a modified undercarriage arrangement, allowing for either wheels, skis, or float to be interchangeably installed, dependent upon usage and weather conditions.[3] The sole Canadian prototype, CF-AEO, was sold onto Quebec Airways in June 1935. Further Rapides were delivered to other customers in Canada, such as Canadian Airways, who used it on their West Coast and maritime routes.[9]

On 30 January 1942, the majority of major Canadian operators were amalgamated into Canadian Pacific Air Lines, who continued to use the type.[4] Further Canadian sales of the Rapide would occur both during and after the end of the Second World War.

During 1938, British operator Airwork Limited placed an initial order for nine Rapides to serve as navigation trainers.[6] The order had been motivated by policy changes within the British Air Ministry, which soght to expand this capability. Repeat orders were placed by Airwork in the lead up to the Second World War, upon which point the firm's fleet of Rapides were all taken on by the Royal Air Force (RAF).[6]

Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), owned a single Dragon Rapide (G-ADDD), which he frequently used for carrying out his royal duties. He flew this aircraft to London on his accession as king in 1936, making him the first British monarch to fly.[10]

One famous incident involving the Rapide occurred during July 1936 when a pair of British SIS agents, Cecil Bebb and Major Hugh Pollard, flew Francisco Franco in Rapide G-ACYR from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, at the start of the military rebellion which began the Spanish Civil War.[11] The aircraft involved has since been placed on public display in the Museo del Aire, Madrid, Spain.

Second World War[edit]

Dominie of the Royal Navy

At the start of Second World War on 3 September 1939, all British transported aircraft became subservient to an Air Ministry-ran organisation, the National Air Communications (NAC).[6] In accordance, a total of 43 British-based Dragon Rapides were impressed into service with the British armed forces, where they served under the name de Havilland Dominie; Australian Rapides were also impressed by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).[12] Perhaps one of the most significant early uses of the Rapide during the war occurred during the crucial weeks of May–June 1940, in which the Battle of France occurred; Rapides of No. 24 Squadron acted as aerial couriers between Britain and France; out of 24 aircraft, 10 Rapides were lost during this intense period of fighting.[6]

Other civilian Dragon Rapides continued to fly for British airlines during the war as part of the Associated Airways Joint Committee (AAJC), the organisation which had formed to succeed the NAC. Upon the outbreak of war, all civil services had been halted, however, some routes were progressively returned to operation as and when they were deemed on value to the war effort or found to be in the national interest.[12] The AAJC co-ordinated the majority of UK's wartime scheduled services, which were entirely operated on over-water routes.[13]

Furthermore, while the final production Rapide was completed in November 1941, de Havilland instead produced the military-orientated Dominie variant exclusively.[13] Over 500 additional Dominies were manufactured for military use, powered by improved Gipsy Queen engines; by the end of production in July 1946, a total of 727 aircraft (both Rapides and Dominies combined) had been manufactured.[14] During the war, Dominie production was performed by de Havilland and Brush Coachworks Ltd, the latter being responsible for the greater proportion of the work. The Dominies were mainly used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy for radio and navigation training. Other duties they were used for included passenger and communications missions.[13]

DH.89B Dominie Mark II in Royal Netherlands Air Force livery, Militaire Luchtvaart Museum, the Netherlands (2009)

Throughout the course of the war, civilian Rapides were progressively substituted for by Dominies as the type became available in greater quantities.[13] Rapides were either dispatched to perform passenger operations or occasionally converted for other purposes, such as Air Ambulances; by the end of the conflict, only a total of nine impressed Rapides were restored to their civilian registrations; however, these were joined by many Dominies which had been deemed to be surplus to requirements.[13]

Postwar operations[edit]

Ex-RAF Dominie G-AIDL was flown by Allied Airways in the late 1940s, Fox's Confectionery 1950–59, the Army Parachute Association 1967–77 and Air Atlantique Classic Flight 1995–2009. Since 2009, it has flown from Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.[15]

Postwar, the Dominie continued to be used for some time by Royal Naval air station flights as communications aircraft.[16] By 1960, the Royal Navy still had a fleet of 14 Dominies, although under normal circumstances only three would be actively used at any one point in time, while the others were stored at RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. The last of the Royal Navy's Dominies had been phased out of service during 1963; thirteen aircraft were subsequently sold on via public tender, a number of which having been converted to civil Rapide configurations.[16]

Many ex-RAF survivors had quickly entered commercial service after the end of the conflict; according to aviation author Peter W. Moss, a typical Dominie-to-Rapide conversion performed by de Havilland involved the repainting of the exterior (replacing the wartime camouflage scheme) and the installation of sound proofing, upholstered seats and a new décor within the cabin area.[17] Additionally, various third party companies offered and performed their own conversion schemes, including Field Aircraft Services, Airwork Limited, Air Enterprises, W.A. Rollason Limited and the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation (LAC).[18] By 1958, 81 examples were recorded as still flying on the British register.

In the Netherlands, airline KLM, keen to restart operations, set about procuring a handful of Rapides even prior to the end of the war, commencing the first of its re-launched services during September 1945.[18] Various British airlines also became prolific users of the type; British European Airways (BEA), formed on 1 January 1946, took order 39 Rapides during February 1947. BAE used many across its fledgling network, later focusing upon services within the Scottish, Scilly, and Channel Islands while gradually selling on displaced and excess aircraft via Airwork.[18] Small independent British airlines that chose to resist pressure from the British government to merge into BEA also commonly operated the Rapide.[18]

In order to better distinguish between the different standards of Rapides available in the post-war environment, de Havilland established a basic mark number system.[18] Mk 1 aircraft were those constructed pre-war, while Mk 2 and Mk 3 Rapides were ex-military conversions to a six-passenger cabin and eight-passenger cabin respectively. Those Rapides that were re-engined with a pair of de Havilland Gipsy Queen engines, giving the aircraft an increased all-up weight to 6,000 lb along with improved climb, cruise speed and single engine performance, were referred to as Mk 4s.[18]

By 1966, use of the Rapide had gone into decline and several formerly large operators had phased out the type completely.[19] Due to the declining stocks of spare components available, individual Rapides were commonly being broken up in order to scavenge parts to maintain other active aircraft. Regardless, demand for such an aircraft was still relatively strong at this time, according to Moss.[16]

The DH.89 proved an economical and durable aircraft, despite its relatively primitive plywood construction and many were still flying in the early 2000s. Several Dragon Rapides are operational in the UK, while multiple operators, including Classic Wings and Plane Heritage, offer pleasure flights in them to the general public. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, de Havilland introduced a Dragon Rapide replacement, the de Havilland Dove.

Variants[edit]

Dragon Rapide G-AIYR at Old Warden airfield
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 wing tips and cabin heating.
D.H.89A Series 4
D.H.89A aircraft converted to two de Havilland Gipsy Queen 2 piston engines, fitted with constant speed propellers.[20][21]
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[edit]

1944 de Havilland DH89a Dragon Rapide 6

Civil[edit]

 Argentina
 Australia
Dragon Rapide of VARIG preserved at Rio de Janeiro
 Brazil
Flag of North Borneo.svg British North Borneo
Flag of the Crown Colony of Sarawak (1946).svg Crown Colony of Sarawak
Flag of Brunei 1906-1959.svg Protectorate of Brunei
 Canada
 Egypt
 Finland
 Iceland
 India
 Iran
 Iraq
 Ireland
 Latvia
  • Valsts Gaisa satiksme
 Lebanon
 Netherlands
 New Zealand
 Palestine
 Paraguay
 Romania
 South Africa
 Spanish Republic
 Spanish State
  Switzerland
 United Kingdom
 Yugoslavia

Military operators[edit]

 Australia
 Belgium
 Canada
 Egypt
 Finland
 Nazi Germany
 India
 Iran
 Israel
 Jordan
 Lithuania
 Netherlands
 New Zealand
 Peru
 Portugal
 Southern Rhodesia
 South Africa
 Spain
 Spain
 United Kingdom
 United States
 Uruguay
 Kingdom of Yugoslavia

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Surviving aircraft[edit]

  • G-ADAH, a DH89A in the livery of Allied Airways, is on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England.[38]
  • G-AEML / EC-AAY, a DH89A in the livery of Iberia, is airworthy and operated by the Fundación Infante de Orleans in Spain.[39]
  • G-AGJG, a DH89A, in the colours of Scottish Airways, is airworthy and in the hands of private owners at Duxford Airfield, Cambridge, England.[40]
  • G-AGTM, a DH89A, is airworthy and was operated by the Classic Air Force before it closed in 2016.[41]
  • G-AHAG, a DH89A in the livery of Scillonia Airways, is airworthy and based at Membury airfield, Berkshire.[42]
  • G-AIDL, a Mk 6, is airworthy and owned by Cirrus Aviation, painted as a Royal Air Force Dominie TX310, its former identity.[43]
  • G-AKIF and G-AIYR, a pair of DH89A Dragon Rapides, are airworthy and based at Duxford, England airfield for tourist flights.[44]
  • NR695 / N2290F, a DH89A, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio.[45]
  • TC-ERK, a DH89A, is on display at the Istanbul Aviation Museum.[46]
  • ZS-JGV (CN8931), a DH89A is airworthy and is based in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.[47][48]
  • G-ACZE (N1934D), a DH89A currently undergoing restoration to flying condition at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[citation needed]
  • G-AHXW, is airworthy and is based at Historic Flight Foundation Mukilteo, Washington.[49]

Specifications (Dragon Rapide)[edit]

De Havilland 89.svg

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[edit]

A 1986 Spanish film, Dragon Rapide,[50] covers its historical use by Generalissimo Francisco Franco during the preparation for the Spanish Civil War.[51]

See also[edit]

Related development
Related lists

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 10, 12.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Moss 1966, p. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Moss 1966, p. 4.
  4. ^ a b c d Moss 1966, p. 5.
  5. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 5–6.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Moss 1966, p. 6.
  7. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 3–4.
  8. ^ Jackson, 1978, pp. 362–363.
  9. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 4–5.
  10. ^ Pigott 2005, p. 149.
  11. ^ Alpert, Michael. BBC History Magazine, April 2002.
  12. ^ a b Moss 1966, pp. 6–7.
  13. ^ a b c d e Moss 1966, p. 7.
  14. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 7, 10.
  15. ^ "Dragon Rapide G-AIDL". Tangmere Military Aviation Museum. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Moss 1966, p. 9.
  17. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 7–8.
  18. ^ a b c d e f Moss 1966, p. 8.
  19. ^ Moss 1966, pp. 8–9.
  20. ^ "Rapide Revival Flight p. 602, 30 October 1953
  21. ^ "Rapide with Royal Urge", Flight: 676–677, 20 November 1953 
  22. ^ "Spanish Civil War Aircraft". Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "DH.89 Dragon Rapide" (PDF). Air-Britain. 
  24. ^ a b Jackson 1973, p. 462
  25. ^ "King's jockey is in missing plane". Dundee Courier (26847). 21 June 1939. p. 7 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  26. ^ Henderson, Tony (6 November 2013). "Auction revives memory of jockey's death in County Durham plane crash". The Journal. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. 
  27. ^ Jackson 1973, p. 463
  28. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 120–21.
  29. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 121–22.
  30. ^ Jackson 1973, p. 468
  31. ^ "Mersey Accident", Flight: 595, 18 November 1948 
  32. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 126–27.
  33. ^ http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/HistoricalMaterial/G-AIZI.pdf
  34. ^ ASN Aircraft accident 19-FEB-1954 de Havilland DH.89A Dragon Rapide G-AFMF, accessed 8 November 2011.
  35. ^ Humphreys 2001, p. 169.
  36. ^ "I dag er et trist jubilæum for dansk fodbold", Politiken, 16 July 2010, accessed 9 September 2011.
  37. ^ CNAPG Dragon Rapide Individual Aircraft History Page, accessed 9 September 2011.
  38. ^ "G-ADAH". airport-data.com. Retrieved 29 May 2016. 
  39. ^ "De Havilland 89 Dragon Rapide". fio.es. Retrieved 29 May 2016. 
  40. ^ Civil Aviation Authority (United Kingdom) (27 November 2016). "GINFO Search Results Summary". Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  41. ^ "de Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide ‘G-AGTM’". flickr.com. Retrieved 29 May 2016. 
  42. ^ "Dragon Rapide Scillonia Airways" Retrieved: 16 November 2015.
  43. ^ "G-AIDL". United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority. 12 Aug 2017. 
  44. ^ Luke Mowatt & Peter Davison. "Dragon Rapide at Duxford". duxfordflying.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  45. ^ "De Havilland DH 89 Dominie." National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved: 24 August 2015.
  46. ^ "Hava Kuvvetleri Muzesi Komutanligi (Turkish Air Force Museum) – Yesilkoy – Istanbul – Turkey". aviationmuseum.eu. Retrieved 28 May 2016. 
  47. ^ Historic Wings Collection. Retrieved: 25 June 2016.
  48. ^ dehavilland.co.za Retrieved: 25 June 2016.
  49. ^ "Paine Field museum scores rare 1930s de Havilland airplane". 
  50. ^ The Janus Museum (26 October 2007). "The Captain's Paradise". Archived from the original on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  51. ^ "Dragón Rapide". IMDB. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Fresson, Ted (May 2008). Air Road to the Isles. Erskine: Kea Publishing. ISBN 978-0951895894. 
  • Hamlin, John F. The De Havilland Dragon Rapide Family. Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 2003. ISBN 0-85130-344-7.
  • Humphreys, Roy (2001). Kent Aviation, A Century of Flight. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2790-9. 
  • Jackson, A.J. De Havilland Aircraft since 1909. Putnam & Company Ltd, 1978. ISBN 0-370-30022-X
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft 1919–1972: Volume II. London: Putnam (Conway Maritime Press), 1988. ISBN 0-85177-813-5
  • Moss, Peter W. The de Havilland Rapide: Profile Publications Number 144. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications, 1966.
  • Pigott, Peter. Royal transport : an inside look at the history of royal travel Toronto, Canada: Dundurn Group Publishing, 2005. ISBN 9781554882854.
  • Poole, Stephen (1999). Rough Landing or Fatal Flight. Douglas: Amulree Publications. ISBN 1-901508-03-X. 

External links[edit]