Equipping the cockpit, and other surprises

Most of the parts missing from A17-370 have been in the cockpit.  From switches and lights to instruments and gauges, almost all of the systems were removed a long time ago.  I figured I had a few years to find what I was missing, but all of a sudden an auction opportunity in Australia and a new contact in the UK allowed me to check most of those items off of my list.

This lot really piqued my interest because it fills in just about every gap in my front cockpit instrument panel.  It also included two venturis which I likewise needed.  I bid a little higher than I intended but I figured all of the extra stuff in the lot would help offset that.  I was more right than I could know, but more on that later.

This other lot was not well described, simply “a box if instruments,” but one of the last items I was missing was an altimeter and I was pretty sure I could see the back of one here, so I jumped into the bidding and won this one also.

Getting these lots home proved a real challenge, the auction company hired an art specialist to arrange shipping and their quote to me was several thousand dollars to have these shipped to Seattle.  Luckily a friend of mine lives nearby and he was able to pick up the lots for me.  The parts I need will be shipped to a friend of a friend in Sydney and then picked up by a Hawaiian Airlines pilot for the journey home to Seattle.  I can’t get over the help I’ve gotten from people around the world on this project, and I can’t say enough how much I appreciate it!

In addition to the above I also needed quite a few miscellaneous cockpit items such as lamps, switches, junctions, and exterior lights to complete the night flying equipment installation.  All of those came by way of a collector of RAF spares in the UK, who was also kind enough to lend his knowledge and experience as a Tiger Moth owner and restorer.  Once again, I’m so grateful!

These are all of the items from the Australian auction, quite a few surprises here!  I had no idea there would be a piston sleeve, an inertial starter, multiple compass correctors and a lot more besides!  Quite a haul, but the real treat is in that second photo, resting on top of the P8 compass.  See the little silver tag?

This is an Australian Tiger Moth data plate for aircraft A17-597!  This Tiger Moth crashed in December of 1942 with only about 240 hours on the airframe, and it must have been a bad one because the RAAF converted it to spare parts.  The airplane ceased to exist and frankly I would have expected the data plate to be destroyed.  But somehow here it is, nearly 75 years later!

At no point have I indulged myself in seriously considering a second Tiger Moth restoration project, it will tax my limited resources to the max just restoring A17-370 and, if I were to restore A17-597 I’d be starting from *scratch.*  There is no fuselage, no wings, no instruments, nothing.  And because it has a data plate, its real value would only be in a historically correct restoration and registration as a type-certificated Standard category aircraft.  All things I’m steering clear of on A17-370 for reasons of both time and money.

Most likely, someday I’ll find someone with a Tiger project that has no ID, and if they’re doing good work perhaps we’ll settle on a price so that A17-597 will fly once again.  In the meantime… it’s quite fun to think that I accidentally bought a second Tiger Moth 🙂

Learning from the Logbooks

With the final pair of wings I also received the aircraft logbooks, or, I should say, logbook.  Rather worm-eaten, it is marked as Book IV.  The entries begin in November 1968 and run until the aircraft was retired in 1973.

The logbook details one hard landing and a bird strike, each carefully repaired.  A page is missing which would have documented the last major overhaul of the aircraft.  In all, she flew 355 hours in 655 days, and if this was typical of her activity rate during her whole Indian career I’m confident that the TTAF (total time – airframe) figure given on the final page of 6,942 hours is an accurate total including RAAF service.

A few other interesting papers were stuck into the logbook, including a weight and balance from 1968 and a list of modifications performed or present on the aircraft.

Check out that battery!  47lbs!  But this also confirms the blind flying hood remained.

Of course I wish I had more documentation, I believe that the flying club that owned A17-370 has since closed its doors but it seems to have been a joint government/private entity.  I still intend to do what I can to track down any other logbooks or documentation that may be out there.  If you think you might be able to help with that, please do drop me a line!

In particular I’m wondering if it might be possible to get in touch with the mechanics who signed the entries in this logbook.  I have their A.M.E. numbers but not their names (the signatures are hard to decipher).  I imagine there must be a database somewhere where A.M.E. numbers can be looked up, but I haven’t been able to find it yet.  As always, I’ll continue to chip away at this research!

Purchase Complete!

Exactly one year from the date the contract was signed, I have received the final parts and logbooks of de Havilland Tiger Moth A17-370.  Now the real work can begin!

All four wings have been reunited with the fuselage in the same room for the first time since India.  I’ve already begun searching for the data plates and any tell-tale features on these last two wings, to help corroborate the known or suspected history of the aircraft.  More on that in the days to come.

The aircraft logbooks only cover the time from 1968-1970, with one quick note to show it was test-flown a final time in 1973.  Not a lot to go on here, but once I’ve scanned all of the pages I will do my best to transcribe them and see what they tell us.  As you can see, they are in quite rough shape.

That’s all the updates for tonight, I’m exhausted, but this is a big milestone for the restoration project!