1938 DH 82a Tiger Moth N-5490

This website has been established to record the history, restoration and return to airworthiness of 1938 Tiger Moth N-5490.
The website is dedicated to the de Havilland engineers who created the Tiger Moth and to the pilots who learned to fly on them
many of whom went on to distinguished wartime and post-war flying careers while others perished either in training accidents or combat.

If anyone can add to the information presented on this website, please make contact.

Scroll down this page for the latest project news.

The N-5490 project is a proud supporter of the RAF Charitable Trust.


The Crew Room

The Pilots

De Havilland Tiger Moth N82KF, originally RAF serial N-5490, resting quietly at Harvey Field, Snohomish, Washington State, USA on 29th January 2012 before acquisition.
Appearances can be deceptive.  After sitting in this open T hangar for many years, the airframe had deteriorated significantly.
On close inspection and stripping down, many wounds from a long and hard life were uncovered.

N-5490 is currently undergoing a meticulous restoration to full airworthiness and will be restored
as closely as possible to its original 1938 specification and 20 E&RFTS colours, including its original
pre-war instrumentation and full Air Ministry night flying equipment.

The end result is expected to be the most original and authentically restored Tiger Moth to date.
Follow the restoration here.

If you would like to support the restoration of this historic aircraft, or have any information  that would add to the
research surrounding N-5490 or the pilots who flew it, please make contact.

Latest Project News

27th April 2017  It has been nearly a year since my last post here.  However, that does not mean that nothing has been happening.
A huge amount of detailed restoration work and research has been completed in the last twelve months and is being reported in the Crew Room.
The great news this week regards the FAA registration of the aircraft.  N-5490 was the Tiger's original RAF serial number, but it was registered N82KF
when it was imported to the USA in 1976 by Geert Frank and sold to its first stateside owner, Ken French, the number reflecting his initials.
(This numbering scheme was used for many of the Tigers that Geert imported, restored and sold in the seventies.)
When I acquired N-5490, I immediately thought that this would be the perfect FAA N number for the aircraft.
However, I was disappointed to discover that the number had already been allocated, to a Philips gyrocopter in Florida.
I approached the FAA to see if there was any way I could negotiate with the owner for the number.
I was told that this was indeed possible, so I wrote to Mr. Philips, the gyrocopter owner, proposing such an arrangement, but received no reply.
Fast forward to this week.  I was carrying out some other research on the FAA's aircraft registration website and discovered that N5490 was
to be purged from the records on 22nd August this year.  Obviously, nothing had been heard from Mr. Philips for many years, and the likelihood
is that his home-made gyrocopter, which he registered in 1971, was never completed.
So I have now reserved N number N5490 for N-5490!  Since the number 'N5490' was part of the original 1938 RAF markings,
this means that I will not have to add a separate N number anywhere on the aircraft.

In other news this week, I have been corresponding with an archivist at the RAF Museum who has unearthed two more RAF documents that reference N-5490:

This is one of the the contract cards for Air Ministry contract 778402/38 against requirement no. 83/38.  Under this contract,
750 Tiger Moths IIs were supplied by de Havillands to the RAF.  N-5490 is the second machine on this card.

This is an extract from the RAF's serial number ledger, showing the service lifespan of N-5490,
starting with being taken on charge 29th October 1938 and finally being sold 6th November 1953.

24th May 2016  Today I heard from Ross McNeill who sent me two RAF Form 1180 Accident Cards for N-5490.  I have added them to the History page.
I knew about Carver's accident, but not that of Midshipman Hadingham.  He nosed N-5490 over at 14 EFTS Elmdon, on 28th September 1939.
Further research into Midshipman Hadingham revealed the following:

 Sadly, just over a year after the nose-over accident, Midshipman David Arthur Charles Hadingham perished while second pilot of Whitley Mk. 5 P5091 'KN-Y' of 77 Sqn.
at 0335 hrs Wednesday 9th October, 1940, while operating from Topcliffe.  Hadingham had been attached to Bomber Command and posted to the Squadron for operational experience from HMS Daedalus.
The target that night was Hanau.  In bad weather, the Whitley crashed into high ground half a mile west of Snape, near Masham, Yorkshire, killing Haddingham
along with Sergeant G. W. Brown, Sergeant William G. MacMorland (RAFVR observer), Sergeant Joseph Reginald Wardman (RAFVR wireless operator)
and Sergeant Cleveland Cottham (air gunner).  The aircraft was returning from operations on Hanau and crashed about ten miles from the airfield.
It is thought possible that the aircrsaft ran out of fuel just prior to the crash.
Aged just 23, Hadingham lies in Grave 4289 in the Sanderstead (All Saints) Churchyard extension, Coulston and Purley, Surrey.

23rd April 2016  The continuing search for photographs of the Tiger Moths of 20 ERFTS, Gravesend has turned up this photograph of N-5491, coded 'L' - sister ship to N-5490.
The photograph was taken by Ivan Thomas when he was 15 or 16 years old.  Check here for more of Ivan's photos of pre-war Gravesend.

7th March 2016  Research into the pilots who trained on N-5490 continues and more incredible stories of heroism and survival are being unearthed.
Today I uploaded the story of Midshipman (A) Pat Jackson who trained at 20 ERFTS Gravesend on No. 4 Air Course in 1939.
Along with his crew, Jackson survived nine days in a lifeboat in the North Atlantic after having to ditch his
Fairey Swordfish when unable to find HMS Victorious after a long, lonely search for the Bismarck.  See the new page for Pat Jackson here
and check out his full first hand story of his survival here.

1st November 2015  Hard on the heels of receiving the tremendous photo of F-BHIN (below) last month, the photo above was discovered this week.
It shows one of the Tigers at the Aero Club du Bearn in the fifties on aerowtowing duties.   The Club operated six Tigers - F-BDNZ, F-BGDL,
F-BHIC, F-BHII, F-BHIN (alias N-5490), and F-BHIQ.  Close study of the image suggests that this is N-5490's sister ship F-BHIQ.
With grateful thanks to Jean-Marc Lacoste of Versailles, France for providing this and another fine image now posted on the History page.
Jean-Marc rescued these photos from the trash at Pau when the airfield closed in 1978!
The above photo captures the point of release - high in the sunlit silence - with the Pyrenees rising in the distance to the south above athe sun-split clouds.
This is one of the most etherial and haunting Tiger Moth images I have ever seen.

12th October 2015  Another historic image of N-5490 has surfaced.  Here we see her in her shiny new all-over silver dope livery and French
registration marks applied by A. J. Whittemore's at Croydon in 1955.  F-BHIN left Croydon on 17th October 1955 to start a new civilian life in France.
It was registered to the Aero Club du Bearn, Pau-Idron on 27th January 1956 and became one of at least six Tigers that the Club operated around this time.
G-ANHG's CAA C of A was suspended 9th May 1957 and the registration was cancelled in late 1959.
The photo was supplied by Ken Tilley who acqired the image from the late Charles Holland collection.

25th May 2015  Apologies for not posting to the website for over a year!  However, it has been a very busy year for N-5490 with restoration going ahead at full speed.
N-5490 is now completely dismantled and many hundreds of parts have been blasted, inspected and primed ready for re-assembly.  Some small repairs are needed to the fuselage frame,
and so the necessary replacement tubes and repair fishplates have been sourced in readiness for welding.  The plan for the rest of 2015 is to have the fuselage
repaired and reassembled with the controls and other components refitted.  Currently work is concentrated on the control box, which is at the core of the fuselage.
The photograph above shows the control box partially stripped down.  (The assembled control box at the bottom of the photograph is from Queen Bee V4760.)
As re-assembly progresses, regular reports will be posted to the Crew Room forum.

While the restoration is progressing, more research into the pilots who flew N-5490 at 20 ERFTS Gravesend is producing interesting results.
Several more biographies are currently being prepared and will be added to the Pilots page shortly.
These include Sub Lieutenant (A) Gibson, who trained on No. 3 Air Course at Gravesend in 1939, had a busy war and rose to the rank of Vice Admiral,
having captained the Ark Royal in the sixties.  He held the three most senior Fleet Air Arm appointments: Flag Officer Aircraft Carriers, Flag Officer Naval Flying Training
and Flag Officer Naval Air Command.  Gibson died in 2000 aged 84.  The search for his pilot's logbook is under way.

18th March 2014  Bill Graham gets ready to fire up N82KF at Schellville, California in the summer of 1987.
This and two more superb photos have turned up recently.  They were taken by the late Mike Ody and were kindly passed along
by George Trussell via Air Britain.  The other two photos may be found in the Crew Room.

30th December 2013  Apologies for not having reported any news or restoration progress for over a year - where does the time go?
I will be making more updates shortly - particularly relating to the restoration which is now getting under way.
Just before Christmas, I received an e-mail from Jim Hutchings, aged 85 who learned to fly in N-5490 in 1949 at 21 EFTS, RAF Booker.
He was a trainee Army pilot training to be a glider pilot.  He went on to Airspeed Horsas.  That was 64 years ago and Jim is the only living pilot
I have been able to trace who flew N-5490 in its RAF service days.  His logbook shows that he flew N-5490 twelve times during his flight training.
I have added a page to the Pilots section of the website, detailing Jim's service career and his association with N-5490.

2nd December 2012  On a bright September morning in 1986, N-5490 arrives at Petaluma, California at the end of its epic delivery flight from Fairbanks, Alaska.
What makes this photograph remarkable is that I took it!  See many more of my photos of the arrival in the Crew Room.

23rd November 2012  More pilot biographies of those who trained and instructed at 20 ERFTS are being added t0 the Pilots page.
So far, fifteen have been written and there are many more in the research phase that will be added in due course.
Included are remarkable stories of courage, sacrifice, achievement, humour and record breaking that make compelling reading.

19th November 2012 Filling up somewhere along the Alcan - the Alaska Canada Highway in the Yukon - on the epic flight from Fairbanks, Alaska to
Petaluma, California in September 1986.  Note the packed snow on the ground.  The Tiger was landed on the dirt road every few hundred miles for a fill-up,
creating quite a spectacle for the other customers.  This and many other superb images of N-5490 were sent in by Dave Treversi today.

18th November 2012 Ken French sent over a set of photos of N-5490 this week that were taken when he operated
the aeroplane from Plum Island in the seventies.  Here's a delightful study taken over the coast near the airport.

12th November 2012  Today a discussion forum was added to the website so that frequent updates on the restoration can be posted
and everyone can become involved more directly in the project.  Just click The Crew Room link at the top of this page,
register and you will become an active part of the project.

Remembrance Day 2012 I was sent this tribute to Flt Lt Ian Smith today.  It is the remarkable story of another heroic pilot
that should never be forgotten.  With thanks to Peter Hills, who comments: "A sober read, amazing he was not awarded the DFC and DSO".

8th November 2012  This evening I uploaded a tribute to my parents - both DH workers - here.
Among other things, this page tells the story of the October 1940 bombing of Hatfield and includes
many images of the downed Ju-88 and the terrible damage it wreaked.

4th November 2012  Today this website was re-hosted to its new, permanent home here at www.N5490.org.
Many more files have been uploaded and the content will continue to expand in the coming days, weeks and months.

31st October 2012  This morning I received this e-mail from Bill Clark:

"I am very pleased to have been pointed to your website and found it fascinating.  It was a huge surprise to see the photos of Gravesend Airport as it was then known and,
as a "flying/aviation mad keen eighteen-year old" spent many an hour on the outside of that place watching the newly formed 20 ERFTS Tigers performing
and it was this that induced me to apply to the RAFVR to train as a Pilot at Gravesend's sister airport, Rochester, also in Kent. I was successful in my application
but it was not until WWII was underway that I was called to commence my flying training on Tigers.  By this time most training establishments had moved away from the southern part of England
and so I trained in The Midlands at Desford EFTS on the western side of the City of Leicester.  At the end of my training in various other places in the UK I flew off the aircraft carrier Ark Royal
in a long-range Hurricane Mk II to Malta and later went on to join other Fighter Pilots in squadrons in the Egyptian and Libyan Deserts in 1941/42.
As you would expect I am now a 92 year old person but still very much interested in all things aviational concerning WWII.
I will continue to look on your website for updates of your project and wish you every success in this venture.
With very Best regards, Will"

31st October 2012 Mike Lithgow's logbook from 1939 when he was learning to fly with No. 20 ERFTS, Gravesend is preserved in the museum at Brooklands.
Mike mentions in his autobiography, 'Mach 1', that the only memorable event at Gravesend was spinning the Tiger Moth, which made him violently ill.
This entry in Mike's logbook for July 6th 1939 shows that he did his spinning in N-5490 with his instructor Pilot Officer Porter.

This morning I received this e-mail from Pilot Officer Porter's son Peter.

"When my father moved from Bexleyheath, Kent, he left a lot of stuff in the attic at the old house.  It is a great pity that one of the items
that he left was his log book, particularly as I would loved to have had it after he passed away in 1999.  It would have been a mine of information
and I would have dearly loved to use all that information as part of the website that I was able to put together.  If you look at the site
you will see that he kept an amazing amount of stuff from his time in the RAF, including photographs and training excerpts,
but not the most important item, his logbook.  The chap who bought his house called him to ask if he wanted it but
my father told him not to bother,  It's possible that it is still available so I will see if the current owner still has it.
I can't remember the address, but my brother may be able to tell me.  I'll call him tomorrow and see if he can remember."

30th October 2012  The task of uploading biographies of thr RN pilots who learned to fly at Gravesend in the summer of 1939,
including several who are known to have flown N-5490 is underway and can be found here.
Many more are waiting to be added and research continues.  We are particularly interested in tracing the logbooks of these pilots.
Four logs have been traced so far, and of these four, two of the pilots - Mike Lithgow and Anthony Tuke - trained on N-5490.
Heroes one and all.

27th October 2012  Website launched.

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