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de Havilland Tiger Moth

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

DH 82 Tiger Moth
de Havilland DH 82A Tiger Moth
Role Trainer
Manufacturer de Havilland Aircraft Company
Designed by Geoffrey de Havilland
First flight 26 October 1931
Introduced 1932
Retired 1959
Status Retired from military service, still in civil use
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force

Royal Indian Air Force
See other military operators
Produced 1931-1944
Number built 8,868[1]
Developed from de Havilland DH.60 Moth
Variants Thruxton Jackaroo

The de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth is a 1930s biplane designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and was operated by the Royal Air Force and others as a primary trainer. The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until 1952 when many of the surplus aircraft entered civil operation. Many other nations used the Tiger Moth both in military and civil applications and the ubiquitous little trainer is still in great demand worldwide as a recreational aircraft. It is still occasionally used as a primary training aircraft, although now most Tiger Moths employed in training duties are used by pilots gaining experience for "taildragger" license ratings.

Design and development

The Tiger Moth trainer prototype was derived from the DH 60 de Havilland Gipsy Moth. The main change to the DH Moth series was necessitated by a desire to improve access to the front cockpit since the training requirement specified that the front seat occupant had to be able to escape easily, especially when wearing a parachute. Access to the front cockpit of the Moth predecessors was restricted by the proximity of the aircraft's fuel tank directly above the front cockpit and the rear cabane struts for the upper wing. The solution adopted was to shift the upper wing forward but sweep the wings back to maintain the centre of lift. Bizarrely, this made the Tiger Moth (a piston-engined biplane with an 80-knot cruise speed) the RAF's first swept wing aircraft. Other changes included a strengthened structure, fold-down doors on both sides of the cockpit and a revised exhaust system. It was powered by a de Havilland Gipsy III 120 hp engine and first flew on 26 October 1931 with de Havilland Chief Test Pilot Hubert Broad at the controls.

One distinctive characteristic of the Tiger Moth design is its differential aileron control setup. The ailerons (on the lower wing only) on a Tiger Moth are operated by an externally mounted circular bellcrank, which lies flush with the lower wing's fabric undersurface covering. This circular bellcrank is rotated by metal cables and chains from the cockpit's control columns, and has the externally mounted aileron pushrod attached at a point 45º outboard and forward of the bellcrank's centre, when the ailerons are both at their neutral position. This results in an aileron control system operating, with barely any travel down at all on the wing on the outside of the turn, while the aileron on the inside travels a large amount upwards to counter-act adverse yaw.

From the outset, the Tiger Moth proved to be an ideal trainer, simple and cheap to own and maintain, although control movements required a positive and sure hand as there was a slowness to control inputs. Some instructors preferred these flight characteristics because of the effect of "weeding" out the inept student pilot.

Operational history

Tiger Moth aircraft under construction / maintenance, in the mid 20th Century, in Australia, at the Clyde Engineering works
Tiger Moth aircraft under construction / maintenance, in the mid 20th Century, in Australia, at the Clyde Engineering works

1933 de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth
1933 de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth

1939 de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth
1939 de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth

The RAF ordered 35 dual-control Tiger Moth Is which had the company designation DH 60T. A subsequent order was placed for 50 aircraft powered by the de Havilland Gipsy Major I engine (130 hp) which was the DH 82A or to the RAF Tiger Moth II. The Tiger Moth entered service at the RAF Central Flying School in February 1932. By the start of the Second World War, the RAF had 500 of the aircraft in service and large numbers of civilian Tiger Moths were impressed to meet the demand for trainers.

During a British production run of over 7,000 Tiger Moths, a total of 4,005 Tiger Moth IIs were built during the war specifically for the RAF, nearly half being built by the Morris Motor Company at Cowley, Oxford.

The Tiger Moth became the foremost primary trainer throughout the Commonwealth and elsewhere. It was the principal type used in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan where thousands of military pilots got their first taste of flight in this robust little machine. The RAF found the Tiger Moth's handling ideal for training future fighter pilots. Whilst generally docile and forgiving in the normal flight phases encountered during initial training, when used for aerobatic and formation training the Tiger Moth required definite skill and concentration to perform well — a botched manouevre could easily cause the aircraft to stall or spin.

DH.82A Tiger Moth, 2005
DH.82A Tiger Moth, 2005

DH-82B Queen Bee, 2008. Built 1944.
DH-82B Queen Bee, 2008. Built 1944.

A number of modified Tiger Moths were developed for special roles. A radio-controlled target tug version of the Tiger Moth II called the DH.82B Queen Bee was built with nearly 300 in service at the start of World War II. The Fleet Air Arm operated small numbers of the Tiger Moth II, and the Queen Bee. In the aftermath of Britain's disastrous campaign in France, in August 1940, three proposals involved beach defence systems; 350 Tiger Moths were fitted with bomb racks to serve as light bombers. A more radical conversion involved the "paraslasher," a scythe-like blade fitted to a Tiger Moth and intended to cut parachutist's canopies as they descended to earth. Flight tests proved the idea, but it was not officially adopted. The Tiger Moth was also tested as a "human crop sprayer" intended to dispense Paris Green poisonous insecticide from powder dispensers located under the wings.

In Canada, de Havilland manufactured 1,523 of the DH 82C, which had a 145 hp D.H. Gipsy Major 1C engine and other modifications including a tail wheel replacing the original tail skid, a stronger undercarriage with wheels set farther forward and enclosed cockpit with a sliding canopy necessitated by the cold northern climate. The de Havilland Canada operation also supplied 200 Tiger Moths to the USAAF, which designated them the PT-24. A further 151 were built in Norway, Sweden and Portugal while 2,949 Tiger Moths were built by other countries of the British Commonwealth.


Early aerial topdressing conversion of the Tiger Moth exhibited in Te Papa Museum
Early aerial topdressing conversion of the Tiger Moth exhibited in Te Papa Museum

In postwar use, surplus Tiger Moths were made available for sale to flying clubs and individuals. They proved to be inexpensive to operate and found enthusiastic reception in the civil market, taking on new roles including aerial advertiser, aerial ambulance, aerobatic performer, crop duster and glider tug. They were often compared with the Stampe SV.4 famous aerobatic aircraft.

After the invention of aerial topdressing in New Zealand, large numbers of ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Tiger Moths built in that country were converted into agricultural aircraft. The front seat was replaced with a hopper to hold superphosphate for aerial topdressing. From the mid 1950s, these topdressers were replaced by more modern types such as the PAC Fletcher, and a large number of New Zealand Tiger Moths in good flying condition then passed to enthusiasts.

Royal Navy Tiger Moths utilised as target tugs and "air experience" machines became the last military aircraft when the service purchased a batch of refurbished examples in 1956.

Tiger Moths were often modified to stand in for rarer aircraft in films. Notably, Tiger Moth biplanes were used in the crash scenes in The Great Waldo Pepper, standing in for the Curtiss JN-1.


de Havilland Canada DH.82C in Commonwealth Air Training Plan
de Havilland Canada DH.82C in Commonwealth Air Training Plan "trainer yellow" at the Western Canada Aviation Museum (note the skis)
DH.60T Moth Trainer
Military training version of the De Havilland DH.60 Moth.
DH.82 Tiger Moth (Tiger Moth I)
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft. Powered by a 120-hp (89-kW) De Havilland Gipsy III piston engine; renamed Tiger Moth I in RAF.
DH.82A Tiger Moth (Tiger Moth II)
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft. Powered by a 130-hp (97-kW) De Havilland Gipsy Major piston engine. Named Tiger Moth II in RAF.
DH.82B Queen Bee
Unmanned radio-controlled target drone; 380 built. As of 2008 the sole remaining airworthy Queen Bee resides at RAF Henlow, England.
DH.82C Tiger Moth
Cold weather operations version for the RCAF. Fitted with sliding glass canopies and cockpit heating. Powered by a 145-hp (108-kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major piston engine; 1,523 built.
PT-24 Moth
United States military designation for the DH.82C ordered for Lend-Lease to the Royal Canadian Air Force; 200 built by de Havilland Canada.
Thruxton Jackaroo
Four-seat cabin biplane, modified from existing DH82 airframes.


DH.82A Tiger Moth in RAAF markings
DH.82A Tiger Moth in RAAF markings

DH.82A Tiger Moth in Royal Norwegian Air Force markings
DH.82A Tiger Moth in Royal Norwegian Air Force markings

Military operators

Template:Flag of Iran.svg (
 New Zealand
Spanish State
 South Africa
 Sri Lanka
 United Kingdom


Tiger Moth II preserved at the Polish Aviation Museum
Tiger Moth II preserved at the Polish Aviation Museum

Numerous examples of the Tiger Moth are still flying today (an estimated 250). The number of airworthy Tiger Moths has increased as previously neglected aircraft (or those previously only used for static display in museums) have been restored. A number of aircraft have been preserved as museum displays (amongst others) at the:

Specifications (DH 82A)

Data from The Tiger Moth Story

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2, student & instructor
  • Length: 23 ft 11 in (7.34 m)
  • Wingspan: 29 ft 4 in (8.94 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 9 in (2.68 m)
  • Wing area: 239 ft² (22.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 1,115 lb (506 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 1,825 lb (828 kg)
  • Powerplant:de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted 4-cylinder inline, 130 hp (100 kW)


See also

  • Thunderbird 6, a film which features the Tiger Moth prominently.

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


External links

Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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