The History of N-5490
By the middle of 1934 the
British Government was becoming increasingly aware of the threat of air
attacks from other European nations.
In response it announced in July of that year that the size of the RAF would be expanded to accommodate
128 front line squadrons within five years. From 1934 the British Government began a major personnel recruitment and training campaign.
Pre-war deliveries of Tiger
Moths from Hatfield included large batches to equip civilian-operated Elementary
and Reserve Flying Training Schools.
This was designated D.H.82A and named Tiger Moth II by the RAF, who ordered 50 to Specification T.26/33.
Others were supplied to Airports
Ltd., the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the de Havilland School of Flying,
Brooklands Aviation Ltd.,
Phillips and Powis School of Flying, Reid and Sigrist Ltd., Airwork Ltd. and Scottish Aviation Ltd. for the Elementary and Reserve Flying Schools
which these companies operated under the RAF expansion scheme.
No fewer than 44 such schools were in operation in August 1939, as well as 25 in Canada (plus four Wireless Schools),
12 in Australia, four in Rhodesia (plus a Flying Instructors School), seven in South Africa, and two in India.
In September 1939, civil aviation in the UK came to an end for the duration of the war.
The outbreak of war saw civil
machines impressed for RAF communications and training duties, and larger
orders were placed.
A further 795 Tiger Moths were built at Hatfield before the factory was turned over to de Havilland Mosquito production,
when a Tiger Moth production line along the lines of motor car producrtions lines was established at the Cowley works of Morris Motors Ltd.,
where some 3,500 Tigers were manufactured during the war. De Havilland Aircraft of New Zealand built a further 345 machines, and in Australia,
de Havilland Aircraft Pty. produced a total of 1,085 Tigers. de Havilland Canada also built a local version of the Tiger, with canopy and heater to combat
the cold conditions across Canada.
It was as a wartime trainer that the Tiger Moth made its greatest contribution.
History in the making.
Tiger Moth production at Hatfield before production was taken up by Morris
at Cowley to make way for Mosquito production.
On a rainy September day
in 1938, two Hatfield engineers attach a plumb-bob to the sternpost of
a Tiger Moth in preparation for a rigging check.
The aircraft is painted in an early camouflage scheme showing clearly the yellow top panels, interplane struts, fin, rudder and elevators.
The tailplane was camouflaged, but all undersurfaces were yellow. Note tyhe second machine with the same colour scheme in the background.
(Edited 2.1.14 - this photograph
was more likely to have been taken over the winter of 1938, as the first
Tiger Moth with a serial starting N-6 was N-6443
which was taken on charge at 24 MU Ternhill on 30th November 1938, and it is unlikely that the above aircaft was the first in the series.)
Tiger Moth N-5490 (c/n 3763,
engine 80723) was built at de Havillands, Hatfield in 1938 under Air Ministry
It was taken on charge at 24 Maintenance Unit, Ternhill, near Market Drayton, Shropshire on 17th November 1938.
There it was prepared for service, being fitted with various Air Ministry equipment. (To the MU's fell the task of making regular modifications to stored aircraft,
thus keeping them up to operationnal standard before issue or re-issue to operational units.)
N-5490 was allocated to 20 Elementary & Reserve Flying Training School (ERFTS), Gravesend on 10th February 1939 and taken on charge
there on 7th March 1939.
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 II's were supplied by de Havillands to the RAF. N-5490 is the second machine on this card.
In late September 1937 it
was arranged with the Air Ministry for Gravesend to be used as a training
school under the rearmament programme.
The establishment of No. 20 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School by Airports Ltd. resulted in a rapid influx of service machines to Gravesend
and the available flying hours were fully utilised to train as many pilots as possible. Note Hawker Hind K6655 in this photograph.
Gravesend’s landmark “Law Hangar” was built by A & A J Law Ltd. of 132 Kingston Road, Merton SW19. The main span was 130 feet, with a door opening of 100 feet and door height of 20 feet.
It was demolished in early 1996 to make way for new warehousing.
20 ERFTS came into being
1st October 1937 after receiving its first three Tiger Moths
the previous day (K4254, K4283 and K4287). Three more Tigers arrived on the 4th October (K4248, K4251 and K4272).
Coded '1' as the first 20
ERFTS Tiger to be coded, and in its pre Munich crisis all-silver dope scheme,
K-4251 nosed over on the airfield at Gravesend.
The aircraft was repaired and, with the rest of the 20 ERFTS fleet, transferred to 14 EFTS, Castle Bromwich at the outbreak of war. This venerable Tiger
started its life at RAF Kenley in 1934 and survived the war. It was struck off charge in 1950 and sold to Hants & Sussex Aviation, Portsmouth where its wings
were burnt by them in 1960. An unworthy fate for such a faithful warhorse.
Visible in this photogreap are the Holt flare dispensers under the lower wings and, in the photo below, the aileron mass balances, a feature of early Tiger Moths that were later deleted.
Another view of K-4251 on its nose. K-4251 was delivered to 20 ERFTS on the 4th of October 1937.
Inside the 20 ERFTS training room at Gravesend. The blackboard shows the names of 50 students and records which exercises they had completed, as well as their total dual, solo and instrument hours.
In early 1939, a contract was obtained by Airports Ltd. to teach Royal Navy pupils to fly and the White Ensign was added to the airport flagpole.
From Flight Magazine, March 1939.
20 ERFTS Tiger Moths await
their students at Gravesend in 1939. A total of 31 Tiger Moths operated
at 20 ERFTS, Gravesend
at various times between 30th September 1937 and 3rd September 1939. Of these, five crashed and the remaining 26 were sent
to 14 EFTS when Gravesend was evacuated upon the declaration of war, including N-5490.
A full listing of 20 ERFTS Tiger Moths may be found here.
Twelve 20 ERFTS Tiger Moths
lined up at Gravesend. Note the two canvas Bessonneau hangars that
were erected to accommodate the expanding 20 ERFTS fleet.
It is not easy to see in this image, but the third Tiger appears to be carrying the unit serial 'D' on the fuselage. If so, then this is N-5490.
K-4283 coded '3' nosed over
after a heavy landing at Gravesend. This Tiger lived to fly with
20 ERFTS again, but had an unfortunate end with 14 EFTS
when it forced landed and hit hedge half a mile west of Ansty on 12th November 1939, and was struck off charge four days later.
Another prang - a 20 ERFTS incident at Gravesend when a Tiger Moth collided on the ground with a Hawker Hart.
Five of the 20 ERFTS's original
7 Tigers, the nearest coded '7', '8' and '4' at Gravesend some time prior
to April 1939. (The photograph can be thus dated because the Hawker
K7415 at right crashed into trees during aerobatics at nearby Sevenoaks, Kent on 9th April 1939.)
Eight of the 20 ERFTS Tiger
Moth fleet. Note the unit serial letters visible on the two nearest
Tigers on the right. Unit serial 'B' was carried by N-5493 which
was delivered to the unit on the 5th of March 1939,
two days before N-5490. It was destroyed when it undershot and stalled at Inglestone Farm on thre second of May 1945. Unit serial 'A' was N-5483. Delivered 1st March 1939 to 20 ERFTS. It was destroyed
while being operated by 11 EFTS when it spun into the ground at Coupar Angus, Pertshshire on the 13th of May 1941.
All of the 20 ERFTS Tiger Moths were equipped for night flying. Note the navigation lamp on the starboard upper wing of the Tiger Moth on the left.
The same lineup of seven 20 ERFTS Tiger Moths from a different angle.
An extract from an article
in Flight magazine of 20th October 1940 which provides details of RN pilot
Note the colour scheme of the Tiger Moth at left. The demarkation line between the camouflaged decking and the training yellow fuselage sides
is at the top fuselage longeron. This pre-war scheme is believed to have been carried by N-5490 when it was delivered from Hatfield in 1938.
Compare with the image at the top of this page, and the Tigers at Elmdon in the image below.
On the outbreak of war on
September 3rd 1939, Gravesend was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and
became a satellite base for nearby RAF Biggin Hill.
20 ERFTS was quickly evacuated to Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham. N-5490 was ferrried to Castle Bromwich on 2nd September
along with the other 25 20 ERFTS Tigers and officially allocated to 14 EFTS 15th October 1939.
14 ERFTS was established
at Castle Bromwich and operated by Airwork 1st July 1937 and became 14
EFTS on 3rd September 1939
when it was combined with 20 ERFTS and also 44 ERFTS at nearby Birmingham Elmdon, which was also operated by Airwork.
14 EFTS continued to train FAA pilots. However, the school left for the nearby and newly-opened Elmdon aerodrome just six days later on 9th September
to make way for Spitfire and Lancater test flight operations at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory (CBAF).
This huge 'shadow factory' was part of a larger plan to disperse production
and move vital resources that lay within easy range of German bombers (Vickers Supermarine's original factory at Southampton
was devastated by enemy bombers just as Castle Bromwich came into production in 1940).
Elmdon Airport opened on
land north of the Coventry Road in 1939, but was taken over and closed
to civilian use by the RAF almost immediately.
It re-opened after the war, and eventually became Birmingham Airport.
The 1939 Kings Cup air race was scheduled to be held at Elmdon on September 2nd.
From Flight magazine - 24th August 1939
But it was hastily canceled days before the declaration of war on 3rd September.
Tiger Moths of 14 EFTS at
Elmdon, early 1940. Note sister ship N-5454 coded '54' at right -
this was also an ex-20 ERFTS Gravesend Tiger.
(N-5454 crashed near Lichfield on 18th June 1940, ending its days with 14 EFTS. It was repaired but crashed again while low flying at Grange-over-Sands, Lancashire
on 17th September 1941 and was struck off charge on the 30th September.) The Tiger (still carrying its 20 ERFTS code 'U') is also an ex-Gravesend Tiger, N6835.
Delivered on 11th July 1939 it was, with N6836, one of the last two Tigers to be allocated to 20 ERFTS Gravesend. (Note its later camouflage scheme, with the camouflage now covering
most of the fuselage. Also note the diamond-shaped gas detection patch on the rear fuselage.) This unfortunate Tiger crashed 29th Spetember 1940, was repaired by
de Havillands and allocated to 257 Sqn RAF Coltishall on 11th June 1941, but its posting was short-lived. It ended its days when it dived into the sea between Southwold
and Lowestoft on 19th June 1941, just eight days after being allocated to the unit. Czech pilot Sgt. Vaclav Brejcha was killed in the accident.
A successful pilot, having shot down a Do17 on the 4th February 1941 near Gt. Yarmouth, Norfolk, he had taken part in the Battle of Britain with 43 Squadron.
He was en route from Farnborough to Coltishall. The reason for the Tiger Moth entering a spin and crashing into the North Sea was never established.
His body was not recovered until the following month on the 18th July, with the funeral a few days later on the 27th July.
This photo can be furter dated by study of the DH89 Rapide G-AEXO in the left background. This aircraft was impressed as X8507 on 31st March 1940.
We see it here in its impressment camouflage. Similarly, the DH89 in the middle background, G-AERZ, went to Scottish Airways, Renfrew on 15th November 1940.
This this photo must therefore date between 31st March (G-AEXO impressment) and 18th June 1940 (N-5454's Litchfield crash).
On 26th September, N-5490
suffered a landing accident at Elmdon in the hands of Midshipman D.A.C.
Hadingham. Sent off solo by veteran Gravesend instructor
Flying Office Higgins, Haddingham had a problem landing. He nosed over after making a wheels landing. The Tiger bounced, and Haddingham failed to apply power
in the bounce, resulting in the aircraft stalling, landing heavily and nosing over. The following RAF Form 1180 has the details.
(Note. The spelling of Hadingham's name is in error on the card. His name is spelled with a single 'd'.)
Sadly, just over a year later,
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,
while operating from Topcliffe. Hadingham had been seconded to the Squadron for operational experience from HMS Daedalus.
The target that night was Hanau. The Whitley crashed into high ground half a mile west of Snape, near Masham, Yorkshire, killing Haddingham along with
SergeantG. W. Brown, Sergeant William G. MacMorland (RAFVR observer), Sergeant Joseph Reginald Wardman (RAFVR wireless operator) and Sergeant Cleveland Cottham (air gunner).
The aircraft was recovering to Topcliffe from operations on Hanau when after joining the circuit in bad weather it flew into trees on a hillside and crashed.
Aged just 23, Hadingham lies in Grave 4289 in the Sanderstead (All Saints) Churchyard extension, Coulston and Purley, Surrey.
Then on 25th October 1939,
Midshipman (A) Alfred Denis Carver was flying a solo cross-country from
Elmdon in N-5490 when he became lost.
Carver made a forced landing at Hockley Heath, Birmingham, but overshot the field, damaging the Tiger.
(Coincidentally, RAF Hockley Heath was built in 1940 and became a satellite airfield for 14 EFTS).
Carver survived the accident, completed his flying training. was posted to the newly-formed 829 Naval Air Squadron on the 15th June 1940
and subsequently embarked with the Sqn on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable. He went on to follow a distinguished Navy career.
Here's the RAF Form 1180 for Carver's accident:
This time the damage was
sufficiently serious that the Tiger had to be sent away for repairs.
The damaged airframe was delivered to 13 Maintenance Unit, RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire for repairs on 1st November 1939.
No 13 MU was responsible for repairing, modifying and assembling front line aircraft throughout the war. During the war years, Henlow became
one of the largest RAF Maintenance Units in the country and made an invaluable contribution to the war effort.
Women workers repairing Tiger Moths during the war
After repair, N-5490 was
ferried north to 46 MU, Speke on 19th June 1940 - the day after Churchill's
famous 'finest hour' speech to Parliament.
It was then issued to 11 EFTS, Perth (Scone), Scotland on 28th December 1940, where it spent the rest of the war years.
In June 1936 11 ERFTS was
established at Perth in Scotland under contract to the Air Ministry by
Airwork Ltd., becoming 11 EFTS at the outbreak of war,
when there was no longer a Reserve. The RAF took over from Airwork on 1st January 1940, and the civilian instructors were mobilised at that time.
An emergency landing ground was opened at nearby Whitefield to provide additional training capacity and by the end of 1940, when N-5490 arrived,
the 11 EFTS fleet included 90 Tiger Moths. Training contuned flat out during the war years, with flying day and night - except for Thursday and Saturday nights.
In March 1945, pre-AFU (Advanced Flying Unit) courses commenced, with the task of acclimatising Empire-trained pilots to local conditions.
11 EFTS continued operating
aftet the war. In December 1945, seven Royal Danish Air Force officers
arrived for a 20-hour ab initio flying training course,
and by December 1945 there were 135 students on the school's strength.
Perth (Scone) as photographed
by the Luftwaffe on 2nd October 1939, about 8 weeks before the arrival
Note how the airfield has been camouflaged with fake hedgrow lines. At least the photo recce crew weren't fooled!
Perth aerodrome in a photo
dated 10th September 1947, shortly after N-5490 left after its wartime
A number of Tiger Moths can be seen on the airfield.
N-5490 soldiered on in Scotland
throughout the rest of the war and was finally sent to 9 MU, Cosford on
16th August 1946.
(11 EFTS closed on 18th March 1947.)
But that was not the end
of this Tiger's RAF service. On 22nd March 1948, N-5490 was re-issued
to 21 EFTS, RAF Booker near High Wycombe.
21 EFTS at RAF Booker was mainly used for initial powered aircraft flying training for pilots of the Glider Pilot Regiment and for refresher courses on Tigers.
Also, many Air Observation Post (AOP) pilots of the Royal Artillery received their initial flying training on 21 EFTS Tiger Moths at Booker.
The 21 EFTS unit codes were FIV, FIW, FIX and FIY which N-5490 would have carried one of these.
21 EFTS flying instructors at RAF Booker, believed to have been taken in the summer of 1948.
21 EFTS closed on 28th February
1950, and so N-5490 was on the move again, being allocated to 7 FTS, RAF
Cottesmore on 10th March 1950.
Nine Tiger Moths were allocated to 7FTS on 10.3.50. In addition to N-5490, they were: N9278, T6531, T7867, DE153, DE455, DE634, DE853 and EM904.
Cottesmore at that time was
home to the Tiger Moths, Harvards, Balliols and Prentices of 7 FTS, training
both RAF and Royal Navy pilots.
The 7 FTS unit code was FBC which N-5490 would have carried.
Less than six months later,
on 25th August 1950, N-5490 was issued to the RAF Finningley Station Flight,
along with two other Tiger Moths on the same day - EM904 and DE455,
the latter being transferred with N-5490 from RAF Cottesmore.
On July 12th 1944, 616 (South
Yorkshire) Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force became the first Squadron
in the RAF (and that of the Allies) to become operational with jet aircraft.
They received the Gloster Meteor Mk 1 which saw its first action on July 27th 1944 on 'anti-diver' patrols. The Germans had started using their V1 'Vengeance' weapons
soon after the D-Day 6th June 1944. The Squadron achieved great success claiming 10 destroyed in just 10 days. 13 was the final tally.
No. 616 squadron was officially
reformed at RAF Finningley as the South Yorkshire Squadron on 10th May
1946, with volunteers being recruited over the following few months
until embodied on 11th July 1946. It was allocated the night fighter role within Reserve Command and the first Mosquito T.3 trainers were received in October,
but it was not until January 1948 that the operational Mosquito NF.30's were delivered to Finningley. At the end of 1948 No. 616 was redesignated as a day fighter squadron
and began to receive Meteor F.3's in January 1949. Conversion to the updated Meteor F.8 took place in December 1951.
The squadron moved base to RAF Worksop on 23rd May 1955, where it disbanded on 10th March 1957.
A Gloster Meteor F.8 of 616 Sqn. The aircraft is wearing its distinctive yellow and green Squadron insignia which was introduced in 1951, while N-5490 was attached to the Squadron.
Finally on 12th March 1952,
this war-weary Tiger was recorded as being transferred 20 MU aircraft storage
unit, Aston Down, Gloucestershire
and on 16th June 1953 was transferred to non-effective stock, its long and arduous service life finally over.
Notwithstanding the reference to 20 MU Aston Down on N-5490's Movements and Contract card, it was in fact stored with many other Tigers at 14 MU Carlisle.
These Tigers were sold at
auction by sealed tender in large batches in the early fifties, the majority
by A J Whittemore at Croydon for conversion and sale to the post-war civil aircraft market. Many others went to Rollasons at Croydon.
The price paid for each Tiger was around £20, and after overhaul and refinishing in silver dope, they were sold for around £150.
This from Colin Brookes, A. J. Whittemore employee, now living in New Zealand:
"The 198 Tiger Moths Jim
Whittemore purchased in 1953 were from 'RAF MU Carlisle'. 130 were
flown down under their own power, the rest were transported by road
by my friend's father who was a driver for by Gosling Trucking.
If N-5490 was one of Whittemore's, regardless of what the paperwork says, they were all collected from Carlisle.
Two of my now deceased friends were involved in collecting and flying them down. Another friend of mine who was there at the time also confirms it,
and my friend confirmed that his father collected the ones from there that had to come by road.
MoD records centres were not necessarily the same place as storage of the items and often incorrect (we are talking extremely unskilled and uninterested Post War RAF bod here).
I know this from my own interest in ex-British Army vehicles which I have bought many from the MOD.
The only listings I have for the ferrying pilots that Jim Whittemore used in 1952-3 are ...
Monsieur Le Gallais
The following three were all connected with 'D Hangar' at Croydon:
W. A. (Bill) Webb (hangar
Private individual contractors, Jack Fletcher and Don Horton (who were riggers and rebuilders of Tigers and Proctors for Whittemore's)
I am fairly sure that
all will have passed away by now .
The first four certainly did many years ago. The last one I had contact with was Dave Hocking here in New Zealand in 1968 who passed away in the early 1980's.
Jim died on the golf course of a heart attack not long after moving the company to Biggin Hill. Monsieur Le Gallais was killed in a crash in his Bonanza.
Incidentally, my next door
but one neighbour drove a 'Queen Mary' aircraft recovery trailer from 1941
until 1956 to Croydon Aerodrome for the RAF,
and then Field Aircraft Services and the CAA crash authority from 1946 when it became the civilian Croydon Airport. He often parked it outside our house and of course
all along the next three houses during and after the war. My mother was always complaining that it would make our house a target for the German bombers.
We were fortunate, a V1 demolished the two houses opposite ours but we survived. Croydon was the most heavily hit area in Britain for V1 rockets (doodlebugs as we called them).
It is recorded that they were coming over at one time at almost 200 a week. There is an interesting story of how British Intelligence had fooled the Germans
in to thinking that central London was actually 10 miles further to the South ... that was unfortunately Croydon."
Colin has recently established
a fascinating website relating to Croydon aerodrome which can be found
The site contains many rare photos of the demobbed and other Tigers that passed through Croydon in the fifties.
Here is the link to them, including a superb shot of F-BHIN which is N-5490 and which is reproduced below.
(Note: According to
records, Jim Whittemore bought 137 Tiger Moths at auction - not 198.
Here is a list of them.
Colin comments: "The 198 figure was the common knowledge among the employees at the time, and currently between the three of us still around who worked there.")
RAF Carlisle was known as
RAF Kingstown during the war. It started life as a small grass airfield
in the 1930's and was sold to the Air Ministry in 1936.
The RAF installed concrete runways, hangars, a full range of administrative buildings and several estates of married quarter housing for officers and other ranks.
The new station opened for operations on 26 September 1938 as RAF Kingstown and became home to two operational bomber squadrons flying Fairey Battle bombers with three man crews.
With the outbreak of war in 1939, Kingstown's runways proved too short for the latest generation of larger multi-engined bombers and there was no room for runway expansions,
so the RAF built and developed a new airfield at Crosby-on-Eden. The new facility came into operation in February 1941, the station designated as RAF Crosby on Eden which,
following its wartime service, today serves as Carlisle Lake District Airport. RAF Kingstown was retained by the RAF and converted to No. 24 EFTS.
In 1941 RAF Kingstown was redesignated as No 15 Flying Grading School and the station retained this function until the end of hostilities in 1945
when the base was closed and placed on a care and maintenance status. During the 1950's the station was reactivated, redesignated as RAF Carlisle and retasked as No 14 Maintenance Unit,
the RAF's most northerly storage facility in England. The original RAF Kingstown site was established as the station headquarters and the runways
were removed with the ballast used as foundations for a major building programme on the satellite sites of Harker, Heathlands, Rockcliffe and Cargo where hangars,
storage buildings and administration offices were built.
An aerial view of the sprawling
storage facilities at 14 MU Carlisle, (now the Kingmoor Park business park)
just north of the city.
14 MU is just over 100 miles as the Tiger Moth flies from Perth, Scone. This would have been the final flight of N-5490 in RAF service.
The same view today.
N-5490's Air Ministry Form 78 - Movement Card (courtesy of AHB3(RAF), MoD)
N-5490's Contract Card showing the transfer of N-5490 to non-effective stock and its subsequent sale to A .J Whitmore (sic).
The National Archives at
Kew, London hold the RAF Form 540’s (the Operational Record Books) for
wartime flying stations.
The EFTS ORB’s are held under reference AIR 29/618. There are:
No. 11 Perth, January 1940 to March 1947
No. 14 Castle Bromwich and Elmdon, September 1939 to January 1946
These documents remain to be researched.
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.
N-5490's M.C.A. Form 113
N-5490 was stored until sold
by tender along with many other Tiger Moths stored at 14 MU Carlisle on
6th November 1953.
On that day, A. J. Whittemore, Croydon, bought about 60 Tiger Moths, and followed this with a purchased of a further 50 twelve days later!
N-5490 was registered as G-ANHG on 4th December 1953 to A. J. Whittemore (Aeradio) Ltd., Croydon Airport.
In the fifties, 198 surplus
Tiger Moths were acquired by A. J. Whittemore (Aeradio) Ltd., Croydon.
Many were to become the backbone of post-war civil flying clubs. Here are just some of the Tigers aqcuired by Whitemores, staked out at Croydon in 1953.
RAF markings were obliterated and civil registration numbers crudely daubed on the aircraft with Creosote so that they could be ferried by air from Carlisle
to Croydon. To date, no photograph of G-ANHG in its RAF colours at Croydon has been found. Here, sister ship G-ANJG (ex-PG671) awaits its new civil life.
(It was registered on the 24th of November 1954 as F-BGZT, and destined for the Aero Club de Picardie, Amiens, France. It is currently airworthy in Ohio, USA.)
Along with 58 other Whittemore
Tiger Moths, N-5490 was sold on 22nd July 1955 to Continental Aircraft
Services Ltd., Croydon and the registration lapsed.
It was then registered in France as F-BHIN and sold to France, along with a large number of Tiger Moths
that were acquired by the French government and passed to French flying clubs.
In the fifties, the French government, recognising the value of light aviation, purchased considerable numbers of Tiger Moths
and Miles Magisters at a very low cost. These were then passed on to flying clubs.
N-5490 in her shiny new all-over 'de-mob' silver dope livery and French registration marks applied by Continental Aircraft Services Ltd. at Croydon in 1955.
G-AIRI is the only other
known survivor of all 31Tiger Moths that were operated by 20 ERFTS before
the War. Here is is seen on the 15th of June 1952 at White Waltham.
At some point it has had its navigation lamps removed and a long exhaust pipe fitted, not to mention the anti-spinning strakes. However, still evident are the 'Lift-the-Dot' studs
that were used to secure the blind flying hood to the rear decking. G-AIRI started life as N-5488 (c/n 3761) and was delivered to 20 ERFTS on the 20th February 1939. Its unit serial was 'T'.
Surviving the war, it was registered to the West London Aero Club at White Waltham on 21st October 1946 and registered G-AIRI the next day.
After a colourful post-war career, including being used in the filming of 'The Blue Max', it was last flown on the 26th of October 1981 and its C. of A. lapsed on the 9th of November of that year.
The registration was cancelled on the 3rd of April 1989 by the CAA. It was then stored at Little Gransden until removed in May 2012.
Owner Anthony West is carrying out a restoration at his workshop near Bedford. Let us hope that she will live to fly another day, perhaps,
like N-5490, wearing her original pre-war 20 ERFTS colours.
This is the French Certificate
of Airworthiness for F-BHIN, dated 25th January 1956.
To be employed in "aerobatics, tourism and work"!
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 several Tigers that the Club operated around this time (F-BDNZ, F-BGDL, F-BHIC, F-BHII, F-BHIN and F-BHIQ).
The club also used their Tiger Moths as glider tugs, and the two superbly evocative images below show two of the club's Tigers carrying out tugging duties in the fifties.
Grateful thanks go to Jean-Marc Lacoste of Versailles in France for the two fantastic images, reproduced below.
Jean-Marc rescued the original prints from the trash at Pau when the airfield closed in 1978!
Getting off while Piper J3 Cub F-BDUV taxies in.
And the point of release
as the Tiger dives away to starboard over Pau with the Pyrenees in the
background to the south.
Close analysis of the registration on the starboard upper wing suggests that this is F-BHIQ.
G-ANHG's new life at Pau was shortlived. Her CAA C of A was suspended on the 9th May 1957 and the registration was cancelled in late 1959.
The DGAC registration details
for F-BHIN, showing it as being registered 27/1/1956 to the Aero Club du
Bearn at Pau-Idron
and 'vendu a l'etranger' (literally sold to a stanger!) 3/5/1973.
By the seventies, almost every French flying club harboured a Tiger Moth, mostly redundant since the revision of subsidy schemes paid by the French government.
F-BHIN was stored at Pau-Idron for many years until it was recorded as sold abroad on 3rd May 1973.
The sleepy grass airfield
at Pau-Idron, just north of the Pyrenees as it was in 1967 (it is now an
international airport!). Somewhere in the hangars on the right is
(Pau Idron's claim to fame is that the first flying school in the world was founded here in 1908 by Wilbur Wright.
In fact, it was also the first aerodrome anywhere in the world. The Aero Club du Bearn is the direct descendent of that flying school.)
This is the certificate of de-registration of F-BHIN, with effect from 3rd May 1973.
N-5490 had been acquired
by Geert Frank, a Captain with Delta Airlines, and exported to the USA.
Geert was an airline pilot who ran a spare-time business importing Tiger Moths and other vintage aircraft from Europe.
He established a restoration shop at Plum Island, a barrier island on the northeast coast of Massachusetts.
Geert had written a letter,
translated into French, and sent a copy to all known owners of French registered
together with the convenience of a suitably stamped and self-addressed envelope.
The message was fairly stark: Do you have a Tiger Moth? Will you sell it to me? How many francs do you want?
It was soon clear from the polite replies that a lot of Tiger Moths already had been sold.
A letter from Geert Frank
that was published in 'Paper Tiger', issue 46-20 in 1999. Paper Tiger
was the newsletter of the US Moth Club.
Note that Geert imported a total of 123 Tiger Moths from Europe into the USA, including N-5490.
An advertisement placed by Geert Frank in the New York Times, 1974.
This is the Bill of Sale for F-BHIN, dated 17th February 1976, to Captain Geert Frank, the owner being stated as Jen Den Hollander.
This is the UK CAA's Certificate of Airworthiness for Export, dated 10th May 1976.
This is the application for FAA registration as N82KF, dated 23rd Februaty 1976.
The initial logbook entry
for N-5490 when imported by Geert Frank, dated 3rd May 1976.
Unfortunately, previous logs have not survived. Geert told me that he destroyed the logbooks of the Tigers
that he imported - because their content may have complicated US certification!
And the initial engine logbook
entry. This engine was imported in 1972 - some time before the import
Geert Frank acquired this overhauled engine from the Belgian State Flying School at Grimbergen which trained pilots for SABENA,
and the two BTH magentos have been found to have SABENA overhaul tags attached. Perhaps N-5490 was imported
engineless from France, or maybe the SABENA engine had more hours remaining.
Perhaps one day N-5490 will be reunited with its original Gipsy powerplant - Gipsy engine #80723.
If you know the whereabout of this engine, please get in touch!
This is the Special Airworthiness Certificate for N82KF, dated 5th May 1976.
This is the reverse of the Special Airworthiness Certificate, authorizing test flight.
This is the weight and balance
schedule, signed by Geert Frank, at Plum Island Airport, dated 4th May
Note that the aircraft was fitted with an electric starter and a Narco 110 radio as well as an oil temperature gauge and a rate of climb indicator - all non-original.
This is the application for the Certificate of Airworthiness, dated 19th May 1976.
This is the Standard Airworthiness Certificate, dated 19th May 1976.
Captain Geert Frank died in 2011, aged 79. The following is his obituary:
Geert E. Frank, 79, died Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, at his home in Kensington.
He was born Oct. 30, 1931, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the son of the late Evert A. and Elize (Walraven) Frank. Born and raised in Holland, he was a graduate of Saint Ignatius College.
As a child in Holland, he
worked with the Dutch underground in World War II. He was captured
and survived internment in a German labour camp
as a child in occupied Soviet territory. Years later he was honored with a Soviet medal for his actions at the end of World War II which saved Russian soldiers as they returned home.
He was a resident of Kensington for 50 years, where he maintained a landing strip and hangar for his aircraft.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Leslie; his brother, Eddie; his children, Doug, Cassie and Tiger and wife Donna; and his grandsons Noah, Chase and Dominick.
He served in the Royal Dutch
Air Force before immigrating to America in 1952. He was a Warrant
officer in the U.S. Army, flying helicopters while stationed in Hawaii.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1954. Upon leaving the Army in 1957, he was hired by then-Northeast Airlines as a pilot.
Northeast merged with Delta Airlines and he flew as a Delta pilot for more than 34 years before retiring.
In his early years with Delta, he volunteered as a pilot for reconnaissance missions on the U2 spy plane.
A lifelong pilot and flying
enthusiast, he imported and restored rare World War II aircraft and motorcycles
at his business, Kensington Aircraft Ltd., based out of Plum Island in
He was a well-respected expert in the restoration of the British trainer Tiger Moth.
He worked with many people on projects to import aircraft, including Hugh Downs, Richard Bach and Cliff Robertson.
N-5490 was restored by Geert Frank and sold to Kenneth G. French (hence the N82KF registration) of Manchester, Massachusetts in 1976.
This is the Bill of Sale from Geert Frank to Ken French, dated 18th May 1976.
This is the application for FAA registration submitted by Ken Freench, dated 8th May 1976.
Ken kept the Tiger at Plum
Island. However, shortly after this, there was a massive winter storm
combined with a high tide
that inundated Plum Island airport which is only 11 ft AMSL. The flood was the biggest storm in memory at Plum Island and shut down
the whole area for three days. When Ken finally got to the airport, the sea water had receded but there was a high water mark
about chest height on the aircraft.
Ken's insurance company wrote
the aircraft off, but once it had dried out, the insurance company sent
airline pilot John Barron to fly it out
to Kansas City on a windy day - 4th October 1978. Ken warned him about the Tiger, but he replied, “OK – we'll handle it.”
He got as far as Fitchburg in west Massachusetts before getting cold and decided to land, and promptly ground-looped it!
So it stayed there for a while. It eventually arrived in Kansas City and into the care of Ron Howes of salvage company White Industries.
Ron contacted Hal Kading who ran Southwest Aviation, an FBO in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He also knew that Hal
was interested in old and interesting aircraft, and so he called him and he acquired N-5490.
Hal then ferried the Tiger on to Las Cruces along with two Supercubs that he had bought – one in Montana, the other in Indiana.
They had to keep stopping because one of the Supercubs used more oil than fuel – 64 quarts on the trip!
N-5490 finally arrived in Las Cruces on 27th May 1978 after 32.7 flying hours from Plum Island.
In Las Cruces, the Tiger was found to be in an undamaged condition so was deemed not to require a rebuild.
It was claimed that the flood waters had only submerged the tailwheel!
This is the Bill of Sale from Ken French to Soutwest Aviation, dated 21st May 1978.
This is the application for FAA registration submitted by Hal Kading, dated 21st May 1978.
This is a representation in support of the application for FAA registeation submitted by Hal Kading, dated 8th September 1978.
Hal sold the Tiger in January
1979 to Lyle E. Whitmer of Fairbanks, Alaska. So N-5490 was off again
on another long-distance trip.
Lyle and his friend Jerry Chisolm took two weeks and 52 flying hours to bring the Tiger home to Fairbanks,
so 84.7 hours flying time from Plum Island, Massachusetts to Fairbanks, Alaska.
The longest leg to Fairbanks was 1 hour 55 minutes, altitudes were to 10,000 ft, temperatures +90 degrees F to +25 degrees F.
Maintenance required on arrival - one sparking plug!
This is the Bill of Sale from Soutwest Aviation to Lyle Whitmer, dated 12th January 1979.
This is the application for FAA registration submitted by Lyle and Cynthia Whitmer.
The Tiger became the flagship
of the local Fairbanks flying club, known as 'The Flying Machine'.
Other pilots who flew it at the time were Louis Knapp, Dave Fagre and Joe Hawkins
who is now an engineering professor at the University of Fairbanks.
Conditions in Fairbanks were rough. One day in June 1979, while Lyle was working on the aircraft outside,
a windstorm came from nowhere and blew the aircraft into an adjacent aircraft tug and broke the propeller.
The front starboard interplane strut and one of the streamline wires also had to be replaced.
July 1983 - Jerry Chisolm
landing N82KF back on the gravel strip at Fairbanks after a trip to McGrath
(320 miles southwest of Fairbanks) for the Eielson Air Race. Two return trips were made over the weekend of 22nd/23rd July.
The Eielson Air Races commemorated
Alaska aviation pioneer Ben Eielson who flew the first Air Mail in Alaska
over the same route
from Fairbanks to McGrath in 1924 using a DH4. Prior to this, mail had been delivered by dog sled, as seen in the photo below.
The caption reads: 'Alaska's Mail Service. Aviator Eielson with Alaska's first Air Mail service Fairbanks - McGrath 320 miles February 21st 1924.
The Eielson Air Race weekend
was the last time that the Tiger would fly for some time. It was
given a fresh annual on 12th August 1986
before being sold to Dave Traversi and Bill Graham of Petaluma, California in September.
This is the Bill of Sale from Soutwest Aviation to Lyle Whitmer, dated 22nd July 1986.
A Major Repair and Alteration form, dated the date of sale, 12th August 1986, detailing repairs to a rib in one of the top wings.
This is the application for FAA registration submitted by Dave Traversi and Bill Graham, dated 22nd July 1986.
So N-5490 was off on another
epic journey from Fairbanks to Petaluma Sky Ranch where Bill was the airport
It was registered to David C Traversi in November 1986.
The report in the Yukon News
of N82KF's ferry flight from Fairbanks, Alaska to Petaluma, California.
Jeremy Ainsworth was the English pilot
mentioned in the report. At that time, Dave nearly lost his fingers in a prop start incident with the Tiger and decided to fly home by airliner,
Mark Audie taking his seat in the Tiger. The long trip down, some 3,300 miles, was full of tales and was documented by various
local papers such as the one below which was published in the Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, Thursday October 9th 1986.
(However, some of the 'facts' in this report are clearly in error!)
They flew down the Alcan
(the Alaska Canada) highway which is 1,523 miles long and
does not have many gas stops. The Tiger could not hold enough fuel to get from airport to airport,
so sometimes they landed on the dirt road with ice on it and pulled into the gas pump to fuel and eat. It was quite the sight,
so all passing traffic stopped to look and the lodge owners kept feeding them to keep the Moth at the pump.
Moth drawn by fuel, drivers drawn by Moth!
It was here that I had my
first encounter with N82KF. At that time, as a young RAF Engineering
Officer, I was making frequent trips to
San Francisco in support of the Skynet IV military satellites that were to be launched by the Space Shuttle. Ipent my weekends staying with Bill
and flying around Petaluma in a variety of classic types. On arriving for one visit, Bill excitedly told me that he was about to take delivery of the Tiger.
It was Bill who gave me the above clipping from the Yukon Times.
For a while Bill and Dave
had a third partner who was prone to put the Tiger through its paces ("everywhichwaybutup"),
had decided to forego that excitement. One day a nearby farmer came driving into the airport to deliver a front seat cushion
that had rained from above. The first person he met was Bill who was also the airport manager. Oops!
N-5490 was annualed on 1st
June 1990, but on 24th August, N82KF was badly damaged in a landing accident
while Dave Traversi was in command. Approaching runway 29, Dave flipped the Tiger on its back on touchdown
while giving his 80 year old mother a birthday flight! Fortunately, there were no serious injuries - except for the poor old Tiger.
The NTSB accident report.
At the time of the accident, N-5490 had flown 800.9 hours since the Plum
Island rebuild in 1976.
At that time, when the aircraft was imported from France, the hours were 3029:31, so the total time at this point was 3,830.5 hours.
This is the FAA triennial aircraft registration report for N82KF, dated 25th November 1992.
The old Tiger was rebuilt
again over a period of several years under the watchful eye of Bill Decker.
The starboard lower wing
was completely rebuilt with new spars, the tail feathers were replaced, the port fuselage sideframe repaired and much more.
In the Moth magazine no.
89 of 1995 Bill Graham reported: "The status of N82KF is as follows:
all the woodwork is done:
wings are being recovered; tail feathers are all new and are being recovered. The fuel tank has been repaired.
We have a new nose cowling (from England); fuselage has been repaired but does not need recovering; the landing gear
has been mended and new tires mounted. We need a new propeller and a cowling to be straightened out along with some
baffle repairs, then painting, rigging and assembly. We did most of the work ourselves except for covering the wings and
fixing the fuel tank. Managing the airport (200 resident aeroplanes, 59 hangars and building 35 more) is very demanding
so I don't have large blocks of time available, but we are getting there. In between times, I have been working on my old
Aeronca Champ. It needs an engine overhaul. Our Tiger Moth will not be an award winner like Tom's [Tom Kewin] or Ken's [Ken Copp]
which are exquisite in every detail. It will be more commensurate with an EFTS setting."
In the Moth magazine no.
90 of 1995 Bill Graham reported that "thanks to help rendered by Tom Kewin,
Ken Copp and
friends, the restoration of N82KF is well on: wings all repaired, one totally rebuilt with new spars, etc., all new tail unit,
fuselage repaired, wings being recovered. The reports ends in a good housekeeping manner:
Repair cowling. Buy a new prop!"
In the Moth magazine No.
94 of 1995, it was reported that "Tiger Moth N82KF should be back in the
air this summer after some ground level
interference a few years ago. Parts have been collected from around the USA. When one of the co-owners is the manager of the
municipal airfield at Petaluma, there seems little doubt that the aircraft will be afforded some flight privilege."
The FAA Major Repair and
Alteration form covering the repairs subsequest to the acident, dated 1st
(Note the description of work accomplished - "Wings inspected and covered"!)
Bill passed away in 1997 and N-5490 was subsequently offered for sale in the Moth Club's Paper Tiger newsletter.
It was subsequently offered
via Ron Howes, who had originally acquired
it from Ken French after the Plum Island storm. The advertisement, dated 2nd February 1999 read:
1938 DeHavilland DH82A Tiger
AirFrame: Built by DeHavilland for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1938
Hours: Total Time 3,824 Hrs, 804.9 SMOH
Motor: Gipsy Major 1C, 145 hp, 804. 9 SMOH
Propeller Sensenich, Pitch 60, 4.0 SMOH
4 Hrs since Complete Restoration (Fabric, Spars, Ribs, Braces, Etc.) of Wings, Empenage, Rudder, Rudder Post, Stabilizer, Elevators. Finished in 1998
4 Hrs on New Tires, Brake Overhaul, Landing Gear Re-Bush and Hardware
Fresh Annual with Compressions in the 70's
The Aircraft is Finished in Authentic RAF Colors with Appropriate Rondels
Important Points for Daily Use are:
Battery and Starter System
Slats, Manual Lockable
It was acquired in May 1999 by retired United Airlines Flight Engineer Keith Woodmansee of Tacoma, Washington.
The report of the sale in the DH Moth Club's magazine no. 110 of 2000, and below is the accompanying letter from Bill Graham.
Here is the Bill of Sale
recording the transfer of custodianship of N-5490 from co-owners Bill Graham
and Dave Traversi to Belavion Inc., the company owned by
Keith Woodmansee. As is common with aircraft sales, the sale price is recorded as "$1-00 &OC", meaning one Dollar and other considerations.
This is the application for FAA registration submitted by Keith Woodmansee.
The Tiger was ferried to Harvey Field, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.
It was Jeremy Ainsworth,
who had ferried the Tiger from Fairbanks that flew the Tiger up to Harvey
He had given Keith 6-8 hours instruction but concluded that he wasn’t quite up to the ferry flight,
so Jeremy flew it up with his girlfriend Christine, who was an airline pilot, in the front cockpit. They had no means of communicating,
so agreed that each would shake the stick if they wanted the other to take control. On the way up, the luggage locker
behind the rear cockpit came unlatched and Jeremy was worried that it would tear itself off if left flapping in the slipstream.
So he shook the stick and Christine took over. Jeremy then undid his seat harness so that he could reach around
to try to secure the luggage locker latches. Unfortunately, as he turned, he nudged the stick with his knee and Christine
thought he wanted control back, so let go of the stick, whereupon the Tiger rolled to the right and Jeremy was only just able
to hang on and not be propelled out of the aircraft, thus averting what would have been a freak tragedy.
At Harvey Field, Keith continued
his conversion onto type. But this did not go well. Keith struggled
to master the Tiger,
which resulted in a couple accidents after which various repairs were made locally. On one occasion,
when approaching too low, the throttle was opened too late, and the longsuffering old Tiger was flown through
the airport perimeter fence at full throttle! On another occasion, the Tiger had been put down in a field near Monroe
on a hot summer day. On taking off, the Tiger lifted - and then sank back onto the grass, only to run into a hay bale. More repairs.
The Tiger's logbook shows repairs to the leading edges of both lower wings being signed off by Dave Riffle on 15th May 2003.
Dave also signed off more repairs to the starboard lower wing on 27th October 2006.
That was to be the final logbook entry - to this day. At this point the total hours are recoded in the aircraft's logbook as 3,977.3,
so it had flown 146.8 hours in the ownership of Keith Woodmansee.
Eventually, Keith lost his PPL medical and N-5490 languished in its open-fronted T hangar at Harvey Field for the next five years.
My family and I moved from
the UK to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1999 and then moved to the Seattle
area in 2008
and bought a house about 15 miles from Harvey Field. I drove past Harvey on various occasions and the old Tiger was easily visible
as its T hangar faced the road. On one occasion, on pure impulse, I decided to stop and take a closer look. Imagine my surprise when I found that this
was Bill Graham's old Tiger! I made enquiries, discovered that the aircraft had not flown for many years, and eventually tracked down the owner.
I contacted Keith and a deal was struck in August 2011.
Keith was a true gentleman with a wealtl of flying stories from a long and varied career and I very muich enjoyed several trips to his home.
N-5490 as found - forlorn and covered in starling droppings.
The starlings' home for several summers!
Shortly after, the Tiger was de-rigged and removed for a complete restoration.
Home at last - and in the good company of some English pre-war cars. Now the serious restoration work can commence.
Sadly, Keith Woodmansee passed away on 5th March 2012. His obituary read:
Willard Keith Woodmansee,
87, also known as "Woody", passed away peacefully in Tacoma, Washington
on March 5, 2012.
Keith had a life-long passion for sailing, flying, and traveling the globe. Keith grew up in Utah and Virginia, and took his
first flying lessons at the age of 15. In WWII, he served with the U.S. Maritime Service as radio officer and purser in the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. His flying career spanned over 45 years, starting with the Boeing 314 "Flying Boats"
to destinations in Europe and the Caribbean. In the early years of his career in commercial aviation,
Keith flew for American International, World Airways, and the Flying Tigers. He first joined Pan Am American World Airways
as flight radio officer in 1946 and was later rehired by PAA as flight engineer. From the 1940's to the 1990's, he flew
numerous aircraft, including L-Constellation (the “Connie”), DC 3-10, Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, B 707, 727 and 747.
Keith was San Francisco based during most of his time with Pan Am and United Airlines, aside from a 3-year stint in Berlin
in the early '60's, during which he and his growing family lived in Strasbourg, France.
In early 1994, then residing in Seattle, Washington, Keith retired from PAA/UA. Nevertheless, he continued to pursue
new adventures in flying which included paragliding in the Cascade Mountains,
taking floatplane lessons in Florida, and flying his de Havilland Tiger Moth out of Harvey Field, near Seattle.
Keith is survived by his first wife, Teresa Woodmansee; his three daughters, Ann Woodmansee, Helen Hall, and Suzy Woodmansee;
his two brothers, Charles and Glen; and his wife Roberta Woodmansee.
A celebration of Keith's life was held at his home in Browns Point/Tacoma, Washington on March 9, 2012.
(What Keith's obituary does
not mention is his part in the dramatic Bermuda Sky Queen incident in October
Keith was the radio operator aboard Boeing this Model 314 NC-18612, operated by American International Airways
that landed in mid-Atlantic in mountanous seas on 14th October 1947 near the United States Coast Guard weather ship, "Bibb".
Three days later, all 62 passengers and the crew of seven were rescued by the Bibb and the rescue was heralded
as one of the greatest Atlantic rescues in history. After the rescue, the aircraft was sunk by gunfire
since it constituted a hazard to surface vessels. Read the Civil Aviation Board's accident report here.
The dramatic newsreel film of the rescue can be viewed here.)
Little did I realise when
I stumbled across N82KF at Harvey Field that I would be able to uncover
so much history, not only of N-5490, but of the pilots who learned to fly in her - many of whom
went on to heroic flying careers in the Battle of Britain and beyond, and many of them paying
the ultimate sacrifice to defend the free world. So this rebuild project has become so much more than just another aircraft restoration.
It has become the means by which history can be unearthed, collated and preserved and it is hoped that,
once airworthy again in the not too distant future, N-5490 will become a living, flying memorial to the brave young airmen
who learned their trade in her in darker days.
N-5490 over Fairbanks, Alaska
at dusk, with Mount McKinley just visible off the starboard wing.
A world away in so many ways from pre-war Gravesend in Kent.
Soon she will be flying on once again, into the future, as a living memorial to the greatest generation.
(Photo: Gary Porter)
Per Ardua Ad Astra
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