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The Dragon Rapide light airliner, produced by de Havilland, 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 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 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 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 Dragon Rapide aircraft were pressed into service with the 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 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 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 Dragon Rapide is a biplane, drag is not that great. The flaps should be 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 731 Dragon Rapide aircraft were produced. Some continue flying today.
Dumas Dragon Rapide.
In the photo immediately above is the Dragon Rapide built from a kit for sale by by Dumas. It measures 42" wing tip to wingtip, and a weight of about 32 oz. Recommended power comes from a pair of GWS IPS geared Motors.
In the first picture below is Dragon Rapide built by Pat Tritle. It was the prototype for the Dumas kit. The build thread can be found in RC Groups.
The second picture down is a Dragon Rapide giant scale airplane from a kit built from Jerry Bates plans for sale by Kit Cutters. It is 96" across the wings with a 69" 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.
There is a Dragon Rapide kit for sale from Kit Cutters of Nov. 2003 Flying Scale Models plans. It has a wingspan of 60" and is made for Speed 400 type motors.
The bottom picture is of a good looking Dragon Rapide scale model found on the Trenton RC Flyers website. If you know who is in the picture, who built it, the length, wingspan, type of engines and other specifications, please let us know.
The AMA Plans Service has plans that can be converted into a Dragon Rapide from a C/L model. Wingspan is 60" and its no. is 21546.
The AMA Plans Service has plans for sale for a smaller size Dragon Rapide that also can be converted from a C/L model. Its wingspan is just 42". It is plan no. 28919.
Pat Tritle's Dragon Rapide.
A Dragon Rapide from Kit Cutters.
A Dragon Rapide from Trenton RC Flyers.