deHavilland DH82 Tiger Moth
The World's Primary Trainer
The first time I strapped on a Tiger Moth I had to laugh. For one thing,
there was this HUGE compass projecting up off the floor between my knees.
It was fashioned of polished brass and swung in gimbals to keep it level
in all attitudes. It would have been more at home in a yacht
My feet were resting on a true rudder bar—it was a healthy looking
bar with a pad on each end for my feet. A leather strap ran over the
top of each foot loosely trapping it in place. And there were no brake
pedals. You set a lever for the amount of brake wanted, then pushing
the rudder bar all the way down gave you brake on that side
Like the rest of the airplane, the Gypsy Major 1C up front (142 hp,
373 cubic inches) is an ancient 1920’s design and, when it is
kicked into life, the four short, inline stacks give it a vaguely Massey-Fergusen
The little wooden doors that flip up and close over your shoulders are
barely noticeable and the view around the nose is actually not bad because
you’re so far back in the airplane and the fuselage is so narrow.
Still, gentle S-turns are an absolute necessity if you don’t want
to taxi into something the size of a fuel truck because it’s stone
blind straight ahead.
Takeoffs can best be described as “leisurely and civilized.”
The engine pop-pop-pops its way up to something like 1800 rpm, the airplane
gently begins to move then literally floats off the ground at some ridiculously
slow speed. Compared to other aircraft, it feels as if you’re
moving at a fast walk. It also has a definite kite-like feel to it because
it is so light and has so much wing area that there is no doubt it is
flying on the wings not the engine.
The brass-framed, faceted windshield holds most of the slip stream at
bay, but just enough wind finds its way into the cockpit that it ruffles
your helmet a little to remind you that you’re in an open cockpit.
In the air, the word “leisurely” again keeps popping into
mind. The huge ailerons and light wing loading definitely remove the
airplane from the Pitts category because even big aileron deflections
don’t result in big movements. The airplane is graceful in the
extreme, but it wasn’t born to be a dancer. Plus you’re
popping along at something less than 85 mph, so the occasional ultralight
will pass you.
Landing the airplane is the ultimate in simplicity. It has the drag
coefficient a parachute, so when the power is brought back on final,
the nose is so far down to maintain speed that the runway remains firmly
in sight. It’s only when the ground gets big and you begin to
rotate into that steeper-than-average three-point attitude that the
In the process of flairing to land two things happen: first, the natural
background noise of the slipstream tripping over wires and struts changes
tone. It gets lower then slowly fades as the airplane settles onto the
runway. Also, the airplane slows to a near-stop while still in the air
and the impression is that you hovered to touchdown. It is all so verrry
civilized. And so verrry British.
During WWII, we had the Stearman. The rest of the good guyss, however,
had the Tiger Moth.
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