When you fly a light vintage airplane, you have to factor in lots of extra time when you want to be some place.
For Sun ‘n Fun fly-in attendees Tom Dietrich and Steve Gray of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, that extra time meant leaving home several months in advance. You read that right: Months.
“We tried for several years to get down here in time for the show, only to turn back due to weather,” Gray explained while Dietrich nodded.
The pair decided the only way to get their 1941Tiger Moth to Florida in time for Sun ‘n Fun was to leave home several months in advance and find hangar space close to Lakeland where the aircraft could be stored until the show.
“The airplane lived in Kissimmee, Florida, from mid-November on,” said Gray. “It took us three days and about 15 hours to get to Kissimmee. We were given free hangar space at Warbird Adventures.”
The Tiger Moth fit right in with the other machines at Warbird Adventures, according to Dietrich.
“The airplane is a replica of an Australian Tiger Moth that was used by the Royal Australian Air Force after the war to attract kids to join up,” he explained. “They would take it to air shows and conferences and barnstorm because it was quite the attraction.”
The biplane, done up in the white and red of the Royal Australian Air Force, features the image of an aggressive Woody Woodpecker on the left side of the nose. During World War II the cartoon bird — one of the most popular icons for nose art — appeared in multiple morale-boosting cartoons. For Sun ‘n Fun , a much more sanguine stuffed toy Woody Woodpecker was crammed in the engine intake to keep bugs out.
This is the third time a Tiger Moth has worn the colors as “Woody,” noted Dietrich. The second was after World War II when Linley Wright from Glenrose, Texas, did up a Tiger Moth in the colors of the famous Australian airplane. He flew it around the United States and was known for giving airplane rides to people. A few years ago that Tiger Moth was sold to a buyer in Israel and became a parts airplane.
The aircraft that now flies as “Woody” was built from the remains of a Canadian DH82C that rolled out of the factory in Ontario in 1941. The owners decided it was important to recreate Wright’s airplane so that it could once again travel to fly-ins and give rides.
Among the changes made to the Canadian Moth included its conversion to an open cockpit and British instrumentation. These changes required special permission from Transport Canada as “Woody” is a certified aircraft.
It’s an attention-getting airplane, noted Dietrich as people gathered around it in the vintage display area at Sun ‘n Fun .
“It flies very light,” he added. “It flies just like a butterfly. We have several Tiger Moths, but we wanted one that was uniquely different and this one is.”
THE TIGER BOYS
Dietrich and Gray are part of The Tiger Boys Aeroplane Works and Flying Museum at Guelph Airpark (CNC4) in Guelph, Ontario. The Tiger Boys represents a “hobby out of control” and is overseen by Dietrich and his partner Bob Revell. The emphasis is on rebuilding rare biplanes and returning them to the skies.
They have several models of aircraft that are airworthy or in the process of restoration, including a 1936 Taylor J-2 Cub, a 1935 Aeronca C-3 and 1928 Hickman biplane. The Tiger Moth is one of the favorites, said Dietrich, because it is to Canadians and the English what the Stearman is to Americans.
“It was used all through the war for training, so a lot of the old guys remember it,” he said. “It is what they learned on and that’s what they used even after the war, flying in the flying clubs that sprang up. They used them for flight training and to tow gliders.” There were some 12,000 Tiger Moths built in the world — some in Canada and some in England, he added.
“We have four of our own,” he said. “We have a four-place Tiger Moth that we might bring down to Florida for the show next year. It is a 1937 Thruxton Jackaroo, the only one of its kind in North America and, I guess, in the world that is flying. I understand that there are a few left over in England, but they are pretty much all unairworthy.”
“We took it to Oshkosh one year for AirVenture but it has never been to Sun ‘n Fun ,” Gray noted.
For more information: TigerBoys.com