The de Havilland Aircraft
Association of South Africa
International Tiger Moth Aerobatic Championships
Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
18th to 21st of August 2005
By Brian T. Zeederberg
From 18th to 21st of August 2005 the International Tiger Moth Aerobatic Championships were held as part of the annual de Havilland Moth Club Rally at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom.
This event comprises only one of several other competitions that take place over this magnificent weekend where 105 de Havilland Moth types arrived on Saturday and 116 on Sunday, including Puss Moth, Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, Leopard Moth, Hornet Moth, Dragon Rapide, Dragonfly, Dragon, DH60 Moth, Moth Minor, Chipmunk and Beaver. It is the world’s biggest gathering of Moths set in what is arguably one of the greatest backgrounds to be found anywhere. The legendary Vickers Vimy replica which had flown across the Atlantic in July arrived on Saturday and flew in and out on both days.
From an initial field of over twenty entrants a final line up of thirteen 13 pilots from six countries participated in the event. Bad weather in Europe prevented some of the pilots arriving in time for the start of the competition.
Mark Jeffries, who is the current British Unlimited Four Minute Freestyle Aerobatic Champion, had to withdraw his entry at the last minute due to changes in the requirements of the sponsors of his Extra 300 which he had to display in Sweden.
This International Tiger Moth Aerobatic Championship was last staged twenty years ago in 1985 at the same magnificent venue in the grounds of Woburn Abbey. This year a practice day was held on the Thursday at Old Warden airfield, home of the world renowned Shuttleworth aircraft collection near Biggleswade.
The 13 competitors from seven different countries drew lots to see who would fly which of the 3 Tiger Moths supplied by the organizers for the practice flights.
This international biplane aerobatic championship is considered one of the most fair flying competitions held any where in the world, as the aircraft are supplied by the organizers and the pilots draw lots to fly the different aircraft in strict rotation. The ultimate 3 finalists all fly the same Tiger Moth in the final competition flight which is the 3 minute free style display.
The four judges, two of which were FAI CIVA International Judges, Graham Hill UK (Chief Judge), and Lars Ardvisson from Sweden as well as local Judges from the UK, Brian Gleave and Nick Radford did sterling work for the entire contest.
All 3 Tiger Moths were quite different in their handling qualities with the “red one” probably having the nicest roll rate and the “blue one” having the best pitch rate. After practice at Old Warden on the Thursday, all the competitors and organizers gathered together for a most enjoyable evening at a local brasserie in Woburn village and much fun was had by all.
Friday saw the start of serious competition with drawing of lots for flight order and aircraft use. The start of the contest was delayed until after lunch time as the weather was not great in the morning, which also delayed arrivals from Europe both for the aerobatic competition and the rally.
Having done about 15 practice flight on Bob Hay’s Tiger Moth back in Johannesburg, I went into the first program with lots of confidence and managed to pull off first place.
The evening was pleasantly spent with a very nice light meal laid on by the organizers in the local hotel in Woburn.
Saturday’s weather showed great improvement and the second compulsory sequence was flown off during the morning with quite a strong wind in the aerobatic box towards the judges. Fellow South African competitor Ian Popplewell unfortunately drifted over the judges during an entry to a spin and was penalized for that and a low exit off another maneuver which affected his scores adversely.
After the results from the second program were calculated and the combined scores from the 1st and 2nd programs worked out, the chief judge summoned Ryan Southam from New Zealand, Marco Rusconi from Canada and me to fly in the final 3 minute free style competition. All three of us were briefed that we would be flying the silver Tiger Moth and I drew 3rd slot in the takeoff order. Ryan put up a magnificent display starting with a falling leaf that ultimately developed into a one turn spin and then continued with an interesting varied sequence, but finished somewhat short of the 3 minute timeslot. Marco Rusconi put up a spirited display with lots of variation and interesting maneuvers, but also completed his sequence with a time shortage on the stopwatch.
I started my sequence high and used a lot of shallow lines during the Cuban eight and half Cuban maneuvers and also elected to leave a spin out of the sequence so as to maintain altitude and energy as it is very difficult, considering the power to weight ratio of a Tiger Moth, to keep the aircraft aerobating steadily for a full 3 minutes. For the last maneuver I included a four point horizontal hesitation roll which seem to impress the judges and other competitors greatly and this may have sealed a first place for me in this program. I finished the sequence approx. 2 seconds over the 3 minute time frame so was not too badly penalized for that.
The evening prize giving was held during a gala dinner in the magnificent Sculpture Gallery in Woburn Abbey which also commemorated the 95 anniversary of Geoffrey de Havilland’s first successful flight, the 85th anniversary of the de Havilland Aircraft Company, 80th anniversary of the first flight of the DH60 Moth, 50th anniversary of Woburn Abbey first opening its doors to the public, 30 years of the de Havilland Moth Club, the 25th anniversary of the 1st de Havilland Moth rally at Woburn Abbey and the 20th anniversary of the 1st World Tiger Moth Aerobatic Championship that I won in 1985. After toasts to Her Majesty the Queen, Sir Geoffrey de Havilland, the Ladies present, and the Overseas Visitors the prize giving took place.
What I had not realized was that during the aerobatic competitions there had been a competition running for the “perfect loop” (Allen Wheeler Trophy) and apparently the loop that I did during my second sequence was good enough for me to win this trophy, and the Christopher Clarkson Trophy for the best freestyle sequence. So all in all, with 4 awards I had more trophies than I could carry.
I would like to thank Robert Pooley of Pooleys Flight Equipment, Phillip Meeson, Paul Portelli and Peter Tuplin who provided sponsorship and all the judges and organizers for a really splendid aerobatic competition that was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us. The competition was very well organized and a good vibe amongst the pilots, competitors and organizers continued for the entire weekend.
As I had now won first place in both the 1985 and this contest, I offered to create and donate a World Tiger Moth Aerobatic Competition Trophy to be competed for at least every 5 years at Woburn so this long gap does not reoccur. The de Havilland Moth Club gladly accepted my gesture.
SA competitors Brian Zeederberg and Ian Popplewell
Brian Zeederberg with a boot full of top rudder in
Photograph: Colin Knowles
Brian Zeederberg taxing in after winning the 3 min freestyle
Brian Zeederberg with some of the trophies he won