C-23 Sherpa

     Notes: This light transport is used by a number of countries, most notably Britain and the US, where they are mostly operated by the Air National Guard, though some are used by SOCOM, and a few are used by the US Army's Golden Knights parachute demonstration team.  It is a simple aircraft that is easy to maintain and fly, and can be safely flown at a very slow speed.  The aircraft has a rear ramp and two doors just behind the cockpit; it has no ejection seats and is not capable of in-flight refueling.  It does, however, have a toilet.  The C-23B Super Sherpa is similar, but has more engine power and is larger. 

Vehicle

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

C-23A

$238,884

AvG

3.18 tons

11.59 tons

3+30, or 27 paratroops, or 18 stretchers

14

None

Enclosed

C-23B

$245,893

AvG

3.77 tons

12.83 tons

3+36, or 32 paratroops, or 22 stretchers

18

None

Enclosed

 

Vehicle

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Mnvr/Acc Agl/Turn

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Ceiling

C-23A

698

174 (80)

NA  44  6/3  60/30

2235

881

3500

C-23B

723

181 (80)

NA  45  6/3  60/30

2351

1050

3500

 

Vehicle

Combat Equipment

Minimum Landing/Takeoff Zone

RF

Armament

Ammo

(Both)

Secure Radios

500/400m Primitive Runway

None

None

None

 

De Havilland Rapide

     Notes: The Rapide appeared in 1934; it was intended to fulfill the same role as the Douglas DC-3, being a general purpose cargo aircraft able to fly heavy (for the period) cargoes at a decent speed and capable of fairly high-altitude operations.  The Rapide design is an evolution of earlier designs, most notably the De Havilland DJ-83 Fox Moth (appearing in 1932) and the heavier DH-84 Dragon.  (The Rapide was essentially a scaled-down version of the Dragon, thus the Rapide was often called the “Dragon Rapide.”)  The Rapide did not fall victim to the problems that its predecessors displayed, such being underpowered, having balky controls, and poor maneuverability; its pilots praised the Rapide as an aircraft that was easy to fly (though it often struggled in bad weather due to its light weight).  They had an illustrious World War 2 career, with most Rapides belonging to Commonwealth countries being pressed into military service.  While the Rapide’s design did not lend itself to high-volume paradrops, the British often used the Rapide for the delivery of OSS agents and other small-unit insertions.  However, these operations led to high casualties among the Rapide, and of 205 at the disposal of the British Commonwealth at the beginning of World War 2, only 81 survived the war.  The Rapide was manufactured for a few years after World War 2, but were quickly made obsolete by new designs.  By 2000, only five airworthy Rapides remained: two in New Zealand, often used for sightseeing, one flown by the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, one privately-owned in Yolo County California, and two operated by Classic Wings in the UK, used primarily for sightseeing and short hops over to Ireland.  In addition, it is possible that the Rapides at Museum of Science and Industry at Manchester, the Rapide on display at Old Warden Airfield in the UK, and the Rapide at Duxford Aerodrome, are also in flying condition; their care is quite meticulous and thorough, but they have never actually flown since the late 1950s.

     Design work on what would become the Rapide began in 1933 after a request from the Australians for a medium transport with good low-altitude speed and the ability to land on unimproved surfaces, such as the Australian Outback.  This led to an aircraft similar, but smaller and less powerful than, the DH-89 – the DH-86 Dragon Express.  Few DH-86’s were built, though a few did serve in the 1930s and early 1940s, so I have included stats for them below.  The head of the design team at De Havilland, AE Hagg, quickly realized that a more power version of the engines intended for the Dragon Express recently made available could support a larger and more powerful version of the DH-86.  This aircraft was at first designated the DH-89 Dragon Express, but by 1935, the name of the aircraft had changed to the Dragon Rapide.  Shortly later, this was simplified to the Rapide. The British, oddly, were one of the last to jump on the Rapide design; nearly 20 countries ordered at least a few Rapides in the 1930s, and the British actually ordered very few.  Most British Rapides were those pressed into wartime service of built during the short production run after World War 2.  Military Rapides used by the British Commonwealth were renamed to “DH-89 Dominie,” though production of military versions dated back almost to the beginning of production.  The Italian Breda BA-44 was derived directly from the Rapide, so much so that in many cases parts were interchangeable.

     The Rapide was an all-metal biplane in an era of monoplanes; only its power and good handling characteristics led to its being placed into production.  World airlines quickly realized that it was a good design, despite having only about half the cargo and passenger capability of its contemporaries, the DC-3 and Ford Trimotor.  The wings were strong despite a minimum of cross supports, and the fuselage, despite looking a bit lumpish, was actually a good, aerodynamic design.  The Rapide had large control surfaces, which made to a great extent it’s excellent low-speed handling and good takeoff and landing performance. Unusually, the engines were carried in pods on the lower wings near the fuselage, with the main wheels below the engines in fairings that were built as a part of the engine pods.  The Rapide was a “taildragger” design, with a tail wheel in addition to the main landing gear.  The cockpit windows were large and afforded excellent visibility to the crew, and the side windows were also large for an aircraft of its type and praised by passengers. Passengers and crew both entered through a door on the left side over the lower wing.

     Though easy to fly, the Rapide did require some familiarization with the pilots.  The Rapide was much lighter than it looked and could be thrown around by high winds, was subject to bouncing at the wrong time on takeoff and landing, and had higher acceleration than most pilot were used to from such an aircraft. In addition, passenger flight was a bit spartan; civilian passenger Rapides had little more than a cramped kitchenette and shelves for in-flight refreshment, and passenger seating was limited and a little cramped at a time when passengers were beginning to expect a little more luxury.  One of the radios carried was usually tuned to civilian broadcasts. On the other hand, mail and cargo runners often had an internal layout similar to a Dominie, though sometimes the kitchenette was retained. And again, takeoffs and landings could be a bit bouncy, and flying in bad weather could be harrowing.

     The first production versions were designated DH-89 Rapide.  The same aircraft, equipped with a landing light in the nose, modified wingtips that slightly improved low-altitude and low-speed performance, and a cabin heater, were designated DH-89A Rapide.  All DH-89s were quickly converted to the DH-89A standard within a few months after the DH-89A standard was defined.  The DH-89 Mk 4 referred to at first experimental modifications, equipped with Gipsy Queen II engines; some civilian Rapides were produced with these engines, which were designated Gipsy Six II engines in civilian use, but on the other hand, this upgrade was common in military service.  Even less civilian models were equipped with Gipsy Six III engines, though somewhat more were produced with the equivalent military engine (the Gipsy Queen III). Civilian modifications to the Gipsy Six III did not begin in earnest until after World War 2, and eventually 1350 Gipsy Six IIIs were built solely for civilian use.  Dominies with Gipsy Queen engines were built for specific roles and therefore quite rare; the fact that they were originally built for military use only and few were retrofitted after the war makes them even rarer.

     Military Dominies had their civilian accommodations stripped out, and the interior converted to a large cargo space.  The passenger door was retained, but converted to a sliding door. This was still where personnel were loaded, and often, parachutists exited the aircraft through this door.  (The procedure for parachuting from a Dominie was for the parachutist to go out the door, get into a seated position, and let the slipstream slide the parachutist off of the lower wing.  The tailplanes were low enough that the parachutist did not hit them.  Afterwards, the parachutist deployed his parachute manually.)  On the right side, a larger sliding door was added, allowing bundles on parachutes to be thrown out of the door or larger cargoes to be loaded and unloaded on the ground.  The Dominies had a new suspension for the main landing gear, making them even more capable of landing and taking off from unimproved surfaces.  The engine cowlings and air intakes were also modified to do a better job of keep FOD out of the engines, and the wooden propeller blades in most cases were replaced with metal blades.  Dominies sometimes had folding metal seats along the exterior walls; these were installed in sections for one, two, or three passengers and could be removed or installed as needed.

     Though some Dominies were used for special operations insertions and paradrops, a large number were actually used as trainers for future bomber and larger cargo aircraft.  In this role, pilots and navigators both received instruction, though not usually at the same time. Radio operators also received some training in this aircraft, but most of their training took place on the ground. Most of these trainers were then modified again, into mobile communications aircraft.  In this role, the Dominies normally operated as aerial retransmission aircraft, allowing the troops on the ground to dramatically increase their communications range.  They were important aircraft to airborne forces and scouts operating sometimes far ahead of the main body of troops.  Generally, a fourth seat was added just behind the cockpit (in case a pilot and navigator was being trained at the time), as well as two other seats with desks at the front of the cargo bay for two other students. Another use for the Dominies were as aerial command posts, though normally they didn’t carry the actual field commanders, relaying orders instead.  In this role, they carried extra radios, including at least one very-long-range VHF set, and seats for radio operators and the “aerial commander,” plus spaces, drawers, and suchlike for maps, codebooks, and office-type supplies.

     Dominies were more widely used in the early part of World War 2, and leads to perhaps their most heroic role.  Dominies were used as part of the evacuation of troops from France, often flying deep into enemy territory to retrieve troops cut off from the main body.  An unknown number of civilian Rapides were also used in the evacuation, sent into France without being modified in any way for a military role.  During this time, their losses were severe; ten Dominies and an unknown amount of Rapides were shot down; some sources state that possibly as many as 32 Rapides were shot down in the evacuation.  The Dominies and Rapides used in the evacuation generally left France overloaded with troops and with the severe decrease in performance one would expect.

     Another role for Dominies were to fly dignitaries around Britain and to Ireland; despite being officially called Dominies, these aircraft were essentially Rapides, retaining their civilian internal fit, though with one or two extra radios.  A surprisingly small amount were actually used as straight cargo aircraft, since the bulk of Dominies (about 150) were used as trainers and communications aircraft. 14 were used to fly needed military supplies around Britain to some of the more far-flung sites, including ammunition, food and water, spare parts, and some small creature comforts such as newspapers, mail, books, and occasional pure luxury items such as chocolate, candy, and suchlike.  Two were used as medical evacuation aircraft, primarily for British or (later) American pilots who had been shot down or crashed over British soil, or British civilians or troops injured in Nazi attacks on Britain.  The primary modifications for these two aircraft were the conversion of most of the interior space to carry stretchers as well as storage for medical equipment.  Two medical personnel were usually assigned to such flights, normally specially-trained nurses.

     In addition to the Dominies used in Britain, two were used in Africa and the Middle East, and nine were used in India.  These were generally used as communications aircraft in Africa and the Middle East as shown above, and as special operations and straight cargo aircraft in India and some of the surrounding countries; some were even known to fly even farther, supplying special ops units such as Merril’s Marauders and even other far-flung and largely unsung special operations units.  Extra fuel tanks were often carried internally in this role, as well as extra long-range radios and odd bits of equipment needed by the troops, as well as the occasional reinforcements.  Their excellent low-speed performance and unimproved landing and takeoff qualities served them well in these roles. Military Dominies outfitted for training roles were designated DH-89 Dominie Mk 1 and were most often based on DH-89 Mk 4s, though with special governors and derated engines to aid in the training process.  Dominies outfitted as Commo/air command posts were designated DH-89B Dominie Mk IIs, regardless of what other Mark they may have carried (usually Mk 4s or Mk 5s).  Special ops Dominies were generally given fictitious designations and names that changed on a regular basis, though they were generally based on stripped cargo aircraft.  Special ops Dominies outfitted with internal extra fuel tanks were generally designated the same way as other Special ops aircraft.  Dominies designed for cargo carrying of whatever type were usually given the simple designation of DH-89B and usually based on DH-89As or DH-89 Mk 4s.  (After World War 2, military Dominies that were refitted back to civilian specifications were usually designated DH-89B, with the appropriate Mark number appended to the end.  Dignitary transportation and medical transport aircraft were usually designated DH-89B, though unofficially given the designation of DH-89D Dominie.

     Statistics-wise, the most of the prototype Rapides and very early production Rapides were powered by a pair of De Havilland Gipsy Six I 200-horsepower 6-cylinder engines, improved versions of the engines that powered the DH-86.  The Gipsy Six I had bronze cylinder heads and could be coupled only to fixed-pitch propellers. The Gipsy Queen I was the military version of the Gipsy Six I, essentially identical except that it could burn either leaded or unleaded aviation gasoline, could be coupled to variable-pitch propellers, and was slightly more powerful at 205 horsepower; this engine powered early military models. Most military versions and some civilian Rapides were powered by the Gipsy Queen II/Gipsy Six II, which were basically identical; improvements included strengthened crankcase and a slight increase in power to 210 horsepower. These were referred to as the DH-89 Mk 4s.  Some Dominies were powered by the Gipsy Queen III, which provided a further-strengthened crankcase, a tapered crankcase (which allowed only fixed-pitch propellers), and slightly-derated power to 200 horsepower; however, the Gipsy Queen III was far more maintenance-friendly, and reduced the required time for maintenance greatly. These aircraft were designated DH-89 Mk 5.  A few rare Rapides and Dominies had Gipsy Queen IV engines, which were supercharged versions of the Gipsy Queen III.  The supercharger allowed the Rapides and Dominies equipped with them a higher service ceiling, though at higher fuel consumption. These aircraft were often referred to as DH-89Cs in both civilian and military service, though officially they were also designated DH-89 Mk 5s. One Rapide was produced, stripped of all unnecessary weight and designated the DH-88 Comet; this used 223-horspower versions of the standard engines called Gipsy Six “R” engines, and I have not been able to discover its fate after flying in the races it was built for. The Rapide had a length of 10.51 meters, a height of 3.096 meters (to the top of the tail), and a wingspan of 14.63 meters.  The controls, though not boosted in any way (control boosting was an experimental design at the time of the Rapide’s development), they did have special linkages that made the controls easier to move.

Vehicle

Price

Fuel Type

Load

Veh Wt

Crew

Mnt

Night Vision

Radiological

DH-89 Rapide

$61,152

AvG

555 kg

1.62 tons

3+10

12

None

Enclosed

DH-89A Rapide

$62,285

AvG

562 kg

1.62 tons

3+10

12

None

Enclosed

DH-89 Mk 4 Rapide

$62,382

AvG

569 kg

1.62 tons

3+10

12

None

Enclosed

DH-89 Mk 5 Rapide

$61,754

AvG

555 kg

1.64 tons

3+10

10

None

Enclosed

DH-89C Rapide

$67,451

AvG

555 kg

1.66 tons

3+10

12

None

Enclosed

DH-89B Dominie

$42,206

AvG

1.19 tons

1.5 tons

3+10 or 8 Paratroopers

11

None

Enclosed

DH-89B Dominie (Special Ops Fit)

$192,377

AvG

893 kg

1.65 tons

3+4 or 3 Paratroopers

15

None

Enclosed

DH-89A Dominie (Special Ops Fit, Extra Fuel)

$192,590

AvG

706 kg

1.9 tons

3+4 or 3 Paratroopers

16

None

Enclosed

DH-89 Mk I Dominie

$43,943

AvG

1.17 tons

1.6 tons

4+4

13

None

Enclosed

DH-89 Mk II Dominie

$107,293

AvG

595 kg

1.89 tons

3+4

15

None

Enclosed

DH-89D Dominie (Medical)

$45,842

AvG

595 kg

1.53 tons

4+4 Stretchers*

10

None

Enclosed

DH-89C Dominie

$46,806

AvG

1.16 tons

1.52 tons

3+10 or 8 Paratroopers

10

None

Enclosed

DH-88 Comet

$41,948

AvG

1.19 tons

1.35 tons

2

10

None

Enclosed

 

Vehicle

Tr Mov

Com Mov

Mnvr/Acc Agl/Turn

Fuel Cap

Fuel Cons

Ceiling

DH-89 Rapide

872

219 (73)

NA  52  4/2  40/20

249

56

5090

DH-89A Rapide

892

224 (66)

NA  53  4/2  40/20

249

57

5090

DH-89 Mk 4 Rapide

913

229 (60)

NA  54  4/2  40/20

249

57

5090

DH-89 Mk 5 Rapide

872

219 (60)

NA  52  4/2  40/20

249

57

5090

DH-89C Rapide

862

215 (60)

NA  51  4/2  40/20

249

65

6108

DH-89B Dominie

915

230 (66)

NA  55  4/2  40/20

249

55

5090

DH-89B Dominie (Special Ops Fit)

853

209 (66)

NA  50  4/2  40/20

249

61

5090

DH-89A (Dominie Special Ops Fit, Extra Fuel)

806

202 (66)

NA  48  4/2  40/20

381

63

5090

DH-89 Mk I Dominie

858

216 (60)

NA  52  4/2  40/20

249

58

5090

DH-89 Mk II Dominie

732

184 (70)

NA  44  4/2  40/20

249

69

5090

DH-89D Dominie (Medical)

897

225 (60)

NA  54  4/2  40/20

249

56

5090

DH-89C Dominie

903

227 (60)

NA  54  4/2  40/20

249

64

6108

DH-88 Comet

1074

266 (60)

NA  64  4/2  40/20

249

64

5090

 

Vehicle

Combat Equipment

Minimum Landing/Takeoff Zone

RF

Armament

Ammo

DH-89/DH-89A/DH-89A Mk 4 & Mk 5/DH-89C Rapide

2xLong-Range Radios, Magnetic Compass, Kitchenette

200/350 Unimproved Runway

None

None

None

DH-89B/C Dominie

2xLong-Range Radios, 1 Short-Range Radio, Magnetic Compass

200/350 Unimproved Runway

None

None

None

DH-89B Domnie (Special Ops Fit)

2xLong-Range Radios (One Aircraft-Ship), Very-Long-Range Radio, Radar Altimeter, Transponder, 550-Candlepower Spotlight, RDF, Magnetic Compass

200/350 Unimproved Runway

None

None

None

DH-89A Mk I Dominie

2xLong-Range Radios, 1 Short-Range Radio, Magnetic Compass

200/350 Unimproved Runway

None

None

None

DH-89 Mk II Dominie

1 Very-Long-Range Radio, 2xLong-Range Radios, 2xMedium-Range Radios, Gyrocompass, Barometric Altimeter

200/350 Unimproved Runway

None

None

None

DH-89D Dominie (Medical)

2xLong Range Radios, Magnetic Compass, Standard Medical Supplies.

200/350 Unimproved Runway

None

None

None

*Two stretchers may be removed, making room for up to two seated casualties per stretcher.