De Havilland D.H.A.3 Drover II

HAM Drover

VH-EAZ/VH-EAS/’VH-FDT’/G-APXX – c/n 5014

With the H.A.M. from May 1972 to May 1983

In the D.H.A.3 Drover, the H.A.M. had acquired one of Britain’s rarest airframes with only 20 having been built on the other side of the world in Australia. Indeed, C.A.A. records state that just two aircraft were ever allocated a U.K. registration, while only one of them actually made it to our shores. Serving as a feeder airliner with Qantas during the summer of 1952, in August of the same year, this Drover was dispatched to New Guinea where she operated for exactly 6 years. In late 1959, she was sold in the U.K. arriving here by ship in September 1961 where she became part of the Air Navigation and Trading Company fleet. It would appear that this aircraft was purchased primarily to fly a Blackpool-London service, but this route application ended up being rejected and thus, she would never actually fly for the company. As a result of this, she remained in a dismantled state until being acquired by the B.H.A.M. in May 1967.

Having spent more than a decade in pieces, she was transported to SEN by road in May 1967 missing her engines, props and wheels although wooden packing had been placed around her hubs to protect them. She was initially parked up with the rest of the B.H.A.M. collection on the airport’s eastern perimeter until eventually being moved to the new Aviation Way site in October 1970. Some time later, a small group of ATEL engineers replaced the missing items, these being sourced from a former Channel Airways Heron. Around 1973, further restoration work was carried out and as a consequence of this she would receive a new, although spurious Australian Flying Doctor Service livery and registration. While a small number of Drovers had served with the A.F.D.S. this aircraft had not been one of them. This Drover was kept on external display until the closure of the museum, after which she was sold to Doug Arnold who had her transported by road to Blackbushe where she remained until June 1985.

Unfortunately for such a rare type, her future appeared to be a bleak one indeed. This Drover initially ended up with the Second World War Preservation Society who displayed her outside on their site at Lasham, although during this period she would deteriorate further and by 2008, this airframe was in an extremely poor state having been left to stand on little more than her undercarriage oleos. With the collapse of the S.W.W.P.S. she then moved on to Wycombe Air Park (Booker) where she was stored externally in a dismantled condition, although little to nothing was done in the way of preservation work or restoration. Come 2013 she moved again, this time to St. Athan where she rotted further. Then in 2015 a move to Staverton appeared to be on the cards, the aircraft now in the hands of an ex-Southend resident who wishes to restore this Drover to her former glory, although it would appear that as of 2019, it is still at St. Athan (albeit now under cover) and is currently awaiting transport the the South Wales Aviation Museum for restoration.

With thanks to Tony Avis for providing extra information for this page.


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