The way the airline - and air taxi - industry developed in the U.K. was quite unusual. In the immediate aftermath of World War One, there came to be an urgent need for military and diplomatic mail and high-priority passengers to be conveyed (as quickly as possible) between the U.K. and both the Army of Occupation in Germany and the burgeoning Paris Peace Conference. In the beginning this was satisfied by RAF machines, but with the foundation of civil aviation, converted de Havilland DH9 and other machines were soon venturing far into Europe. In the 1920s and 30s, a mass of small operators, sometimes with just a single aircraft, along with newly-founded airlines tried to find a solution to the demand for air travel using ex-military machines, but the initial low cost of acquisition was offset by high running costs.
Hillman's Airways, founded by Edward Hillman, and a successful operator of de Havilland Fox Moth and Puss Moth aircraft, approached de Havilland to build 'a twin-engined Puss Moth' in 1932. This turned out to be a simple, economical 6 seater, the de Havilland DH84 Dragon, powered by two 130hp Gipsy Major 1 engines. The Dragon was such a commercial success that a 'stretch' of the initial design was inevitable.
This appeared as the de Havilland DH89 Dragon Rapide, and became one of the most successful small airliners of the 1930s, being a natural development of the earlier DeH Dragon, but fitted with the bigger 200hp Gipsy Six engines. It was capable of carrying 8 passengers at around 140 mph for over 500 miles, and many small airlines built up their business using this efficient, single-pilot, airliner. When the Second World War broke out, De Havilland looked around for a suitable subcontractor to take over production, and eventually settled on Brush Coachworks in Loughborough, Leicestershire (the same company had built Avro aircraft during the First World War). Over 300 aircraft were built, and saw service as the Dominie, mainly with the Royal Air Force.
With war clouds looming over Europe the British Government had to decide what to do about the web of new civil air routes criss-crossing the nation, the air lines running them, and their fleets of aircraft. On the 1st of September, 1939 - the day Germany attacked Poland - the Government passed a raft of emergency legislation. Buried amongst other more war-like measures was the 'Air Navigation (Restriction in Time of War) Order, 1939'. This was to profoundly change the face of civil aviation. The mililtary took over most civilian airfields, forbade private flights except with prior written permission, impressed many machines for military use, and instituted various other security measures. The Order was administered by National Air Communications, a part of the Air Ministry.
The war situation deteriorated rapidly, and after the Fall of France, it was felt that still greater control was required and the NAS gave way to the Association of Airways Joint Committee, which integrated the activities of the remaining civilian machines even closer with the military effort, ferrying urgently-needed blood supplies around the country, undertaking sorties for the newly formed Army Co-operation Command, and setting up a route structure for essential civilian services.
This example of the DH89 Dragon Rapide, despite the camouflage, is not a military aircraft! It was one of the Scottish Airways fleet which operated a wartime skeleton service to remote destinations, such as Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, under the auspicies of the AAJC. Scottish Airways Ltd. had been formed in August, 1937 from a merger of Northern & Scottish and Highland Airways - British Airways had acquired a 50% shareholding.
The aircraft had been built by Brush Coachworks in 1941 for the RAF, as 'X7344', a Dominie Mk1 (c/n 6517). It was transfered, in 1943, to Renfrew Airport - just outside Glasgow - where Scottish Airways had their headquarters. There it had the civil registration G-AGJG applied, and led a very busy wartime life serving routes in Scotland.
In 1947, it was acquired by British European Airways at Northolt, and was sold on to a whole string of small airline operators in the 1950s, including Adie Aviation of Croydon, and Mediterranean Air Services of Nicosia, Cyprus. It eventually ended up giving 'joy rides' at Heathrow in the 1950s.
The aircraft is now owned by Mark and David Miller, and the magnificent restoration you can now see took an incredible 27 years! G-AGJG appears at many air shows, giving spirited displays and often gives pleasure flights at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. It is shown here having just arrived at the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at the former RAF station at Keevil in Wiltshire.
This is an an amazing piece of aviation history!