de Havilland Moth Club Fly-in at Bicester, UK

The de Havilland Moth Club held a marvelous fly-in at Bicester, near Oxford, England during August, with some fifty aircraft of de Havilland origin taking part at the historic, former Royal Air Force Aerodrome which dates back to WWI. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)
DDS 729

by Nigel Hitchman

The de Havilland Moth Club held a fly-in event at a historic airfield in Bicester on Thursday August  18th, 2022. It was a great success with around fifty aircraft, mostly de Havilland in origin, attending with the majority of these being DH.82 Tiger Moths.

Bicester (pronounced ‘Bister’) is a small rural town just north of Oxford in the south of England. The earliest recorded flight here dates to 1911, when a Bristol Boxkite stuttered into the skies from a farmer’s field. By 1916, however, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) had established an aerodrome nearby, but this soon became RAF Bicester following the RFC’s merger with the Royal Naval Air Service on April 1st, 1918. Developed into a bomber station in 1925, RAF Bicester underwent further expansion in 1936. By the  eve of WWII, RAF Bicester served in a bomber training role, although this also included glider training once the build up for D-Day began.

A Bristol Blenheim Mk.I at RAF Bicester circa 1939.

Interestingly, the prototype Handley Page Halifax four-engined bomber, L7244, made its very first flight from RAF Bicester on October 25th, 1939. By war’s end, RAF Bicester was home to bustling aircraft and motor transport maintenance operations. This activity slowed precipitously once peace arrived, of course, until just the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association, together with a large civilian gliding club, called the airfield home. Indeed, these were the airfield’s final tenants, together with a number of private aircraft, at the point when Bicester Heritage acquired the site in 2013. This newly-formed organization, which specializes in vintage automobiles, has spent much of subsequent years in sympathetic development of the site, with many businesses involved with vintage road transportation now in residence. The two large, former RAF hangars presently house vintage vehicles, while a slightly smaller hangar remains in its originally intended aviation role. The large grass airfield now has two wide runways marked in the turf, rather than the original, multi-directional strip which once allowed aircraft to simply align their movements with whichever direction the wind wished.

The Tiger 9 formation team with its nine de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moths. In between the formation, in the background, a glider is under tow for a soaring flight. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

The August fly-in was a wonderfully relaxed event. The Tiger 9 team performed a flyover, appropriately with nine Tiger Moths, and there was a fair bit of ad hoc local flying, especially from a locally-based joy riding business which operates Tiger Moths. Several more exotic de Havilland types were also on hand, of course, such as a DH.83 Fox Moth, DH.80 Puss Moth, two DH.85 Leopard Moths and several DH.87B Hornet Moths. Notable absences, however, included a lack of DH.60 Gipsy Moths and twin-engined de Havilland types; this was a little surprising as the airfield could easily have accommodated them.

For many attendees, a highlight of the show included seeing the newly restored DH.82A Tiger Moth G-BTOG formerly NM192 with the RAF. This aircraft now wears an authentic US Army Air Forces livery depicting DE745, one of a several Tiger Moths which the U.S. military operated from UK bases during WWII.

The Tog Group’s DH.82A Tiger Moth G-BTOG which served as NM192 with the RAF during WWII. It is dressed to represent another Tiger Moth, DE745, which served with the US Army Air Forces in Britain. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

DH.83 Fox Moth ZK-AGM was restored in England several years ago by the Newbury Aeroplane Company for a customer in New Zealand and allowed to wear its original ‘Kiwi’ registration for its eventual delivery overseas, despite presently being UK-registered as G-CIPJ and on a UK permit to fly.

Bruce Keith Broady’s de Havilland DH.83 Fox Moth G-CIPJ dressed to represent its earlier, New Zealand based incarnation, ZK-AGM which was written off in a crash in that nation during 1963. The present aircraft was rebuilt from those remains in more recent years and flew again for the first time circa 2015. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

LF858 (G-BLUZ) is a DH82B Queen Bee, a Tiger Moth built with a wooden fuselage and used as a target drone during WWII. With just a handful of survivors, this is the only example in flying condition although another is on long term rebuild in the USA.

Originally built as a DH.82 Tiger Moth, this aircraft was modified into a radio-controlled DH.82B Queen Bee during WWII. It served in the RAF as LF858 and is one of just a handful of Queen Bees still extant, and the only one presently flying. Owned and operated by ‘The Bee Keepers Group’, it is registered with the CAA as G-BLUZ. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

G-AAZP is a DH.80 Puss Moth; its owner, Tim Williams, has flown this aircraft on many long trips, including one to Australia and back!

Robert Pennell Williams DH.80A Puss Moth G-AAZP. She served in the RAF as HL537 during WWII. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

G-AIYS is a DH.85 Leopard Moth, an improvement on the earlier Puss Moth.

Ronald Arthur Gammon’s DH.85 Leopard Moth G-AIYS. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)
Leopard Moth G-AIYS. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

G-ADUR, ACUS, ADKL and ADNE are DH.87B Hornet Moths.

G-AYCK is a Stampe SV4C although looking vaguely similar it’s a totally different design from Belgium with a wooden wire braced fuselage as opposed to the steel tube of the Tiger Moth, the Stampe is a much nicer handling aircraft.

Charles William Norton Huke in his Stampe SV-4C G-AYCK leading aloft Jonathan James Valentine Elwes in his DH.82A G-ANRN. The Stampe, a Belgian designed competitor to the Tiger Moth, uses the same powerplant and a very similar layout, which contributes to occasional confusion between the two types. G-AYCK is a post-WWII example, built under license in France by SNCAN for the nation’s Armée de l’Air (French Air Force), where it served as s/n 1139. Note the two large former RAF hangars in the background. These now house vintage automobiles. (photo by Nigel Hitchman)

All the rest are Tiger Moths although there are a few other types in the background!

Many thanks indeed to Nigel Hitchman for this fascinating look at a significant British vintage aviation fly-in, and one with substantial connections to WWII as well. We look forwards to more of his reports in the future!

1 Comment

  1. I would love to speak to someone related to this organisation. I have what may be the final image of one of two ‘White Moths’in 1927. The image is of Neville Stack in his Plane on an Indian Airfield in June 1927.

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