Remember a while back we wrote about the inordinate number of 40th birthdays we had coming up? Well, last weekend was our brother’s 40th birthday surprise Tiger Moth flight in Nottinghamshire – and what a surprise it was. He had no idea, until we turned in to the gates of the airfield, what was going on.
The Nottinghamshire airfield where the G-TIGA Tiger Moth is based is a wonderful setting. It’s a friendly and busy little airfield with lots going on and a lovely terrace to watch all the aviation action from.
After being introduced to the chief flying instructor Jim, we were all allowed to have a good look round G-TIGA as she was wheeled out of the hangar. A beautifully kept Tiger Moth owned by the same man for over 40 years, she had recently undergone a repaint and looked resplendent in her British racing green and cream combo.
We were amazed at the, as our Mum put it, ‘flimsiness’ of the plane and the fact that the rudders and ailerons were all connected up to the cockpit controls by what looked, to us, like piano wire. After a thorough and informative briefing, we left our Bro’ to get kitted out in his 1940s looking cap and face mask and hop into the front seat. We learnt the pilot always sits in the rear seat, as it means he can see the fuel tank and the fuel levels..handy, we thought!
We then headed back to the sunny terrace at the reception building, which, as well as providing coffee and bacon butties, was the prefect viewing point to watch G-TIGA taxi round and take off from the grass. There were a fair few people around and lots of little club planes and helicopters going back and forth, but it was kind of emotional to see that everyone stopped for a few moments as soon as they heard the whirr of the Tiger Moth start up, as if admiring a real ‘thing of beauty’.
Once airborne, everyone went back to chatting, refuelling, taking off, landing…whilst us spectators lapped up the atmosphere and sipped our coffees. Around 20 minutes later, all eyes turned again to the grass as we heard the Tiger Moth making its approach. Flying overhead, she dived and then zoomed away again to then do yet another circuit before finally coming in to land on the third pass. According to our Bro’, the first flypast was planned (he’d been given the choice of a slow flypast or a dive and zoom!), the second was meant to be a landing, but the plane had felt ‘floaty’ so the pilot pulled out – much to our Bro’s delight!
Back on terra firma, our Bro was clearly thrilled at having achieved one of his lifetime ambitions. We wondered if, since flying in one, he’d changed his opinion on Tiger Moths. He did admit that they really aren’t that powerful, are really really noisy with the wind howling past you at 60mph in the open cockpit and that when he took the controls, she had had a mind of her own and wanted to climb. In other words, totally impractical and pretty basic compared to modern trainers planes… but still rather incredible all the same.
Operation surprise 40th birthday Tiger Moth flight accomplished!