RARE Aviation RPPC - British National Day Tiger Moth Comper Autogiro 1932 Photo

RARE Aviation RPPC - British National Day  Tiger Moth Comper Autogiro 1932 Photo

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RARE Aviation RPPC - British National Day Tiger Moth Comper Autogiro 1932 Photo:

RARE Old Real Photo Postcard
National Aviation Day DisplayTiger Moth inverted flyingComper "Swift"Autogiro Gliderca 1932

For offer - a very nice Real Photo Postcard! Fresh from an estate in Upstate NY. Never offered on the market until now. Vintage, Old, antique, Original - NOT a Reproduction - Guaranteed !! Unused card. on back : Si Alan J. Cobham's National Aviation Day Campaign. British Made - Aerofilms, London. Sign the mandate for British Aviation. Demonstration aircraft. Series no. 12. Interesting pre WWII piece of history.In good to very good condition. Light wear, small stain on back. Please see photos. If you collect postcards, 20th century history, advertising, airplane, occupation / occupational, postal, photography, flying, biplane, etc., this is a nice one for your paper or ephemera collection. Combine shipping on multiple offer wins! 1462

The National Aviation Day campaign, known as ‘Cobham's Flying Circus’, toured Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa giving many their first experience of flight.

Cobham's Flying Circus toured between 1932 and 1935 taking 990,000 people on flights in his fleet of aeroplanes with over 3,000,000 people visiting the display.

Sir Alan John Cobham, KBE, AFC (6 May 1894 – 21 October 1973) was an English aviation pioneer.

Early life and family[edit]

As a child he attended Wilson's School,[1][page needed] then in Camberwell, London. The school relocated to the former site of Croydon Airport in 1975. In the summer of 1922 he married Gladys Lloyd, and subsequently they had two sons, Geoffrey (b.1925) and Michael (b.1927). After National Service and a short career at the Bar, Michael Cobham followed him into the Flight Refuelling business, and for many years was in charge of it. Lady Cobham died in 1961 aged 63.


A member of the Royal Flying Corps in World War I, Alan Cobham became famous as a pioneer of long distance aviation. After the war he became a test pilot for the de Havilland aircraft company, and was the first pilot for the newly formed de Havilland Aeroplane Hire Service. In 1921 he made a 5,000 mile air tour of Europe, visiting 17 cities in 3 weeks. Between 16 November 1925 and 13 March 1926, he made a trip from London to Cape Town and return in his de Havilland DH.50 in which he had replaced the original Siddeley Puma engine with a more powerful, air-cooled Jaguar.[2] On 30 June 1926, he set off on a flight from Britain (from the River Medway) to Australia where 60,000 people swarmed across the grassy fields of Essendon Airport, Melbourne when he landed his de Havilland DH.50 floatplane (it had been converted to a wheeled undercarriage earlier, at Darwin[3]). During the flight to Australia, Sir Alan J. Cobham's engineer of the D.H.50 aircraft, Mr. Arthur B. Elliot, was shot and killed after they left Bagdad on 5 July 1926. The return flight was undertaken over the same route. He was knighted the same year.

Cover Sir Alan Cobham had attempted to fly to New York from the RMS Homeric.

On 25 November 1926, Cobham attempted but failed to be the first person to deliver mail to New York City by air from the east, planning to fly mail from the White Star ocean liner RMS Homeric in a de Havilland DH.60 Moth floatplane when the ship was about 12 hours from New York harbour on a westbound crossing from Southampton. After the Moth was lowered from the ship, however, Cobham was unable to take off owing to rough water and had to be towed into port by the ship. The same year Cobham was awarded the Gold Medal by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.[4]

In 1927 Cobham starred as himself in the 1927 British war film The Flight Commander directed by Maurice Elvey. In 1928 he flew a Short Singapore flying boat around the continent of Africa landing only in British territory. Cobham wrote his own contemporary accounts of his flights, and recalls them in his biography.[5] The films 'With Cobham to the Cape' (1926), 'Round Africa with Cobham' (1928) and 'With Cobham to Kivu' (1932) contain valuable footage of the flights.[6] Recent commentaries contextualize his flights across the British Empire in the wider events and culture of the time.[7][page needed][8][page needed][9][page needed]

In 1932 he started the National Aviation Day displays – a combination of barnstorming and joyriding. This consisted of a team of up to fourteen aircraft, ranging from single-seaters to modern airliners, and many skilled pilots. It toured the country, calling at hundreds of sites, some of them regular airfields and some just fields cleared for the occasion. Generally known as "Cobham's Flying Circus", it was hugely popular, giving thousands of people their first experience of flying, and bringing "air-mindedness" to the population. These continued until the end of the 1935 season.[10][page needed][11][page needed] In the British winter of 1932–33, Cobham took his aerial circus to South Africa (with the mistaken view that it would be the first of its kind there).[12]

Cobham was also one of the founding directors of Airspeed Limited, the aircraft manufacturing company started by Nevil Shute Norway (perhaps better known as the famous novelist, Nevil Shute), together with the designer Hessell Tiltman; who, having been discharged by the Airship Guarantee Company (a subsidiary of Vickers) after the R101 disaster also caused the grounding of the more successful R100, decided to found their own small aircraft business. Cobham was an early and enthusiastic recruit: indeed, it was thanks to Sir Alan – who placed early orders for two "Off Plan" aircraft (the three-engined ten seater Airspeed Ferry) for his National Aviation Day Limited company – that Airspeed managed to commence manufacturing at all.

Cobham's early experiments with in-flight refuelling were based on a specially adapted Airspeed Courier. This craft was eventually modified by Airspeed to Cobham's specification, for a non-stop flight from London to India, using in-flight refuelling to extend the aeroplane's flight duration.

In 1935 he founded a small airline, Cobham Air Routes Ltd, that flew from London Croydon Airport to the Channel Islands. Months later, after a crash that killed one of his pilots, he sold it to Olley Air Service Ltd and turned to the development of inflight refueling. Trials stopped at the outbreak of World War II until interest was successfully revived by the RAF and United States Army Air Forces in the last year of the war.

He once remarked: "It's a full time job being Alan Cobham!" He retired to the British Virgin Islands, but returned to England where he died in 1973.

The company he formed is still active in the aviation industry as Cobham plc.

In 2015 the Royal Air Force Museum in London staged an exhibition about Cobham. In 2016 the RAF exhibited his Flying Circus.

See also[edit]

Aerofilms, the UK's first commercial aerial photography company.

Round the Bend, the novel by Nevil Shute, features Cobham's National Aviation Day flying circus as an integral part of the plot. The principal character Tom Cutter is said[by whom?] to have been modelled upon one of Cobham's pilots, Martin Hearn, who was a pioneer of wing walking stunts and who later ran his own aircraft assembly plant at Hooton park in Cheshire.

Philip Stenning, hero of Shute's Marazan, is a character modelled upon Cobham and others.

An autogyro (from Greek αὐτός + γύρος, self-turning), also known as gyroplane, gyrocopter, or rotaplane, is a type of rotorcraft that uses an unpowered rotor in autorotation to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller, similar to that of a fixed-wing aircraft, to provide thrust. While similar to a helicopter rotor in appearance, the autogyro's rotor must have air flowing through the rotor disc to generate rotation. Invented by the Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva to create an aircraft that could fly safely at low speeds, the autogyro was first flown on January 9, 1923, at Cuatro Vientos Airfield in Madrid.[1] De la Cierva's aircraft resembled the fixed-wing aircraft of the day, with a front-mounted engine and propeller in a tractor configuration to pull the aircraft through the air.

Under license from Cierva in the 1920s and 1930s, the Pitcairn & Kellett companies made further innovations.[2] Late-model autogyros patterned after Etienne Dormoy's Buhl A-1 Autogyro and Igor Bensen's designs feature a rear-mounted engine and propeller in a pusher configuration. The term Autogiro was a trademark of the Cierva Autogiro Company, and the term Gyrocopter was used by E. Burke Wilford who developed the Reiseler Kreiser feathering rotor equipped gyroplane in the first half of the twentieth century. The latter term was later adopted as a trademark by Bensen Aircraft.

Principle of operation[edit]

The rotor head, pre-rotator shaft and Subaru engine configuration on a VPM M-16 autogyro

An autogyro is characterized by a free-spinning rotor that turns because of the passage of air through the rotor from below.[3][4] The vertical (downward) component of the total aerodynamic reaction of the rotor gives lift for the vehicle, and sustains the autogyro in the air. A separate propeller provides forward thrust, and can be placed in a tractor configuration with the engine and propeller at the front of the fuselage (e.g., Cierva), or pusher configuration with the engine and propeller at the rear of the fuselage (e.g., Bensen).

Whereas a helicopter works by forcing the rotor blades through the air, drawing air from above, the autogyro rotor blade generates lift in the same way as a glider's wing,[5] by changing the angle of the air[3] as the air moves upwards and backwards relative to the rotor blade.[6] The free-spinning blades turn by autorotation; the rotor blades are angled so that they not only give lift,[7] but the angle of the blades causes the lift to accelerate the blades' rotation rate, until the rotor turns at a stable speed with the drag and thrust forces in balance.

External video

Takeoffs and Landings on YouTube of Groen Hawk 4

Jump takeoff on YouTube of Pitcairn PA-36 in 1941

Because the craft must be moving forward (with respect to the surrounding air) in order to force air through the overhead rotor, autogyros are generally not capable of vertical takeoff or landing (unless in a strong headwind). A few types have shown short takeoff or landing.

Pitch control is achieved by tilting the rotor fore and aft; roll control by tilting the rotor laterally (side to side). Three designs to affect the tilt of the rotor are a tilting hub (Cierva), swashplate (Air & Space 18A), or servo-flaps. A rudder provides yaw control. On pusher configuration autogyros, the rudder is typically placed in the propeller slipstream to maximize yaw control at low airspeed (but not always, as seen in the McCulloch J-2, with twin rudders placed outboard of the propeller arc).[citation needed]

Flight controls[edit]

There are three primary flight controls: control stick, rudder pedals, and throttle. Typically, the control stick is termed the cyclic and tilts the rotor in the desired direction to provide pitch and roll control (some autogyros do not tilt the rotor relative to the airframe, or only do so in one dimension, and have conventional control surfaces to vary the remaining degrees of freedom). The rudder pedals provide yaw control, and the throttle controls engine power.[citation needed]

Secondary flight controls include the rotor transmission clutch, also known as a pre-rotator, which when engaged drives the rotor to start it spinning before takeoff, and collective pitch to reduce blade pitch before driving the rotor. Collective pitch controls are not usually fitted to autogyros, but can be found on the Air & Space 18A and McCulloch J-2 and the Westermayer Tragschrauber and are capable of near VTOL performance.[citation needed] Unlike a helicopter, autogyros without collective pitch or another jump start facility need a runway to take off; however, they are capable of landing with a very short or zero ground roll. Like helicopters, each autogyro has a specific height–velocity diagram for safest operation, although the dangerous area is usually smaller than for helicopters.[8]

Rocket-powered autogyro[edit]

So-called tipjets, actually hydrogen peroxide rockets, are placed at the tips of the rotor. The rockets are used only during takeoff and emergency landing, so they do not consume much propellant. The hydrogen peroxide rockets are light-weight, inexpensive, reliable, noisy, and transform the autogyro into an aircraft that has almost all the advantages of a helicopter (specifically vertical takeoffs and landings) at a fraction of the helicopter cost. Furthermore, the engine weight and engine power may be reduced by half[citation needed] because a smaller engine is needed for takeoff. The Fairey Jet Gyrodyne and Fairey Rotodyne had true tipjets instead of the rockets. They were technically successful but were not mass-produced due to concerns about tipjet noise.

Pusher vs tractor configuration[edit]

Montgomerie Merlin single-seat autogyro

Modern autogyros typically follow one of two basic configurations. The most common design is the pusher configuration, where the engine and propeller are located behind the pilot and rotor mast, such as in the Bensen "Gyrocopter". It was developed by Igor Bensen in the decades following World War II, and came into widespread use shortly afterward.[citation needed]

Less common today is the tractor configuration. In this version, the engine and propeller are located at the front of the aircraft, ahead of the pilot and rotor mast. This was the primary configuration in early autogyros, but became less common after the advent of the helicopter. It has enjoyed a revival since the mid-1970s.[citation needed]


Juan de la Cierva was a Spanish engineer and aeronautical enthusiast. In 1921, he participated in a design competition to develop a bomber for the Spanish military. De la Cierva designed a three-engined aircraft, but during an early test flight, the bomber stalled and crashed. De la Cierva was troubled by the stall phenomenon and vowed to develop an aircraft that could fly safely at low airspeeds. The result was the first successful rotorcraft, which he named Autogiro in 1923.[9] De la Cierva's autogyro used an airplane fuselage with a forward-mounted propeller and engine, a rotor mounted on a mast, and a horizontal and vertical stabilizer.

Early development[edit]

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The first autogyro to fly successfully in 1923.

Juan de la Cierva invented the modern autogyro (autogiro in Spanish) in the early 1920s. His first three designs (C.1, C.2, and C.3) were unstable because of aerodynamic and structural deficiencies in their rotors. His fourth design, the C.4, made the first documented flight of an autogyro on 17 January 1923, piloted by Alejandro Gomez Spencer at Cuatro Vientos airfield in Madrid, Spain (9 January according to Cierva).[4] De la Cierva had fitted the rotor of the C.4 with flapping hinges to attach each rotor blade to the hub. The flapping hinges allowed each rotor blade to flap, or move up and down, to compensate for dissymmetry of lift, the difference in lift produced between the right and left sides of the rotor as the autogyro moves forward.[9][10] Three days later, the engine failed shortly after takeoff and the aircraft descended slowly and steeply to a safe landing, validating De la Cierva's efforts to produce an aircraft that could be flown safely at low airspeeds.

Cierva C.6 replica in Cuatro Vientos Air Museum, Madrid, Spain

De la Cierva developed his C.6 model with the assistance of Spain's Military Aviation establishment, having expended all his funds on development and construction of the first five prototypes. The C.6 first flew in February 1925, piloted by Captain Joaquín Loriga,[11] including a flight of 10.5 km (6.5 mi) from Cuatro Vientos airfield to Getafe airfield in about 8 minutes, a significant accomplishment for any rotorcraft of the time. Shortly after De la Cierva's success with the C.6, Cierva accepted an offer from Scottish industrialist James G. Weir to establish the Cierva Autogiro Company in England, following a demonstration of the C.6 before the British Air Ministry at RAE Farnborough, on 20 October 1925. Britain had become the world centre of autogyro development.

A crash in February 1926, caused by blade root failure, led to an improvement in rotor hub design. A drag hinge was added in conjunction with the flapping hinge to allow each blade to move fore and aft and relieve in-plane stresses, generated as a byproduct of the flapping motion. This development led to the Cierva C.8, which, on 18 September 1928, made the first rotorcraft crossing of the English Channel followed by a tour of Europe.

The U.S. industrialist Harold Frederick Pitcairn, on learning of the successful flights of the autogyro, visited De la Cierva in Spain. In 1928, he visited him again, in England, after taking a C.8 L.IV test flight piloted by Arthur H.C.A. Rawson. Being particularly impressed with the autogyro's safe vertical descent capability, Pitcairn purchased a C.8 L.IV with a Wright Whirlwind engine. Arriving in the United States on 11 December 1928 accompanied by Rawson, this autogyro was redesignated C.8W.[4] Subsequently, production of autogyros was licensed to a number of manufacturers, including the Pitcairn Autogiro Company in the U.S. and Focke-Wulf of Germany.

Avro-built Cierva C.19 Mk.IV Autogiro

In 1927, Engelbert Zaschka, a pioneering German engineer, invented a combined helicopter and autogyro. The principal advantage of the Zaschka machine is in its ability to remain motionless in the air for any length of time and to descend in a vertical line, so that a landing may be accomplished on the flat roof of a large house. In appearance, the machine does not differ much from the ordinary monoplane, but the carrying wings revolve around the body.

Development of the autogyro continued in the search for a means to accelerate the rotor prior to takeoff (called prerotating). Rotor drives initially took the form of a rope wrapped around the rotor axle and then pulled by a team of men to accelerate the rotor – this was followed by a long taxi to bring the rotor up to speed sufficient for takeoff. The next innovation was flaps on the tail to redirect the propeller slipstream into the rotor while on the ground. This design was first tested on a C.19 in 1929. Efforts in 1930 had shown that development of a light and efficient mechanical transmission was not a trivial undertaking. But, in 1932, the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, United States, finally solved the problem with a transmission driven by the engine.

Buhl Aircraft Company produced its Buhl A-1, the first autogyro with propulsive rear motor, designed by Etienne Dormoy and meant for aerial observation (motor behind pilot and camera). It had its maiden flight on 15 December 1931.[12]

Buhl A-1 Autogyro with rear push propeller (1931)

De la Cierva's early autogyros were fitted with fixed rotor hubs, small fixed wings, and control surfaces like those of a fixed-wing aircraft. At low airspeeds, the control surfaces became ineffective and could readily lead to loss of control, particularly during landing. In response, Cierva developed a direct control rotor hub, which could be tilted in any direction by the pilot. De la Cierva's direct control was first developed on the Cierva C.19 Mk. V and saw production on the Cierva C.30 series of 1934. In March 1934 this type of autogyro became the first rotorcraft to take off and land on the deck of a ship, when a C.30 performed trials on board the Spanish navy seaplane tender Dédalo off Valencia.[13]

Later that year, during the leftist Asturias' revolt in October, an autogyro made a reconnaissance flight for the loyal troops, marking the first military employment of a rotorcraft.[14]

When improvements in helicopters made them practical, autogyros became largely neglected. Also, they were susceptible to ground resonance.[10] They were, however, used in the 1930s by major newspapers, and by the United States Postal Service for the mail service between the Camden, New Jersey airport and the top of the post office building in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[15]

World War II[edit]

Royal Air Force Avro Rota Mk 1 Cierva Autogiro C30 A, at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, UK.

Kayaba Ka-1

The Avro Rota autogyro, a military version of the Cierva C.30, was used by the Royal Air Force to calibrate the coastal radar stations during and after the Battle of Britain.[16]

In World War II, Germany pioneered a very small gyroglider rotor kite, the Focke-Achgelis Fa 330 "Bachstelze" (Water-wagtail), towed by U-boats to provide aerial surveillance.

The Imperial Japanese Army developed the Kayaba Ka-1 Autogyro for reconnaissance, artillery-spotting, and anti-submarine uses. The Ka-1 was based on the Kellett KD-1 first imported to Japan in 1938. The craft was initially developed for use as an observation platform and for artillery spotting duties. The Army liked the craft's short take-off span, and especially its low maintenance requirements. Production began in 1941, with the machines assigned to artillery units for spotting the fall of shells. These carried two crewmen: a pilot and a spotter.

Later, the Japanese Army commissioned two small aircraft carriers intended for coastal antisubmarine (ASW) duties. The spotter's position on the Ka-1 was modified to carry one small depth charge. Ka-1 ASW autogyros operated from shore bases as well as the two small carriers. They appear to have been responsible for at least one submarine sinking.

Postwar developments[edit]

The autogyro was resurrected after World War II when Dr. Igor Bensen, a Russian immigrant in the US, saw a captured German U-Boat's Fa 330 gyroglider and was fascinated by its characteristics. At work, he was tasked with the analysis of the British military "Rotachute" gyro glider designed by expatriate Austrian Raoul Hafner. This led him to adapt the design for his own purposes and eventually market the Bensen B-7 in 1955. Bensen submitted an improved version, the Bensen B-8M, for testing to the United States Air Force, which designated it the X-25.[17] The B-8M was designed to use surplus McCulloch engines used on flying unmanned target drones.

Ken Wallis developed a miniature autogyro craft, the Wallis autogyro, in England in the 1960s, and autogyros built similar to Wallis' design appeared for a number of years. Ken Wallis' designs have been used in various scenarios, including military training, police reconnaissance, and in a search for the Loch Ness Monster, as well as a notable appearance in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.

Three different autogyro designs have been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration for commercial production: the Umbaugh U-18/Air & Space 18A of 1965, the Avian 2-180 Gyroplane of 1967, and the McCulloch J-2 of 1972. All have been commercial failures, for various reasons.

Bensen Gyrocopter[edit]

The basic Bensen Gyrocopter design is a simple frame of square aluminium or galvanized steel tubing, reinforced with triangles of lighter tubing. It is arranged so that the stress falls on the tubes, or special fittings, not the bolts. A front-to-back keel mounts a steerable nosewheel, seat, engine, and a vertical stabilizer. Outlying mainwheels are mounted on an axle. Some versions may mount seaplane-style floats for water operations.

Bensen Aircraft B8MG Gyrocopter

Bensen-type autogyros use a pusher configuration for simplicity and to increase visibility for the pilot. Power can be supplied by a variety of engines. McCulloch drone engines, Rotax marine engines, Subaru automobile engines, and other designs have been used in Bensen-type designs.[citation needed]

The rotor is mounted atop the vertical mast. The rotor system of all Bensen-type autogyros is of a two-blade teetering design. There are some disadvantages associated with this rotor design, but the simplicity of the rotor design lends itself to ease of assembly and maintenance and is one of the reasons for its popularity. Aircraft-quality birch was specified in early Bensen designs, and a wood/steel composite is used in the world speed record holding Wallis design. Gyroplane rotor blades are made from other materials such as aluminium and GRP-based composite blades.[citation needed]

Because of Bensen's pioneering of the concept and the popularity of his design, "Gyrocopter" has become a generic term for pusher configuration autogyros.[citation needed]

Bensen's success triggered a number of other designs, some of them fatally flawed with an offset between the centre of gravity and thrust line, risking a Power Push-Over (PPO or bunt-over) causing death to the pilot and giving gyroplanes in general a poor reputation – in contrast to Cierva's original intention and early statistics. Most new autogyros are now safe from PPO.[18]

21st-century development and use[edit]

GBA's Hawk 4 provided perimeter patrol during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

In 2002, a Groen Brothers Aviation's Hawk 4 provided perimeter patrol for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The aircraft completed 67 missions and accumulated 75 hours of maintenance-free flight time during its 90-day operational contract.[19]

Worldwide, over 1,000 autogyros are used by authorities for military and law enforcement, but the first US Police authorities to evaluate an autogyro are the Tomball, Texas, police, on a $40,000[20] grant from DoJ together with city funds,[21] costing much less than a helicopter to buy ($75,000) and operate ($50/hour).[22][23] Although it is able to land in 40-knot crosswinds,[24] a minor accident happened when the rotor was not kept under control in a wind gust.[25]

Autogyros and helicopters of the Kurdish Police

Since 2009, several projects in Kurdistan, Iraq have been realized. In 2010, the first autogyro was handed over to the Kurdish Minister of Interiors, Mr. Karim Sinjari. The project for the interior ministry was to train pilots to control and monitor the approach and takeoff paths of the airports in Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Dohuk to prevent terrorist encroachments. The gyroplane pilots also form the backbone of the pilot crew of the Kurdish police, who are trained to pilot on Eurocopter EC 120 B helicopters.[26][27][28]

In an 18-month period from 2009 to 2010, the German pilot couple Melanie and Andreas Stützfor undertook the first world tour by autogyro, in which they flew several different gyroplane types in Europe, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and South America. The adventure was documented in the book "WELTFLUG – The Gyroplane Dream" and in the film "Weltflug.tv - The Gyrocopter World Tour".[29]

Certification by national aviation authorities[edit]

UK certification[edit]

A VPM M-16 commences its take-off roll

Some autogyros, such as the Rotorsport MT03,[30] MTO Sport (open tandem), & Calidus (enclosed tandem), and the Magni Gyro M16C (open tandem)[31] & M24 (enclosed side by side) have type approval by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) under British Civil Airworthiness Requirements CAP643 Section T.[32] Others operate under a permit to fly issued by the Popular Flying Association— similar to the US experimental aircraft certification. However, the CAA's assertion that autogyros have a poor safety record means that a permit to fly will be granted only to existing types of autogyro. All new types of autogyro must be submitted for full type approval under CAP643 Section T.[33] Beginning in 2014, the CAA allows gyro flight over congested areas.[34]

In 2005, the CAA issued a mandatory permit directive (MPD) which restricted operations for single-seat autogyros, and were subsequently integrated into CAP643 Issue 3 published on 12 August 2005.[32] The restrictions are concerned with the offset between the centre of gravity and thrust line, and apply to all aircraft unless evidence is presented to the CAA that the CG/Thrust Line offset is less than 2 inches (5 cm) in either direction. The restrictions are summarised as follows:

Aircraft with a cockpit/nacelle may be operated only by pilots with more than 50 hours’ solo flight experience following the issue of their licence.

Open-frame aircraft are restricted to a minimum speed of 30 mph (26 knots), except in the flare.

All aircraft are restricted to a Vne (maximum airspeed) of 70 mph (61 knots)

Flight is not permitted when surface winds exceed 17 mph (15 knots) or if the gust spread exceeds 12 mph (10 knots)

Flight is not permitted in moderate, severe or extreme turbulence and airspeed must be reduced to 63 mph (55 knots) if turbulence is encountered mid-flight.

These restrictions do not apply to autogyros with type approval under CAA CAP643 Section T, which are subject to the operating limits specified in the type approval.

United States certification[edit]

A certificated autogyro must meet mandated stability and control criteria; in the United States these are set forth in Federal Aviation Regulations Part 27: Airworthiness Standards: Normal Category Rotorcraft.[35] The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issues a Standard Airworthiness Certificate to qualified autogyros. Amateur-built or kit-built aircraft are operated under a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Experimental category.[36] Per FAR 1.1, the FAA uses the term "gyroplane" for all autogyros, regardless of the type of Airworthiness Certificate.

World records[edit]

In 1931, Amelia Earhart (USA) flew a Pitcairn PCA-2 to a women's world altitude record of 18,415 ft (5,613 m).[37]

Wing Commander Ken Wallis (UK) held most of the autogyro world records during his autogyro flying career. These include a time-to-climb,[38] a speed record of 189 km/h (111.7 mph),[39] and the straight-line distance record of 869.23 km (540.11 mi). On 16 November 2002, at 89 years of age, Wallis increased the speed record to 207.7 km/h (129.1 mph)[40] – and simultaneously set another world record as the oldest pilot to set a world record.

The autogyro is one of the last remaining types of aircraft which has not yet been used to circumnavigate the globe. Expedition Global Eagle was the first attempt in history to circumnavigate the globe using an autogyro.[41] The expedition set the record for the longest flight over water by an autogyro during the segment from Muscat, Oman, to Karachi.[42] The attempt was finally abandoned because of bad weather after a trip totalling 7,500 miles (12,100 km).

Little Wing Autogyro

As of 2014, Andrew Keech (USA) holds several records. He made a transcontinental flight in his self-built Little Wing Autogyro "Woodstock" from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to San Diego, California, in October 2003 and set three world records for speed over a recognized course.[43] The three records were verified by tower personnel or by official observers of the United States' National Aeronautic Association (NAA). On 9 February 2006 he broke two of his world records and set a record for distance, ratified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI): Speed over a closed circuit of 500 km (311 mi) without payload: 168.29 km/h (104.57 mph),[44] speed over a closed circuit of 1,000 km (621 mi) without payload: 165.07 km/h (102.57 mph),[45] and distance over a closed circuit without landing: 1,019.09 km (633.23 mi).[46][47]

MagniGyro M16 - Altitude world record holder

On 7 November 2015, the Italian astrophysicist and pilot Donatella Ricci took off with a MagniGyro M16 from the Caposile aerodrome in Venice, aiming to set a new altitude world record. She reached an altitude of 8,138.46 m (26,701 ft), breaking the women's world altitude record held for 84 years by Amelia Earhart. The following day, she increased the altitude by a further 261 m, reaching 8,399 m (27,556 ft), setting the new altitude world record with an autogyro. She improved by 350 m (+4.3%) the preceding record established by Andrew Keech in 2004.[48]

List of autogyro records

Year Pilot Record type Record Aircraft Notes

2002 Ken Wallis (UK) Speed over a 3 km course 207.7 km/h[40] Wallis Type WA-121/Mc (G-BAHH) Oldest pilot to set record

1998 Ken Wallis (UK) Time to climb, 3000m 7m 20s[38] Wallis Type WA-121/Mc (G-BAHH)

2015 Donatella Ricci (ITA) Altitude record for a woman 8399 m[48] Magni M16 - Rotax 914 engine

2015 Paul A Salmon (USA) Speed over a recognized course 110.75 km/h [49] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 24, 2015

2015 Paul A Salmon (USA) Speed over a recognized course 90.96 km/h [50] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 26, 2015

2015 Paul A Salmon (USA) Speed over a recognized course 107.45 km/h [51] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 26, 2015

2015 Paul A Salmon (USA) Speed over a recognized course 118.56 km/h [52] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) November 5, 2015

2015 Paul A Salmon (USA) Speed over a recognized course 164.13 km/h [53] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) November 10, 2015

2015 Paul A Salmon (USA) Distance without landing 1653.0 km[54] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) November 10, 2015

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Distance over a closed circuit without landing 1427 km [55] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) April 28, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Altitude with 95 kg payload 4225 m [56] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 11, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Highest takeoff 3025 m [57] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 11, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Highest take-off 3025 m [58] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 11, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Altitude with 95 kg payload 4802 m [59] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 11, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Greatest mass carried to height of 2000 m 86 kg [60] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 30, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Altitude with 200 kg payload 2889 m [61] Magni M22-Missing Link II (N322MG) August 30, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Time to climb to 3,000 m >500 kg class 22 min 35 sec [62] Magni M22- Missing Link II (N322MG) August 30, 2016

2016 Paul A Salmon (USA) Greatest mass carried to a height of 2,000 m 145 kg[63] Magni M22- Missing Link II (N322MG) August 30, 2016

1972 Jean Boulet Record altitude 12,440 m (40,814 ft)[64] Aérospatiale Lama engine failure, unpowered descent and landing

Norman Surplus, from Larne in Northern Ireland, became the second person to attempt a world circumnavigation by Autogyro aircraft on 22 March 2010, flying a Rotorsport UK MT-03 Autogyro, registered G-YROX. Surplus was unable to get permission to enter Russian airspace from Japan, but he established nine world autogyro records on his flight between Northern Ireland and Japan.FAI world records for Autogyro flight.[65] G-YROX was delayed (by the Russian impasse) in Japan for over three years before being shipped across the Pacific to the state of Oregon, USA. In June 2015 Surplus flew across the continental USA, flew through northern Canada/Greenland and in late July/August made the first (and to date only) crossing of the North Atlantic by Autogyro Aircraft to land back in Larne, Northern Ireland on 11th August 2015. He established a further 10 FAI World Records during this phase of the circumnavigation flight.

Autogyros in fiction[edit]

Autogyro Little Nellie with its creator and pilot, Ken Wallis

An indication of the pre-World War II popularity of the autogyro, its subsequent decline and later rise of interest can be inferred from its appearances in fiction of the day. Appearances include:

In the film International House (1933), W. C. Fields's character flies around the globe in his autogyro The Spirit of Brooklyn.

In the film It Happened One Night (1934), the bridegroom King Westley arrives dramatically for the wedding, piloting the Kellett K-3 Autogiro NC12691.[66]

A Weir autogyro briefly appears in Alfred Hitchcock's movie The 39 Steps (1935).

Batman's first aircraft was an autogyro. The "Batgyro" was introduced in Detective Comics #31 in September 1939. It only made three appearances before being replaced by a more conventional fixed-wing aircraft.

In the classic science fiction film of H.G. Wells' Things to Come (1936), the heroes of the story arrive dramatically at the Space Gun in an Art Deco-style autogyro (at 83m), to mitigate the destruction of the Space Gun by extremists. The autogyro in the film was designed by celebrated art deco designer Norman Bel Geddes, who assisted production designer William Cameron Menzies on the look of the world of tomorrow.

Fictional characters Doc Savage[67] and The Shadow featured autogyros in their 1930s and 1940s pulp magazine adventures, as did Tom Strong in his pulp styled comic.[68]

Little Nellie, the autogyro featured in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, was a Ken Wallis WA-116 design and was piloted by Wallis in its film scenes. In the film it was shipped by Q in four suitcases and assembled before use.[69][70]

A Wallis WA-116T two-seat autogyro is flown by the character Ben Driscoll in an episode of the 1979 USA NBC-TV television science-fiction miniseries The Martian Chronicles. Driscoll flies the aircraft for "fifteen hundred miles" just to meet Genevieve Seltzer, whom he believes to be the last woman on Mars.[71][72]

In the 1974 Doctor Who story, Planet of the Spiders, the Doctor uses a Campbell Cricket autogyro (G-AXVK) as part of a chase sequence.[73][74]

In Hayao Miyazaki's 1979 anime film, The Castle of Cagliostro, Count Cagliostro utilizes an autogyro, notably against Lupin and company when they attempt to escape his castle residence with Clarisse in tow.

An autogyro was heavily featured in the second Mad Max film, released in 1981, appearing in several scenes with its pilot, the Gyro Captain, as a major character. The pilot used in the flying sequences was Gerry Goodwin, doubling for the actor, Bruce Spence.[75]

An autogyro appeared in the 1983 G.I. Joe toyline and 80's cartoons as the Cobra F.A.N.G.(Fully Armed Negator Gyrocopter).

After Pippi Longstocking sees an autogyro in flight, she and her friends build their own in the 1988 movie The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.

In the 1991 film, The Rocketeer, the hero Cliff Secord and his girlfriend Jenny are rescued from an exploding zeppelin at the last second by an autogyro piloted by their friend Peevy and a fictional Howard Hughes.

The 2004 film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events depicted a play put on by the acting troupe of the villain, Count Olaf, in which a prop autogyro was used for the Count's dramatic entrance.

A Character in Happy Wheels named Helicopter Guy, flies a small Autogyro with a winch magnet. Added in December 2013.

See also[edit]

A Super Genie Autogyro readying for take-off

CarterCopter / Carter PAV

Fairey Rotodyne

Groen Brothers Aviation


Rotor kite


List of autogyro models


Piasecki Aircraft Corporation

Rotary-wing hang glider

The Comper C.L.A.7 Swift is a British 1930s single-seat sporting aircraft produced by Comper Aircraft Company Ltd of Hooton Park, Cheshire.

Design and development[edit]

In March 1929 Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Comper left the Royal Air Force and formed the Comper Aircraft Company to build an aircraft he had designed, the Comper Swift. He had previously designed and flown three aircraft for the Cranwell Light Aeroplane Club: the C.L.A.2, C.L.A.3 and C.L.A.4. The prototype Swift (registered G-AARX) first flew at Hooton Park in January 1930.[1] The aircraft was a small single-seat, braced high-wing monoplane constructed of fabric-covered spruce wood frames.[2] The first Swift was powered by a 40 hp (30 kW) ABC Scorpion piston engine. After successful tests, seven more aircraft were built in 1930, powered by a 50 hp Salmson A.D.9 radial engine. Trials with Pobjoy P radial engine for use in air racing resulted in all the subsequent aircraft being powered by the Pobjoy R. The last three factory-built aircraft (sometimes called the Gipsy Swift) were fitted with de Havilland Gipsy engines – two with 120 hp (89 kW) Gipsy Major III, and one with a 130 hp (97 kW) Gipsy Major. One of the Gipsy Swifts, owned by the then-Prince of Wales and future King Edward VIII, won second place in the 1932 King's Cup Race while being flown by his personal pilot.[3] Postwar, surviving Swifts continued to compete successfully in UK air races into the mid-1950s.


EC-HAM Airworthy, displayed at Cuatro Vientos, Madrid, Spain. Owned by Fundación Infante de Orleans. Formerly G-ABUU, now painted to represent "EC-AAT" "Ciudad de Manila" as flown by Fernando R. Loring for his March 1933 flight Madrid-Manila.[4]

G-ABTC Stored, in Cornwall.[4]

G-ABUS Stored, believed in France.[4]

G-ACGL On display, RAF Museum, Cosford.[2]

G-ACTF Airworthy, displayed at the Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, England[5]

G-LCGL Airworthy (replica)[2]

LV-FBA Stored, in Argentina.[4] Also, a second Comper Swift flew in Argentina. Parts saved and stored in Buenos Aires after accident in San Justo 1950– Owner Vicente Bonvisutto (Reg.G-AAZE R-232 LV-YEA LV-FCE)

VH-ACG (Gipsy engine) Airworthy[6][7] This aircraft was shipped to Oshkosh, USA for the EAA Airventure fly-in, and will be shipped back to Australia after the show.

VH-UVC Stored, in Sydney, Australia.[8] - According to Classic Wings Magazine, VH-UVC took to the skies for the first time in 55 years on 20 November at Omaka Airfield, Blenheim, New Zealand.

A new-build aircraft, registered G-ECTF, and built according to the original plans, with a Pobjoy Cataract engine, is expected to fly in 2015.[9]

Comper Swift, G-ACTF.



Spanish Republican Air Force[10]

Specifications (C.L.A.7 Swift)[edit]

Data from Jackson (1974)[11]

General characteristics

Crew: 1

Length: 17 ft 8½ in (5.4 m)

Wingspan: 24 ft 0 in (7.32 m)

Height: 5 ft 3½ in (1.61 m)

Wing area: 90 ft² (8.36 m²)

Empty weight: 540 lb (245 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 985 lb (447 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × Pobjoy R radial piston, 75 hp (56 kW)


Maximum speed: 140 mph (225 km/h)

Range: 380 miles (611 km)

Service ceiling: 22,000 ft (6705 m)

See also[edit]

Related development

Comper Mouse

Related lists

List of aircraft of the Spanish Republican Air Force

The de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth is a 1930s biplane designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and built by the de Havilland Aircraft Company. It was operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and many other operators as a primary trainer aircraft. In addition to the type's principal use for ab-initio training, the Second World War saw RAF Tiger Moth operating in other capacities, including maritime surveillance, defensive anti-invasion preparations, and even some aircraft that had been outfitted to function as armed light bombers.

The Tiger Moth remained in service with the RAF until it was succeeded and replaced by the de Havilland Chipmunk during the early 1950s. Many of the military surplus aircraft subsequently entered into civil operation. Many nations have used the Tiger Moth in both military and civil applications, and it remains in widespread use as a recreational aircraft in several different countries. It is still occasionally used as a primary training aircraft, particularly for those pilots wanting to gain experience before moving on to other tailwheel aircraft. Many Tiger Moths are now employed by various companies offering trial lesson experiences. The de Havilland Moth club, founded 1975, is now an owners' association offering a mutual club and technical support.



Among the reasons for which de Havilland came to pursue development of the Tiger Moth was the personal dissatisfaction of Geoffrey de Havilland, the company's owner and founder, who sought to produce a light aircraft superior to two of his previous designs, the de Havilland Humming Bird and de Havilland DH.51.[3] From earlier experience, de Havilland knew the difficulty and importance of correctly sizing such an aircraft to appeal to various sectors of the civil market, such as touring, trainer, flying club and private aviation customers; the firm had previously attained a measure of popularity with a scaled down version of the DH.51, designated as the DH 60 de Havilland Gipsy Moth.[3]

The starting point for the Tiger Moth was in fact the successful Gypsy Tiger.[4] Successively more capable engines had been developed and the company had produced a prototype to test the new de Havilland Gipsy III engine. This prototype, a low-wing monoplane was initially a modification of the standard Gypsy Tiger; it later became the first aircraft to be referred to as the Tiger Moth.[5] Improvements made upon the Tiger Moth monoplane were first incorporated into a military trainer variant of the de Havilland DH.60 Moth, designated as the DH.60T Moth – in later parlance, the T came to stand for 'Tiger' in addition to 'Trainer'.[4] According to aviation author A.J. Jackson, development of the standard Tiger Moth version from the monoplane prototype had proceeded relatively straightforward after this point.[4]

The DH.60T Moth had several shortcomings, and thus was subject to several alterations, such as the adoption of shortened interplane struts in order to raise the wingtips after insufficient ground clearance was discovered while it was undergoing trials at RAF Martlesham Heath.[4] As a result of the Martlesham trials, a favourable report for the type was produced, which in turn led to the type soon being formally adopted as the new basic trainer of the Royal Air Force (RAF). A single prototype, designated as the DH.82 Tiger Moth, was ordered by the British Air Ministry under Specification 15/31, which sought a suitable ab-initio training aircraft.[4]

One of the main changes made from the preceding Moth series was necessitated by a desire to improve access to the front cockpit, since the training requirement specified that the front seat occupant had to be able to escape easily, especially when wearing a parachute.[6][4] Access to the front cockpit of the Moth predecessors was restricted by the proximity of the aircraft's fuel tank directly above the front cockpit and the rear cabane struts for the upper wing. The solution adopted was to shift the upper wing forward but sweep the wings back to maintain the centre of lift.[7][4] Other changes included a strengthened structure, fold-down doors on both sides of the cockpit and a revised exhaust system.[6]

On 26 October 1931, the first 'true' Tiger Moth, the prototype E6, conducted its maiden flight at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware, London; de Havilland Chief Test Pilot Hubert Broad was at the controls during this first flight.[8][4] Shortly thereafter, construction of the first 35 production aircraft for the RAF, designated K2567-K2601, began following the issuing of Specification T.23/31; in addition, two float-equipped seaplanes, S1675 and S1676, were built according to Specification T.6/33.[4]


Royal New Zealand Air Force Tiger Moth aircraft with blind flying hoods for instrument training, early in the war

The Tiger Moth quickly became a commercial success, various models of the aircraft were exported to more than 25 Air Forces of various overseas nations.[4] In addition to the military demand, aircraft were also produced for the civil market. At one point, the flow of orders for the Tiger Moth had effectively occupied almost the entirety of de Havilland's capacity to manufacture aircraft and little capacity could be spared to accommodate domestic customers.[9] In 1932, de Havilland also developed an affordable air taxi from the Tiger Moth; using almost all of the main components of the former in combination with a new plywood fuselage seating four people in an enclosed cabin, it was marketed as the de Havilland Fox Moth.[10] Following the end of all manufacturing, third parties would occasionally re-build Tiger Moths to a similar configuration to the Fox Moth, such as the Thruxton Jackaroo.[11]

In late 1934, 50 Tiger Moths of a more refined design, sometimes referred to as the Tiger Moth II, were delivered to the RAF; these aircraft saw the adoption of the de Havilland Gipsy Major engine, capable of generating 130 HP, and the use of plywood decking on the rear fuselage in place of traditional fabric covering the stringers.[12] Throughout 1934 – 1936, production activity was centered upon meeting the demand for military trainers, including several contracts having been placed by the RAF to Specification T.7/35 along with export orders by seven overseas operators.[13] Civil examples were also being produced at this time, both for British private customers and to export customers in countries such as Ceylon, Greece, Lithuania, Rhodesia, Peru, and Switzerland.[14]

After 1936, the gradual rate of acceleration of Tiger Moth manufacturing had reached the point where production capacity became finally able to exceed the demands from military customers alone.[15] By the outbreak of the Second World War, a total of 1,424 Tiger Moths had been completed by both domestic and overseas manufacturing efforts.[16] In 1941, de Havilland transferred principal manufacturing activity for the Tiger Moth from its Hatfield factory to Morris Motors Limited at their facility in Cowley, Oxford.[17] In 1945, all activity on the British Tiger Moth production lines was terminated; by this point, Morris Motors had completed a total of 3,433 Tiger Moths.[17]

In 1937, overseas manufacturing of the type commenced, the first such firm being de Havilland Canada at their facility in Downsview, Toronto, Ontario; in addition to an initial batch of 25 Tiger Moths that were built for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the Canadian firm began building fuselages which were exported to the UK for completion.[16] Canadian-built Tiger Moths featured modifications to better suit the local climate, along with a reinforced tail wheel, hand-operated brakes (built by Bendix Corporation), shorter undercarriage radius rods and the legs of the main landing gear legs being raked forwards as a safeguard against tipping forwards during braking. Furthermore, the cockpit had a large sliding canopy fitted along with exhaust-based heating; various alternative undercarriage arrangements were also offered.[18] By the end of Canadian production, de Havilland Canada had manufactured a total of 1,548 of all versions, including the DH.82C and American Menasco Pirate-engined variants (with opposing "counter-clockwise" rotation to the clockwise-running Gipsy Major) known as the Menasco Moth; this also included 200 Tiger Moths that were built under wartime United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Lend-Lease orders, which were designated for paperwork purposes as the PT-24, before being delivered onwards to the RCAF.

Additional overseas manufacturing activity also occurred, most of which took place during wartime. de Havilland Australia assembled an initial batch of 20 aircraft from parts sent from the United Kingdom prior to embarking on a major production campaign of their own of the DH.82A, which resulted in a total of 1,070 Tiger Moths being constructed locally in Australia.[17] In late 1940, the first Australian-assembled Tiger Moth conducted ins first flight at Bankstown, Sydney. Most Australian aircraft were delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), however several batches were exported, including 18 for the USAAF and 41 for the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF).[17]

132 Tiger Moths were completed in New Zealand by de Havilland Aircraft of New Zealand .[19] 23 aircraft were built in Sweden as the Sk.11 by AB Svenska Järnvägsverkstädernas Aeroplanavdelning, 91 Tiger Moths were built in Portugal by OGMA, and another 38 in Norway by Kjeller Flyfabrikk (some sources say 37 so the first may have been assembled from a kit) in addition to a large number of aircraft that were assembled from kits shipped from the UK.[19][20][17]


The de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth is a single-engine biplane light aircraft. It was developed principally to be used by private touring customers as well as for pilot instruction for both military and civil operators. It is typically powered by a de Havilland Gipsy III 120 hp engine; later models are often fitted with more powerful models of this engine, while some have been re-engined by third party companies.

One distinctive characteristic of the Tiger Moth design is its differential aileron control setup. The ailerons (on the lower wing only) on a Tiger Moth are operated by an externally mounted circular bellcrank, which lies flush with the lower wing's fabric undersurface covering. This circular bellcrank is rotated by metal cables and chains from the cockpit's control columns, and has the externally mounted aileron pushrod attached at a point 45° outboard and forward of the bellcrank's centre, when the ailerons are both at their neutral position. This results in an aileron control system operating, with barely any travel down at all on the wing on the outside of the turn, while the aileron on the inside travels a large amount upwards to counteract adverse yaw.

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.[21]

Operational history[edit]


Canadian DH.82C Tiger Moth showing characteristic canopy

The RAF ordered 35 dual-control Tiger Moth Is which had the company designation DH 82.[22] 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. During the pre-war years increasing numbers of Tiger Moths were procured for the RAF and by overseas customers; by 1939, nearly 40 flying schools operating the type had been established, nine of which operated civil-registers models as well.[23]

From 1937 onwards, the Tiger Moth was made available to general flying clubs, production having been previously occupied by military customers. The type was quickly used to replace older aircraft in the civil trainer capacity, such as the older de Havilland Cirrus Moth and Gipsy Moth.[15] By the start of the Second World War, the RAF had around 500 Tiger Moths in service. In addition, nearly all civilian-opeated Tiger Moths throughout the Commonwealth were quickly impressed into their respective air forces in order to meet the strenuous wartime demand for trainer aircraft.[16]


Winston Churchill, David Margesson and others waiting to watch the launch of a DH.82 Queen Bee target drone, 6 June 1941.

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 manoeuvre could easily cause the aircraft to stall or spin. From 1941 onwards, all military and many civil Tiger Moths were outfitted with anti-spin strakes positioned on the junction between the fuselage and the leading edge of the tailplane, known as Mod 112; later on, the aileron mass balances were removed for improved spin recovery performance.[16]

Gunnery target drone[edit]

In 1935, the DH.82 Queen Bee, a pilotless, radio-controlled variant of the Tiger Moth appeared, for use in training anti-aircraft gunners. Usage of the word drone, as a generic term for pilotless aircraft, apparently originated from the name and role of the Queen Bee (i.e. the word drone referred previously only to a kind of worker bee).[24][25] The DH.82 had a wooden fuselage, based on that of the DH.60 Gipsy Moth (with appropriate structural changes related to cabane strut placement) and the wings of the Tiger Moth II.[26] Queen Bees retained a normal front cockpit for test-flying or ferry flights, but had a radio-control system in the rear cockpit that operated the controls using pneumatically driven servos.

A total of 400 were built by de Havilland at Hatfield, and a further 70 by Scottish Aviation.[27] There were nearly 300 in service at the start of the Second World War.

Coastal patrol[edit]

In December 1939, owing to a shortage of maritime patrol aircraft, six flights of Tiger Moths were operated by RAF Coastal Command for surveillance flights over coastal waters, known as "scarecrow patrols". The aircraft operated in pairs and were armed only with a Very pistol. The intention was to force any encroaching U-boat to dive; one aircraft would then remain in the vicinity while the other would search for a naval patrol vessel which could be led back to the spot.[28] Because they were not radio equipped, each aircraft also carried a pair of homing pigeons in a wicker basket to call for help in case of a forced landing at sea. A 25-pound (11.5 kilogram) bomb was sometimes carried, but there is no record of one being dropped in action.[29]

Anti-invasion preparations[edit]

In the aftermath of Britain's disastrous campaign in France, in August 1940, three proposals for beach defence systems were put forward. 350 Tiger Moths were fitted with bomb racks to serve as light bombers as a part of Operation Banquet. A more radical conversion involved the "paraslasher", a scythe-like blade fitted to a Tiger Moth and intended to cut parachutists' 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 dispenser of Paris Green rat poison for use against ground troops, with powder dispensers located under the wings.[30]


Tiger Moth Coupe with spatted undercarriage at Coventry Airport in 1955

Dutch Tiger Moth at Hilversum Airport in 1967, it has the extended fin area required by the Dutch authorities.

Early aerial topdressing conversion of the Tiger Moth at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 2009.

In the postwar climate, impressed Tiger Moths were restored to their former civil operations and owners.[31] Accordingly, there were large numbers of surplus Tiger Moths that were made available for sale to flying clubs and individuals. There were also relatively few new light aircraft being manufactured at the time to take its place.[32] Due to the type being relatively inexpensive to operate and the aforementioned factors, the Tiger Moth was met with an enthusiastic reception across the civil market. Additionally, it was promptly put to use for various new roles including aerial advertising, aerial ambulance, aerobatic performer, crop duster and glider tug.[31]

In the air racing market, a quantity of Tiger Moths were converted to a single seat configuration, often temporarily.[33] Several aircraft were extensively modified for greater speed; these changes may include the removal of the center-section fuel tank, alternative fuel tank configurations, all-new elevators, custom-designed fuel injectors, and the re-covering of the fuselage with lighter-weight fabric.[34] Three particular aircraft, G-APDZ, G-ANZZ, and G-ANMZ, were accordingly rebuilt and were frequently used in international competitions; the design changes led to substantially improved performance during inverted flight.[35]

Many ex-RAF examples were imported to the Netherlands during the post war era and used to equip the Dutch National Flying School at Ypenburg.[36] These aircraft were required by the Dutch civil aviation authorities to be fitted with a larger dorsal fin, incorporating an extended forward fillet to the fin, to provide for additional area; this requirement was also extended to privately owned Tiger Moths in the Netherlands.[35]

The Tiger Moth might be confused at first glance with the Belgian-designed Stampe SV.4 aerobatic aircraft which had a very similar design layout; both aircraft made use of a similar main landing gear configuration, a slightly sweepback wing, and an alike engine/cowling design. Several Tiger Moths were converted during the 1950s to a Coupe standard, which involved the installation of a sliding canopy over both crew positions, not unlike the Canadian-built Fleet Finch biplane trainers which had worked beside the Tiger Moth in RCAF service as trainers in Canada during the type's wartime years.[33]

After the development of aerial topdressing in New Zealand, large numbers of ex-Royal New Zealand Air Force Tiger Moths built in that country and in the United Kingdom were converted into agricultural aircraft; at the time, this was a pioneering use for aircraft.[31] In this role, the front seat was commonly replaced with a hopper to hold superphosphate for aerial topdressing. A large number were also used to deploy insecticide in the crop-sprayer role, for which several alternative arrangements, including perforated piping being installed underneath the mainplanes or the placement of rotary atomisers on the lower mainplane, were used.[31] From the mid-1950s onwards, these topdressers were gradually replaced by more modern types such as the PAC Fletcher; as such, a large number of New Zealand Tiger Moths in good flying condition were then passed to pilot owner enthusiasts.[citation needed]

It has been claimed that more people have flown themselves in Tiger Moths than in any other plane.[citation needed]

Royal Navy Tiger Moths utilised as target tugs and "air experience" machines became the last military examples when that service purchased a batch of refurbished ex-civil examples in 1956.[37] One became the last biplane to land on an aircraft carrier (HMS Eagle) in the English Channel during the Summer of 1967. On takeoff, the wind over the deck allowed the aircraft to fly but it was slower than the carrier, which turned hard to starboard to avoid a possible collision.[citation needed] These planes remained in service until the early 1970s.[citation needed]

The Tiger Moth had been often used as a stand-in for rarer aircraft in films, sometimes having been extensively modified to outwardly resemble the aircraft it was depicting.[38] A trio of aircraft were converted by Croydon-based Film Aviation Services Ltd for use in the filming of the 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia; one Tiger Moth became a replica of a Fokker D.VII while two aircraft resembled the Rumpler C.V to depict these types for the film.[38] Several Tiger Moth were used in the crash scenes in The Great Waldo Pepper, standing in for the Curtiss JN-1.[citation needed] Due to the popularity of the design and the rising cost of flyable examples, a number of replicas (scale and full-size) have been designed for the homebuilder, including the Fisher R-80 Tiger Moth and the RagWing RW22 Tiger Moth.[citation needed]

Flying the Tiger Moth[edit]

DH.82A Tiger Moth in 2005

The Tiger Moth responds well to control inputs, and is fairly easy to fly for a tail-dragger. Its big "parachute" wings are very forgiving, and it stalls at a speed as slow as 25 knots with power. Its stall and spin characteristics are benign. It has some adverse yaw, and therefore requires rudder input during turns.[39] The Tiger Moth exhibits the fundamental requirements of a training aircraft, in being "easy to fly, but difficult to fly well"; the aircraft's benign handling when within its limits make it easy for the novice to learn the basic skills of flight. At the same time techniques such as coordinated flight must be learnt and used effectively, and the aircraft will show up mishandling to an observant instructor or attentive pupil. As training progresses towards more advanced areas, especially aerobatics, the skill required on the part of a Tiger Moth pilot increases. The aircraft will not, like some training aircraft, "fly its way out of trouble" but will instead stall or spin if mishandled. However the stall and spin remain benign, again showing up deficient piloting without endangering the aircraft or the crew. These characteristics were invaluable to military operators, who must identify between pilots with the potential to go on to fly fighter aircraft, those more suited to lower-performance machines and those who must be relegated to non-pilot aircrew positions.[citation needed]

Because the Tiger Moth has no electrical system, it must be started by hand. This needs to be done with care to prevent being struck by the propeller, which would result in serious injury. Being a tail-dragging biplane, taxiing also requires care. The pilot cannot see directly ahead, so the lower wing can hit obstructions, and it is susceptible to gusts of wind on its inclined, large, upper wing.[39]

A 1933-built Tiger Moth

The takeoff is uneventful, and it has a reasonable rate of climb. However, full power should not be maintained for more than a minute to avoid damaging the engine.[39]

The Tiger Moth's biplane design makes it strong, and it is fully aerobatic. However, it has ailerons only on its bottom wing, which makes its rate of roll relatively slow for a biplane, and as stated previously, the ailerons on a Tiger Moth normally operate with a heavy degree of designed-in differential operation (mostly deflecting up, hardly at all downwards) to avoid adverse yaw problems in normal flight. Most manoeuvres are started at about 90 to 110 knots, and it has a Velocity Never Exceeded (VNE) of 140 knots. It is important to lock the automatic slats (leading edge flaps) during aerobatic manoeuvres.[39]

There are two methods of landing. "Wheeler" landing involves pushing the plane on to the runway at a moderate speed with just the main wheels on the ground, with the tail held up until speed reduces. It does not tend to bounce. Unlike most tail draggers, slow speed three point landings are quite difficult because there is not enough elevator authority to bring the tail down to the correct three point attitude.[original research?] This means that the tail needs to be brought down sharply at just the right speed in order for the angular momentum[original research?] to carry it down sufficiently.[39]

The open cockpit allows pilots to move their heads over the side to see the runway during approach and landing. As the aircraft is a tail dragger, it is essential to land it straight with no sideways movement, to avoid ground loops.[39]

One often undocumented feature is that the carburetor de-icing mechanism is activated automatically when the throttle is reduced. This means that when an engine is running poorly due to ice the pilot must reduce power even further and then wait for the ice to melt.[39]


de Havilland Canada DH.82C in Commonwealth Air Training Plan "trainer yellow" at the Western Canada Aviation Museum (note the skis)

DH.60T Moth Trainer/Tiger Moth

Military training version of the De Havilland DH.60 Moth. First eight prototype DH.82 configuration aircraft were named Tiger Moth.[40]

DH.82 Tiger Moth (Tiger Moth I)

Two-seat primary trainer aircraft. Powered by a 120 hp (89 kW) de Havilland Gipsy III piston engine; renamed Tiger Moth I in RAF.

DH.82A Tiger Moth (Tiger Moth II)

Two-seat primary trainer aircraft. Powered by a 130 hp (97 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major piston engine and fitted with a hood over the rear cockpit for blind flying instruction. Named Tiger Moth II in RAF.

DH.82B Tiger Moth III

Improved variant with a de Havilland Gipsy Major III engine, it had a wider fuselage and larger fin. First flown on 1 October 1939 only one was built. In some references the designation is erroneously applied to the Queen Bee.

DH.82C Tiger Moth

Cold weather operations version for the RCAF. Fitted with sliding perspex canopies, cockpit heating, brakes, tail wheels and metal struts. Wheels were moved forwards by 9.75" to compensate for the installation of brakes by changing the angle of the undercarriage legs. Powered by a 145 hp (108 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major piston engine. 1,523 built (including Menasco Moths and PT-24).

DH.82C-2 Menasco Moth I

DH.82C fitted with Menasco D-4 Super Pirate 125 hp inline inverted 4-cylinder engine due to shortages of Gipsy Major engines. Because of the reduction in power, they were used primarily as radio trainers. Externally distinguishable from 82C by opposite rotation of propeller and reversal of the cowling openings. 10 built.

DH.82C-4 Menasco Moth II

As DH.82C-2 but with reduced fuel capacity and further detail alterations. One example survives and is on display at Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. 125 built.

DH.82C-4 Menasco Moth III

Fitted with American AT-1/AR-2 radio and intended as a radio trainer from outset but project cancelled when shortages of British radios and engines was resolved. The sole example, RCAF 4934 was converted from Menasco Moth II.[41]

DH.82 Queen Bee

Unmanned radio-controlled target drone that used Tiger Moth wings and for economy a wooden fuselage based on that of the DH.60 Moth (but with the structural changes associated with the cabane struts having been relocated as per the standard Tiger Moth) was used. The Queen Bee was intended to be operated from either floats or wheels. As of 2008, the sole remaining airworthy Queen Bee resided at RAF Henlow, England. 405 were built.

PT-24 Moth

United States military designation for the DH.82C ordered for Lend-Lease to the Royal Canadian Air Force; 200 were built by de Havilland Canada.

Thruxton Jackaroo

Main article: Thruxton Jackaroo

Four-seat cabin biplane, modified from existing DH.82A airframes by widening the gap between the fuselage longerons. 19 were converted in the United Kingdom.

DH.83 Fox Moth

Used many Tiger Moth components including wings (rerigged to remove sweep), tail and undercarriage with a new fuselage featuring an enclosed cabin for the passengers, and an open cockit for the pilot. Built in both the United Kingdom before the Second World War and in Canada after the war.


DH.82A Tiger Moth in RAAF markings

Tiger Moth in British camouFlage, Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, Brussels, Belgium (2011)

Military operators[edit]


Royal Australian Air Force

Royal Australian Navy – Fleet Air Arm (RAN).


Belgian Air Force (31 operated from 1945)


Brazilian Air Force, 5 delivered in 1932 and 12 in 1935.

Brazilian Naval Aviation


Burma Volunteer Air Force

Burma Air Force


Royal Canadian Air Force

Royal Canadian Navy


Royal Ceylon Air Force

Democratic Republic of Congo

Force Aérienne Congolaise


Czechoslovakian Air Force – One aircraft in service from 1945 to 1948.


Royal Danish Air Force



Finnish Air Force


French Air Force


Luftwaffe (small numbers)[42]


Hellenic Air Force

British Raj India

Royal Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force


Imperial Iranian Air Force- 99 imported and 10 built locally in 1938–39[43]


Iraqi Air Force


Israeli Air Force

Sherut Avir


Royal Jordanian Air Force


Malaya Auxiliary Air Force


Royal Netherlands Air Force

Dutch Naval Aviation Service

Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force[citation needed]

New Zealand

DH.82A Tiger Moth in Royal Norwegian Air Force markings

Royal New Zealand Air Force

No. 1 Squadron RNZAF

No. 2 Squadron RNZAF

No. 3 Squadron RNZAF

No. 4 Squadron RNZAF

No. 42 Squadron RNZAF


Norwegian Army Air Service


Pakistan Air Force


Polish Air Force[citation needed]

Polish Air Force in Great Britain


Portuguese Army Aviation

Portuguese Naval Aviation

Portuguese Air Force


Rhodesian Air Force

Saudi Arabia

Royal Saudi Air Force


Spanish Republican Air Force

Spanish State

Spanish Air Force

South Africa

South African Air Force

Southern Rhodesia

Southern Rhodesian Air Force

Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Air Force


Swedish Air Force


Royal Thai Air Force

Royal Thai Navy

United Kingdom

Royal Air Force

No. 24 Squadron RAF

No. 27 Squadron RAF

No. 52 Squadron RAF

No. 81 Squadron RAF

No. 116 Squadron RAF

No. 297 Squadron RAF

No. 510 Squadron RAF

No. 612 Squadron RAF

No. 613 Squadron RAF

No. 652 Squadron RAF

No. 653 Squadron RAF

No. 654 Squadron RAF

No. 656 Squadron RAF

No. 663 Squadron RAF

No. 668 Squadron RAF

No. 669 Squadron RAF

No. 670 Squadron RAF

No. 671 Squadron RAF

No. 672 Squadron RAF

No. 673 Squadron RAF

Fleet Air Arm

United States

United States Army Air Forces


Uruguayan Air Force


SFR Yugoslav Air Force – 24 aircraft[44]

2nd Training Aviation Regiment (1945–1948)

Civil operators[edit]

The aircraft is operated by many private individuals and flying clubs.

Surviving aircraft[edit]

Tiger Moth II preserved at the Polish Aviation Museum, 2006

Portuguese de Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth at the Museu do Ar (Portuguese Air Force Museum)

de Havilland Tiger Moth (A17-711) in Second World War training colours at the RAAF Museum.

A de Havilland Tiger Moth at the Frontiers of Flight Museum

De Havilland Tiger Moth in The Royal Thai Air Force Museum

Numerous examples of the Tiger Moth are still flying today (an estimated 250).[21] 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:

Alberta Aviation Museum, Edmonton, Canada[citation needed]

Aviodrome at Lelystad Airport in The Netherlands[citation needed]

Canadian Air and Space Museum, Toronto, Canada[citation needed]

Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa, Canada – two examples, 1 on display, 1 stored[45][46]

Canadian Museum of Flight, Langley, Canada[citation needed]

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton, Canada[citation needed]

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada[citation needed]

EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, United States[citation needed]

Flygvapenmuseum at Malmen Airbase near Linköping, Sweden[citation needed]

Heritage Park, Calgary, Canada (on loan from the Aero Space Museum Association of Calgary)[citation needed]

Indian Air Force Museum, Palam – 1 Airworthy Example for Vintage Flight Squadron[citation needed]

Israeli Air Force Museum, Hatzerim, Israel[citation needed]

Luskintyre Aviation Flying Museum, Luskintyre, NSW Australia – Tiger moth restorers and builders[citation needed]

Mackay Tiger Moth Museum, Mackay, Australia[citation needed]

Malta Aviation Museum in Malta[citation needed]

de Havilland Aircraft Museum in London Colney, England[citation needed]

Museo Aeronáutico "Coronel (Aviador) Jaime Meregalli" (es) in Uruguay[citation needed]

Museo Nacional Aeronáutico y del Espacio (es) in Chile[citation needed]

Museu Aeroespacial, 25 km outside Rio de Janeiro in Brazil[citation needed]

Museu do Ar, Sintra, Portugal[citation needed]

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand[citation needed]

National Museum of Flight at RAF East Fortune in Scotland[citation needed]

National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio, United States[47]

Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck/Red Hook, NY, United States[48]

PAF Museum, Karachi, Pakistan[citation needed]

Polish Aviation Museum at the former Kraków-Rakowice-Czyżyny Airport in Poland[citation needed]

RAAF Museum, RAAF Williams Point Cook, Australia[citation needed]

Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin, Canada[citation needed]

Royal Aero Club of Western Australia (Inc.), Jandakot, Australia[citation needed]

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, Brussels, Belgium[citation needed]

Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, Wigram, New Zealand – 1 airworthy aircraft for historic flight[citation needed]

Royal Newcastle Aero Club, Rutherford, NSW, Australia – scenic and aerobatic joyflights in VH-RNI[citation needed]

Royal Thai Air Force Museum, Bangkok, Thailand

Saskatchewan Western Development Museum, Moose Jaw, Canada[citation needed]

Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden, England[citation needed]

Sri Lanka Air Force Museum, Sri Lanka[citation needed]

Temora Aviation Museum, Temora, Australia[citation needed]

Tiger Boys' Aeroplane Works & Flying Museum, Guelph, Ont. Canada[citation needed]

Vintage Wings of Canada, Gatineau, Qc. Canada[citation needed]

Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg, Canada[citation needed]

Yugoslav Aeronautical Museum, Serbia[citation needed]

Specifications (DH 82A)[edit]

Data from The Tiger Moth Story,[49] The de Havilland Tiger Moth[33]

General characteristics

Crew: two, student & instructor

Length: 23 ft 11 in (7.34 m)

Wingspan: 29 ft 4 in (8.94 m)

Height: 8 ft 9 in (2.68 m)

Wing area: 239 sq ft (22.2 m²)

Empty weight: 1,115 lb (506 kg)

Useful load: 710 lb (323 kg)

Loaded weight: 1,825 lb (828 kg)

Powerplant: 1 × de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted 4-cylinder inline, 130 hp (100 kW)


Maximum speed: 109 mph at 1,000 ft (97 kn, 175 km/h at 300 m)

Cruise speed: 67 mph (59 kn)

Range: 302 miles (250 nm, 486 km)

Service ceiling: 13,600 ft (4,145 m)

Rate of climb: 673 ft/min (205 m/min)


8x 20 lb bombs

See also[edit]

The English Patient, an Academy Award-winning film featuring a Tiger Moth in a central role, along with a Boeing Stearman.

Aviation portal

Flag Canada portal

External video

Period instructional video on flying the Tiger Moth

In-cockpit footage of a preserved Tiger Moth conducting an instructional flight

A Tiger Moth performing an aerobatic display routine

Compilation of footage from the 2005 Annual International de Havilland Moth Club rally

Thunderbird 6, a film which also features the Tiger Moth prominently.

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Boeing-Stearman Model 75

Bücker Bü 131 Jungmann

Fleet Finch

Focke-Wulf Fw 44

Gotha Go 145

Polikarpov Po-2

Stampe-Vertongen SV.4

Related lists

List of aircraft of the Royal Air Force

List of aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force

List of aircraft of the Royal New Zealand Air Force and Royal New Zealand Navy

List of aircraft of the Spanish Republican Air Force

RARE Aviation RPPC - British National Day Tiger Moth Comper Autogiro 1932 Photo:

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