De Havilland DH.90 Dragonfly

DH.90 Dragonfly
R.A.F de Havilland DH.90 Dragonfly AW164 (ex-G-AEDK) at R.A.F Gosport
Role Light Transport
Manufacturer De Havilland Aircraft Company
First flight 12 August 1935
Introduction 1936
Number built 67

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


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 pre-formed plywood monocoque shell and strengthened fuselage. It was designed as a luxury touring aircraft for four passengers and a pilot, with provision for dual control. The first aircraft, G-ADNA, first flew on 12 August 1935. The Dragonfly achieved the 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.

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]

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 Co-operation night flying trainers. Western Airways of Weston-super-Mare Airport used its Dragonfly on a scheduled service via Birmingham to Manchester.

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.

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.

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 in take-off or landing, resulting in undercarriage write-off and spar damage.


  • DH.90 : First prototype only. Two 130 hp (97 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major I
  • DH.90A : Two 142 hp (106 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C or D (postwar, essentially identical) or the earlier, very similar Major II in prewar aircraft.
  • Dragonfly Seaplane: the addition of the aluminium floats, strengthened attachment points, extra cabin door and wing walkway increased the empty weight to 3,110 lb (1,410 kg) and lowered the maximum speed to 125 mph (200 km/h)[5]


Two flyable aircraft survive:

  • DH 90A ZK-AYR [6] (c/n 7508) is operated on scenic and aircraft experience flights by the Croydon Aircraft Company[7] in New Zealand. It was first registered as G-AEDT, then went to Australia as VH-AAD and to the USA as N2034.[8] From about 1988 to 1996 it was flying as G-AEDT again, before leaving the UK for New Zealand.
  • DH 90A G-AEDU (c/n 7526) has been registered in the United Kingdom since 1992, owned by the Norman Aeroplane Trust.[9] Originally delivered to Angola in 1937, it flew as CR-AAB and later as ZS-CTR in South Africa.[10] When it was returned to England in 1979, it used a British registration (G-AEDU) that had been allocated to another Dragonfly but not used.[8] It was exported to the United States in 1983 as N190DH but it was returned to England in 1992 in a damaged state and rebuilt to flying condition as G-AEDU.

Former operators

  • Misr Airwork Ltd
India India
  • Dutch Army Aviation Group
 New Zealand
  • Rhodesian and Nyasaland Airways
 South Africa
  • Devlet Hava Yollari
 United Kingdom
  • Air Dispatch Ltd
  • Air Commerce Ltd
  • Air Service Training Ltd
  • Air Taxis Ltd
  • Anglo-European Airways Ltd
  • Birkett Air Services Ltd
  • British Continental Airways Ltd
  • International Air Freight Ltd
  • Plymouth Airport Ltd
  • Royal Air Force
  • Silver City Airways Ltd
  • Western Airways Ltd


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

List of aircraft of the RAF


  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing.
  • Hayes, P & King, B. de Havilland biplane transports. Coulsden: Gatwick Aviation Society (2003) ISBN 0-9530413-2-8
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft since 1919, Volume 2. London: Putnam, 1973. ISBN 0-370-10010-7 or (1988 revision) ISBN 0-85177-813-5.
  • Jackson, A.J. De Havilland Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam, 1978 ISBN 0-370-30022-X
  • Grey, C.J. and Bridgman, L, Jane's All the World's Aircraft (1938). London: Sampson Low Martin.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.