An in-depth profile of the de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide

Still earning its keep after 80 years, the Rapide is an enduring workhorse, as Ken Ellis explains

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That adage must have occurred to de Havilland chief designer Arthur Hagg, when he was told to improve on his twin-engined DH.84 Dragon. Essex-based bus and coach operator Edward Hillman had diversified into air travel and was delighted with the six-passenger Dragon, which had been created with his needs in mind.

After a painstaking restoration Rapide G-AHAG returned to the skies in 2013, in the colours it wore with Scillonia Airways, namedBryher, based at Lands End 1964-69.

The prototype was flown for the first time on November 12, 1932 at Stag Lane, Edgware, Middlesex. It was granted its certificate of airworthiness 34 days later and handed over to an eager Mr Hillman in January 1933. Introducing an airliner to service was far easier in those days! The reliable, utilitarian DH.84 soon racked up an impressive order book, but Hillman clamoured for extra seats and increased speed, and he was not alone in these demands.

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