Category Archives: RAAF

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 🙂

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!

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?