Harking back to the glory days of aviation the Aer Lingus ‘Iolar (‘IOLAR’) is a flying beauty

Aer Lingus ‘Iolar’ (Eagle) De Havilland DH84 Dragon 

The De Havilland DH84 Dragon aircraft was a twin-engined, six passenger biplane designed to fulfill the requirements of Edward Hillman, an Essex, England bus and coach operator who broke into the air-charter business in 1931. This aircraft was built by De Havilland at Hatfield in early 1936 and its first flight was performed by Geoffrey de Havilland himself. Its Certificate of Airworthiness was issued on 18 April 1936, registered in the UK. It was powered by two 130hp De Havilland 'Gipsy Major' engines. Whilst on the ground and during certain maintenance operations, the wings could be folded back allowing for easy accommodation within relatively small hangars. 

Majority of De Havilland DH84 Dragon were built in the UK


A majority of Dragons were built in the UK yet some were built in Australia for the military there and in New Zealand. Sixty-two Dragon 1s were built, prior to the introduction of the Dragon 2, which featured faired undercarriage legs and individually framed cabin windows. Although predominantly cosmetic, these changes actually produced another 5 mph on the top speed and allowed for a 250 lb increase in baggage capacity. More importantly however, it also increased the range of the aircraft by an additional 85 miles. 


While it had humble beginnings the Dragon was seen as the executive jet of its day.  It could cover relatively long distances with at least six passengers and land almost anywhere.  This ensured it was the must have aircraft of the period for personal, commercial and military use.  Dragon’s attributes soon resulted in orders coming in from UK private operators and regional airlines as well as air services in Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Kenya and Spain.  In on 11 October 1939 some of the Dragons in the UK were recruited to the war effort and allocated to the RAF.  They were restored to the civil register in the mid 40s.

Aer Lingus ‘Iolar’ (Eagle) Dublin London air service advertisement from the '30s 
 
The first Aer Lingus ‘Iolar’ (Eagle) aircraft was the De Havilland DH84 Dragon designation EI ABI. It was purchased from Blackpool and West Coast Air Services in May 1936 and flew the Dublin Bristol route. Just before that the Irish Government had decided to proceed with the establishment of Aer Lingus and the launch of A scheduled air service. Over time added to the Dublin Bristol route were services to Island of Man, Liverpool and London. 

Iolar restored with loving care by Aer Lingus personnel at Dublin Airport

The DH84 Dragon that is currently operating in Ireland was restored with loving care by Aer Lingus personnel at Dublin Airport . It is a ‘sister ship’ of the original Iolar. It was built in Hatfield, England in 1936 and it was flown by Western Airways and Scottish Airways. After WW2 service with the RAF it came to Ireland in March 1950, when it was sold to Mr. Cleary of Mullingar. Five months later, it went to Captain Darby Kennedy of Weston Aerodrome near Dublin and was used for light charter work and pleasure flying. It was withdrawn from service in January 1959.

Aer Lingus Iolar at an air display in Germany

In 1967 the Dragon was purchased by Aer Lingus, painted in the colours of the original Iolar and flown to Dublin Airport. In May 1976 it was cosmetically restored for static display in the Irish Aviation Museum. In 1985 approaching 50th anniversary of Aer Lingus, it was decided to restore the Dragon to flying condition. Since then the Iolar has gone through long periods of storage followed by restoration and active service putting on air displays at events. Iolar is one of only two Dragons still airworthy in Europe, and in fact is the only UK-built example still active, as the other example is an Australian-built aircraft which was produced in 1942.

Do you have an Irish made project old or new you would like us to feature? Email us here info@irelandmade.ie 

Specification:
Powerplant: Two 130hp De Havilland Gipsy Major 1
Span: 47ft 0in
Maximum Weight: 4,200 lb
Capacity: Pilot and six to eight passengers
Maximum Speed: 128 mph
Normal Cruising Speed: 109 mph
Range:   460 miles

Sources of information:
a.  1000aircraftphotos.com
b.  baesystems.com/en/heritage
c.  flyinginireland.com
d.  generalaviationnews.com
e.  irishhistoricflight.com

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