This iconic aircraft is one of only five of its type still flying in the world, according to Bonhams officials, who note it was completely restored when Norman acquired it 20 years ago.
The de Havilland DH84 Dragon originated in the early 1930s when British airline pioneer Edward Hillman was operating the single-engine DH83 Fox Moth, and wanted de Havilland to design a twin-engine “big sister” to fly from the south of England to Paris as economically as possible.
Simultaneously — from a very different angle — the Iraqi Air Force had approached de Havilland seeking an aircraft suitable for patrol and communication flying. So the Dragon was hatched.
Hillman Airways received its first DH84 Dragon in 1932. It cost £2,795 and carried six to eight people on scheduled flights from Romford, Essex, to Paris Le Bourget.Norman’s DH84 Dragon dates from the World War II era, having been built originally by de Havilland Australia in its plant at Bankstown Airport, Sydney, in 1943. It is construction number 2048 and served in the RAAF as a navigational training aircraft, before being converted post-war to civilian standard. It was operated under Australian civil registrations ‘VH-AQU’ and later ‘VH-DCX’ for some time as a Flying Doctor Medical Service machine, based at Alice Springs.
It passed subsequently into the Marshall Airways collection at Bankstown Airport, before being acquired by Norman at the turn of the century and being restored to flying condition by Cliff Lovell, Henry Labouchere and Hants Light Plane Services of Chilbolton, Hampshire.
It was completed in DH84 Mark II specification, and since completion has become a familiar sight at air shows and vintage fly-ins around the UK, logging some 450 flying hours throughout Europe.
The DH84 Dragon is regarded as the spark that triggered Norman’s late brother Desmond to create his Britten-Norman Islander twin-engined near-equivalent design, of which nearly 1,300 have now been produced since 1965. In contrast, just 115 Dragons were built in the UK, with another 87 produced in Australia.
“The DH 84 was the executive jet of its day,” said James Knight, Group Motoring Chairman at Bonhams. “Its ability to cover great distances with at least six passengers and land almost anywhere ensured it was the must have aircraft of the period for personal, commercial and military use. In fact, weather permitting, we hope to have the Dragon on view at Goodwood. As you can imagine, it is beautifully presented, harking back to the glory days of aviation, and ready to be operated by the next enthusiast owner.”
Founded in 1793, Bonhams is one of the world’s largest and most renowned auctioneers of fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelery. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with sales also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney.