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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 45° 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

Canadian DH.82C Tiger Moth showing characteristic canopy

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 Morris Motors LImited at Cowley, Oxford.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Tiger Moth aircraft with blind flying hoods for instrument training, early in the war.

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-82 Queen Bee, 2008. Built 1944.

A radio-controlled gunnery target version of Tiger Moth appeared in 1935 called the DH.82 Queen Bee; it used a wooden fuselage based on that of the DH.60 Gipsy Moth (with appropriate structural changes related to cabane strut placement) with the wings of the Tiger Moth II.[7] There were nearly 300 in service at the start of the Second World War. 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 pneumatically driven servos. Four-hundred were built by de Havilland at Hatfield, and a further 70 by Scottish Aviation.[8]

de Havilland Canada in Downsview manufactured 1,548 of all versions including the DH.82C and Menasco-engined variants known as the Menasco Moth. The de Havilland Canada operation also built 200 Tiger Moths to USAAF Lend-Lease orders, which were designated for paperwork purposes as the PT-24 before being delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force. de Havilland Australia assembled 20 aircraft from parts sent from the United Kingdom before embarking on a major production campaign of their own of the DH.82A, which resulted in a further 1,070 being built locally. Additionally, 23 were built in Sweden as the Sk.11 by AB Svenska Järnvägsverkstädernas Aeroplanavdelning, 91 were built in Portugal by OGMA, 38 in Norway by Kjeller Flyfabrikk (some sources say 37 so the first may have been assembled from a kit) and 133 were built in New Zealand by de Havilland New Zealand in addition to a large number of aircraft assembled from kits shipped from the UK.[9]

In the aftermath of Britain's disastrous campaign in France, in August 1940, three proposals for beach defence systems were put forward. 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 dispenser of Paris Green rat poison for use against ground troops, with powder dispensers located under the wings.[10]


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 advertising, aerial ambulance, aerobatic performer, crop duster and glider tug.[citation needed]

The Tiger Moth might be confused at first glance with the Belgian-designed Stampe SV.4 aerobatic aircraft which had a very similar design layout, with similar main landing gear, slight wing sweepback for both airframes, and similar engine/cowling design. Several Tiger Moths were converted during the 1950s to Coupe standard with a sliding canopy over both crew positions, not unlike the Canadian-built Fleet Finch biplane trainers which served beside the Tiger Moth in RCAF service as trainers in Canada during the war years. 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] It has been claimed that more people have flown themselves in Tiger Moths than in any other plane.[citation needed]

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, which turned hard to starboard to avoid a possible collision.[citation needed] These planes remained in service until the early 1970s.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] Due to the popularity of the design and the rising cost of flyable examples, a number of replicas (scale and full size) have been designed for the homebuilder, including the Fisher R-80 Tiger Moth and the RagWing RW22 Tiger Moth.[citation needed]

Flying the Tiger Moth

DH.82A Tiger Moth, 2005

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 stalls at a speed as slow as 25 knots with power. Its stall and spin characteristics are benign. It has some adverse yaw, and therefore requires rudder input during turns.[12]

Because 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, so the lower wing can hit obstructions, and it is susceptible to gusts of wind on its inclined, large, upper wing.[12]

1933 de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth

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 it only has ailerons on its bottom wing, which makes its rate of roll relatively slow for a biplane, and the ailerons on a Tiger Moth normally operate with a heavy degree of designed-in differential operation (mostly deflecting up, hardly at all downwards) to avoid adverse yaw problems in normal flight. 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 slats (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. The open cockpit allows pilots to stick their heads over the side to see the runway. As the aircraft is a tail dragger, it is essential to land it straight with no sideways movement to avoid ground loops.[12]


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 and fitted with a hood over the rear cockpit for blind flying instruction. Named Tiger Moth II in RAF.
DH.82B Tiger Moth III
Improved variant with a de Havilland Gipsy Major III engine, it had a wider fuselage and larger fin. First flown on 1 October 1939 only one was built. In some references the designation is erroneously applied to the Queen Bee.
DH.82C Tiger Moth
Cold weather operations version for the RCAF. Fitted with sliding perspex canopies, cockpit heating, brakes, tail wheels and metal struts. Wheels were moved forwards by 9.75" to compensate for the installation of brakes by changing the angle of the undercarriage legs. Powered by a 145 hp (108 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major piston engine. 1,523 built (including Menasco Moths and PT-24).
DH.82C-2 Menasco Moth I
DH.82C fitted with Menasco D.4 Super Pirate 125 hp inline inverted 4-cylinder engine due to shortages of Gipsy Major engines. Because of the reduction in power, they were used primarily as radio trainers. Externally distinguishable from 82C by opposite rotation of propeller and reversal of the cowling openings. 10 built.
DH.82C-4 Menasco Moth II
As DH.82C-2 but with reduced fuel capacity and further detail alterations. One example survives and is on display at Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. 125 built.
DH.82C-4 Menasco Moth III
Fitted with American AT-1/AR-2 radio and intended as a radio trainer from outset but project cancelled when shortages of British radios and engines was resolved. The sole example, RCAF 4934 was converted from Menasco Moth II.[14]
DH.82 Queen Bee
Unmanned radio-controlled target drone that used Tiger Moth wings and for economy a wooden fuselage based on that of the DH.60 Moth (but with the structural changes associated with the cabane struts having been relocated as per the standard Tiger Moth) was used. The Queen Bee was intended to be operated from either floats or wheels. As of 2008, the sole remaining airworthy Queen Bee resided at RAF Henlow, England. 405 were built.
PT-24 Moth
United States military designation for the DH.82C ordered for Lend-Lease to the Royal Canadian Air Force; 200 were built by de Havilland Canada.
Thruxton Jackaroo
Four-seat cabin biplane, modified from existing DH.82A airframes by widening the gap between the fuselage longerons. 19 were converted in the United Kingdom.
DH.83 Fox Moth
Used many Tiger Moth components including wings (rerigged to remove sweep), tail and undercarriage with a new fuselage featuring an enclosed cabin for the passengers, and an open cockit for the pilot. Built in both the United Kingdom before the Second World War and in Canada after the war.


DH.82A Tiger Moth in RAAF markings

Tiger Moth in British camouflage in a Belgian museum

Military operators

 Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Force Aérienne Congolaise
Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
 Nazi Germany
British Raj  India
  • Malaya Auxiliary Air Force
 New Zealand

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

 Spanish State
 South Africa
 Southern Rhodesia
 Sri Lanka
 United States

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:

  • Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Canada;
  • Aviodrome at Lelystad Airport in The Netherlands;
  • Canadian Air and Space Museum, Toronto, Canada;
  • Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Canada - two examples, 1 on display, 1 stored;
  • Canadian Museum of Flight, Langley, Canada;
  • Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton, Canada;
  • Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada;
  • EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, United States;
  • Flygvapenmuseum at Malmen Airbase near Linköping, Sweden;
  • Indian Air Force Museum, Palam - 1 Airworthy Example for Historic Flight.
  • Israeli Air Force Museum, Hatzerim, Israel;
  • Luskintyre Historic Aviation Museum, Luskintyre, NSW Australia - Tiger moth restorers and builders
  • Mackay Tiger Moth Museum, Mackay, Australia;
  • Malta Aviation Museum in Malta;
  • Mosquito Aircraft Museum in London Colney, England;
  • Museo Aeronáutico del Uruguay in Uruguay;
  • Museo Nacional Aeronáutico y del Espacio de Chile in Chile;
  • Museu Aeroespacial, 25 km outside Rio de Janeiro in Brazil;
  • Museu do Ar, Sintra, Portugal;
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand;
  • National Museum of Flight at RAF East Fortune in Scotland;
  • National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, United States;
  • Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck/Red Hook, NY, United States
  • Pakistan Airforce Museum, Karachi, Pakistan;
  • Polish Aviation Museum at the former Kraków-Rakowice-Czyżyny Airport in Poland;
  • RAAF Museum, RAAF Williams Point Cook, Australia;
  • Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Canada
  • Royal Aero Club of Western Australia, Jandakot, Australia;
  • Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, Brussels, Belgium;
  • Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, Wigram, New Zealand - 1 airworthy aircraft for historic flight;
  • Royal Newcastle Aero Club, Rutherford, NSW, Australia - scenic and aerobatic joyflights in VH-RNI;
  • Saskatchewan Western Development Museum, Moose Jaw, Canada;
  • Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, England;
  • Sri Lanka Air Force Museum, Sri Lanka;
  • Temora Aviation Museum, Temora, Australia;
  • Vintage Wings of Canada, Gatineau, Qc. Canada
  • Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg, Canada;
  • Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum, Serbia.

Specifications (DH 82A)

Data from The Tiger Moth Story [18]

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)


  • Maximum speed: 109 mph at 1,000 ft (97 kts, 175 km/h at 300 m)
  • Cruise speed: 67 mph (59 kts)
  • Range: 302 miles (250 nm, 486 km)
  • Service ceiling: 13,600 ft (4,145 m)
  • Rate of climb: 673 ft/min (205 m/min)


8x 20 lb bombs

See also

The Academy Award-Winning film, The English Patient, features a Tiger Moth in a central role, along with a Boeing Stearman.


  1. "De Havilland Tiger Moth (D.H.82)." Retrieved: 12 August 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bain 1992, p. 43.
  3. "de Havilland Tiger Moth 82A." Retrieved: 12 August 2010.
  4. McKay 1988, p. 6.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "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. Hannah, Donald (1982). De Havilland Flypast Reference Library. Lincs, UK: Key Publishing. p. 66. ISBN "0 946219 00 1". Rimell, Ray (1992). Tiger Moth De Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth. Aeroguide Classics number 6. Essex, UK: Limewrights Ltd. p. 9. ISBN 0-946958-38-6. 
  10. "de Havilland Tiger Moth II." Retrieved: 20 July 2010.
  11. McKay 1998, p. 57.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 "Pilot's Notes for Tiger Moth Aircraft." R.A.A.F. Publication No. 416, February 1941.
  13. Bransom 1991, p. 33.
  15. Ketley and Rolfe 1996, p. 11.
  16. 26 November 2011
  17. Yugoslav Air Force 1942–1992, Bojan Dimitrijevic, Belgrade 2006
  18. 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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