Tiger Moths have been buzzing about the world’s skies since 1931 and are regarded with special affection by aircraft enthusiasts.
Leisurely paced and stable, but highly manoeuvrable, these two-seaters with their dual controls were the training machines for a whole generation of pilots in times of both peace and war.
By 1945, some 8,500 had been built in various countries, including 345 built as trainers for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) at de Havilland’s New Zealand factory at Rongotai Airport in Wellington.
Since before the war, people had been exploring the use of aircraft in agriculture, particularly for spreading fertiliser, seed, or chemical weedicides and insecticides over large areas of farmland.
A government committee decided that the RNZAF could usefully employ its pilots’ flying skills and its aircraft in topdressing New Zealand’s pastures, as well as defending the nation’s borders.
The Tiger Moth was seen as an ideal plane for the job.
The Tiger Moth – ZK-AJO which was on display at Te Papa, was built as an RNZAF trainer in 1941, and is still flyable. In its spreading days from 1949–56, it flew some 6,000 hours and delivered nearly 28,000 tonnes of fertiliser and grass seed in that time.