The de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth is a 1930s biplane designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and was operated by the Royal Air Force and others as a primary trainer. The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until 1952 when many of the surplus aircraft entered civil operation. Many other nations used the Tiger Moth both in military and civil applications and the ubiquitous little trainer is still in great demand worldwide as a recreational aircraft. It is still occasionally used as a primary training aircraft, although now most Tiger Moths employed in training duties are used by pilots gaining experience for 'taildragger' license ratings.
From the outset, the Tiger Moth proved to be an ideal trainer, simple and cheap to own and maintain, although control movements required a positive and sure hand as there was a slowness to control inputs. Some instructors preferred these flight characteristics because of the effect of "weeding" out the inept student pilot.
The RAF ordered 35 dual-control Tiger Moth Is which had the company designation DH 60T. A subsequent order was placed for 50 aircraft powered by the de Havilland Gipsy Major I engine (130 hp) which was the DH 82A or to the RAF Tiger Moth II. The Tiger Moth entered service at the RAF Central Flying School in February 1932. By the start of the Second World War, the RAF had 500 of the aircraft in service and large numbers of civilian Tiger Moths were impressed to meet the demand for trainers.
During a British production run of over 7,000 Tiger Moths, a total of 4,005 Tiger Moth IIs were built during the war specifically for the RAF, nearly half being built by the Morris Motor Company at Cowley, Oxford.
The Tiger Moth became the foremost primary trainer throughout the Commonwealth and elsewhere. It was the principal type used in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan where thousands of military pilots got their first taste of flight in this robust little machine. The RAF found the Tiger Moth's handling ideal for training future fighter pilots. Whilst generally docile and forgiving in the normal flight phases encountered during initial training, when used for aerobatic and formation training the Tiger Moth required definite skill and concentration to perform well- a botched maneuver could easily cause the aircraft to stall or spin.
A number of modified Tiger Moths were developed for special roles. A radio-controlled target tug version of the Tiger Moth II called the DH.82B Queen Bee was built with nearly 300 in service at the start of World War II. The Fleet Air Arm operated small numbers of the Tiger Moth II, and the Queen Bee. In the aftermath of Britain's disastrous campaign in France, in August 1940, three proposals involved beach defence systems; 350 Tiger Moths were fitted with bomb racks to serve as light bombers. A more radical conversion involved the "paraslasher," a scythe-like blade fitted to a Tiger Moth and intended to cut parachutist's canopies as they descended to earth. Flight tests proved the idea, but it was not officially adopted. The Tiger Moth was also tested as a "human crop sprayer" intended to dispense "Paris Green" poisonous insecticide from powder dispensers located under the wings.
In Canada, de Havilland manufactured 1,523 of the DH 82C, which had a 145 hp D.H. Gipsy Major 1C engine and other modifications including a tail wheel replacing the original tail skid, a stronger undercarriage with wheels set farther forward and enclosed cockpit with a sliding canopy necessitated by the cold northern climate. The de Havilland Canada operation also supplied 200 Tiger Moths to the USAAF, which designated them the PT-24. A further 151 were built in Norway, Sweden and Portugal while 2,949 Tiger Moths were built by other countries of the British Commonwealth.
In postwar use, surplus Tiger Moths were made available for sale to flying clubs and individuals. They proved to be inexpensive to operate and found enthusiastic reception in the civil market, taking on new roles including aerial advertiser, aerial ambulance, aerobatic performer, crop duster and glider tug. They were often compared with the Stampe SV4 famous aerobatic aircraft.
After the invention of aerial topdressing in New Zealand, large numbers of ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Tiger Moths built in that country were converted into agricultural aircraft. The front seat was replaced with a hopper to hold superphosphate for aerial topdressing. From the mid 1950s, these topdressers were replaced by more modern types such as the PAC Fletcher, and a large number of New Zealand Tiger Moths in good flying condition then passed to enthusiasts.
Royal Navy Tiger Moths utilised as target tugs and "air experience" machines became the last military aircraft when the service purchased a batch of refurbished examples in 1956.
Numerous examples of the Tiger Moth are still flying today (an estimated 250). The number of airworthy Tiger Moths has increased as previously neglected aircraft (or those previously only used for static display in museums) have been restored. A number of aircraft have been preserved as museum displays (amongst others) at the: