A rather splendid Moth

At first sight, this might seem to be another of those excellent creatures, a DH 82A Tiger Moth. However, close examination shows that G-ABZB is, in fact, another rara avis, a DH 60G III Moth Major, although the original name issued in the British Civil Aircraft Register was ‘D.H. Mark Three Gipsy Moth (Wood)’. Built in 1932, at a time when De Havilland products were dominating the light civil aircraft market, the wooden framework fuselage sheathed in plywood had become a company trademark. The first DH 60 aircraft were powered by an upright 4-cylinder ADC (later Blackburn) Cirrus engine. This was followed by the new upright DeH Gipsy I engine, which altered the designation of the aircraft to DH 60G,  and when an inverted version – called the Gipsy III – was developed to improve pilot sightlines, the aircraft became the DH 60G III. Ultimately, the engine being renamed Gipsy Major caused another name change to DH60G III Moth Major.

DH 60 Moths flew all over the world – literally. Amy Johnson, Francis Chichester and Jean Batten all flew DH 60s at some time or another, and both Miss Johnson and Jean Batten broke the England to Australia record (Amy Johnson in ‘G-AAAH’ ‘Jason’, now hanging in the Science Museum, London). As can be imagined, the Moth series gave rise to many military variants being exported to countries as diverse as Denmark (for their Navy) and Argentina. The RAF did not, however, order the aircraft in quantity, and the above photograph of the beautifully restored G-ABZB, taxying out at the Great Vintage Flying Weekend at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, shows exactly why.

You can see that the passenger in the front cockpit is directly beneath the upper wing; RAF authorities felt that anyone wearing a Service parachute would have difficulty bailing out. Also, the tips of the parallel wing had a tendency to catch the turf when manoeuvering on the ground. By re-arranging the cabane struts, moving the upper wing forwards about 18 inches, and adding some dihedral on the lower wing to raise the tips, these problems were fixed. Also, the RAF wanted a change from the all-wood construction, and a steel tube/plywood covered fuselage was designed; the result was the immortal DH 82A Tiger Moth!

The beautiful G-ABZB is now owned by Nicola Child and Graham Turner, and is an absolute joy to behold. In case you are wondering if your eyes are playing tricks – yes, there ARE two Boeing 747’s in the background, and yes, they are in the process of being scrapped, hence the fact that the engines have been removed from one of them. As I remarked to my friend David, either that or they are constructing the world’s biggest glider!


One comment on “A rather splendid Moth”

  1. I had not known about this antecedent of the Tiger Moth, thanks for that as well as the technical description of the modifications required for use in the RAF. The details are the part of the story that makes it happen.

    Now that you’ve mentioned it, bailing out of the forward cockpit looks like a contortionist’s move.


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