Eighty two years after flying for the first time, the de Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth might be one of the most iconic and loved aircraft of all time.
After numerous redesigns from the original aircraft, the de Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth took to the air for the first time on 26 October 1931 at Stag Lane Aerodrome, England. An order for 35 was placed and the first few aeroplanes were delivered to No. 3 Flying Training School at Grantham in November 1931.
In May 1932 more Tiger Moths were delivered to the Central Flying School where pilots displayed the aircraft's skills and the inverted flying capability of the trainer at the Hendon display.
Soon after, de Havilland made some adjustments to the original Moth, fitting it with a 130-hp Gipsy Major engine. The rear fuselage decking was changed to plywood instead of fabric. The new and improved version, the D.H.82A was named Tiger Moth II by the RAF (Royal Air Force), who also ordered 50.
The two-seat training/sporting biplane, powered by one 145-hp (108kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major 1C inline piston engine, can reach a maximum speed of 107mph (172km/h) and cruises at 90mph (145km/h).
Span: 29 ft 4 in (8,94 m)
Length: 23 ft 11 in (7,29 m)
Height: 8 ft 10 in (2,69 m)
Wing Area: 239,0 sq ft (22,2 sq m)
Soon, manufacturing started in Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Canada. A winterized version, the D.H.82C, was introduced and 1 520 of this version was produced, with a 145-hp Gipsy Major engine and a revised cowling, sliding cockpit canopies, cockpit heating, wheel brakes and a tailwheel in place of the standard skid.
The outbreak of the Second World War saw all civil aircraft used by the RAF for communications and training duties and a large order of Tiger Moths where placed. 795 aeroplanes where built at Hatfield, 3500 at Cowley, 345 at de Havilland Aircraft of New Zealand and 1085 in Australia.
In the Far East, the Tiger Moth was even converted into ambulance aircraft, enlarging the locker lid and cutting a hinged lid into the rear fuselage decking. This provided a 6 ft (1,83m) long compartment which could easily accommodate one casualty.
The Tiger Moth made its biggest contribution to the war as a trainer aircraft, and was used in 28 Elementary Flying Training Schools in the United Kingdom, 25 in Canada, 12 in Australia, 4 in Rhodesia, 2 in India and 7 in South Africa.
Due to the success of the D.H.82 Tiger Moth as a training aircraft, a military version called the D.H.60T was soon designed and introduced. This aircraft was strengthened which allowed for operation at higher all-up weight, and it could also carry practice bombs and be fitted with a camera gun, making it suitable for various training exercises.
By the end of WWII, 8 000 Tiger Moths had been produced. After peace was declared the war surplus of the aircraft was transferred to Belgium, France and the Netherlands for civil or military use by the RAF.
In addition to their use as trainers, the Tiger Moth became popular aircraft for sport and pleasure for civilians in the United Kingdom and many gave valuable service in the agricultural world, proving to be of great importance to New Zeeland.
Thus, today the de Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth remains a collector's item for reasons of history and sentiment, for value, as well as an enduring reminder of what was once of the world's most important aircraft.
According to The de Havilland Aircraft Association of South Africa ( www.dehavilland.co.za
), a non-profit volunteer organisation based in Johannesburg, there were about 380 D.H.82 Tiger Moths that saw service in South Africa. Their website contains a page that list all know Tiger Moth aircraft with their construction numbers, registrations, histories and photographs where possible. The association is dedicated to all de Havilland aircraft that have seen service in South Africa and carried South African registrations.