17 April 2014

A venerable 80 year old lady

Grayson Ottaway sent in this piece this morning...

Today in flying history April 17, 1934 - 80 years! - The de Havilland DH-89 Dragon Rapide, flew for the first time. I think its one of the prettiest planes built! I’ve luckily had a couple of flights on various ones in NZ over the years.

It was designed as a faster and more comfortable successor to the DH.84 Dragon. 

In effect a twin-engined, scaled-down version of the four-engined DH.86 Express. It shared many features including its tapered wings, streamlined fairings and the Gipsy Six engine.

The Rapide went on to become perhaps the most successful British-built short-haul commercial passenger aircraft of the 1930s with more than 730 built.

As a tribute to this classic airliner here is a series of perhaps New Zealand's most famous de Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide, ZK-AHS which was in regular airline service in New Zealand from 1938 to 1967. This airline service was predominantly on the West Coast.

ZK-AHS was originally registered ZK-AGT and entered service with Cook Strait Airways in November 1938 flying from Wellington to both Nelson and Blenheim and down the West Coast from Nelson to Greymouth and Hokitika and later Westport. It is photographed here in Cook Strait Airways colours. With the outbreak of the Second World War it was impressed into the RNZAF as NZ558 in November 1939 until being released to Air Travel (NZ) Ltd and reregistered as ZK-AHS in December 1944
While in service for Air Travel (NZ) AHS never carried titles... It is seen here at Wellington though its more normal route was from Hokitika to Greymouth, Westport and Nelson or from Hokitika to Haast.
Air Travel (NZ) became part of NZ National Airways Corporation on the 1st of October 1947. It is photographed here at Nelson. For NAC it was mainly used between Hokitika and Westport and south to Haast.
On the 16th of November 1956 NAC’s South Westland service was taken over by West Coast Airways, a subsidary of Southern Scenic Airways. The inaugural flight was operated by de Havilland DH89A Dragon Rapide ZK-AHS on a Hokitika-Haast return service on the 19th of November 1956. The photo shows ZK-AHS in West Coast Airways colours at Franz Josef.
The changing of names... the West Coast Airways name disappeared off ZK-AHS while it was continuing the West Coast Airways service... Here it is seen wearing Southern Scenic Airways titles at Haast
Southern Scenic was taken over by Tourist Air Travel in May 1967 and so ZK-AHS seen here at Hokitika carries Southern Scenic titles on the fuselage and a Tourist Air Travel logo on the tail
The end of ZK-AHS being used on scheduled services came after the opening of the Haast Pass. West Coast Airways final scheduled service operated on 31 March 1967. It is seen here at Hokitika in full Tourist Air Travel scheme before flying to Auckland for preservation at MOTAT

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