Oxford Diecast 1/72nd scale 72DR012 DH Dragon Rapide G-AHAG Scillonia Airways. Buy now online at Flying Tigers.
The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a 1930s British short-haul biplane airliner for 6 – 8 passengers. It proved an economical and durable craft, despite its relatively primitive plywood construction.
In late 1933, the Dragon Rapide was designed at the de Havilland company 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 DH.86 Express, including its tapered wings, streamlined fairings and the Gipsy Six engine, but it demonstrated none of the operational vices of the DH.86 Express, and went on to become perhaps the most successful British-built short-haul commercial passenger aircraft of the 1930s.
On 17 April 1934, the prototype aircraft first flew at Hatfield. 205 craft 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”. From 1936, with the fitting of improved trailing edge flaps, they were redesignated DH.89As.
In the summer of 1934, the type entered service with UK-based airlines, with Hillman Airways Ltd being first to take delivery in July. 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”.
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.
One famous incident was in July 1936 when two British MI6 intelligence agents, Cecil Bebb and Major Hugh Pollard, flew Francisco Franco in Dragon Rapide G-ACYR from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, at the start of the military rebellion which began the Spanish Civil War. It is on display in the Museo del Aire, Madrid.
DH89a Rapide G-AHAG ‘Bryher’ took to the skies for the first time in 40 years in August 2013. Ordered in 1944 as a DH89B Dominie 2 serial RL944, she was never delivered to the RAF & was almost exported to Brazil, but instead she departed DH Witney at 1220 on 24 Feb 1946 & was delivered to the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation.She spent 1946 and 1947 travelling the UK & Europe on taxi, charter & pleasure flights, even venturing as far north as Oslo & south to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). She was sold at the end of 1947 to Universal Flying Services, flying taxi & charter flights until 1949 before becoming the company communications aircraft for Blackburn Aircraft at Brough. Her service continued with Hawker-Siddeley after Blackburn was absorbed & by 1965 she was Hawker’s last Rapide in service. Withdrawn from use in October 1965, she & G-AHGC were destined for the Nov 5th bonfire at Dunsfold.
In the nick of time G-AHAG (& AHGC) was saved by Bryan Neely, who was expanding his Scilllonia Airways fleet. Repainted in Scenic Flights colours, G-AHAG was named ‘Bryher’ after one of the smaller Scilly Isles & for four years was a familiar sight over the skies of south west England flying passenger services & pleasure flights.
Scillonia Airways ceased operation in 1969, with G-AHAG carrying out the last operational flights from Land’s End. Scillonia’s assets were sold off at auction & G-AHAG was bought for £205 & leased to the Army Parachuting Association.
Repainted orange, she was starting to look shabby, not having been refurbished since 1956, but spent the next two years dropping parachutists alongside Rapides G-AGTM & G-AIDL, both now preserved by Air Atlantique. On July 15 1972 during a formation drop, she famously gained a passenger mid-air when two parachutists hit the roof of her fuselage having jumped out of the Islander above, one of whom went through the roof & ended up in her radio bay. Sadly in 1972 she was taxied into by a Cessna, with her engines almost out of life she was not repaired, instead being relegated to the back of a hangar to be eventually de-rigged & sat gathering dust.
Ralph Jones (Southern Sailplanes) acquired G-AHAG in 1979 & she arrived at Membury by road in 1980. Ralph spent the next 30 years collecting spares and working on her part time. In 2009 the restoration gained new interest & accelerated to full time with a team of volunteers & the staff at Flight Composites, Membury. Extensive work was also carried out by Sky4 Aviation at Branscombe.
She is finished in a colour scheme based on the Scillonia Airways schemes used on their Rapides from 1963 to 1969. The interior is finished in period leather with eight seats.She will now remain in private ownership, but will be available for hire, displays & a small number of public pleasure flying days & no doubt will be seen around the UK in the coming years.