When Happy Miles of Albany, Ore., brought his deHavilland Heron DH114-X2 to airshows this year, it was hard to say what drew more people to the airplane. The rarity of the British four-engine aircraft in the United States? Or the fact Miles had Fox News painted on the tail, as well as the names of politically conservative media personalities, such as Bill O’Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, and Glenn Beck, painted on the fuselage.
“The first two questions people are asking are ‘what kind of airplane is that?’ Followed by ‘does it belong to Fox News ?’” Miles explained as he stood in the shade of the tail at this summer’s Arlington Fly-In in Washington state.
Miles is quick to point out that he doesn’t have any direct ties to Fox News, explaining the paint job was designed as an attention-getting device. He’s unhappy about the political direction the country is taking, and wanted to encourage citizens to chose a more conservative government.
“I feel that it is my patriotic duty,” he said. “The spending cannot go on unabated or the country will end up like Greece. I wanted to do something, so I took my million-dollar airplane and I gussied it up with Fox news livery because Fox News seems to be the only network out there that is trying to get the word out with people like Glenn Beck, O’Reilly and Greta.”
Once people got past the paint job, the next slew of questions were about the airframe. The mid-wing with the hump on the back of the fuselage and the staggered engine pylons had visitors circling the airplane with cameras in hand.
“You don’t see many of them in the United States,” Miles said, noting only 148 were built. “This one, N82D, was 14th from the end of the production line.”
Miles has owned Heron N82D for two years. He has another Heron, which he purchased in 2005 while in England.
“It had been part of Jersey Airlines, which was one of the first airlines in England. But when I brought it to the United States, Homeland Security did so much damage to it that I had to go to Hawaii to get another airplane to use for parts.”
Those extra parts eventually led him to Heron N82D, because he was supplying parts to the then-owner, Bud Rude. When Rude put N82D up for sale, Miles saw his opportunity.
The Heron is one of the most rare warbirds, but not the first for Miles, who has more than 17,000 hours of flight time under his belt and holds type-ratings for the B-26 and PBY.
There is a romance about the four-engine British airplane, he noted.
“The Heron was the pick of the British Royal family, circa 1950. The Queen already had four of them. She wanted an all-weather Heron, so they designed this airplane, N28D, to have full booting for deicing. She took delivery of it in 1958.”
Miles noted that the logbooks for the airplane show it traveled all over the world at the behest of the monarchy, often taking them on wildlife safaris and world tours.
“When the Royal family decided to disband the fleet, this airplane went to the Royal Air Force,” he continued. “It was painted sort of an orange red with blue control surfaces. When the Air Force was done they gave it to the Navy, The admiral liked it so much he put Royal Air Command down the side of it and it got the nickname the ‘Admiral’s Barge’.”
According to Miles, N82D is an X2, which means it has been de-rated from 13,500 lbs. gross to 12,499 lbs. “That means that it can be flown single pilot and the pilot need only have a private pilot, multiengine rating,” he explained.
“This airplane is designed to be easy on parts because many of the parts are interchangeable,” he continued. “The wing tapers on the engine mounts are all interchangeable and the cowlings are interchangeable so the number one engine cowling will go in the number three slot.”
The Heron is equipped with four Gipsy Queen 30 Mark 2 engines. “The propellers don’t feather on most Herons,” he said. “They go to coarse pitch, and keep turning. The propellers on this airplane do have the ability to full feather. I can attest to that. I took off and lost power in two engines. I had to fly it around for 20 minutes before I had enough pneumatic pressure to deploy the gear for landing.”
The Heron holds 500 gallons of 100LL. “We could use car fuel that was 90 octane if it didn’t have alcohol in it,” he noted.
True to his word, Miles did take the Heron around the country, right up until the election. One of the last public stops was the Reno Air Races.
“It is an eye stopper.,” he said. “We draw massive crowds wherever we go.”
The Heron competed in the National Aviation Heritage Invitational at Reno. “Clay Lacy won it with the DC-2, but we have been invited to come back next year to compete,” Miles reported.
He also reported that the Fox News livery had been removed, because he found a sponsor, Tripware.com. “With the help of our new sponsor, the airplane will be traveling around the country this next year offering type ratings and rides for people.”