DeHavilland Moth and Tiger Moth – By the Thousands

Cirrus Moth preserved at the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Canada in 2012
Cirrus Moth preserved at the Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Canada in 2012

Wings for the Masses

Arguably one of the most famous and historically important aircraft to emerge with the DeHavilland name on it was the DH.60 Moth family, the first of which took to the air in 1925.

The DH.60 Moth family of aircraft forever changed how the general public related to aircraft and flying in general. It was one of the very first aircraft to be designed with mass production in mind; consequently, it was much more available and affordable to obtain and maintain than aircraft designs prior to it had been. At exactly the same time the Moth family of aircraft was coming into being, the first Royal Aero Club flying schools were becoming established in Britain; DeHavilland’s timing with the new design truly could not have been better to get a stake in the market for equipping these schools and flying clubs in general.

Through the interwar years, members of the Moth family of aircraft became the backbone of flying clubs in Britain and the most common light aircraft by far in British skies. They were in fact so common that “Moth” became the household name for any light aircraft of the period with the British public, regardless of if the particular aircraft was actually a DH.60 family member or a DeHavilland design at all.

A DH-82A Tiger Moth at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2015.
A DH-82A Tiger Moth at Pardubice, Czech Republic in 2015.

Broader Appeal

The Formation of flying clubs in other parts of the empire led to DeHavilland setting up subsidiary companies in Canada and Australia to furnish demand for the Moth line in those countries.

In Canada, many DH.60s found their way into bush flying. Though the design was not optimal for operating in such spartan and rigorous conditions as were typical of Canada’s less developed areas, the Moth was popular with pilots through its good flying characteristics and its ability to be adapted to float or ski landing gear

Canadian built Moths also featured a unique removable canopy over the cockpit for cold weather flying, this also allowed the cockpit to be heated.

The Moth line also found popularity as a trainer with many military forces, though in some cases it was more a matter of civilian aircraft being commandeered for military service. This did lead to the rather confusing situation of DH.60s operating on opposing sides of the Spanish Civil War.

The Second World War also saw many civilian Moths pressed into military service, either by Allied nations that required training aircraft of any sort for their military pilots, or by invading Axis aligned forces taking the aircraft for their own usage.

A DH-82A Tiger Moth at Pardubice in 2015.
A DH-82A Tiger Moth at Pardubice in 2015.

Sorting the DeHavilland Moth Collection

The success that DeHavilland met with in the DH.60 led the company to include the term “Moth” in the names of several of their subsequent aircraft designs; Only one of those subsequent designs however, the DH.82 Tiger Moth, has anything at all in common with the DH.60 design.

That naming pattern and the fact that “Moth” became such a household word for any light aircraft in the interwar era can make it difficult to determine exactly what aircraft someone might have been talking about in literature of the time.

The true Moth lineage, that being the DH.60 and DH.82, is actually quite straightforward, most aircraft took their variant name from the engine they were equipped with:

The basic DH.60, which first flew in 1925, bore the name Cirrus Moth.
Ultimately, there were three main variations of the Cirrus Moth encompassing various refinements to engines and landing gear among other aspects.

The improved DH.60G arrived on the scene in 1928 as the Gipsy Moth.
DeHavilland’s own Gipsy engine was combined with the DH.60 airframe to create this much more powerful variant. It also put complete control of the Moth production line in DeHavilland’s hands.

The name Gipsy Moth was also applied to the DH.60G II, which had an engine of slightly more power.

Other variations stemming from the Gipsy Moth included:

DH.60G III Moth and Moth Major
The G III variant was created primarily by mounting the engine upside down. The engine was renamed the Gipsy Major during production and the aircraft name was changed to Moth Major accordingly.

DH.60M, also known as the Metal Moth.
This was designed for military use and used a new metal framed fuselage construction in place of the wooden one in civilian variants. The Metal Moth was used as the basis for the DH.60T Moth Trainer aircraft

The DH.82 Tiger Moth was a heavily modified variation on the DH.60T
With a production run in the vicinity of 9,000, the DH.82 Tiger Moth is by a wide margin the most numerous of the DH.60 family and likely the most well known and recognizable of them. The Tiger Moth was the backbone basic trainer of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan and countless pilots who went on to fly more glorious aircraft in World War II got their first taste of flying in a DH.82

DH.82C with Canadian specific cockpit canopy and optional skis. Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton in 2012
DH.82C with Canadian specific cockpit canopy and optional skis. Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton in 2012

The Moth Today

Several DH.60 variants remain airworthy while the number of airworthy DH.82s is well into the hundreds. By some sources, the number of airworthy Tiger Moths may be increasing due to dormant or otherwise stored examples being restored to flying condition.

No doubt, there will be Moths flying for us to enjoy and marvel at for some years to come yet.

For further reading, this link will give you some insights into the Moth in the Canadian bush:

http://www.bushplane.com/bushplanes/bushplanes-gypsymoth;1/

This link contains a brief overview of the Tiger Moth variant:

http://www.warbirdalley.com/tiger.htm

 

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2 thoughts on “DeHavilland Moth and Tiger Moth – By the Thousands

  1. aviationtrails August 23, 2014 / 12:43

    If you get the chance, a visit to the DH Heritage museum on the original DH site has a range of (DH) aircraft dedicated to the name.

    That have a DH 87 Hornet Moth and a DH82A Tiger Moth along with a range of Pre and post war examples.

    http://www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk/

    • pickledwings August 23, 2014 / 13:06

      I’ve seen their website and if I ever get to the UK, I’ll certainly make efforts to get to that region so I can see that museum.

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