Category Archives: Historical

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?  đŸ˜‰

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!

Just Winging It

I’ve nearly got the shop ready to start some real work on the airplane.  It’s been a lot of boring drudgery organizing shelves and setting up toolboxes, but in between I can always pause for a few minutes and look over the project.  Every time I look at that airplane I discover something new.  It’s so cool!

The one discovery I definitely wanted to tell you about is the story told by my wings.  I only have two right now, the port lower and starboard upper, the other two are safe in Abbotsford until the rest of the airplane is paid off.  These wings had been hung high up on the walls in Abby and I was never able to get a close look at them.  Once I got them to the hangar and put them on the wing rack, I immediately started looking for data plates.

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As I’ve mentioned, just about every bit of the airplane has a modification plate on it from Victorian & Interstate Airways, where it was overhauled in 1943.  They stripped all of the fabric off and refurbished the entire airplane before putting it back into service.  The only part I had which didn’t have a V.I.A. plate on it was the port aileron.  It has a generic RAAF modification plate, and I know exactly why:  the port wings were badly damaged when A17-695 taxiied into my airplane in 1944, and the aileron had to be replaced with one that they had on hand at No. 1 E.F.T.S.  It was a spare, basically.

Because of that, I was anxious to find out if either of my wings were not original to the aircraft either, particularly the port lower.  Had the entire wing been replaced in 1944?

As always, history is complicated.

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The port lower wing… is absolutely original.  The Victorian & Interstate Airways modification plate has a date of September 20, 1943, exactly matching the documented history of A17-370.  After the incident with A17-695, it must have been repaired or substantially rebuilt, but they kept the main spar where the plates are mounted.  Personally I can’t find any evidence of repairs, it looks like a factory-built wing to me, but perhaps I’ll uncover some as I disassemble it.

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The starboard upper wing, on the other hand, is another story.  And that was a complete surprise!  It doesn’t have a V.I.A. modification plate, but rather, one that says “GAL.”  That totally threw me off… what on earth could GAL stand for?  And what could that have to do with A17-370?  Was this wing from a different Tiger Moth altogether?

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The interesting thing, and the real clue, was the date on that plate.  June 5, 1943.  A17-370 went to V.I.A. in August, that doesn’t make any sense!  In June it was serving at 1 E.F.T.S., not being overhauled…  Another look at my transcript of its service records put an end to the mystery, and revealed just how complicated the history of a wartime aircraft can be.

Initially, when A17-370 reached 2,000 hours and required an overhaul, it was allotted to an outfit called Guinea Airways at the end of July, 1943.  A little over two weeks later, an entry says “Above allotment cancelled” and it is instead allotted to Victorian & Interstate.  I had interpreted that to mean it never made it to Guinea Airways, or perhaps it went there but they were too busy to look at it, so it went to V.I.A.  Now, I suspect that Guinea Airways (Ltd.) actually did begin to overhaul A17-370, but were stopped after only a couple of weeks for some reason.  In the rush to get 370 to V.I.A. to finish the overhaul, G.A.L. grabbed a spare starboard upper wing, probably one that had been completely overhauled, and installed it on 370.  I presume 370’s own wing would have taken too long to finish the overhaul, and when it was done it was probably installed on some other Tiger Moth.

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So, someone out there has “my” wing.  And I have someone else’s.  It was war, and they did what they had to.  I’m dubious of anyone who claims an airplane that saw several years of service during wartime had a nice, simple history and is actually 100% original.  I’m actually relieved, the coincidence required for this to be any other airplane than A17-370 is beyond belief.  I’m as sure of its identity as a person can be, when no aircraft data plate is to be found.  And, so far, there’s been no sign that any of its parts were mixed up in India or even when it was in storage after the war (aside from the instrument panels).  Everything else on the airplane either came out of the factory on the airplane, or was swapped out during WWII.  Told you it was cool, eh?

Parts Manual into Excel

What seemed like a very long but necessary step is now complete, I’ve transcribed the dh.82a Schedule of Spare Parts (1943) from PDF into Excel.  This will allow me to better track the components of my Tiger Moth and also make it easier to search for missing parts by their various identification numbers.

I’m going to share this document here, eventually I will add a Downloads section for future versions of this file and more like it.

You may download v0.8 of the excel file here.

In future revisions I hope to cross-reference each part by drawing number, add the Canadian parts and part numbers, and generally continue to build it out to become more useful.  Eventually it will be ported over to a database where I will keep images of each part from my aircraft, reference images for manufacturing new parts, notes on the condition and origin of each part, etc.

If you have any resources that might be helpful in further expanding this document, please let me know.