de Havilland D.H.89A Dragon Rapide
The Dragon Rapide, first flown on April 17th, 1934, was developed as a scaled down version of the
D.H.86 Dragon four engined airliner. The first Rapides in Palestine was operated by Misr Airlines, an Egyptian airline based at Lod airport. Beginning in 1936, the airline flew the Rapides (SU-ABC, SU-ABQ) all over the Middle East, its destinations including Cairo, Beirut and Nicosia. In the late 1930s Jewish airlines also begun operating in Palestine and in September 1939 a Rapide (VQ-PAC) entered service with "Palestine Airways", a joint British and Jewish airline. The aircraft was operated on the Tel-Aviv-Haifa route, at times also flying on to Beirut. "Palestine Airways" ceased operating at the outbreak of World War II and its aircraft were impressed into service with the RAF. VQ-PAC was given the military registration Z7188 and was operated in the Middle East, ending up in Egypt after the war.
In December 1946 another Rapide was purchased in Britain for "Aviron", another Jewish airline. The aircraft, VQ-PAR, arrived in Palestine in early 1947. When the IAF's predecessor, the "Shirut Avir" (air sevice), was formed in late November 1947, the Rapide joined its ranks along with "Aviron"'s other aircraft. The Rapide was the service's sole twin engined aircraft and also the largest aircraft in service with Jewish forces at the outbreak of Israel's War of Independence on November 30th. On December 13th 1947 the entire "Shirut Avir" fleet left Lod Airport for Tel-Aviv's Sde-Dov, the Rapide flown by Emanuel Tzur, "Aviron" chief pilot and flight instructor.
Other Rapides were meanwhile acquired overseas. In early 1948 a single example was purchased in Britain and by March it had already arrived in Italy on its way to Palestine. Two more Rapides were acquired in South Africa by a pair of Haganah agents but only one made it to Israel. The other had left South Africa on April 20th but was impounded by the British on April 29th, while in Cairo. Another example, funded by the Jewish Agency, was purchased in Britain by Emanuel Tzur and arrived at Sde-Dov on May 5th 1948. One Rapide however, apparently VQ-PAR, was destroyed by an Egyptian Air Force strike against Sde Dov on May 15th, a day following the Israeli declaration of independence. These Rapides and others that joined them later in the war were in service with the "Shirut Avir"'s first squadron, first at Tel-Aviv and later in Ekron. At first serialed S.71 - S.78, the Rapides was later given serials in the 1300+ range.
The Dragon Rapides played an important part in the War of Independence, not only in the transportation role but also as light bombers. Their contribution was most important in the early stages of the war, when Israel possessed the most rudimentry of air forces and no real bombers of its own. During this period Rapides actively participated in nearly all major operations of the war, bombing enemy forces and delivering supplies to besieged and outlying settlements. Rapides continued to carry out bombing missions even after the arrival of the IAF's B-17s, as they were found to be very effective against small targets. This table, depicting various Rapide missions during the war, displays some of the varied roles carried out by these aircraft :
|25/03/48||Ammunition and supplies dropped to Atarot and Neve-Yaacov,two besieged settlements in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Rapide flown by Tzur, Baltita & Shprintzak|
|28/03/48||Rapides drop supplies and ammunition to the men of a Jewish convoy ambushed and besieged by Palestinians on the previous day. 05:00 - first bombs, then supplies, dropped by Tzur, Bukshtein & Tolchinsky. 08:00-08:30 - Tzur & Rapoport drop ammunition and water.|
|29/03/48||Tzur, Bodilevsky & Ben-Or drop supplies to besieged Kibbutz Yehiham in the Galilee region. Ten passes are carried out before the drop is complete.|
|12/05/48||Briar & Shatkay drop ammunition to the defenders of Gush Etzion.|
|12/05/48||Tzur delievers 16*25kg bombs to Nir-Am, home to the "Shirut Avir"'s Negev Squadron.|
|21/05/48||Three aircraft, including one Rapide, bomb the airfield and railway station at Gaza.|
|01/06/48||Rapide participates in the bombing of the Jordanian capital Amman.|
|02/06/48||Led by Uri Briar, two (3?) Rapides attack Amman again.|
|04/06/48||A single Rapide participates in an attack on Egyptian vessels bombarding Tel-Aviv.|
|28/10/48||IDF launches operation "Hiram" to destroy Palestinian and Lebanese forces in northern Israel. 17:45 - one Rapide bombs Sasa. 18:15 - three Rapides attack Sasa again.|
|29/10/48||Second day of operation "Hiram". 06:40 - Ein-Abel attacked. 06:45 - Rapide bombs Malkia. 18:10 - one Rapide bombs Malkia while another attacks El-Rama.|
Unlike many other types, Rapides continued to serve with the IAF long after the end of the War of Independence. The type was operated by the 100th light squadron, primarily out of Ekron (Tel-Nof) AFB. There were still 6 Rapides in service during July 1950 and three or more in 1953.
Rapides were also operated by other nations in the Middle East. On September 22nd 1948 an Avia S.199 intercepted and shot down a Jordanian Rapide which refused to accompany the fighter to a landing in Israel. During 1950 another Jordanian Rapide was routinely spotted making its way from Jordan to Egypt over the Negev desert. Initial attempts to intercept it failed but on June 13th a pair of 101st squadron Spitfires training in the Negev spotted the aircraft and forced it to land. The aircraft was impounded and entered service with the IAF. Some sources indicate this Rapide was the same aircraft impounded by the British in Cairo on April 29th 1947, apparently transferred to a Jordanian airline after serving with an Egyptian one.
IAF Rapides were finally withdrawn from service in 1957, most of them joining Arkia airlines. One airworthy example resides in the IAF Museum at Hatzerim, purchased in England in 1978.
IAF Museum's Rapide and Black Spitfire
Specification: de Havilland D.H. 89A Dragon Rapide
Type: six/eight-passenger airliner/ short-medium range transport.
Powerplant: two de Havilland Gipsy Six six-cylinder air-cooled engines.
Performance: max speed - 157mph, cruising speed - 132mph, climb rate - 1000ft/m, ceiling - 19,500ft, range - 578 miles.
Weights: empty - 3346lb, max takeoff - 5500lb.
Dimensions: span - 48ft, length - 36ft 6", height - 10ft 3".
Armament: 16 * 20kg bombs.
Miles M.57 Aerovan
The Miles Aerovan twin prop short haul freighter was first flown on January 26th 1945. It could carry loads up to the size and weight of a car inside its cavernous cargo area, accessible throught a tail section that swung off to the right. The last surviving aircraft was in service in Italy in 1968.
The IAF acquired a single Aerovan in Britain in early 1948 and it arrived in Israel in June. Its ability to operate from very short landing strips enabled it to fly to besieged settlements and it often flew to Gush Ezion and the outlying Jewish settlements near the Dead Sea. The Aerovan was one of the few aircraft that could land at besieged Jerusalem's short airstrip, at times under fire from Arab snipers. On July 17th 1948, while evacuating civilians from a besieged settlement near the Dead Sea, the Aerovan was forced to land south of Tel Aviv. The aircraft was attacked by local Arabs and its pilot, a Christian volunteer, and some of the passengers were murdered.
Specification: Miles M.57 Aerovan
Type: light short range transport.
Powerplant: 2 * Blackburn Cirrus Major.
Performance: max speed - 198km/h, cruising speed - 175km/h, service ceiling - 13,250ft, range - 644km.
Weights: empty - 1,361kg, max takeoff - 2,631.
Dimensions: span - 15.24m, length - 10.97m, height - 4.10m.
Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar
The Model 18 first flew in 1940, designed as a successor to the Lockheed models 10 and 14. The U.S. Army began ordering military versions of the aircraft in May 1941, using the type during World War II for training as well as for transporting cargo and personnel. Known in the military as the Loadstar, many examples were sold off after the end of the war, ending up with private operators. In 1948, Three Lodesters were purchsed in Europe for the IAF. Only one, however, made it to Israel and served a short period of time with a transport squadron out of Ramat-David during the war of Independence. It participated in operation "Avak" (dust), flying supplies to the besieged Negev, and was retired from service in 1949.
Specification: Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar
Type: twin-engined transport.
Powerplant: Two Wright Cyclone R-1820-87s.
Performance: max speed - 257mph, cruising Speed - 232mph, range - 1,700 miles, service ceiling - 25,000ft.
Weights: empty - 6663kg, max takeoff - 9990kg.
Dimensions: span - 65ft 6", length - 49ft 10", height - 11ft 1".
Lockheed Hudson Mk. IV
One the few aircraft that made a successful transition from a civil role to a combat role, the Hudson was developed from the Model 14 Super Electra to meet a British requirement for a reconaissance aircraft. The Hudson was most widely used by the British which had ordered thousands of the type, but also by other air forces, such as the U.S.A.F. (where it was known as the A-28 and A-29) and the Australian, which had ordered 198 examples similar to the British Hudson Mk IV. Four Hudsons were procured for the IAF in Australia after the type had been phased out of service. The first aircraft arrived in Israel during November 1948, in time to fly a number of sorties during the War of Independence. Two more aircraft arrived in late December, too late to participate in war, and the fourth never went into service. The three aircraft were still in service during July 1950, with a transport squadron out of Ramat David AFB. They were taken out of service shortly later.
Specification: Lockheed Hudson Mk. IV
Type: four seat light bomber/transport aircraft.
Powerplant: Two Wright Cyclone R-1820-G205A Radial engines.
Performance: max speed - 217 knots, cruising speed - 156 knots, ceiling - 24,500ft, range - 3220km.
Weights: empty - 5,845kg, max takeoff - 8,400kg.
Dimensions: span 19.96m, length - 13.51m, height - 3.62m.
Armament: 7 Guns in dosral and ventral positions, provision for 340kg bombs.
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
More than 30 years after its first flight, on June 13th 1965, the Islander is still a very popular aircraft due to its low price and its easy handling characteristics. This versatile plane has spawned many sub-models, each fitted to a specific role, including an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) model with a large radar dome and the Trislander, an Islander with an extra engine in the tail.
The Islander has also enjoyed great success in Israel, ever since the first one was registered locally in 1969 and is still extensivly used today. The IAF received two examples in 1974 when a civilian company, "Isravia", ceased to operate. Serving in the "Flying Camel" squadron, they were used for navigation training and the conversion of pilots to twin engined aircraft.
Specification: Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
Type: 10 seat short takeoff & landing light transport.
Powerplant: 2 * Lycoming O-540-E4C5 turboprop engines.
Performance: max speed - 340 km/h, cruising speed - 245 km/h, rate of climb - 860 ft/m, ceiling - 13,600ft, range - 1280km.
Weights: empty - 1866kg, max takeoff - 2993kg.
Dimensions: span - 14.94, length - 10.9m, height - 4.18m.
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