De Havilland Dragonfly

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DH.90 Dragonfly
De Havilland DH90 Dragonfly.jpg
RAF de Havilland DH.90 Dragonfly AW164 (ex-G-AEDK) at RAF Gosport
RoleLight Transport
Manufacturer de Havilland Aircraft Company
First flight12 August 1935
Introduction 1936
Number built67

The de Havilland DH.90 Dragonfly was a 1930s British twin-engined luxury touring biplane built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company at Hatfield Aerodrome.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

De Havilland 1920-1963 aircraft manufacturer

De Havilland Aircraft Company Limited was a British aviation manufacturer established in late 1920 by Geoffrey de Havilland at Stag Lane Aerodrome Edgware on the outskirts of north London. Operations were later moved to Hatfield in Hertfordshire.

Hatfield Aerodrome airport in the United Kingdom

Hatfield Aerodrome,, was a private airfield and aircraft factory located in the town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England from 1930 until its closure and redevelopment in the 1990s.



The Dragonfly shared a clear family resemblance with the Dragon Rapide, but was smaller and had higher aspect ratio, slightly sweptback wings. The lower wing had a shorter span than the upper, unlike the DH.89, and the top of the engine nacelles protruded much less above its surface because the fuel tank had been moved to the lower centre section. Structurally, too they were different: the Dragonfly had a new preformed plywood monocoque shell and strengthened fuselage. It was designed as a luxury touring aircraft for four passengers and a pilot, with provision for dual controls. The first aircraft, G-ADNA, first flew on 12 August 1935. The Dragonfly achieved maximum performance on low power, by using the new construction methods developed for the de Havilland Comet racer, and therefore was expensive to buy (£2,650). In modern terms, it was an executive transport, aimed at wealthy private individuals, often via the companies they owned.

de Havilland Dragon Rapide short-haul biplane airliner

The de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide was a 1930s short-haul biplane airliner developed and produced by British aircraft company de Havilland. Capable of accommodating 6–8 passengers, it proved an economical and durable craft, despite its relatively primitive plywood construction.

Operational history

The first delivery was made in May 1936. Some 36 new-build Dragonflies went to private and company owners, about 15 to airlines/air taxis and three to clubs. Two each went to the Danish and Swedish air forces, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had four to combat rum-runners. Production ended in 1938. [1] [2]

Royal Canadian Mounted Police mounted police force in Canada

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is the federal and national police force of Canada. The RCMP provides law enforcement at the federal level. It also provides provincial policing in eight of Canada's provinces and local policing on contract basis in the three territories and more than 150 municipalities, 600 aboriginal communities, and three international airports. The RCMP does not provide provincial or municipal policing in Ontario or Quebec.

By 1939, several aircraft had moved from private to commercial use, like the fleet built up by Air Dispatch Ltd at Croydon Airport, headed by The Hon Mrs Victor Bruce. Amongst her seven examples were also some ex-airline machines. [3] They were used as air taxis between the various London airports, and also as Army Cooperation night flying trainers. Western Airways of Weston-super-Mare Airport used its Dragonfly on a scheduled service via Birmingham to Manchester.

Croydon Airport airport in South London

Croydon Airport, also known as London Terminal Aerodrome or London Airport was the UK's major international airport during the interwar period, located in South London, England. At the launch of the first international air services after the First World War, it was developed as Britain's main airport. After the Second World War, it was replaced by Northolt Aerodrome, London Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport. In 1978, the terminal building and Gate Lodge were granted protection as Grade II listed buildings. In May 2017, Historic England raised the status of the terminal building to Grade II*. Owing to disrepair, the Gate Lodge is now classified as Heritage at Risk by Historic England. Later, funding would be received from John Power.

Manchester Airport Airport in Manchester, England

Manchester Airport is an international airport at Ringway, Greater Manchester, England, 7.5 nautical miles south-west of Manchester city centre. In 2016, it was the third busiest airport in the United Kingdom in terms of passenger numbers and the busiest outside London. The airport comprises three passenger terminals and a goods terminal, and is the only airport in the UK other than Heathrow Airport to operate two runways over 3,280 yd (2,999 m) in length. Manchester Airport covers an area of 560 hectares and has flights to 199 destinations, placing the airport thirteenth globally for total destinations served.

Seven airframes were shipped to Canada, and erected by de Havilland Canada, where they served a variety of small commercial operators, the R.C.M.P. and two with the R.C.A.F. At least one, CF-BFF, was fitted with Edo floats, and used commercially.

de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. was an aircraft manufacturer with facilities based in what is now the Downsview area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The original home of de Havilland Canada was the home of the Canadian Air & Space Museum located in what is now Downsview Park.

Edo Aircraft Corporation

EDO Aircraft Corporation was an American aircraft manufacturing company known primarily for manufacturing pontoons for floatplanes.

In about 1937, three Dragonflies were bought by the Romanian government for crew training, appearing on their civil register. [4]

At the start of World War II, about 23 Dragonflies were impressed into the R.A.F and Commonwealth air forces, some six surviving to 1945. Overall, there were about thirteen flying in that year.

Dragonfly used by Silver City Airways as an executive transport in 1953 DH.90 Dragonfly Blackbushe 1953.jpg
Dragonfly used by Silver City Airways as an executive transport in 1953

Silver City Airways operated a Dragonfly G-AEWZ as an executive transport from 1950 until 1960. By around 1970, only the two survivors noted below were active.

The fuel tanks in the Dragonfly were in the thickened lower centre-section, not immediately behind the engines as in the Dragon Rapide. As a result, only one aircraft was lost to fire. A common cause of loss was the frequent development of a vicious ground loop either on takeoff or landing, resulting in undercarriage writeoff and spar damage.


Surviving aircraft

de Havilland DH.89 and DH.90 De Havilland DH.89 and DH.90.jpg
de Havilland DH.89 and DH.90

Two flyable aircraft survive:

Former operators

Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg  Canada
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark
Flag of Egypt (1922-1958).svg  Egypt
British Raj Red Ensign.svg India
Flag of Iraq (1924-1959).svg  Iraq
Flag of Laos.svg
  • Cie Laotienne de Commerce et de Transport (CLCT) - Two aircraft only
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Flag of Peru (1825-1950).svg  Peru
Flag of Rhodesia (1968-1979).svg  Rhodesia
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
Flag of South Africa (1928-1994).svg  South Africa
Flag of Spain (1931-1939).svg Spanish Republic
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom


Data from [10]

General characteristics


  • Maximum speed: 144 mph (232 km/h)
  • Range: 625 mi (1,000 km at full load. At lower loads, a 25 Imp gal (114 L, 30 US gal) tank at the rear of the cabin increased range to 900 mi (1440 km) [11] )
  • Service ceiling: 18,100 ft (5,515 m)
  • Rate of climb: 875 ft/min (4.5 m/s)

See also

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  1. Jackson (1978), pp. 374–9
  2. Hayes, pp. 145–50
  3. Hayes p.158
  4. Grey, C.G. and Bridgman, L., Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1938.(1972). p. 51b. Newton Abott: David & Charles ISBN   0-7153-5734-4
  5. Jane's 1938 p.82c
  6. Aircraft Registration Mark Query
  7. Croydon Aircraft Company Archived 14 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. 1 2 Jackson (1988) p 471.
  9. Civil Aviation Authority Aircraft Register
  10. 1 2 Jackson (1988) p 150.
  11. Jackson (1978) p.374