The DH-89 "Dragon Rapide" serial R5922, as it was and will be, wearing the livery of the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation (LAC).

In the following page, you will find articles about:


 

The "Dragon" family is named after the twin-winged Dragon(fly) insect.

 

 

Wearing another livery of the Lancashire aircraft corporation.

 

 

While serving in the Irish company "Republic"

 

 

After its transformation by Avion Fairey Belgium.

 

 

In Wevelgem in 1973, as given to the museum.

 

 

First Lancashire Aircraft Corporation colour scheme, with the more appropriate duck egg green

 

 

Illustration from one of our correspondent for the front fuselage colours. Every detail is there, even the pennant!

 

 

A nice LAC logo has been found on this timetable via the timetable collector site.

 

 

The aircraft is being dismantled prior to its move in the workshop.

 

 

Interior of the passenger cabin. At left is what remains of the radio-compass installation

 

 

The cockpit and the lateral consoles added by Fairey

 

 

Same with canopy and upholstery removed.

 

 

Removal of the fabric covering.

 

 

Passenger cabin upholstery has been removed.

 

 

Once cleaned and repaired, structure is varnished and repainted

 

 

Once cleaned and repaired, structure is varnished and repainted

 

 

Passenger seat

 

 

Top view of the fuselage prior to fabric covering.

 

 

Nearly fully equipped cockpit.

 

 

New cockpit frame in place

 

 

The cockpit section in August 2002.

 

 

Missing items, like the instrument panel brackets, have to be manufactured from original DH drawings.

 

 

The control panel is installed, compas and oil instruments are still missing

 

 

The semi-circular sliding windows have been manufactured from original drawings.

 

 

 

The "Dragon" family

The DH89 “Dragon Rapide” is the second of a familly of four members: the DH84 “Dragon”, DH86 “Dragon Express” , DH89 “Dragon Rapide” and the DH90 “Dragonfly”.

Named after the twin-winged Dragon(fly) insect, those four planes greatly contributed to the developpment of airline travel with nearly all scheduled flight service in UK using one or several types of the Dragon familly.

If the DH84 “Dragon” had an excellent reputation for its economy of operation and its reliability, it was in production for only less than two years.

That is because of the developpment of a more efficient design: the DH.89 “Dragon Six”, as was initially named the “Dragon Rapide”.

Only around 200 “Dragon Rapide” were built for civilian market, but more than 500 (to be known by the RAF as the “Dominie”) were manufactured during the Second World War to be used by the military.

In fact all four types of “Dragon” were used by air forces in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Lithuania,Iraq, Iran and many others.

After the war, few “Dragon”, “Dragon Express” or “Dragonfly” remained in service but things were very different for the “Dragon Rapide”: “Dominies”, not used for military purposes, were being converted for civilian use (thus renamed “Dragon Rapide”)and found found their way onto the post-war civilian market.

Use of the Rapide declined as more modem types were introduced, and gradually the type was withdrawn, firstly from scheduled services and later from charter work.

To know more about the De Havilland Dragon family, I can only recommend the superb Air Britain” publication “The de Havilland Dragon/Rapide Family”.

DH-89 "Dragon Rapide" serial R5922

R5922 has been built at the end 1939 (construction number 6458, serial R5922) for the RAF.

It was first delivered to No 2 Electrical and Wireless School, Yatesbuty and, afterwards, passed through several units.

In 1947, as hundreds of other surplus DH-89, it returned to its civil role when sold as G-AKNV to the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation.

In 1953, named "Marian", it went to Eire as EI-AGK. It returned to England in 1955, registered as G-AKNV, as part of the Derby Aviation fleet.

It went to Fairey Aviation in 1955. The ownership was then transferred to Avions Fairey SA as 00-AFG (Avions Fairey Gosselies) in 1955.

The aircraft was stripped-down and re-built in 1958 by Avions Fairey Belgium: it was fitted with electric flaps, radio compass, moulded canopy and enlarged cabin windows. An extra folding door was installed to carry bulky cargo.

The ownership passed to Air Affairs in 1962. Re-registered as 00-CNP (centre national de Parachutisme) in 1964, it was then used for parachute drops. It lost its airworthiness certificate on 10th August 1970 after a forced landing.

It spent some years in open storage in Wevelgem, before being donated to the Museum in 1973.

Sources:

  • International friends of the DH89 , Phill Bretton
  • Air Navigation Service Office, Dublin
  • Correspondence with Ken Tilley, Denis Yeardon, David Raymond

Research for information

To be able to put an aircraft back as it was in a given period of time, the most important and difficult task is always to search for information’s related to this aircraft in this given period of time.

This three view was drown with the first basic information we had at the time.

It represents the aircraft in its second Lancashire Aircraft Corporation paint scheme. The general colour was believed to be pale blue.

After some adds have been placed in various magazines, we got enough answers (some even included colour sample) to correct many mistake, amongst them the main colour (more a duck egg green than a light blue) and the LAC logo of which we got a sample.

That's only about the main colour, there is still the question on how the registration is written on the wings, the passenger cabin layout, the cockpit layout, aircraft equipments, ...

The letters we got from various people were sometime amazing, the best example are nice drawings illustrating what the correspondent remembered of the aircraft.

The search for information is still ongoing; as we still need the drawings related to the flap actuation mechanism (or the spares) and others related to cockpit and passenger cabin equipments.

Source of information:

  • British aerospace (for the technical drawings)
  • Correspondence with Denis Yeardon, Don Fuller, Brian Thorne, squadron Prints Ltd

Back to the workshop

In 1992, a second restoration team took the aircraft back on the workbench.

As you can see on the accompanying pictures, a few of all the ones taken before work started, most of the material and modifications added during the 1958 transformation of the aircraft by Avions Fairey Belgium was gone.

A few years before, towards the 70s, a first restoration team disposed the large cabin windows and the one-piece cockpit canopy. They modified the cabin door to its original size.

Their intention was, visibly, to put the aircraft back in a standard DH89 configuration.

The radio compass and other electrical equipments where more than certainly salvaged while the aircraft was waiting in the open at Wevelgem.

Of interest are the cockpit pictures:

Fairey had heavily transformed the cockpit layout, with two lateral consoles giving the old DH89 a more modern appearance.

Where the upholstery had been removed, you can see the trace of the old wood structure that has been removed to make place for the lateral console.

Restoration

From the information we gathered, the equipments and spare parts still available as well as the state of the aircraft, we had to decide on what was the best option.

We chose to put the aircraft back in its 1947 configuration and to keep the original parts and woodwork whenever possible.

The fuselage

The fabric once removed revealed a heavily patched cell that suffered of its stay in the open.

It had to be stripped down to the wood structure: the varnish was removed by hand, dry root was treated and the necessary structural reparation completed.

Amongst the structural repairs are the cockpit area, the fuselage sides and windows, damaged panels and stingers.

A total replacement of most of the wood would have been easier.

You can see on the pictures that external sides of the cockpit differ from standard DH89 by having an external ply covering: because of the lateral console installed By Fairey Belgium, the internal wood structure had to be removed. To reinforce the so weakened sides, this external ply was then added.

Once the structure have been properly repaired, varnished and repainted, the various hardware components that were, in the meantime, cleaned and repaired are being put back in place.

The rewiring of the fuselage can be done as well.

Bits and pieces

Amongst the many parts that have to be looked at are the seats.

Those typical DH seats had to be painstakingly repaired: the light alloy used to manufacture them had badly suffered of corrosion.

There are generally eight such seats in a DH89, the one on the picture being a special seat: it is coupled with a small folding seat that allows the pilot to enter the cockpit despite a more than crowded passenger cabin.

On the top fuselage picture at left you can see:

  • The brand new wiring, the top part being related to the cabin and navigation lamps lightning.
  • The two round openings acting as emergency exit: a steel cable connected to a handle allowed to cut a clean opening in the fabric in case of an emergency

Some missing parts, of which spare part where not anymore available, had to be manufactured:

  • The cockpit frame, manufactured using a badly corroded original part as a template.
  • The cabin windows, of which none existed (Fairey disposed of them). Due to the complexity of these aluminium items, we manufactured wood replica of the real hardware.
  • Numerous smaller parts like the cabin lock, fixtures, etc...

Hopefully, numerous spare parts had been located, purchased or donated for the project:

  • Missing spare parts were searched on various markets, amongst other found: a battery, a vacuum valve, switches, ...
  • The top glazing is an original spare part generously provided by Croydon Aircraft company Ltd, New Zeeland.
  • Many spare parts had been given by Mark Miller, who provided detailed engineering drawings of some of the missing parts. He is himself restoring a DH89 to flying condition at Duxford.

As you can see, the amount of work is huge: every single parts has to be dismantled, cleaned, repaired and put back: controls, locks, valves, vaccum system, priming system, puleys, cables and all the like.

The many missing pieces needed for the cockpit canopy have been manufactured and are ready for final assemnly.

An original control panel has been installed in the cockpit. The electric wiring and the underside fabric covering, that cannot be fixed before the central section has been installed, have still to be done.

References, links

  • A photo gallery is available here,


Latest news from the workshop

Work on the DH-89 continue: the two lower wings have been found to be in very good condition and, after a thouroughfull cleaning and painting, have been fabric covered. The two upper wings are being prepared for painting and fabric covering.

The first Gipsy VI engine received its coat of primer and is now ready for final painting.
An happy Olivier next to the freshly painted Gipsy VI engine.
The accessories of the Gipsy VI are now being prepared for final inspection before re-assembly.
While the first Gipsy VI is being painted and re-assembled, the second Gipsy VI is being cleaned, repaired and prepared for primer coating by Enzo.
The first Gipsy VI is now finished and ready for installation. The second one is being re-assembled.
The right upper wing is prepared for fabric covering after reparation of a few damage. The wings are remarquably well preserved.
Right upper wing is finished and the last wing is being fabric covered. Now that both of the engines are completely refurbished, the restoration of the second centre section started.

(June 2009)

I didn't updated the Dragon Rapide's restoration for a long long time, so to cover all the work that has been done, here are a few pictures illustrating the painstaking work completed.

All the wings (upper and lower) are now completely refurbished and fabric covered. Same for both engines and center sections. On the fuselage side, the canopy has been definitively intstalled and the whole plane has been re-wired.

And finally, as you can see in those last pictures, a long awaited moment finally happenedd: the fuselage is now being re-assembled. Still a lot of work to do to complete the task, but we start to see the end of it!


(December 2009)

Re-assembly of the Dragon continued. The tail has been completely installed with all the control cables connected and adjusted. Work is going on now on the central section where all the various controls, pipes and cables are being re-installed between the central section and the fuselage.


(December 2012)

Here are, finally, the latest news about the DH89's restoration!

Despite inexistent finance and limited tooling, we succeeded in completing and reassembling the Dragon Rapide.  It was a race against time, as the restoration workshop is (from what we have been told) scheduled to be closed by the beginning of next year.

Hopefully, most of the equipment was already ready to be installed and most of the job was reassembling various components…. not a small task when you work on a classic British airplane!

The other big tasks were to manufacture and install the ventral fabric and to paint the all thing.

For the wing re-assembly, we managed to do the job by recycling metallic shelves into supporting poles.

The here-under pictures gallery illustrates it all.


Latest restoration news (November 2013)

The final steps of the DH89's restoration.

The workshop (or at least what remains of it) remained open, which enabled us to complete the work without too much haste.

The restoration has been completed this year with the installation of the wing wires (those should have been installed at the same time as the wings, the manuals weren't very explicit on this point.) of the various cowlings and the completion of the many small things that had still to be done to properly finish the work and prevent future corrosion.

Painting the company name and logo was a time consuming process. It had to be done by hand as the acrylic paint we were obliged to use is very fragile.

 

DH-89 "Dragon Rapide" serial R5922 pictures gallery

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In transformation by Avions Fairey Belgique. The aircraft was completely stripped down by Fairey. They did a lot of pictures during the transformation, letting you see the aircraft at different stages of the modification.

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At Wevelgem, in 1973, when the AELR retrieved it. A few years after, the big side windows and one-piece cockpit canopy are already gone. Same place, a few years after, in the condition in which the second restoration team found it.


Something different: Connellan Airways's dh-89

Eddie Connellan toured Northern Australia in 1938 and was persuaded to set up an air service from Alice Springs. He started the adventure with two Percival Gulls.

In the post-War years the service was gradually expanded and more aircraft were needed. In 1947 the operational fleet consisted of two DH-90 Dragonfly and one DH-82 Tiger Moth.

The first DH89 Dragon Rapide, VH-BKR, was acquired in 1948 and was followed by VH-UZY, VH-AHI and VH-AIK.

 

Away from base, re-fueling was mostly being done from 44 gallon drums and filter was employed to remove water and sediment contamination as can be seen on the accompanying pictures of dh-89 Dragon Rapide VH-BKR.

The following Connellan Airways dh-89 pictures have been send to us by members of the Central Australian aviation museum , whose aim is to preserve and display the history of aviation in Central Australia & to maintain a memorial to the pioneers in aviation and those who followed, many of whom gave their lives in service to the people of the out-back.

The museum had its beginning in 1977 following the tragic suicide flight into the Connair complex at the Alice Springs airport the previous year. A group of locals sought to recognize the sacrifice made by those who lost their lives in that terrible event.

CAAM Inc was formed and began the long task of gathering and restoring the displays you see here today.

 

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Connellan Airways's dh-89 under heavy maintenance, identity unknown

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A small glimpse of a busy airfield in the center of australia.

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