View Full Version : Tiger Moth flight

Ralf Roggeveen
June 24th, 2010, 13:37
They did not forget me at that big birthday I had recently, and kind generous sister gave a voucher for a flight in a DH-82A Tiger Moth G-ANSM at Sibson Aerodrome, Cambridgeshire, England:


I was not nervous*

The far corner of that building, away from the geraniums, is used as the Tower:


This was my first sight of Sierra Mike, through the little window in the Tower building where you can look down into the neighbouring repair hangar:


Here's a better shot of her:


And here she is near a rather nice Pitts Special which I would somewhat like to go in on another occasion...


I took thousands of pictures around the airfield with my 35mil camera, but obviously they will take a few days to develop and get onto disc. These were only taken with a so-so digital camera, but they will include pix taken in the air.

Before going up, you would like to see the pilot's office:


Radio comms was more sophisticated than last time I was in a light aircraft (30 years ago). And a closer look at his instruments:


Your foot & stick arrangement:


(Rather shabby flying suit with "wings" sewn on which I did not deserve (Not RAF ones, however). The US Army is right about velcro too). I wondered how many people pulled the stick back and accidentally released all their straps? Not impossible. Here are the nitwit's - I mean the pupil's - instruments:


As you'll notice, that was taken at 2000 ft doing about 70 kias. I wished I had a compass, but still. And here's the tail skid, which I thought interesting:


We had little wheels on out tail-dragging Chippies back in the day!

(*Being half-Dutch and half-British gives a very good start when it comes to concealing fear.)

Next up: Up...

Ralf Roggeveen
June 24th, 2010, 22:41
So this is what the pilot, Frank, and I were entrusting our mortal souls to:


G-ANSM was made at the Cowley (Oxford) auto factory in 1940, rather a busy year over the skies of England when they needed to train more pilots fast!


That was a good sentence, but one book boringly reveals that Morris Motors at Cowley took over production from Hatfield in 1941 - and I have seen this particular aircraft dated to 1942, so 1940 may be part of the myth. But it definitely breaks the 'Never fly in anything older than yourself' rule. Note windsock in the above picture.


Here's a view with both positions open (and rusty fire tender):


Quite a good shot of the port side. I had infinite faith in Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, the laws of aerodynamics, the Sibson mechanics and and Rolls Royce, who provided our 130hp Gipsy Major I engine:


Interestingly, Frank himself did the contact spin of the propellor with the mechanic sitting in his cockpit. Then they ran round and swapped places for...


Chocks away! (grainy shot taken through the dirty window of the Tower building). And this is the view you get from the aircraft the moment it starts up:


Then we manouever around to RW24, or rather the bit of the big field that points in a southwesterly direction, i.e. the prevailing wind, as seen in that windsock above:


Out-of-focus but evocative shot of her going up:


And we're climbing away, this must be below 1000ft:


Frank said that the chap before me had been upset by 'turbulence', but I found the whole flight (about 40 minutes) much smoother than most transatlantics I've done as a passenger in big jets. We did get shoved up a bit by hot air over Peterborough, the nearest town (pictures to follow).

A Cessna pilot on the ground told me that he'd hit a thermal during final the other day and that it threw the aircraft 'up 300 feet', so of course he had to do a forced go-around. I said 'that would have been good if you'd been in a glider'. The Tiger probably wasn't flying that day, since they're careful about times when it's too windy for it.

You have a strong sense of being buoyed up by the biplane configuration and it was fairly cosy in the deep cockpit with your head (at least) nice & warm in the helmet. Obviously I was clutching onto the camera, not wanting to lose that over the side!

Ralf Roggeveen
June 24th, 2010, 23:33
Here we are at just about 2000ft:


Obviously we'll want to compare this with our flightsim scenery:


I took a shot of a village over the port side (Elton, possibly, from looking at the map):


Frank pointed out Fotheringhay just ahead:


This is very important in History as it's where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and executed by Elizabeth I in 1587:


The place marked Motte & Bailey on the map is the site of the castle where that royal Scottish lady literally lost her head. You can see that she also had a pub (PH = Public House) and a telephone. That's where it happened:


Less interestingly, new buildings south of Peterborough (possibly Hampton Hargate on the map):


Over the old town we clearly saw the cathedral (which was my aim) and football ground, though neither has come out clearly in any of the photographs! As I said, we did get buffeted about by warm air coming up from the buildings (also had to observe overflying safety rules, no aerobatics there!):


I have a horrible feeling that the 12th Century cathedral may be behind the strut in that picture. Good shot of 20th C. carparks, however. This big bridge over the River Nene has come out quite well, I believe that dual carriageway is the A1260, note rail tracks as well:


And here's another stretch of the River Nene which I mistook for a canal:


Surely they've straightened that?

June 25th, 2010, 06:48
Awesome Ralf!

June 25th, 2010, 07:06
That's a great birthday present! :applause:

June 25th, 2010, 07:08
I had infinite faith in Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, the laws of aerodynamics, the Sibson mechanics and and Rolls Royce, who provided our 130hp Gipsy Major I engine:

You do know the law of gravity still is more powerful than any of the above, right? ;)

June 25th, 2010, 07:11
Looks great fun, Ralf. If I'd known where you were going I'd have got you to drop a wreath over Fotheringhay :scotland: .:hatchet: :frown:

My first ever flight was in a de Havilland (Dragon Rapide, 1950's) over Prestwick - I suspect the old Gipsy Major would be struggling a bit to get the Lefty frame into the air nowadays.

Nervous ? Nah, you look utterly calm.

This is abject fear - my first non-static line jump coming up in the wilds of County Kerry.....

Ralf Roggeveen
June 25th, 2010, 11:31
Thanks, good friends; took the camera so I could share it with you. A couple of guys went up before me, having their souvenir pictures taken with mobile phones only!!!! Needless to say, I arrived over 2 hours early, photographed every aircraft within a mile radius (about 70 pictures to come) and STILL couldn't have been bored if I'd stayed 2 hours after I'd done my flight. Had to get back to wife & cats and didn't want to look too nerdy to the airfield folk, however. :d

There are a lot of these wind turbines down there now:


I imagine that Dutch kameraaden will agree that this looks quite like Holland: the river-straightening in particular. They do have a few traditional windmills remaining round here too. Lefty will be interested to learn that my wife (an expert on Tudor history) says Fotheringhay was chosen for poor old Mary because they could see anybody approaching from miles away, making rescue attempts much more difficult.

It was a bit cloudy, but, as I said, the wind wasn't too bad:


Had chosen the end of June with some care, wisely refusing that very nasty, rainy, cold May we had when that was at first offered!


Although I didn't have a compass, realised we were heading west from what could be made out of the sunshine:


That's not rain, just a bit of condensation forming. I got this useful booklet:


You can buy them from lovely WAAF angels that lean down from the clouds to kiss you...

Here's some useful advice:


Of course in our Chippies back in the '70s Air Training Corps we were sitting on our parachutes and even 'practiced' using them by jumping off chairs in the barracks. Some of the cadets did do proper practice jumps from higher up in gym facilities, maybe even a bit of real skydiving. There were all sorts of legends about the kid who had had to bail out of a Chippie and been cut in half by the tail, etc. It was clear that the RAF were very anxious that parachutes should NOT be opened accidentally, as of course they were extremely difficult to repack...

I was looking out for the airfield for final approach on our return:


And there it is. Many of those aeroplanes round the back are never, ever going to be airborne again, as you will see next week when the ground photos are posted. Most of them are old Cessnas being used for parts, and, yes, the big one has a tale to tell...

Ralf Roggeveen
June 25th, 2010, 12:08
Hope these landing shots appear in the right order:


That road will be the A1 down there. Americans may be interested to learn that parts of it are built directly on top of the Roman Road called Ermine Street, literally following the same route for the last 2000 years. Think the trees are getting bigger...


Frank told me that it 'doesn't have brakes', but he never cut the throttle entirely (as can of course be done to land flightsim early birds). I suppose it would be really interesting to go much higher and experience deliberate stalls (and spins?!?), though the life insurance premiums might be a bit steep in quite such an old aircraft...


And we were back down again:


More pictures of that Robin to come, I saw him land and park shortly before my flight. This was another fellow climbing out from an earlier one:


The grass landing, obviously with a superb pilot (Frank, above), seemed much smoother than many a tarmac at International airports I've experienced in big jets. They do have a lot more undercarriage and thrust to worry about of course.

On the ground G-ANSM has to be pushed rather ignominiously on this dolly:


He was taking it to the pump for a drop more fuel. (A few fuelling shots being developed amongst the others).

Most of the time up there I was thinking about WW1 pilots, instantly realising how incredibly brave they all were just to go up in such a thing, let alone fight from and be shot at in it. Being at only 2000 is a bit scary because you know there isn't much recovery time if anything did go really badly wrong.

I texted my wife to say that I was still alive and she sent a message back. When I told Frank that she'd said to 'drive carefully' on the way home, he gave a wry laugh.

Then I realised that it had been fairly dangerous (even without Archie or the Red Baron trying to bring us down early). Great fun! :wavey: