Airborne Awesomosity

Not So Rapide Transit

de Havilland Dragon Rapide


Sometimes an aircraft looks like it is connected to another time and place yet existed successfully in a era that would normally have called it archaic. Such is the story of the Dragon Rapide. To my eyes one of the most attractive aircraft ever to fly the skies in any part of history never the less during World War II.



Note The Fabric Covering And Zippers

The design included not only biplane wings but two smaller powerplants. Add in a fabric covering that even included a maintenance zipper under the cockpit and you would be allowed to believe this aircraft was from the 1920’s. Only capable of holding eight passengers the Dragon Rapide stayed in service for a couple of decades after the war with small airlines thanks to its short take off and landing capabilities as well as its very low cost per mile.


Interior of Rapide


There are very few aircraft that just look as correct as the Dragon Rapide.  Only a handful can claim this kind of beauty without making sacrifices. Seven hundred and thirty examples of the aircraft were built in the early thirties.  They would continue in service with airlines around the world until into the nineteen sixties.  As you will see from the Wikipedia stats below it was only powered by two low powered six cylinder de Havilland engines. A later version would be equipped with four of these engines but was a failure in the marketplace.


General characteristics

Crew: 1
Capacity: 8 passengers
Length: 34 ft 6 in (10.5 m)
Wingspan: 48 ft 0 in (14.6 m)
Height: 10 ft 3 in (3.1 m)
Wing area: 340 ft² (32 m²)
Empty weight: 3,230 lb (1,460 kg)
Loaded weight: 5,500 lb (2,490 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × de Havilland Gipsy Six inline engine, 200 hp (149 kW) each
Maximum speed: 157 mph (136 kn, 253 km/h) at 1,000 ft (305 m)
Range: 573 mi (498 nmi, 920 km)
Service ceiling: 16,700 ft (5,090 m)
Rate of climb: 867 ft/min (4.3 m/s)
Wing loading: 16 lb/ft² (79 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.036 hp/lb (60 W/kg)


Interior Of Rapide


This particular aircraft is on display on the Military Aviation Museum near Virginia Beach.  It sits among some very unusual aircraft but stands out and grabs your attention away from even the great B-17. de Havilland would be best known for their Gypsy Moth trainers it should also be remembered as the creator of  a very successful short distance airliner.


[Pictures copyright 2012 by author]


  • chrystlubitshi

    little planes are so cool. Personal air-transport is a wholly different world from anything most people experience. I have flown in a Cirrus SR-22x(x? whatever the top of the line one is) many times, as well as many less "luxurious" planes all the way down to Ultra-Lites.. (flying shopping-carts are AWESOME)

    No matter how you do it, glass cockpit, manual control/connected controls, and gauges….. it doesn't matter, small plane flight will make you never want to fly commercial again!!!!

    If I fly by SR-22x, it costs 400 bucks to go visit my parents (indianapolis to nebraska (fuel plus pilot)) round landing 2 miles away from where my parents live, instead of the hour drive to get to the International airport (the cirrus cuts travel time from (avg.) 9 hours to 3 hours total). this can be split between up to three people… all of us can show up 5 minutes before the flight, load our baggage, and be in the air (no security, unless the airport staff think you look too creepy).. almost instantly…


    • fodder650

      I would be curious to see what a flyable Rapide goes for on the used aircraft market.

      • chrystlubitshi

        Contact your local/county airport. Chances are they have some slick-wheeler-dealer (dirty used car salesman, but rich as f*ck) who regularly visits the place… they will find planes anywhere in the country for you, what you want, the price, etc.

  • chrystlubitshi

    small planes are awesome. I don't care about ear-popping, pressure changes, I have only gotten motion sick once in my life, etc… kicking the top leaves of a 76' tree while flying over it is AWESOME
    ( I encourage EVERYONE to stop by the factory out there in IOWA….. (I-80)

    here's one link..:

    open-cab low powered fixed wing craft are cool

  • CaptianNemo2001

    From what I remember about the engines its a messs.

    This aircraft is listed as using several variations of the blasted Gypsy

    Its one of these engine but I cant tell you which one without further research…

    • fodder650

      I'm pretty sure its the Gipsy Queen that was in this aircraft. The issue comes from the variant of the Dragon with four of these engines. Mostly because it had a bad frame that liked to break apart in the air. Which annoyed many customers.

      • CaptianNemo2001

        de Havilland Rapide

        Don't ask me where I found it, I just have my sources…

        *cough* FileTubes and as a back up, FileCrop *cough*

        • fodder650

          Thats enough reading material to keep me entertained for awhile.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            I got about 2 gigs now of PDF reading material on aircraft alone and am acquiring another 2 gigs today. I need to get me an external HD just for my books (10-12 gigs and counting…) Can't have too many books. Haven't read all of my books since I haven't had alot of free time BUT it's good to have the book you need when you need it rather then search for it.

            Working my way through a book on the Lockheed Constellation after I finished the book on the Lockeed Skunk Works.

          • chrystlubitshi

            thumbs up for reading… but how do you decorate your "special room"…

            a) your name's sake… dude.. you need awesome burgundy leather thrones
            2) should have books on shelves… lots of books, lots of shelves

            q) don't follow my wife's example… "filling shelves with library books that I want to read some day but have already brought home and continue to renew week after week…."

          • CaptianNemo2001

            It is all on the computer/DVD's in PDF format.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            GOOD NEWS EVERYONE….

            Its a Gipsy Six engine that powers the Riptide…

            /Runs before the Professor gets wind of the use of his catch phrase…

  • Number_Six

    If you enjoy aircraft and old stuff, I can't overstate how much you need to attend one of the air displays at the Shuttleworth Collection in England. I'd fly to England just to go back to that one event. You can *pay for* flights in a Dragon Rapide or Tiger Moth, taking off from the lawn of an English estate. It's an incredible experience. Here's a link to the collection (all flying):

    • fodder650

      That is quite the collection. The Dragon is listed as being privately owned as well. When I was down at the Virginia Beach air museum they said that not only was theirs flyable but apparently it still makes a few flights every now and then as well. Still if I make it across the pond I will have to add the Shuttleworth to my places to my visit. Thats a pretty interesting collection of aircraft.

      • Number_Six

        Sadly I had a really cruddy camera when I was there, otherwise I'd do a post on it. My aunt's friend's house was right against the grass strip of the estate, so we were able to sit in lawn chairs and watch an amazing airshow while guzzling Pims and chain smoking Gauloises. Aircraft from places like the Duxford museum flew over as well, so in addition to the Shuttleworth Collection there was stuff like an F-86, a Mig-17, and a Hawker Sea Fury that came over so low I thought it was going rip up the lawn with its prop.

  • jimf

    Right up there with the Staggerwing Beech as a favorite!