Category Archives: de Havilland Tiger Moth

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!

Catching up!

Sorry I took a little break there when I went on holiday to visit family, but I’ve been back for a little while now and I have so much news to share!

Recently I located the Certificate of Airworthiness issued to A17-370 just before she was exported to India in 1949.  This is great because it documents *exactly* what equipment was installed in the aircraft at the time of export.  It’s highly likely this is the same equipment it had when it was placed in storage by the RAAF at the end of WWII, since it remained in storage for all of the intervening years.  That’s my theory anyway, and so I’ll use this as a guide for my restoration back to RAAF configuration.  Here is the general equipment list used for weight and balance.

And here is a list specifically of instruments and cockpit equipment, which also mentions the blind flying hood!

I’ve also continued to dig through the Australian National Archives for photos and drawings.  I did find drawings of the Holt flare installation in the wings which appears to perfectly match mine, so that will be very handy.  I still have not located any photos of A17-370, but I haven’t given up yet.

I recently heard a rumor that H.A.R.S. (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society) might have de Havilland Australia Tiger Moth drawings, so I reached out and sure enough, they do!  These drawings have been VERY elusive, but H.A.R.S. has several hundred surviving sheets, and I hope I will get my hands on all of them eventually.  There will be a cost of course, but it will be worth it to have documentation for many of the unique modifications of Aussie Tigers.  I’m very grateful to them for preserving these historic documents and being willing to share them with fellow restorers.

Aside from research, I’ve mostly been working on gathering the final tools for the workshop and getting it all organized and laid out the way I want it.  This has taken a LOT of work and it isn’t done yet.  One of the drawbacks of acquiring “vintage” tools is that they often need to be rebuilt in order to work reliably and consistently.  In the process however I have learned a lot, I’ve gotten to put other tools to use and get some good practice, and I am gaining a great deal of confidence in my ability to build and rebuild things.  Sort of critical, for an aircraft restoration project, eh?  😉

Above is how I would like everything to be laid out, once it’s all in working order.  I hope to get to this point this Spring, certainly no later than the Arlington Fly-In this summer.  Once the shop gets to this point, it will be full speed ahead on the restoration!