LEF T: The yoke atop a tall
control column dominates
the cockpit, like the helm of
an old sailing ship, as the
fuselage narrows to accommodate a single pilot.
RIGHT: The deluxe interior appointments replicate
Prince Edward’s aircraft with
red leather seats embossed
with the feather bloom crest
of the Prince of Wales.
mustered out of military service
and plied the airways over
England as an airliner, carrying
passengers to and from vacations on the Channel Islands. It
later spent 10 years as a corporate transport, and even served
as a jump plane for a French
The Rapide crossed the
Atlantic to a U.S. owner in the
early 1970s and was registered
as N89HD, passing through a
few owners before being placed
in storage in Joplin, Missouri.
Like many people who have
such collections of airplanes and
airplane parts, the owner was
not interested in selling—until
Jerry came along.
“I was visiting a school in
Kansas City and heard about
this man’s collection of airplanes and parts,” he said. “I
was able to arrange to visit.
The warehouse was actually an
old hangar, and it turns out the
industrial park where it was
located used to be an airport.”
Jerry was able to convince the
owner to part with the Rapide,
and he threw in a spare Gipsy
Six engine to boot. With help
from the parts from that third
engine, they were able to
assemble two good ones.
When Jerry acquired the
Rapide in 2007, he first trucked
it back to Virginia Beach, where
he and his restoration crew
looked it over, scratched their
heads, and decided that more
expert help was needed. Knowing
that Avspecs has an impressive
reputation for workmanship and
restoration quality in wood aircraft (it was well into restoring
Jerry’s Mosquito at the time), he
sent Warren some photos of the
Rapide. Shortly after that, the staff
at the Military Aviation Museum
loaded it into a container for shipment to New Zealand.
The entire project took
Avspecs just more than two years
to complete. Jerry said the biggest
challenge was rebuilding the
fuselage. “Because it’s all wood,
it’s built more like a boat than an
airplane,” he said. The best way to
rebuild the fuselage was to first
remove the left side, completely
refurbish it, and then shift attention to the right side for the same
treatment. Original wood was
retained wherever possible, but
about 75 percent needed to be
replaced, Jerry said.
“As for the rest of the compo-
nents, 90 percent are original to
the airplane,” he said. It even
uses the original wind-driven
generator for electrical power.
The only concessions to modern
flying are shoulder harnesses, the
Garmin 430 GPS/comm, tran-
sponder, and an intercom. The
Rapide retains its original braking
system, actuated “British style”
with a large lever on the pilot’s left
side (the flap lever is on the right).
One price of that authenticity is
the Rapide’s very conservative
more than 9 knots.
Mark Phelps, EAA 139610, is an
aviation writer living in New Jersey.
He is the former editor of EAA’s Vintage
Airplane magazine and the owner-pilot
of a 1954 Beechcraft Bonanza. To see
video of the Dragon Rapide in flight,