RE: De Havilland Tiger Moth: PH Heroes

RE: De Havilland Tiger Moth: PH Heroes

Wednesday 15th August 2018

De Havilland Tiger Moth: PH Heroes

No, it's not a car. But rarely has hero status been more befitting than for a plane which helped to prepare the few



It was on October 26th 1931 that the prototype Tiger Moth made its maiden flight. Despite having been designed with military training applications in mind, its success was still fairly unprecedented and saw the plane exported to over 25 foreign air forces around the world. By the outbreak of World War II, a total of 1,424 Tiger Moths had been completed globally, with construction also occurring in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

As the manufacture of de Havilland's Mosquito fighter-bomber consumed the company's Hatfield factory, the Tiger Moth saw its production moved to the Morris car plant outside Oxford. By the time production there ceased in 1945, Morris alone had produced a total of 3,433 Tiger Moths, over two thousand more than had been completed in the nine years prior.

The example pictured was one of the first to be produced at that location and initially flew in June 1940. It was transferred to RAF Sealand in north Wales, where it was used to train pilots with No 19 and No 24 Elementary Flying Training Schools, and today it wears the original colour scheme used during WWII.


Climbing up onto the wing and swinging yourself down into the forward of the two cockpits is, therefore, an incredibly poignant experience. Thoughts of the men, some my age but many much younger, who have sat here before me not for fun but to prepare themselves for war, come instantly to mind.

As we trundle out across the grassy airfield, before turning to come roaring back and up into the sky, it suddenly becomes very hard to think of anything, though. Power comes courtesy of the de Havilland Gypsy Major engine - introduced in the mid 30s to replace the 120hp Gipsy III, it's an air-cooled inline-four, capable of producing up to 145hp - and it creates such a tremendous racket that even the pilot's voice being piped directly into my ears is impossible to make out.

As the tachometer needle bounces from 26 to 14 and back again (it's displayed in hundreds of revs per minute) the sound, vibration and buffeting is a far cry from the comfort afforded by the Grob Tutors of my days in the Air Cadets. It's flying as I've never experienced it before, exposed to the elements and feeling tangibly at their mercy, as the slightest crosswind or smallest air pocket pitches and yaws the plane like a kite. It finally makes perfect sense why Biggles always referred to them that way...


The half-hour flight takes us south-east from Bicester. The Buckinghamshire countryside, which ought to be the perfect backdrop to such an experience, appears somewhat alien; its vibrant green and yellow patchwork replaced with a washed out canvas of chartreuse and beige by the extended heatwave which, 80 years on from imminent Nazi invasion, presented the greatest threat to Britain's unbreakable spirit this summer.

We pass over Leatherslade Farm, the infamous hiding place of the great train robbers, as well as the former Rothschild estate at Waddesdon Manor and several picturesque villages, before it's time to turn back. Time at the stick is limited only by the length of the flight, with plenty of opportunity to take the controls. I'm quite content admiring the view, camera in hand, but the potentially once in a lifetime opportunity is of course too good to pass up.

Earlier in the day, when I arrived at the airfield, my pilot was busy transporting the Tiger Moth from its hangar and out onto the grass. Evidently this was no more difficult than holding it beneath the tail with one hand, raising it above the head, and walking the plane outside. It seemed to require almost no effort whatsoever, and, back at the controls, the aircraft's featherweight design makes itself apparent again. Keeping it straight and level involves, for an inexperienced pilot at least, practically constant input. It's a thrilling, engaging and highly memorable experience, but with Bicester coming back into view I pass control back to the professional for the highly-billed aerobatic finale.


A loop, into a stall turn, into a barrel roll sees me outwardly grinning like an idiot whilst internally waiting for the 78 year-old wood and canvas machine to fold in on itself under what feels like overwhelming G-force - but in reality was probably nothing for a regular pilot to write home about. Our time finally up, we line ourselves up with the field, gliding smoothly in for a bumpy landing, and taxi over to the control tower.

Back on the calm, quiet ground, the visceral nature of the last half hour settles in. It's long been a dream, since I'd spend Boxing Days building models of Sopwith Pups and Heinkel He 111s to experience a flight in a wartime plane. And, though the Tiger Moth may not have seen combat - despite its rare outings as a makeshift maritime patrol - its contribution to the war effort, in the training of so many young pilots, means its place in history is no less assured than many of the aircraft which did.

Regardless, my time with it has been unforgettable; it's a no-brainer for anyone with a passion for history, flying, or even just pretty views, and I'm certainly determined to experience something similar again. I hear Goodwood'll take me up in their Spitfire in exchange for a couple of grand - time to start saving...















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Author
Discussion

HeMightBeBanned

Original Poster:

528 posts

125 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
I flew one a few years ago. Utterly joyful experience and a million miles from the Pipers and Cessnas that I got my PPL in.

Alfa Pete

130 posts

173 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
My dad learnt to fly in one in the early fifties when he was 18 and in the RAF. He had his pilot’s licence before he could drive.
Many years later on his 60th birthday we treated him to a Tiger Moth flying experience at Duxford.
He turned up with his RAF log book and the pilot let him take the controls and he got about twice as long i the air as he was meant to.

TWPC

649 posts

108 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
What a great article - thanks Dafydd. I'd love to go for a ride in one of those - to be added to my next birthday present wish list.

As a child, the best job that any of the parents of my friends in primary school had was a Concorde pilot. We lived in the country and he had a Tiger Moth in a small hangar at the bottom of his garden that opened onto a long rectangular field. He was only allowed to fly it a few days each year but even as a WW2 plane obsessed child focusing mainly on Mosquitos, Spitfires, Mustangs and FW190s, you sort of understood that if a Concorde pilot had a Tiger Moth it must be something quite special.

Turbobanana

1,526 posts

148 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
I work in Milton Keynes and, although I can't be sure, I reckon I saw this fly over a few weeks ago - was it you?

Looks like great fun, and I particularly love the "SMOKING PROHIBITED" plaque on the dash smile

crofty1984

13,448 posts

151 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Oh my. They're rather affordable aren't they?

V8 FOU

2,647 posts

94 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
I've clocked up a few hours in a Tiger Moth. So much better than anything else. Like a motorbike with wings. Take off is amazing - give it the beans and it's hop, skip and jump and we're airborne. Landing, however, is a different matter!

Never bothered about getting a ppl - more interested in a ppl(h) - but one of these could turn my head!!

Harry Flashman

13,426 posts

189 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
What an unexpected and great article!

The Crack Fox

13,709 posts

139 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Fantastic machines.

Very occasionally I go barnstorming (racing cars against vintage planes for those that don't know the word). Probably quite illegal, definitely dangerous and environmentally irresponsible, some say. Here's a pic of one of my favourite outings, ever;



Eric Mc

107,865 posts

212 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Is this sentence actually true?

"Although it was designed with military applications in mind...."

Or was the word "not" omitted in error?

V8 FOU

2,647 posts

94 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
[quote=The Crack Fox]Fantastic machines.

Very occasionally I go barnstorming (racing cars against vintage planes for those that don't know the word). Probably quite illegal, definitely dangerous and environmentally irresponsible, some say. Here's a pic of one of my favourite outings, ever;

[
Rich, count me in next time you do this!!!!

Bill Ferry

55 posts

101 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Nice article, good photo's.
This for me is a life-long love affair, and I so did not expect to see this on here. So thank you for this rare treat,
A lovely thing, especially in this colourway, my preferred format.. and NO, I don't have one either.
But, how I wish..
Given a choice of any overpriced, tasteless, tacky, vulgar, overblown mega-car, or one of these beauties, I think you would understand where my views would lead me.?
And please.. no outbursts of outrage from aforementioned "tasteless, tacky" etc.
Peace.. have a great day.
WF

Lowtimer

4,088 posts

115 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
crofty1984 said:
Oh my. They're rather affordable aren't they?
Depends what you regard as affordable.

Purchase price: Anything between £50K and £75K for a nice fresh one with a recent fabric re-covering job and a low hours engine.
Engine life between overhauls is circa 1500 hours and it's about £30K - £35K for a good quality rebuild. So allow something like £20 an hour for the engine overhaul fund alone, plus about £55 an hour in fuel, and £3 an hour for oil.

Annual service about £2K, insurance maybe £1000 to £2000 a year, And they do need to be securely hangared, you can't leave one parked outside. So that's say £250 a month in southern England., call it £3000 a year.

So it adds up! Call it direct operating costs of £78 an hour and fixed costs of £6K a year. This is a good reason to own them in syndicates, usually of at least half a dozen well qualified people, ot spread out the fixed costs over a reasonable amount of flying. They are VERY expensive indulgences if you own one all by yourself.

another 3 points

833 posts

144 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Duxford has a couple of these wonderful aircraft regularly providing pleasure flights. Well worth a visit.

Eric Mc

107,865 posts

212 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Normally, the real expense of owning an aircraft is the post purchase maintenance and hangarage.

havoc

24,638 posts

182 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Harry Flashman said:
What an unexpected and great article!
yes

My thoughts indeed.

Long had a soft-spot for flying (wanted PPL until fast cars turned my head), stuff like this article doesn't help my bank balance!!! biggrin

ou sont les biscuits

4,047 posts

142 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Alfa Pete said:
My dad learnt to fly in one in the early fifties when he was 18 and in the RAF. He had his pilot’s licence before he could drive.
Many years later on his 60th birthday we treated him to a Tiger Moth flying experience at Duxford.
He turned up with his RAF log book and the pilot let him take the controls and he got about twice as long i the air as he was meant to.
My Dad too during the second World War. He could still recite the pre flight checklists seventy odd years later in his 90's. I don't think he could drive a car either!

Beechie

31 posts

19 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Eric Mc said:
Is this sentence actually true?

"Although it was designed with military applications in mind...."

Or was the word "not" omitted in error?
It was hoped by de Havilland that air forces would use it as a trainer. However, I don't think it was a particularly good sentence in that it lacked both content and clarity. Furthermore, something is either unprecedented or it isn't. It cannot be qualified.

unsprung

3,690 posts

71 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all


outstanding article; evocative photos

also...

SMOKING
PROHIBITED

and

SPEED MUST
NOT EXCEED
139 KNOTS

how truly far we've come, all these many years



w824gb3

205 posts

169 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
I flew in one from Duxford a few years ago. I can very much recommend the experience. When I told the pilot I had an interest in rc aircraft he gave me all the controls soon after take off and I had it until we turned onto finals for the landing. You can tell it made a good trainer - it wouldn't fly straight and level by itself. All the controls, especially the rudder needed constant small inputs and harmonisation for that. Must go back and have a go in the Harvard then the Spitfire once the lottery win comes.

Eric Mc

107,865 posts

212 months

Wednesday 15th August 2018
quotequote all
Beechie said:
Eric Mc said:
Is this sentence actually true?

"Although it was designed with military applications in mind...."

Or was the word "not" omitted in error?
It was hoped by de Havilland that air forces would use it as a trainer. However, I don't think it was a particularly good sentence in that it lacked both content and clarity. Furthermore, something is either unprecedented or it isn't. It cannot be qualified.
From my knowledge of the development of the Tiger Moth, it was originally conceived as a replacement for the DH60 Moth family - which was primarilly a civilian club aircraft (the DH60 even had folding wings to enable it to be towed behind a private car).

de Havilland wanted to "invert" the Gypsy engine in the new design. This caused a change in the weight and balance of the aircraft. They also wanted to reposition teh wings to allow better cockpit access. These requirements resulted in the wings of the DH82 having to be swept back. This in turn meant that there was danger of the lower wings snagging the ground, which in turn meant that they gave the lower wings increased dihedral to ensure better ground clearance.

Of course, production of the DH82 rocketed in World War 2 as it was built in large numbers as a primary trainer for the RAF and Royal Navy - as well as being built in Canada and Australia

Edited by Eric Mc on Wednesday 15th August 13:25