de Havilland Tiger Moth


The success of the de Havilland Moth as a civil trainer led, inevitably, to the development of a military version known as the D.H.60T Moth Trainer. Compared with the earliest civil versions the D.H.60T was strengthened to allow it to operate at a higher all-up weight, and it could also carry four 20 lbs (9 kg) practice bombs under the fuselage. It could also be fitted with a camera gun, or reconnaissance cameras, and was therefore suitable for various training roles.

Proposed to the the British Air Ministry as a a basic trainer, concerns were raised about access to the front cockpit for airmen in full RAF equipment. Designer A.E.Hagg and De Havilland engineers took a D.H.60M-III, dismantled it and rearranged the components to create a mockup. To aid escape from the front cockpit in emergency, the rear flying wires were angled forward to the front wing root fitting, and the cockpit doors deepened. The centre-section struts still surrounded the front cockpit, and in a new trainer which was developed to Specification 15/31 these were moved forward 22 inches (56 cm) and to offset the effect of resulting centre of gravity changes caused by staggering of the wings, the wings were given a sweepback of 19 inches (48 cm) to compensate for the changes to the centre of gravity. An 120 hp (89 kW) Gipsy III inverted inline engine was installed, the sloping line of the engine cowling providing improved visibility from the cockpit.

Eight pre-production aircraft were built, still designated D.H.60T, but bearing the name Tiger Moth. These were followed by a machine with increased lower wing dihedral and sweepback. This aircraft, designated de Havilland D.H.82, was first flown at Stag Lane on 26 October 1931 by pilot Huburt Broad. An order for 35 was placed to Specification T.23/31, and first deliveries were made to No.3 Flying Training School at Grantham in November 1931. Others went to the Central Flying School in May 1932, and a team of five CFS pilots displayed their skill and the inverted flying capability of this new trainer at the 1932 Hendon Display. Similar machines were supplied to the air forces of Brazil, Denmark, Persia, Portugal and Sweden and two with twin floats supplied by Short Brothers were built to Specification T.6/33 for RAF evaluation at Rochester and Felixstowe.

De Havilland then developed an improved version, with a 130 hp (97 kW) Gipsy Major engine and plywood rear fuselage decking in place of the fabric covering of the initial production aircraft. This was designated D.H.82A and named Tiger Moth II by the RAF, which ordered 50 to Specification T.26/33. Tiger Moth IIs had hoods which could be positioned over the rear cockpit for instrument flying instruction, and were delivered to Kenley between November 1934 and January 1935. Others were supplied to the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the de Havilland School of Flying, Brooklands Aviation Ltd, Phillips and Powis School of Flying, Reid and Sigrist Ltd, Airwork Ltd and Scottish Aviation Ltd for the Elementary and Reserve Flying Schools which these companies operated under the RAF expansion scheme. No fewer than 44 such schools were in operation in August 1939, although 20 of them closed when hostilities began.

Pre-war licence manufacture of the Tiger Moth included aircraft built in Norway, Portugal and Sweden, and by de Havilland Aircraft of Canada, whose pre-war output included 227 D.H.82As. The company later built 1,520 of a winterised version, designated D.H.82C, which had a 145 hp (108 kW) Gipsy Major engine with a revised cowling, sliding cockpit canopies, cockpit heating, wheel brakes and a tailwheel in place of the standard skid. Skis or floats could be fitted if required, and some examples were powered by a 125 hp (93 kW) Menasco Super Pirate D4 engine when Gipsy Majors came into short supply. A batch of 200 D.H.82Cs was ordered by the US Army Air Force, with the designation PT-24, although they were diverted for use by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The outbreak of war saw civil machines impressed for RAF communications and training duties, and larger orders were placed. A further 795 were built at Hatfield before the factory was turned over to de Havilland Mosquito production, when the Tiger Moth line was re-established at the Cowley works of Morris Motors Ltd, where some 3,500 were manufactured. De Havilland Aircraft of New Zealand built a further 345, and in Australia de Havilland Aircraft Pty produced a total of 1,085.

On 17 September 1939, just two weeks after war had been declared, 'A' Flight of the British Expeditionary Force Communications Squadron (later No. 81 Squadron) was despatched to France. Throughout the winter and the following spring, the unit's Tiger Moths operated in northern France, providing valuable communications facilities until the Dunkirk evacuation, when surviving aircraft were flown back to Britain.

Preparations were also made for the Tiger Moth to be used in an offensive role, to combat the threatened German invasion. Racks designed to carry eight 20 lbs (9 kg) bombs were fitted under the rear cockpit or, more suitably, beneath the wings. Although some 1,500 sets of racks were made and distributed to the Flying Schools, none were used operationally. Rather earlier, in December 1939, six coastal patrol squadrons were formed, five of them equipped with Tiger Moths. Although incapable of attacking since it was unarmed, it was thought that the mere sound and presence of an aircraft in the vicinity of a U-boat might deter the U-boat commander from running on the surface and thus reduce his capacity to attack shipping.

In the Far East a small number of Tiger Moths were converted for use as ambulance aircraft with No. 224 Squadron, the luggage locker lid being enlarged and a hinged lid cut into the rear fuselage decking, providing a compartment some 6 ft (1.83 m) long which could accommodate one casualty.

It was in a wartime trainer role, however, that the Tiger Moth made its greatest contribution. The type equipped no fewer than 28 Elementary Flying Training Schools in the UK, 25 in Canada (plus four Wireless Schools), 12 in Australia, 4 in Rhodesia (plus a Flying Instructors School), 7 in South Africa, and 2 in India. After the war 22 Reserve Flying Schools and 18 University Air Squadrons flew Tiger Moths, most re-equipping with the de Havilland Chipmunk between 1950 and 1953.

Mention should be made also ot the D.H.82B Queen Bee radio-controlled target aircraft, which was essentially a version of the Tiger Moth with a basic structure of wood. It had the Moth Major fuselage, Tiger Moth wings, Gipsy Major engine, a wind-driven generator to provide electrical power, and a larger-capacity fuel tank. The prototype was flown manually on 5 January 1935, and 380 were built subsequently.

More than 8,000 Tiger Moths had been built by the end of the war and, as can be imagined, there were large numbers to be disposed of as war-surplus. The RAF transferred many for civil and military use to Belgium, France and the Netherlands, but in the UK and elsewhere they became available in quantity on the civil market where they sold for as little as 50 for a flyable Tiger Moth and 5 for a brand new Gipsy Major engine, still in the maker's crate. In addition to obvious use as trainers, or for sport and pleasure, they found unexpected employment. Many gave valuable service in an agricultural duster/sprayer capacity, a role which proved to be of great importance to New Zealand.

A number were the subject of conversion schemes, usually to provide enclosed accommodation. The most ambitious was that carried out by the British company Jackaroo Aircraft Ltd, which involved widening the fuselage to seat four passengers in side-by-side pairs; open cockpit and enclosed cabin variants were included in the 19 Thruxton Jackaroo conversions completed by the company in the period 1957-59. It was once said that the initials D.H. stood for Durable and efficient, and that is particularly true of the Tiger Moth. In the year 2000 large numbers still remain in use worldwide, veritable treasures that are difficult to acquire and likely to appreciate in value and continue to provide pleasure for many years to come.


De Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth Mk I - Eight pre-production D.H.60T Tiger Moth aircraft were produced, but revised Ministry Specification T.23/31 called for some changes which resulted in an increased lower wing dihedral and sweepback. This aircraft was designated D.H.82 and first flown on 26 October 1931. The R.A.F. ordered 35 aircraft for its training schools and export orders for another 66 aircraft soon followed. These aircraft were powered by a 120 hp (89 kW) Gypsy Major III 4-cylinder engine.

De Havilland D.H.82A Tiger Moth Mk II - Similar to the Mk I, it differed only in a slightly more powerful 130 hp (97 kW) Gypsy Major 4-cylinder engine and plywood covering on some areas in stead of fabric. It also featured a hood over the rear cockpit to train pilots on instrument flying. Production started at a leisurely rate, but when the War broke out it was decided that the Mk II would be the main trainer of the Empire Air Training Scheme schools all over the world. Production ensued in over 6 countries. Number built: 7,058.

De Havilland D.H.82B Queen Bee - An all-wood radio controlled target for anti-aircraft gunnery training. It featured the fuselage of the D.H.60 Moth Major, wings of the D.H.82A Tiger Moth, a 130 hp (97 kW) Gypsy Major 4-cylinder, a larger capacity fuel tank, and a slipstream-driven generator for electrical power. Number built: 380.

De Havilland D.H.82C Tiger Moth - A Canadian winterized version, featuring an enclosed heated cockpit, wheel breaks, a tailwheel instead of the tailskid, stronger undercarriage with the wheels set slightly forward and the provision for use of ski's or floats in stead of wheels. The powerplant was either the Gipsy Major IC, rated at 145 hp (108 kW), or the Menasco Super Pirate D4 Inverted inline, rated at 125 hp (93 kW), epending on the availability of the Gipsy Major IC. 136 aircraft finally received the Menasco engine, the rest were equipped with Gipsy Major IC engine. Number built: 1,553.

De Havilland D.H.82C2 Menasco Moth I - The Menasco Super Pirate engine was built in the United States by the Menasco Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles, California. During the manufacture of the Tiger Moth by de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (1937 - 1945), engines for the machines were made in Britain and concern was felt about their continuing supply under wartime conditions, therefore, Menasco was licensed to build a version of the successful Pirate engine. 126 aircraft were in service with the Royal Canadian Air Force and originally used as standard trainers, but the lower powered Menasco engine was not ideal in this role, and many ended up as radio/wireless training aircraft. The Tiger Moth and Menasco Moths were identical in appearance except that the engine cooling air inlet was on the right on the Menasco and in the left on the Tiger Moth and they had opposite-handed propellers.

De Havilland D.H.82C4 Menasco Moth II - 10 aircraft in service with the Royal Canadian Air Force used as wireless trainers, otherwise the same as above.

De Havilland PT-24 - A batch of 200 D.H.82Cs was initally ordered by the US Army Air Force, under the designation PT-24, but were impressed into service with the Royal Canadian Air Force instead.

Thruxton Jackaroo - The British company Jackaroo Aircraft Limited carried out conversions on 19 aircraft between 1957 and 1959. These conversions involved widening the fuselage to seat four passengers in side-by-side pairs. Open cockpit and enclosed cabin variants were included in the 19 Thruxton Jackaroo conversions.

Specifications (de Havilland D.H.82A Tiger Moth II)

Type: Two Seat Primary Trainer, Air Ambulance, Communications & Sporting Aircraft

Accommodation/Crew: Instructor and Student sitting in open tandem cockpits with complete dual controls.

Design: De Havilland Chief Designer Arthur E. Hagg.

Manufacturer: The de Havilland Aircraft Company Limited was established in 1920 by Geoffrey De Havilland and originally based in Stag Lane, Edgware, Middlesex in England (5 miles north of London). In 1934 the company moved 13 miles north to Hatfield, Hertfordshire (Herts) in England. The Stag Lane factory was retained for engine development and production and for the development and production of variable-pitch propellers for in 1934 a licence had been obtained from Hamilton Standard for the production of the hydromatic propeller. Another factory in Bolton, Lancashire in England was later acquired for propeller production. When the main factory at Hatfield was turned over to Mosquito production, the Cowley works of Morris Motors Limited was contracted to continue the production of the Tiger Moth. Two floatplane versions were produced for the R.A.F. with floats supplied by Short Brothers in England. Associated Companies were as follows:

  • The de Havilland Aircraft Pty. Limited of Kingsford Smith Aerodrome, Mascot, N.S.W. Australia.

  • The de Havilland Aircraft Company of New Zealand Limited of Rongotai, Wellington, New Zealand.

  • The de Havilland Aircraft Company of Canada Limited of Downsview, Ontario, Canada.

  • The de Havilland Aircraft Company Limited of Finlay House, McLeod Road, Karachi, India.

  • The de Havilland Aircraft Company of South Africa Limited (Pty.) of Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • The de Havilland Aircraft Company (Rhodesia) Limited, Salisbury, Rhodesia.

  • The de Havilland Forge Company Limited in England.

  • The Hearle-Whitley Engineering Company Limited of England.

  • Airspeed Limited of Portsmith, Hants, England which was aquired by de Havilland in 1940. They retained their separate identity.

Powerplant: (D.H.82A) One 130 hp (97 kW) de Havilland Gypsy Major 4-cylinder inline inverted air-cooled engine. (D.H.82C) One 145 hp (108 kW) de Havilland Gypsy Major IC 4-cylinder inline inverted air-cooled engine or a 125 hp (93 kW) Menasco Super Pirate D4 four-cylinder inline inverted air-cooled engine.

Performance: (D.H.82A - Maximum Loaded Weight) Maximum speed 109 mph (175 km/h) at sea level; cruising speed 90 mph (145 km/h); stalling speed 43 mph (69 km/h); initial rate of climb 673 ft (205.1 m) per minute; climb to 5,000 ft (1524 m) in 9 minutes, climb to 10,000 ft (3048 m) in 23.5 minutes; service ceiling 13,600 ft (4145 m); absolute service ceiling 15,500 ft (4724 m).

Fuel Capacity: 19 Imperial gallons (86.3 litres) in centre-section with an optional 10 Imperial gallon (45.4 litres) fuel tank in front cockpit.

Range: (D.H.82A - Maximum Loaded Weight) 285 miles (459 km) on internal fuel of 19 Imperial gallons (86.3 litres). (D.H.82C - Maximum Loaded Weight) 275 miles (443 miles) on internal fuel. A range of about 302 miles (486 km) could be attained using a more economical cruising speed while in the aerobatic configuration.

Weight: Empty 1,115 lbs (506 kg) with a nominal (aerobatic configuration) take-off weight of 1,770 lbs (804 kg) and a maximum take-off weight of 1,825 lbs (829 kg).

Dimensions: Span 29 ft 4 in (8.94 m); length 23 ft 9 1/2 in (2.71 m); height 8 ft 10 in (2.69 m); wing area 239.0 sq ft (22.2 sq m); chord 4 ft 4 1/2 in (1.33 m).

Armament: Provision for eight 20 lbs (9 kg) bombs on racks beneath the rear cockpit or beneath the wings (1,500 sets of bomb racks were produced, but they were never used operationally).

Variants: D.H.60T Tiger Moth, D.H.82 Tiger Moth (prototype), D.H.82A Tiger Moth II, D.H.82C Tiger Moth (Canadian), D.H.82C2 Menasco Moth I, D.H.82C4 Menasco Moth II, PT-24, D.H.82B Queen Bee, Thruxton Jackaroo.

Equipment/Avionics: Equipment varied depending on role performed.

Wings/Fuselage/Tail Unit: The wings are of an equal span single-bay biplane type. Centre-section incorporating the fuel tank is carried above the fuselage on N-struts in front of the front cockpit. Wings are staggered and swept back giving maximum visibility and ease of egress from both cockpits. Structure consists of two I-section Sitka Spruce spars and Sitka Spruce ribs with fabric covering all. Lower ends of rear flying wires carried to the front root fitting of lower wings. Ailerons on lower wings only. The fuselage was of rectangular steel-tube construction covered with fabric with plywood used on the fuselage rear decking instead of fabric. The tail unit was a monoplane type with wooden construction, fabric covering and a balanced rudder. Elevators have an adjustable spring-loading device. See below for more detail on the wood used in construction.

Sitka Spruce (Picea Sitchensis): A northern temperate conifer growing naturally on the Pacific coast belt of Canada and the United States of America. It is widely grown in plantations in the United Kingdom, particularly in Wales, although it does not attain the same size there as it does in nature. The timber from Sitka spruce is mostly straight grained, fine and even in texture with a creamy white colour and pinkish tinge. It is a non-resinous, non-durable timber, without odour and therefore non-tainting, is soft and light in weight, and generally fast grown under UK conditions. The grain varies from straight to spiral, and the texture is coarse. Plantation timber weighs around 400 kg/m3 when dried compared to 450 kg/m3 for the naturally occurring timber.

Landing Gear: They are of a fixed split type. Rubber-in-compression springing with low pressure wheels. Twin long step duralumin floats may be fitted in place of land undercarriage, and skis may be interchanged with the wheels.

History: First flight (prototype) 26 October 1931; first flight (D.H.82B Queen Bee) 5 January 1935.

Operators: Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Denmark, Persia, Portugal, Sweden.