On way to Aero show, 1st trainer aircraft does a Pune sortie

Enroute Yelahanka airbase in Bangalore where it will perform sorties at the Aero India 2013 next month, Indian Air Force's (IAF) first trainer aircraft the Tiger Moth halted in the city on Wednesday. As a veteran pilot rightly called it the 'grandfather' of the fifth generation Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft, the aircraft along with Sukhoi-30 MKI did a sortie giving a visual treat to people gathered at the Lohegaon airbase.

The de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth, a 1930s biplane, is the only in the country and has taken to skies after a gap of almost 23 years, post 1989 when it last flew in a vintage aircraft rally. The wooden 'bird' —restored by five technicians who worked on it for over two years —made flight with the help of IAF's vintage flight unit. The Tiger Moth flown by Wing Commander H Kulshrestha and Group Captain D S Dangi left the Hindon airbase on January 19. After travelling over 2000 km at a speed of about 100 nautical miles and flying strictly for just two hours a day, the Tiger Moth is expected to reach Bangalore by Thursday or Friday.

"Seeing the Tiger Moth is like seeing an old girlfriend," said Air Marshal (retd) S S Ramdas who narrated how in the late '50s he would travel to Jalandhar on a cycle just to fly the aircraft.

The yellow wooden frame of the aircraft shone against the metallic fuselage of one of the most modern aircraft of the IAF — Su-30 MKI. But the old, vintage beauty did not take centrestage without its own fancies. It took almost 10-15 minutes for the technicians to start the front propeller of the aircraft manually. But once it started, the aircraft surely stole the show despite having a tough competitor in mighty Sukhoi. The IAF 2 Wing created a spectacular display as the vintage aircraft was accompanied by two vintage cars — a Ford Model of 1928 and an MG. The modern Su- 30 MKI was escorted by a Jaguar XJL.

The high point of the show was when Sukhoi- 30 MKI took off and vanished in the skies against the roaring sound from its characteristic nozzles as the Tiger Moth hovered over the air force base doing sorties that enthralled the onlookers.

Wing Commander Kulshrestha said, "Flying the Tiger Moth has been an experience of its kind. During the ferry that started from Hindon airbase, we have seen the country closely given the aircraft's speed is very limited. We landed at some of the most unknown locations and received a grand welcome from people who flocked to catch a glimpse of the aircraft.

Group Captain D S Dangi said, "Being fighter pilots, we tend to take certain things for granted in an aircraft. The Tiger Moth is a vintage aircraft and the absence of sophisticated systems that most modern aircraft have, tests the pilot's flying skills. We have been flying for two hours a day and reached a maximum height of 600 feet."

The Tiger Moth restoration is the beginning as the IAF now plans to restore Harvard, Splitfire, Wapiti, Tempest beside other aircraft that have till date only been part of IAF's vintage museum at Palam. "We have 12 technicians who will be working on it. The idea is to showcase our legacy and attract youngsters to join IAF. We were helped by UK-based company M/s Reflight Ltd in our endeavour," said Wing Commander R Deshpande.

Aircraft facts

Name- de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth

Role- Trainer

First Flight- October 26, 1931

Date operating with RAF squadrons - 1939-1946

Manufacturer- De Havilland

Engine- One 145 hp deHavilland Gipsy Major four cylinder engine

Wing Span- Span 29 ft 4"

Length: 23 ft 11"

Height: 8 ft 10"

Wing Area Wing area: 239 sq ft

Empty weight : 1,115 lbs.

Loaded weight : 1,825 lbs.

Maximum speed : 109 mph

Ceiling : 15,800 ft

Range : 275 miles

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