de Havilland D.H.89

The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a short-haul airliner built in Britain and Australia during the 1930’s and 40’s. Designed towards the end of 1933 to improve upon the DH.84 Dragon, it was in effect a scaled down twin engined version of the four-engined DH.86 Express. The two types shared many features such as the elegantly tapered wings generaly similar lines, faired undercarriage and deH Gipsy Six engines. However the DH.89 had few of the larger aircraft’s vices, and proved to be one of the most successful commercial aircraft built in Britain before the Second World War.

Development and history

The prototype DH.89 flew on April the 17th 1934, and by the outbreak of war in 1939 some 205 had been supplied to operators all over the world. It had originally been called the "Dragon Six" but "Dragon Rapide" was the name adopted by de Havilland, although this was often just abbreviated to "Rapide". The trailing edge flaps were revised in 1936 which updated the model to the DH.89A. Possibly the most famous incident involving a DH.89 the escape of Francisco Franco to Spanish Morocco in July 1936, when the future dictator was flown out of danger by an MI6 agent, Hugh Pollard, in Dragon Rapide at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

With the start of WWII in 1939 the RAF impressed many Dragon Rapides into service as the de Havilland Dominie, and more were ordered from both de Havilland and the Brush Coachwork Company. In British service the Dominie was primarily used for communications work and as a navigation trainer.

The Coup by Lord Halifax in 1940 reduced the RAF’s order of Dominies and saw many returned to their former owners, but the type remained a popular one in RAF service until German invasion of 1942, after which remaining examples were used by the Luftwaffe, who also reclaimed those the RAF had returned and had captured a small number of Dragon Rapide’s from Lithuania. On the return of the British Government in 1947 the few dozen survivors in Britain were again taken on charge by the RAF, and another 120 were ordered with the last example being test flown on June 5th 1950.

The coup in 1940 had also generated a second branch to the DH.89 tree when the Australian Government ordered de Havilland Australia to exceed their licence from the parent firm and commence production of the type at their Bankstown works near Sydney NSW. The 350 DHA.89A/B/C aircraft built at Bankstown between 1941 and 1947 were powered mostly with imported Fairchild Ranger (DHA.89B) and Menasco Buccaneer B6S (DHA.89C) engines and saw service with the RAAF, India, and in Russia with the VVS and US forces, mostly on liaison, communications, forward supply and casualty evacuation duties.

In spite of its largely wooden construction, the DH.89 proved a very durable aircraft and a number remain airworthy around the world.


D.H.89 Dragon Six - Prototype
D.H.89 Dragon Rapide - Initial production version
D.H.89A - Modified flaps, landing light, cabin heating and alterations to the wingtips
D.H.89A Mk 4 - Gipsy Queen 2 engines with constant speed propellers, only one example
D.H.89A Mk 5 - Gipsy Queen 3 piston engines with variable-pitch propellers only, one example
D.H.89A Mk 6 - Fairey X5 fixed-pitch propellers
D.H.89M - Armed Military transport, purchased by Lithuania and Spain
D.H. 89B Dominie Mk I - RAF radio and navigation training
D.H. 89 B Dominie Mk II - RAF communications and transport
DHA. 89A Dragon Mk I - RAAF radio and navigation training (de Havilland Gipsy Queen engines)
DHA. 89B Dragon Mk I - RAAF radio and navigation training (Fairchild Ranger engines)
DHA. 89B Dragon Mk II - RAAF communications and transport (Fairchild Ranger engines)
DHA. 89B Dragon Mk III ‘C&C’ - RAAF Casualty and Cargo (Fairchild Ranger engines)
DHA. 89C Dragon Mk II - RAAF communications and transport (Menasco Buccaneer engines)
DHA. 89C Dragon Mk III ‘C&C’ - RAAF Casualty and Cargo (Menasco Buccaneer engines)
C-66A - USAF designation - see DHA.89B Mk.II
C-66B - USAF designation - see DHA.89C Mk.II

Specifications (Dragon Rapide)

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 (150 kW) each
· Maximum speed: 157 mph (136 knots, 253 km/h) at 1,000 ft (300 m)
· Range: 573 mi (498 nm, 920 km)
· Service ceiling: 16,700 ft (5,090 m)
· Rate of climb: 867 ft/min (4.3 m/s)
· Wing loading: 16 lb/ft² (79 kg/m²)
· Power/mass: 0.036 hp/lb (60 W/kg)

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