The World’s Primary Trainer
by Budd Davisson
The first time I strapped on a Tiger Moth I had to laugh. For one thing, there was this HUGE compass projecting up off the floor between my knees. It was fashioned of polished brass and swung in gimbals to keep it level in all attitudes. It would have been more at home in a yacht
My feet were resting on a true rudder baróit was a healthy looking bar with a pad on each end for my feet. A leather strap ran over the top of each foot loosely trapping it in place. And there were no brake pedals. You set a lever for the amount of brake wanted, then pushing the rudder bar all the way down gave you brake on that side
Like the rest of the airplane, the Gypsy Major 1C up front (142 hp, 373 cubic inches) is an ancient 1920ís design and, when it is kicked into life, the four short, inline stacks give it a vaguely Massey-Fergusen sound.
The little wooden doors that flip up and close over your shoulders are barely noticeable and the view around the nose is actually not bad because youíre so far back in the airplane and the fuselage is so narrow. Still, gentle S-turns are an absolute necessity if you donít want to taxi into something the size of a fuel truck because itís stone blind straight ahead.
Takeoffs can best be described as ìleisurely and civilized.î The engine pop-pop-pops its way up to something like 1800 rpm, the airplane gently begins to move then literally floats off the ground at some ridiculously slow speed. Compared to other aircraft, it feels as if youíre moving at a fast walk. It also has a definite kite-like feel to it because it is so light and has so much wing area that there is no doubt it is flying on the wings not the engine.
The brass-framed, faceted windshield holds most of the slip stream at bay, but just enough wind finds its way into the cockpit that it ruffles your helmet a little to remind you that youíre in an open cockpit.
In the air, the word ìleisurelyî again keeps popping into mind. The huge ailerons and light wing loading definitely remove the airplane from the Pitts category because even big aileron deflections donít result in big movements. The airplane is graceful in the extreme, but it wasnít born to be a dancer. Plus youíre popping along at something less than 85 mph, so the occasional ultralight will pass you.
Landing the airplane is the ultimate in simplicity. It has the drag coefficient a parachute, so when the power is brought back on final, the nose is so far down to maintain speed that the runway remains firmly in sight. Itís only when the ground gets big and you begin to rotate into that steeper-than-average three-point attitude that the runway disappears.
In the process of flairing to land two things happen: first, the natural background noise of the slipstream tripping over wires and struts changes tone. It gets lower then slowly fades as the airplane settles onto the runway. Also, the airplane slows to a near-stop while still in the air and the impression is that you hovered to touchdown. It is all so verrry civilized. And so verrry British.
During WWII, we had the Stearman. The rest of the good guyss, however, had the Tiger Moth.