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Wednesday, 29 March 2017 19:28

Flair 'Phoenix' Tiger Moth by Colin Bassam

On 16 Aug 2015 I was flying my Tiger moth (see here) when suddenly I had no control the receiver battery had died and it went into a right turn dive and hit the ground , it was a complete write off. It had served me well for 14 years and I couldn't face being without a Tiger but the thought of years of building filled me with dread, so I decided I would try and find a 2nd hand one that I could restore to the same standard as my original. I had saved many of the scale details which had survived the crash including the instrument panels one of which needed some repairs.

I put a wanted add on the L.M.A site and started getting some offers, but it had to be Flair so my parts would fit. Then I spotted one on the B.M.F.A site it looked nice on the photos, she was described as an old girl done loads of flying in need of some TLC, but had won best flying model at Old Warden that year. It included a trusty Laser 150 of some vintage. I contacted the owner Steve Haughty who lived in south wales , he offered to bring her to the Nationals which was only a couple of weeks away. This was a great idea I could see her in the flesh before parting with the cash and I hadn't been to the Nat’s for some years . I got there very early and found Steve's caravan near the flight line and we struck a deal , she was just what I wanted loads of work to do ,but the finish on the wings and tail was lovely it looked like nylon and dope with all the rib stitching showing. I had a great day mostly on the show line, the Red Duo were very impressive with two very large Hawk jets . Restoration started in Sept 2015, I was able to put my complete undercarriage on as it was in better condition , but I did use the wheel hubs as these were very nice. I stripped out the fuel tank through a convenient hatch which is not standard but has proved very useful . It had been packed in with all sorts of foam rubber so to make a better job I started making a balsa floor for the tank to sit on, this could be removed if I needed to get to the tank. There was just enough room then to make a receiver battery box under the fuel tank the hatch lid would hold the batteries in place I like to remove them for charging, two lipo’s were used 2S x 3000 m.a.h. a bit of overkill as even after a days flying they are still on 98 per cent charge. I made a start on the corrugated fuel tank between the the top wings there were so many coats of paint the corrugations had faded , using paint stripper and a small screwdriver I had to clean out each groove. Then I could repaint it using RC Colours paint cans , this is lovely paint but at £5 a can (I needed 5) it gets expensive . I made a new fuel gauge to go on top to finish it off.

The doors were next all were removed and the tops cut off as they were not scale. I glued my tops complete with catches to the doors and painted them. The Instrument panels were a the most important part of restoring , because with them in place it looked just like my old model. My home made windscreens needed a bit of work ,but I was glad they survived .


I got hold of Gordon Warburton though the B.M.F.A to see if he still had the wooden plugs for making a hand beaten cowl from aluminium, he had so I went round and while I was there had a good look at his scratch built 1/4 scale moth which he used for competitions. What a masterpiece many hours have gone into very fine details. So 15 years on from making my first cowl I started again not knowing if I still had the skill to do it. I got off to a good start with the front , but then the front top piece caused me problems so I had to discard it and start again using a different method, this worked so the two pieces were riveted together. I like riveting so this was my chosen way of fixing , also the finished cowl was going to be painted so imperfections would be filled with body filler and sanded back to give a nice smooth finish.

Whilst at Gordon’s I had seen the spring catches he had made which are just like the full size holding the side panels in place , I decided to give them a try and after a couple of attempts I had one that I was pleased with , so only 3 more to make. Another feature of Gordon’s was the internal fixing , this means there are no unsightly screws showing to hold the cowl in place. I made two brackets riveted to the cowl which butts up to the firewall , three screws in each hold it firmly to the firewall and are accessed by lifting up the side panels.


Several coats of paint later , I was delighted with the result. I took it with me to Gordon’s when I returned his plugs , he said he liked the finished cowl and would like to see me fly the Model. /p>

I was ready for the maiden flight so kept an eye on the weather, weeks went by, the weather was awful. Until one Thursday in July , perfect weather so I took time off work and took it up to the flying field. It went quite well ,but I got the feeling it was nose heavy, I had redone the lead by making two metal boxes the right size to cast the lead in , this made two neat blocks to replace all the bits that were on before. I removed 1/2 lb of lead from the top block , eventually putting back a couple of ounces, all trial and error. So the maiden took place on 21/7/16 and I later realised that the first tiger had it's maiden on the 21/7/01 so exactly 15 years ago! must have been fate.

A bit of online research revealed this Tiger is still flying with the Cambridge flying group, in fact you can learn to fly in it. From their website I found out it was built in 1939 at De- Havilland Hatfield factory and had served in France during 1940 with No 81 Squadron, returning home just before Dunkirk. The Group bought G-AOEI for £700 in 1958 from Old Warden because they had just written off Tiger Moth G-ANLG crashing on to a hanger roof whilst trying to do a "touch and go"! nobody was hurt thankfully. G-AOEI has also been written off twice during her long life. The full size has a Gipsy Major 1C engine fly's at 80 mph and can fly for 2.5 hours. Hope I can have many years of flying her like I did with the first one, I must make the effort to fly her during the summer months.