From the Cockpit Part 27: de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth

Ryan Flies


Editor’s Note: This is part 27 of an ongoing series documenting the flights of active-duty US Navy Pilot Ryan Rankin on his journey to fly 52 planes in 52 weeks through the year 2017.

In From the Cockpit Part 24, Rankin was prepping a WWII-era de Havilland Tiger Moth when a fleeting opportunity to fly the Bolkow Bo 125 helicopter took precedence. But Rankin did head back to the Tiger Moth after landing, taking off with Airbus Captain Jacek Mainka from an airfield in Konstancin, just outside of Warsaw.

A WWII-era trainer biplane built for the RAF, the Tiger Moth shares much in common with both the Stearman N2S and the Bu 131 Rankin flew earlier this year (From the Cockpit parts 2 and 20, respectively), being a utilitarian craft with only basic controls, but designed to focus on the trainee’s airmanship. There are some differences, with the more powerful Stearman sporting a large radial engine and a larger cockpit, so Rankin places the Tiger Moth closer to the Bu 131 as one of the nimbler crafts.

Still, each has its own distinct feel when flying, with the Tiger Moth coming across as somewhat “sloppy,” says Rankin, comparing the broad movements to that of steering a bus or moving truck. “But it’s not a negative,” he adds. “You just have to give the controls the proper attention. It requires more and it’s more deliberate.” Flying for around 40 minutes, there was nothing sloppy about Mainka’s formation flying and eventually the two tried their hand at some light aerobatics over the European countryside.

Even with all the different aircraft Rankin has flown, he increasingly finds himself drawn to these WWII-era biplanes. There’s something about them that he can’t quite explain. Part of it’s the history. “You think about the people who sat in that seat before you,” he says. “The people who strapped it on during a war, knowing it might not end well.” And it’s in the machine itself, its parts as exposed as the pilot. “There’s something elegant about that,” says Rankin. “There’s something pure.”

Now at the halfway point in his yearlong adventure, Rankin admits that at times the prospect remains daunting “but at the same time, I’m very much looking forward to it.” It helps that he’s saved some of the more exotic aircraft for the second part of his journey, including gliders, balloons and (maybe, possibly—fingers crossed) a blimp. Whatever the craft, it’s the people Rankin meets that he’ll remember. “It sounds cliché, but it’s true,” he says. “It’s the part I’m going to miss, because I’m going to keep flying.”

For more about the flight in Rankin's own words and a video of the flight, follow the link below.

Pictured: Ryan Rankin flies the de Havilland Tiger Moth. Photo courtesy of Ryan Rankin.

Ryan Flies

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