Vintage Flying: The Tiger Moth
Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Over the gloriously sunny bank holiday weekend I had the extreme privilege of flying a DeHaviland Tiger Moth. This opportunity came about through an Air League Flying Bursary which I used to further my flying experience in vintage aircraft. Although, not the first time I'd flown in a vintage aircraft, it was the first time I had flown in an open cockpit aircraft And boy didn't she disappoint!
The aircraft itself, G-AXXV dates back to 1943 and has seen service in both the Royal Air Force and the French Air Force, primarily as a basic trainer. Between 1952 and 2013, the aircraft passed through a number of private owners' hands, initially in France and then in the UK. She now lives at White Waltham Airfield where she is utilised by West London Aero Club for flying lessons and experience flights.
As I walked upto her I felt an amount of unparalleled excitement. Of all the vintage aircraft out there, and despite being a rather common stepping stone, into vintage flying, the Tiger Moth has certainly been near the top of my bucket list for a long time. Immediately I thought she was stunning as she appeared in her restored original WW2 RAF livery. The owning Pilot offered me a tour before strapping in to fly. The aircraft was nigh-on immaculate both inside and out. After the walk round, I jumped in the back which is traditionally where the aircraft commander sits. It took a while to adjust as I'm such a short-arse so required a few cushions! Eventually we were sorted and ready to go, with some assistance to start the aircraft as it requires a manual prop start.
The engine started and the gentle purr of the Gypsy Major engine sounded like music to my ears. I donned my vintage flying goggles and helmet and at this point it all became pretty real, that I was about to go and fly this remarkable piece of history. This was the first real blast from the past which came over me. As the wind blew through my hair, I really felt privileged to be sitting in this old girl.
Chocks Away! We were ready to go! My first attempt at taxying seemed to go well. As you can't see over the front of the nose of the aircraft, you have to weave slightly to ensure there is nothing in front of you which you may hit. I think my experience flying as an instructor on RAF Vigilant aircraft really helped me here. If you haven’t had any experience operating tail draggers, then taxying this old girl may feel a little odd at first.
After a short while of taxying across the airfield, we arrived at the grass runway and lined up. A quick radio call to state we were ready to go, full power applied and off we went. Rudder is key in this aircraft and it's very noticeable how much you need to use... constantly! I was in control for pretty much the whole sortie apart from a couple of aeros and this allowed me to get used to how the aircraft handled. It was very light in fact, a lot like modern light aircraft, you don't need much pressure on the control column, but you do need constant rudder application.
I think all in all, I picked up the handling of the Tiger Moth pretty quickly and completely. Which is great because I really did fall in love with it. As we performed a couple of aeros which I followed through on, before having a go myself, I really felt how light and agile the aircraft was as it slipped through the air. The fact that she is open cockpit, actually didn’t really make much difference, apart from feeling a bit of a breeze, you quickly forget that you’re not closed in a little perspex bubble.
After a bit of local Nav, we returned to the airfield to practice a couple of circuits with touch-and-gos allowing me to practice my landings. This is quite a tricky technique and requires a bit of rudder as you touch down. The landing aspect requires a nose high attitude and you touch the tail wheel down first. Other than that, there’s really not much more to it.
At the end of the sortie, we taxied back to the club house. It was over way too soon and I had completely fallen in love, despite the super frizzy hair I now had!
Frizzy hair, don’t care!
If you are perhaps looking to further your flying experience, or maybe you are at the other end of the spectrum and are keen to start flying but haven't got the funds to do so, then check out the Air League. The Air League provides incredible opportunities, scholarships and bursaries for young people wishing to take their first steps in the aviation industry, whether that be as a pilot, an engineer, an air traffic controller or even a baggage handler. The scholarships on offer (and there are hundreds of them) are generally to take you to your first solo but there is potential to have your PPL fully funded.
The Tiger Moth