Northern Rhodesia

DH Dragon Rapide VP-RCH

This aircraft is of personal interest to me as my mother flew out to Northern Rhodesia in it late 1951.

With thanks to Bernard King, see deHavilland Biplane Transports, the details of this aircraft's history has now been brought to light for me.

Construction Number 6878 was supplied to the Air Council with the military serial NR802 in 1945, post War it was sold to W.A.Rollason Ltd of Croydon in 1948 being registered G-AKOG then to Aviation Traders Ltd of Southend in 1949 and then onto Bond Air Services Ltd of Gatwick in 1950.

At this point in the aircraft's history(1951) Arthur Mechin ( see also ) , an ex RAF pilot bought the aircraft with the plan to fly to the then British Colony of Northern Rhodesia with the intention of starting up an aircraft transport company, he managed to fill the aircraft with paying passengers, my mother was 'Honorary Stewardess' and they set off in November 1951 from Croydon stopping off each night on the way down to Northern Rhodesia. Before leaving Croydon the aircraft was reregistered VP-RCH and on arrival in Lusaka, the capital of Northern Rhodesia went into business with Lusaka Air Carriers in 1952, I presume this was Arthur Mechin's company as he operated out of Lusaka for a number of years, one regular run was delivering newspapers around the country. He had many adventures, once quite soon after starting up he had engine failure in a Fairchild F24 single engine aircraft and forced landed in the Luangwa Valley, even now 60 plus years later this is a very remote place with many wild animals, he walked out finding a native village who sent word to the outside World that he was safe. On another occasion an engine fell off his aircraft, this time it was a twin engined Airspeed Oxford?, he managed to land safely, this was over Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia, he paid for an advert in the Rhodesia Herald daily newspaper asking if anyone had found the engine. Last heard Arthur was in Johannesburg, South Africa operating a lawn mower manufacturing company, 1970/1980s.

Arthur Mechin is mentioned in both 'AFRICAIR' the story of Wenela and 'TheyServed Africawith Wings' which are both reviewed in the bibliography section of this site.

The aircraft was later to become VP-YLF in Southern Rhodesia and then F-OBMQ when it was sold to a French company in Libreville, Gabon in 1958. Any photographs of the aircraft at this time would be of great interest, please get in touch.

De Havilland Biplane Transports by Paul Hayes and Bernard King