Who was the Copy Cat?

Who was the Copy Cat?

The de Havilland Tiger Moth was built as an advancement of an earlier de Havilland biplane.

The de Havilland Tiger Moth was built as an advancement of an earlier de Havilland biplane.

By Norm Goyer

All you have to do is look at the new batch of 2014 autos now being introduced, they all look alike. The designers claim that wind tunnel tests dictate the main shape of the look alike cars but common sense tells one that a new feature or a trick look was propbably copied as well. Most of us are familiar with the Tomahawk and Skipper puzzle. It is obvious that someone copied somebody else design. In this case there was a common thread running through the mystery. One designer worked on both aircraft at both Piper and Beech. I owned a Tomahawk for several years and liked the airplane, never flew a Skipper. Nobody seemed to care and eventually both fell by the wayside.

A few years earlier back in the 1930s a very similar situation occurred, the Tiger Moth developed by de Havilland from an earlier biplane suddenly had a twin being built in Belgium and France. The two aircraft were very similar. The Stampe had a differnt shaped rudder and the gas tank in the upper wing center section was set into the wing a little lower. Eighty years later folks attending airshows still ask the question, “is that a Stampe or a Tiger Moth?” In fact both of these fine little training biplanes were very popular in their own countries.

Many Moths were built with hatches for cold climates.

Many Moths were built with hatches for cold climates.

The Stampe SV.4 was designed as a biplane tourer/training aircraft in the early 1930s by Stampe et Vertongen at Antwerp. The first model was the SV.4A an advanced aerobatic trainer followed by the SV.4B with redesigned wings and the 130 hp/97 kW de Havilland Gipsy Major.

Only 35 aircraft were built before the company was closed during the Second World War. After the war the successor company Stampe et Renard built a further 65 aircraft between 1948 and 1955 as trainers for the Belgian Air Force. Let’s take a triip back in time courtesy of the reference books and learn a little more about the battling bipes.

The Stampe had a rounder rudder and revised wing gas tank.

The Stampe had a rounder rudder and revised wing gas tank.

Several Stampe SV.4s were used in the films The Blue Max and Von Richthofen and Brown, playing both British and German aircraft. The SE5a aircraft used in the film Aces High were modified SV.4s. The aircraft were fitted with revised engine cowlings, modified tailfins and dummy machine-guns to look the part of First World War scouts.

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade there is a scene in which Indiana Jones escapes from a Nazi airship in an SV.4. The film makers took artistic license in fitting an open canopy machinegun turret in the aft cockpit.

The planes ‘Dorothy’ and ‘Lillian’ in High Road to China (set in the 1920s) are depicted by SV.4s, fitted with Lewis Guns.

The plane in “The Mummy” was a modified version of an SV.4, having a tail gun turret added.

A licenced SV.4C version was built in France by SNCAN (Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord) and in Algeria by Atelier Industriel de l’Aéronautique d’Alger, the two firms completing a combined total of 940 aircraft. The postwar SV.4Cs were widely used by French military units as a primary trainer. Many also served with aero clubs in France, numbers of which were later sold secondhand to the United Kingdom and other countries.

The Stampe was also built under license by many other European countries.

The Stampe was also built under license by many other European countries.

de Havilland Tiger Moth

The Tiger Moth was more popular than the Stampe because there were more built and sold. The Tiger Moth trainer prototype was derived from the DH 60 de Havilland Gipsy Moth in response to Air Ministry specification 13/31 for an ab-initio training aircraft. The main change to the DH Moth series was necessitated by a desire to improve access to the front cockpit since the training requirement specified that the front seat occupant had to be able to escape easily, especially when wearing a parachute. Access to the front cockpit of the Moth predecessors was restricted by the proximity of the aircraft’s fuel tank directly above the front cockpit and the rear cabane struts for the upper wing. The solution adopted was to shift the upper wing forward but sweep the wings back to maintain the center of lift. Other changes included a strengthened structure, fold-down doors on both sides of the cockpit and a revised exhaust system. It was powered by a de Havilland Gipsy III 120 hp engine and first flew on 26 October 1931 with de Havilland Chief Test Pilot Hubert Broad at the controls. One distinctive characteristic of the Tiger Moth design is its differential aileron control setup. The ailerons (on the lower wing only) on a Tiger Moth are operated by an externally mounted circular bellcrank, which lies flush with the lower wing’s fabric undersurface covering. This circular bell crank is rotated by metal cables and chains from the cockpit’s control columns, and has the externally mounted aileron pushrod attached at a point 45° outboard and forward of the bellcrank’s centre, when the ailerons are both at their neutral position. This results in an aileron control system operating, with barely any travel down at all on the wing on the outside of the turn, while the aileron on the inside travels a large amount upwards to counter-act adverse yaw.

From the outset, the Tiger Moth proved to be an ideal trainer, simple and cheap to own and maintain, although control movements required a positive and sure hand as there was a slowness to control inputs. Some instructors preferred these flight characteristics because of the effect of “weeding” out the inept student pilot.

And that dear friends is the story of the Stampe and the Tiger Moth, different planes but not really, shall we say a coindidence.

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