De Havilland DH-104 Dove
The Dove was Britain's first successful postwar civil aircraft, and one of the few successful Brabazon Committee projects.
The Brabazon Committee was established during WW2 to define requirements for British postwar civil aircraft. While the government established committee was responsible for a number of failures such as the Bristol Brabazon, its studies also resulted in the highly successful Vickers Viscount (described elsewhere) and the de Havilland Dove.
The Dove was developed in response to a requirement for a small feederliner for UK and Commonwealth domestic services. The resulting aircraft featured new versions of the Gipsy Queen engine, a raised flightdeck and separate passenger cabin and all metal construction. The first DH.104 Dove flew for the first time on September 25 1945.
Steady sales success as a regional airliner and corporate transport (particularly in the US) was boosted by significant military orders (RAF versions were known as the Devon, Royal Navy aircraft the Sea Devon).
The Dove remained in production until the mid 1960s (by which time it was a Hawker Siddeley product), and a number of variants were built. These were the initial Series 1, the executive interior Series 2, the military Series 4, the Series 5 with greater range and more powerful engines, the Series 6 (and 6A for the US) executive version of the Series 5, Series 6BA with more powerful engines, Series 7 (Series 7A for the US) with more powerful engines and raised Heron style flightdeck, and Series 8 (8A or Custom 800 in the US) with five seat interior.
In the USA Riley Aeronautics offered conversions of the Dove with two 300kW (400hp) Lycoming IO720 flat eight piston engines. The conversion is known as the Riley 400, and aside from the engines, customers could fit a swept back tail, a new instrument panel and a steel spar capped wing. The first Riley 400 flew in 1963. N772S was fully converted to a Riley 400 in 1966.
Brief History of N772S
N772S was built in 1956 and delivered to Venezuela where it was corporately owned by a large electrical contracting firm and served in the transportation of company executives. In 1966 the aircraft was delivered to Riley Aeronautics Corporation in Fort Lauderdale Florida where it was converted to a Riley 400 which included:
  • IO-720-A Lycoming 400 HP Engines
  • Modern Swept Tail
  • New “center-stacked” instrument panel
  • Lifetime Steel Spare and Wing Fittings
  • Toilet enclosure
  • New interior
  • Bench seat
  • Refreshment Center
N772S returned to Venezuela where it remained until 1969 when it was traded to a dealer in Miami.
N772S was then sold to Mr. Richard Stinnett of Bradenton Florida. Mr. Stinnett used the aircraft until his death in 1986 after which N772S was not flown until November 1993 when the current owners purchased the aircraft from the Stinnett Estate and it was ferried to the Bessemer Airport for complete restoration.
Based on our research, N772S is the only remaining airworthy example of the Riley 400 De Havilland Dove. We know of only one other fully converted aircraft currently undergoing restoration in France.
Details of the Riley 400 Conversion
During the 1960’s Riley Aeronautics Corporation was the foremost practitioner of aircraft modifications. The company was owned by Mr. Jack Riley and was the predecessor to the popular RAM Corporation in Waco, Texas. Jack Riley developed performance enhancements for many aircraft, some of which were later copied by the original manufacturers.
The Riley 400 Dove was designed to provide operational economy, comfortable and extremely safe transportation. The Riley Converted N772S features the following benefits and upgrades:
  • The wings were modified for greater aerodynamic efficiency and include the installation of lifetime steel spars.
  • The empennage was redesigned for increased stability and speed with the addition of the “swept tail” configuration.
  • The Lycoming IO-720 engines develop 400 horsepower each and weigh approximately 600 pounds less than the original De Havilland Gypsy Queen inverted six cylinder engines.
  • The instrument panel was upgraded to a “center-stack” design.
  • The lavatory is full “stand-up” with locking doorway.
  • The cabin entrance was improved by reconfiguring the side hinged door to a bottom hinged “air-stair” design.
  • The electrical system was completely rewired.
During the recent restoration the following items were addressed:
  • Complete top overhaul of both Lycoming IO-720 engines
  • Complete overhaul of both wings
  • Removed floor and inspected all cables
  • Removed all unnecessary wiring from obsolete avionics
  • Replaced cabin side panels and carpeting
  • Rebuilt both engine cowls
  • Installed newly overhauled 4-blade “Q” Tipped Hartzell Propellers
  • Overhauled complete fuel system with new tank interconnects
  • Stripped, cleaned, acid etched, alodined and painted exterior with epoxy primer and urethane topcoat
  • Complied with all outstanding AD Notes
  • Overhauled / replaced flight instruments
  • Installed new retractable landing lights
  • Installed new brakes
  • Removed and completely overhauled landing gear
  • Overhauled landing gear actuators and air valves
  • Overhauled flap actuators and air valves
  • Installed new cockpit windows
The Dove wing design allows a remarkably low stall speed of 56 knots with the gear and flaps down! The aircraft is extremely stable, forgiving and an absolute joy to fly.