Tiger Moth


AvStop Magazine Online

Tiger Moth

The Tiger Moth is one of the major success stories of the aviation. Developed during the early 1930s as a military trainer, the Tiger Moth later became the most important elementary trainer throughout Commonwealth forces. Altogether 335 Tigers saw service from 1939 until 1955, 181 of these being constructed in New Zealand. After the aircraft's military training success, the type went on to form the foundation of agricultural aviation in New Zealand. At the end of WWII, pilots could buy and modify a Tiger Moth for topdressing relatively cheaply.

This, combined with its popularity within the aero club movement, provided employment for the Tiger Moths until the late fifties when the more modern closed cockpit aircraft forced them into retirment. The Tiger will be remembered by many New Zealanders as the first aircraft they flew in or learnt to fly. There are about 35 of these classic machines still flying in New Zealand today. The Alpine Fighter Collection's Tiger Moth was manufactured by the de Havilland Company of New Zealand at Rongotai (in what is now an Air New Zealand domestic terminal).

Brought on charge by the RNZAF at Rongotai on 1 June 1943 as serial NZ 1459, it was allocated to No. 3 EFTS, Harewood from new, and remained with that unit until as late as August 1944. During late 1944, NZ1459 was dismantled and placed in storage and this became one of the 42 Tiger Moths retained for service with the post-war RNZAF.

NZ1459 was reassembled and returned to RNZAF service during November 1952 and spent the following three years with the Initial Training School (ITS) at Taieri, Dunedin as an 'ab initio' trainer for regular and territorial trainees. On 4 March 1953 the aircraft suffered a heavy landing during training at Taieri but suffered no serious damage and was returned to service. A similar accident occurred on 16 February 1954 - evident of the type of job it was required of. After a period of time at Wigram (operated by the Central Flying School) during 1954 the aircraft continued to fly from Taieri until 1956 when it returned to Wigram and was placed in storage.

Advertised for tender, the aircraft was sold to the New Plymouth Aero Club for 403 pounds and allocated the registration ZK-BRD on 28 June 1956 - althought this was shortlived. Apparently the National Airways Corporation had been promised the registration BRD for their Vickers Viscount "City of Wellington" and the New Plymouth Aero Club were asked to change their aircraft registration to ZK-BRB (which they duly did). Used as a trainer - and then as a crop sprayer by the club, the aircraft was sold to a private owner in 1964 for use as a glider tug at Tuhikaramea.

Passing through various owners, the aircraft was purchased by Alpine Helicopters and then the Alpine Fighter Collection in 1985. The aircraft is painted as it was when based at Harewood in 1943, and is available for passenger flights operated by Biplane Adventures.