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This Tiger Moth arrived in 1938
Cambridge celebrates 70 years of the Tiger Moth
Seventy years ago the first Tiger Moths arrived at Cambridge Airport and they've been flying from there continuously since then. We take a look at what makes these little planes so very special...
When the first batch of Tiger Moths arrived in Cambridge, no one would have imagined that they'd still be flying from the airport today, 70 years later.
On 26th January 1938, six Tiger Moths were delivered to Cambridge for use by No. 22 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School, which had begun training pilots for the Royal Air Force.
Tiger Moth at Cambridge in the 1950s
Speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's Graham Hughes, Terry Holloway, Group Support Executive for Marshall of Cambridge, explains the impact of the flying school on the Second World War.
"Sir Arthur Marshall actually invoked a scheme to train instructors from scratch. The usual route was for senior pilots in the RAF to progress to become instructors regardless of their enthusiasm or aptitude for that task. Marshall decided to take trainees on from scratch - if they were good pilots and had the aptitude he'd teach them to become instructors.
"In 1941, his 'Ab Initio' Flying Instructor Scheme was adopted universally by the RAF and it still exists to this day, known as the 'Creamy' Flying Instructor Scheme."
Air Marshall Sir John Day commented in recent years that had the Marshall scheme been introduced at the very beginning of the war, there would have been no shortage of pilots for the Battle of Britain.
And of course, the very best tool for training a pilot or an instructor was the Tiger Moth - in fact, many agree that it still IS the best aeroplane in which to learn.
You can listen to the full interview with Terry Holloway by clicking the link below:
Bill Ison, a pilot and chief instructor has a love/hate relationship with the plane. "As aeroplanes go - and you can quote me on this one - I think it's bloody awful! It's draughty, it's not very fast, it's got a relatively narrow undercarriage and it has no brakes."
Now aged 87, Bill has been flying Tiger Moths since 1943, so he should know! However, he adds: "On the positive side, I don't think there's a better trainer ever been built. It's easy to fly... it's difficult to fly correctly."
If you want to perfect your landing skills, Bill says that the Moth is the very best plane to try. "If you can land it satisfactorily 9 times out of ten you're getting on fine."
But in these days of lightweight planes full of labour-saving gadgets and gizmos, what is the enduring appeal of this single engine bi-plane with its open cockpit?
"The Tiger Moth is like the 4.5 litre Bentley 1929," Bill says. "They're difficult to drive, but people still like driving them, don't they?"
Terry Holloway agrees: "I can think of nothing more wonderful on a hot day than lying back on the grass and hearing the tinkling noise of an exhaust cooling and seeing the reflection of the grass, the sky, the trees in the fabric of a Tiger Moth - wonderful!"
He says that Tiger Moths conjure up the carefree, heady days of the 1930s. A romantic view perhaps, but Terry has good reason for associating the plane with romance.
"I flew an awful lot of Tiger Moths in the 1960s. I courted my wife by Tiger Moth! Her parents farmed in north-west Norfolk and on a Sunday morning I used to fly across from nearby Little Snoring and do some daring aerobatics over the fields. My mother-in law used to wave a table cloth which I took as a form of encouragement - but actually it was her trying to tell me to go away... but 40 years later we're still married!"
A measure of the Tiger Moth's enduring appeal is the number of them still flying today. Bill Ison admits that they're difficult to maintain, but there are plenty of spare parts to be found... it's just that sometimes you have to have them shipped in from the other side of the globe!
Moths can be found in Australia, New Zealand, America, Norway and Sweden - as well as the UK-based Moths which will be flying to Cambridge to help celebrate 70 years of Tiger Moths at the airport.
A final word from 87-year-old Bill then... He says that as long as you can find the spare parts, there's no reason why Marshall shouldn't be able to celebrate 100 years of the Tiger Moth in Cambridge. "You might run out of trainers, though..." he chuckles.
You can listen to the full interview with Bill Ison by clicking the link below:
Tiger Moth Gallery
We'll be adding more photographs to our gallery after the weekend's celebrations.
last updated: 25/01/2008 at 15:12
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