de Havilland Tiger Moth

de Havilland Tiger Moth
DH 82 Tiger Moth
de Havilland DH 82A Tiger Moth
Role Trainer
Manufacturer de Havilland Aircraft Company
Designer Geoffrey de Havilland
First flight 26 October 1931
Introduction 1932
Retired 1959
Status Retired from military service, still in civil use
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Royal New Zealand Air Force
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 (RAF) and others as a primary trainer. The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until replaced by the de Havilland Chipmunk in 1952, when many of the surplus aircraft entered civil operation. Many other nations used the Tiger Moth in both military and civil applications, and it remains in widespread use as a recreational aircraft in many countries. It is still occasionally used as a primary training aircraft, particularly for those pilots wanting to gain experience before moving on to other tailwheel aircraft, although most Tiger Moths have a skid. Many are now employed by various companies offering trial lesson experiences. Those in private hands generally fly far fewer hours and tend to be kept in concours condition. The de Havilland Moth club founded 1975 is now a highly organized owners' association offering technical support and focus for Moth enthusiasts.


Design and development

The Tiger Moth trainer prototype was derived from the DH 60 de Havilland Gipsy Moth in response to Air Ministry specification 13/31 for an ab-initio training aircraft. 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.[2] 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.[3] Other changes included a strengthened structure, fold-down doors on both sides of the cockpit and a revised exhaust system.[2] 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.[4]

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.[5]

Operational history

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
1939 de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth

The RAF ordered 35 dual-control Tiger Moth Is which had the company designation DH 82.[6] 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 manoeuvre could easily cause the aircraft to stall or spin.

DH.82A Tiger Moth, 2005
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 first built in 1935,[7] with nearly 300 in service at the start of the Second World, (it is believed the name "Drone" derived from "Queen Bee"). These aircraft retained a normal front cockpit for test-flying or ferry flights, but had a radio-control system in the rear cockpit that operated the controls using pneumaticically-driven servos. Four-hundred were built by de Havilland at Hatfield, and a further 70 by Scottish Aviation.[8]

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 as a part of Operation Banquet. A more radical conversion involved the "paraslasher," a scythe-like blade fitted to a Tiger Moth and intended to cut parachutists' 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.


Tiger Moth Coupe with spatted undercarriage at Coventry Airport in 1955
Dutch Tiger Moth with the extended fin area required by the local authorities
Early aerial topdressing conversion of the Tiger Moth exhibited in Te Papa Museum

In postwar use, large numbers of 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.

The Tiger Moth was often compared with the Belgian-designed Stampe SV.4 aerobatic aircraft which had a very similar design layout. Several Tiger Moths were converted during the 1950s to Coupe standard with a sliding canopy over both crew positions.

Many ex-RAF examples imported to the Netherlands post war were required by the Dutch civil aviation authorities to be fitted with additional fin area, incorporating an extended forward fillet to the fin.

After the development of aerial topdressing in New Zealand, large numbers of ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Tiger Moths built in that country and in the United Kingdom 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 were then passed to pilot owner enthusiasts.

Royal Navy Tiger Moths utilised as target tugs and "air experience" machines became the last military examples when that service purchased a batch of refurbished ex civil examples in 1956.[11] One became the last biplane to land on an aircraft carrier (HMS Eagle) in the English Channel during the Summer of 1967. On take-off the wind over the deck meant she took off but was slower than the carrier, who turned hard starboard to avoid a possible collision. These remained in service until the early 1970s.

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.

Flying the Tiger Moth

The Tiger Moth responds well to control input, and is fairly easy to fly for a tail dragger. Its big "parachute" wings are very forgiving, and it stall as slow as 25 knots with power. Its stall and spin characteristics are benign. It has some adverse yaw, and so requires rudder input during turns.[12]

As the Tiger Moth has no electrical system, it must be started by hand. This needs to be done with care to prevent being struck by the propeller which would result in serious injury. Being a tail-dragging biplane, taxiing also requires care. The pilot cannot see directly ahead, the lower wing can hit obstructions, and it is susceptible to gusts of wind on its inclined, large, upper wing.[12]

The take off is then uneventful, and it has a reasonable rate of climb. However, full power should not be maintained for more than a minute or so to avoid damaging the engine.[12]

The Tiger Moth's biplane design makes it strong, and it is fully aerobatic. But surprisingly it only has ailerons on its bottom wing, which makes its rate of roll relatively slow for a biplane. Most manoeuvres are started at about 90 to 110 knots, and it has a Velocity Never Exceeded (VNE) of 140 knots. It is important to lock the automatic slots (leading edge flaps) during aerobatic manoeuvres.[12]

"Wheel" landings are straight forward, as the plane is pushed on to the runway at a moderate speed with just the front wheels on the ground, and then the tail is held up until the speed reduces. Being an open cockpit the pilot can stick their head over the side to see the runway. Being a tail dragger it is essential to land it straight with no sideways movement to avoid ground loops.[12]

Three point landings are difficult because there is insufficient elevator authority to pull the tail down into a proper three point position. Instead, the aircraft must be flared several metres above the ground, then allowed to drop before sharply bringing the stick back. If done correctly the resultant angular momentum will bring the tail down far enough to land on all three points.


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/Tiger Moth
Military training version of the De Havilland DH.60 Moth. First eight prototype DH.82 configuration aircraft were named Tiger Moth.[13]
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, cockpit heating, brakes and metal struts. 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 DH.82A airframes.


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

Military operators

  • Belgian Air Force (31 operated from 1945)
  • Burma Volunteer Air Force
  • Burma Air Force
  • Royal Ceylon Air Force
 Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Force Aérienne Congolaise
  • Czechoslovakian Air Force - One aircraft in service from 1945 to 1948.
British Raj  India
  • Imperial Iranian Air Force- 109 airframes in total - 10 were build under licence in Iran- first delivered in 1932
  • Malaya Auxiliary Air Force
 New Zealand
  • Rhodesian Air Force
  • Spanish Republican Air Force
 Spanish State
 South Africa
 Southern Rhodesia
  • Southern Rhodesian Air Force
 Sri Lanka
  • Sri Lankan Air Force
 United Kingdom
 United States
  • United States Army Air Force

Civil operators

The aircraft is operated by many private individuals and flying clubs.


Tiger Moth II preserved at the Polish Aviation Museum
Portuguese de Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth at the Portuguese Air Force Museum
de Havilland Tiger Moth (A17-711) in Second World War training colours at the RAAF Museum.

Numerous examples of the Tiger Moth are still flying today (an estimated 250[5]). 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 [16]

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: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted 4-cylinder inline, 130 hp (100 kW)



8x 20 lb bombs

See also

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

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ "De Havilland Tiger Moth (D.H.82)." Retrieved: 12 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b Bain 1992, p. 43.
  3. ^ "de Havilland Tiger Moth 82A." Retrieved: 12 August 2010.
  4. ^ McKay 1988, p. 6.
  5. ^ a b "de Havilland D.H. 82 Tiger Moth." Retrieved: 20 July 2010.
  6. ^ Bransom 1991, p. 41.
  7. ^ "Radio Controls Robot Plane On Pilotless Flight." Popular Mechanics, October 1935.
  8. ^ "Queen Bee G-BLUZ, Aircraft History." Captain Neville's Flying Circus. Retrieved: 31 August 2010.
  9. ^ "de Havilland Tiger II." Retrieved: 20 July 2010.
  10. ^ Hotson 1983, p. 51.
  11. ^ McKay 1998, p. 57.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Pilot's Notes for Tiger Moth Aircraft." R.A.A.F. Publication No. 416, February 1941.
  13. ^ Bransom 1991, p. 33.
  14. ^ Ketley and Rolfe 1996, p. 11.
  15. ^ Yugoslav Air Force 1942-1992, Bojan Dimitrijevic, Belgrade 2006
  16. ^ Bransom 1991, p. 261.
  • Bain, Gordon. De Havilland: A Pictorial Tribute. London: AirLife, 1992. ISBN 1-85648-243-X.
  • Bransom, Alan. The Tiger Moth Story, Fourth Edition. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1991. ISBN 0-906393-19-1.
  • Bransom, Alan. The Tiger Moth Story, Fifth Edition. Manchester, UK: Crécy Publishing Ltd., 2005. ISBN 0-85979-103-3.
  • Hotson, Fred. The De Havilland Canada Story. Toronto: CANAV Books, 1983. ISBN 0-9690703-2-2.
  • Ketley, Barry and Mark Rolfe. Luftwaffe Fledglings 1935-1945: Luftwaffe Training Units and their Aircraft. Aldershot, UK: Hikoki Publications, 1996. ISBN 0-9519899-2-8.
  • McKay, Stuart. Tiger Moth. New York: Orion Books, 1998. ISBN 0-517-56864-0.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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