De Havilland
DH84 Dragon

The Dragon offered affordable passenger flying to many and opened up air services to outlying communities, particularly in Scotland.
Prototype De Havilland DH84 Dragon E-9 / G-ACAN The prototype De Havilland DH84 Dragon E-9 / G-ACAN
 
The De Havilland Aircraft DH84 Dragon was a twin-engine, six passenger biplane was designed to fulfill the requirements of Edward Hillman, an Essex bus and coach operator who broke into the air-charter business in 1931.
 
Hillman Saloon Coaches and Airways Limited had previously seen tremendous commercial success with the single-engine De Havilland DH83 Fox Moth during the early part of 1932 and they wanted to expand its service to carry larger passenger capacities.
 
Originally designated 'Dragon Moth', the DH84 prototype (E9/G-ACAN) first flew from Stag Lane on 12th November 1932, with the first 4 aircraft being delivered to Hillman and commencing service in April 1933. Carrying 6 passengers, complete with 20 kg of luggage, the Dragon flew between London and Paris with a fuel consumption of just 13 gallons per hour flying time.
 
Whilst on the ground and during certain maintenance operations, the wings could be folded back allowing for easy accommodation within relatively small hangars. The type was immediately successful and immediately attracted additional orders from Railway Air Services and Jersey Airways.
 
Scottish Dragon operators included Northern & Scottish Airways, Scottish Motor Traction, Aberdeen Airways, Highland Airways and Midland & Scottish Air Ferries. The first air service to be flown by the Irish airline Aer Lingus was by DH84 Dragon (EI-ABI) ‘Iolar’.
De Havilland DH84 Dragon CF-AVD on floats Canadian De Havilland DH84 Dragon 2 CF-AVD on floats

 

Sixty-two Dragon 1s were built, prior to the introduction of the Dragon 2, which featured faired undercarriage legs and individually framed cabin windows.  Although predominantly cosmetic, these changes actually produced another 5 mph on the top speed and allowed for a 250 lb increase in baggage capacity.  More importantly however, it also increased the range of the aircraft by an additional 85 miles.
 
Some 115 Dragons were built at Stag Lane, with an additional 87 built in Australia. Military users included the RAAF, RNZAF and around a dozen others. Seventeen aircraft were impressed for RAF use during the Second World War.
 
A special aircraft (G-ACCV named 'Seafarer') was created for Jim Mollinson and Amy Johnson for an attempt at the world long distance record.  Fitted with extra fuel tanks, the aircraft departed Croydon Airport for the United States in June 1933 - Sadly however, they had to make a stop at Pendine Sand in South Wales where the 'strengthened' undercarriage collapsed.  
 
Repairs were soon effected and they crossed the Atlantic in 39 hours, before running out of fuel and crash landing in Connecticut.  Both were injured although after a brief period of recuperation they were honoured by a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York.  
 
Three further attempts were made in Seafarer II (constructed using many of the original parts from Seafarer I) although the project was abandoned and the aircraft sold despite it creating a new record non-stop flight between Canada and the United Kingdom.

 

De Havilland DH84 Dragon G-ECAN De Havilland DH84 Dragon G-ECAN in the colours of Railway Air Services Ltd.

 

Following World War II, the DH Dragons were quickly replaced in both civilian and military use and today there are only 3 known airworthy examples still flying. 
 
In bringing holiday travel to within reach of the reasonably well off 'man in the street' and by supporting the dispersed, isolated communities in Scotland, the DH Dragon filled roles that today are being met by low cost airlines with aircraft such as the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 or by even smaller types such as the Islander and Twin Otter.
 

Specification


  (i) Dragon 1, (ii) Dragon 2
Powerplant (i) & (ii) Two 130hp De Havilland Gipsy Major 1
Span 47ft 0in
Maximum Weight (i) 4,200 lb; (ii) 4,500 lb
Capacity  Pilot and six to eight passengers
Maximum Speed (i) 128 mph; (ii) 134 mph
Normal Cruising Speed (i) 109 mph; (ii) 114 mph
Range (i) 460 miles (ii) 545 miles

 

Variants


Dragon 1 Initial Production version, 62 built
Dragon 2 Individually-framed windows, faired undercarriage legs. 140 built, of which 87 built in Australia

 

Survivors


Flying

Dragon 1
(G-ECAN / Ex-VH-DHX, VH-AQU)
Railway Air Services Ltd
Dragon 2
(EI-ABI ‘Iolar’ - Ex-G-AECZ) 
Dragon 2 in Colours of Aer Lingus’ first aircraft
Dragon 2
(ZK-AXI - Ex A34-68)
Reported as airworthy in New Zealand
Dragon 2
(N34DH - Ex G-ADDI)
Oakville, Washington State

Static Display or Museum

Dragon 1
(G-ACIT)
Science Museum store Wroughton, Wiltshire UK
Dragon 1
(VH-SNB - Ex A34-13, VH-ASK)
National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland 
Dragon 2
(A34-92)
RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria, Australia 

 

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