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The de Havilland Tiger Moth biplane is an iconic and instantly recognisable aircraft. It is also one of a handful of planes that attracts the widest possible recognition outside the specialist group. Of nearly 10,000 built, it is thought that more than 1,000 Tiger Moths still survive over six decades on, and over half remain airworthy. They are also affordable classic aircraft at £40-50,000 for an airworthy example. The author takes a close look at the construction of the Tiger Moth, acquiring and restoring an example, owning and flying one, and the engineer's view of keeping it all running and airworthy.
The de Havilland Tiger Moth is probably the best-known biplane in the world, with a distinctive silhouette that matches its name. The appearance of a Tiger Moth against a summer sky continues to evoke thoughts of a 'golden era' of aviation, before tarmac runways, radios and control towers, when every flight offered some form of adventure.
The Tiger Moth Manual takes a look at the diverse history of this aeroplane and provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight into what is involved in restoring, flying and maintaining a Tiger Moth today, approaching 80 years after the first prototype flew.
Even at the peak of its wartime service career, the Tiger Moth was an anachronism, a biplane trainer in an era of monoplane fighters and sophisticated multi-engine bombers. Yet it successfully trained the pilots who went on to fly Spitfires, Mosquitoes and Lancasters. Later graduates would move on to the first generation of supersonic fighters and jet airliners.
The tough, fabric-covered airframe and robust Gipsy Major engine, both revealed in fascinating detail in the Tiger Moth Manual, are proof that good design can stand the test of time. Of around 8,600 Tiger Moths built between 1931 and 1945, over 1,000 survive today. Of these, around 650 remain airworthy - a truly remarkable survival rate.
In addition to looking at the challenges of maintaining an aircraft which has its design roots dating back to the First World War, the Tiger Moth Manual uncovers other equally relevant important skills from the past - from safely swinging the propeller to start the engine, to achieving the elusive three-point landing, when tailskid, mainwheels and the ground connect in unison.