For the second time in less than a month, a vintage airliner carrying passengers has crashed but this time there were no fatalities. The 1944 de Havilland Dragon Rapide biplane took off from Abbotsford International Airport in British Columbia about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday just after the close of the annual airshow for the day. Two weeks ago a Junkers Ju-52 crashed in the Swiss Alps killing all 20 on board. The Dragon Rapide, carrying a pilot and four passengers, was recently acquired by the Historic Flight Foundation at nearby Paine Field in Washington State. It ran into trouble on takeoff and crashed in the airport infield. Three passengers suffered relatively minor injuries, one injury was described as serious and the pilot was taken to hospital in critical condition but has since been upgraded to serious. HFF founder John Sessions was checked out in the aircraft but none of those on board have been identified by Canadian authorities and it’s not confirmed he was the pilot.
The museum was offering rides to the public at the airshow but it’s not clear if the passengers were paying customers or museum staff and volunteers. The aircraft is one of about 10 in airworthy condition. Images from Abbotsford showed significant damage, particularly to the right set of wings and cockpit, but it’s not clear if it can be repaired. The aircraft was developed in the early 1930s in England and was used as an airliner and as a military transport. At total of 781 were built. The aircraft in question was one of the last ones built in 1944 and first delivered to the Royal Air Force. It was converted to an airliner after the war and used in revenue service and as a survey aircraft in the U.K. until 1971 when it was bought by the EAA Museum, which displayed it until 1997. HFF founder John Sessions bought the plane in 2017 from the estate of a California collector. Video of its debut flight after restoration last July 24, with Sessions at the controls, is below.