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de Havilland DH-89 Rapide

The de Havilland Rapide was one of the most popular short range airliners of the 1930's. It was designed as a faster and more reliable successor to the DH-84 Dragon. It became so successful that even to this day, at least in some places around the world, you can buy a ticket and take a joyride in one.


The Rapide took to the skies for the first time on April 17, 1934, and 205 were manufactured and sold before the outbreak of the second world war. On July 13 of the same year, Hillman Airways became the first British company to operate the aircraft.

During the war, many Rapides were taken over by the Royal Air Force and got the designation de Havilland Dominie. They were used mainly for passenger transport and radio navigation exercises. More than 500 military versions were also manufactured, most of them by Brush Coachworks Ltd. The original Rapide was powered by two six-cylinder air cooled 200 hp de Havilland Gipsy Six engines, in the Dominie they were replaced by more powerful Gipsy Queen engines.

This beautiful DH-89 Rapide was built in 1936. Seen here at Kemble Airport Open Day in 2007. You can tell that it's definitely a de Havilland aircraft, the tail looking like a Tiger Moth's.  

When the war was finally over many aircraft went back again to civilian operations, and in 1958 there were still 81 Rapides registered as actively flying. The aircraft carried eight passengers and one crew member, the pilot. Sometimes a navigator was also present, in that case the passenger seats were reduced to seven.

One incident made the Rapide famous; in July 1936, MI6 agent Hugh Pollard used one to fly the up-and-coming dictator Francisco Franco from the Canary Islands to Spanish Morocco, from where he then led the military rebellion that started the Spanish civil war.


Quite a long video from Duxford Flying Legends 2006, with a lot of great aircraft in the air. First of all are de Havilland Rapide and Dragon.