YouTube – Dragon Rapide
Gipsy Six in line
2 x 200 hp ea.
34 ft. 6 in.
de Havilland Dragon Rapide
The de Havilland Dragon Rapide light airliner first took to the sky in 1934. Its low operating costs and ease of maintenance made it a hit with smaller air transport companies throughout the world. In addition to wheels, the aircraft was fitted with floats and skis.The aircraft was built as a more speedy, higher flying successor to its predecessor. De Havilland engineers used the less than sterling DH-86 four motor transport as the basis for the Dragon Rapide, while ridding the final design of the less desirable traits of the bigger model. It was among the quietest and more comfortable passenger aircraft of its time.
The de Havilland Dragon Rapide received upgrades and improvements through its ten years of production. A light was added at the front of the fuselage to improve visibility during night landings. Passenger comfort was improved during cold weather when air warmed by the engines was ducted into the aircraft interior. Low speed handling was improved and tip stalls lessened with an increase in density of the outer ends of the wings. The addition of variable pitch props improved performance and aircraft payloads.
One shortcoming of the de Havilland Dragon Rapide was its tendency to float on landings when entering ground effect. This was address in 1937 with the addition of landing flaps on the DH-89A. The addition worked so well that prior models were retrofitted with it.
A versions of the de Havilland Dragon Rapide, purchased for use by the Spanish Air Force, was armed with machine guns and could carry some 324 lbs. of bombs under the fuselage centerline.
During World War II de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft were pressed into service with the British RAF to be used for the training of radio communications and navigational skills to new airmen, and as military transports.
When the war ended, ex military de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft were sold for civil aviation use. They were quickly welcomed for use as light passenger and cargo transports. A small number of aircraft continued to fly with the British Air Force as executive transports until 1991.
Flying the de Havilland Dragon Rapide today delivers a few surprises. The cockpit is small and narrow. The original instruments are minimal. Steering with the fully turning tail wheel is best done using differential braking. There are no surprises so far. However, rapidly advancing the throttles forward produces surprising acceleration for an aircraft of this vintage. The tail lifts quickly and soon thereafter the aircraft will lift off the ground. Aileron response is relatively light and immediately responsive. Elevator and rudder controls are equal in touch, sensitivity, and response to any light twin aircraft of today.
Even though the de Havilland Dragon Rapide is a biplane, drag is not that great. The flaps are employed to keep landings reasonably short. Once the aircraft settles down, one must be ready with braking differential when the rudder loses authority.
A total of some 730 de Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft were produced. Some continue flying today.
RC de Havilland Dragon Rapide
In the photo immediately above is the RC Dragon Rapide built and designed by Pat Tritle available from a kit for sale by by Dumas. It measures 42 inches wing tip to wingtip, with a weight of about 32 oz. Recommended power comes from a pair of GWS IPS motors geared 3:5:1 turning 7 x 6 propellers.
Jerry Bates plans has a giant scale RC de Havilland Dragon Rapide. It is 96 inches across the wings with a 69 inch long fuselage. You can power it with from .40 to .60 two cycle or .60 to .90 four cycle engines. Weight is in the 15 to 20 lb. range.
Flying Scale Models plan 236 is for a RC de Havilland Dragon Rapide It has a wingspan of 60 in. and is made for Speed 400 type motors.
The AMA Plans Service has plans that can be converted into a RC de Havilland Dragon Rapide from a control line model. Wingspan is 60 in. Plan no. is 21546.
The AMA Plans Service has plans for sale for a smaller size RC de Havilland Dragon Rapide that also can be converted from a control line model. Its wingspan is just 42 inches. It is plan no. 28919.