March 5, 2024

The most vintage of the aircraft collection with the Air Force Academy is undoubtedly the De Havilland Tigermoth biplane on display within the AFA Museum. The AFA maintains a modest Museum, detailing its history and showcasing many artifacts. There are portraits of the Air Chiefs, Gallantry Award Winners (PVC and MVC), Wartime photographs, and photographs on the Academy’s history. There is a diaroma model of the AFA and its environs, as well as numerous exhibits like the jacket of India’s first Cosmonaut Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma and the flying suit of Flt Cdt Angad , the fictious hero of the movie “Vijeta”, which was the first movie to be shot on the Academy’s environs.

Click to Enlarge
BEFORE AND AFTER: The De Havilland DH82 Tigermoth was previously displayed between the concrete pillars of the building marked as AFA-1975 . Now the aircraft has gone a complete transformation to IAF colors and displayed as HU838 .


A couple of aircraft engines and the armament gun types of combat aircraft including brownings, DEFA Cannon, and oerlikon cannon are on display. Numerous small scale models of aircraft of the IAF, and souvenirs presented by visiting dignitaries are on the showcase, which include numerous plaques from visiting Bangladesh Air Force trainees.

The DH-82 Tigermoth was previously displayed suspended from the ceiling. In natural metal gray finish, the aircraft sported an artificial serial number AFA-1975 which probably indicates the year which the Tigermoth was bought here for display. The aircraft has been carefully assembled inside the building, but the supporting pillars of the roofslab obstructed the view. About the beginning of 2002, a decision was taken by the then commandant AVM Bhojwani for restoration of the aircraft to its original identity and IAF colors.

The view from the rear shows the newly applied false markings “HU838”. This picture was taken on the Passing out parade day in June 2002. Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge For the first time, The photographer would get an uninterrupted view of the Tigermoth, without being obstructed by the concrete pillars of the museum. The aircraft flew with the Hyderabad Flying club till the late 1960s.


When the task was given to the technical team at the AFA, many of the officers found the condition of the aircraft to be very delicate and gave the judgement that the restoration cannot be undertaken. The fabric covered fuselage of the aircraft was coming to pieces when touched by hand. However Gp Capt Jagjeet Singh , who heads the technical team at the AFA took up the challenge of restoring the aircraft.

The aircraft was stripped of its earlier silver colored dope. During the paint stripping the civil registration markes ‘VT-DBK’ surfaced under the layers. A hint about the aircraft origins was found on a small identification plate rivetted near the front cockpit. The metallic plate was inscribed “Presented by the Hyderabad Flying Club -1975” on it. Confirmation about its previous ownership and identity came when an Airworthiness certificate was found in the luggage compartment on the starboard side of the aircraft. The Certificate was made out on Tigermoth VT-DBK and was dated 1962. Apparently the aircraft was gifted by the AP Flying club in 1975. Since there was no previous link or record of service with the Indian Air Force, the Tigermoth was painted as ‘AFA-1975’.

Click to Enlarge Though painted as HU838, this Tigermoth never saw IAF Service. But it did fly with the Royal Air Force during the second world war as T8582. It held the UK registration G-AKGU before it became VT-DBK.
The smoking gun – The Certificate of Airworthiness issued by the DGCA to the Hyderabad Flying Club confirms the registration as VT-DBK. Click to Enlarge


On the completion of the paint stripping and replacement of fabric where it was worn out, the aircraft was repainted in representative Yellow colors of the IAF. AVM Bhojwani decided that the Tigermoth should carry the serial number of a Tigermoth which had some local relevance and accordingly ‘HU838’ was chosen. HU838 was the Tigermoth in which AVM C V Parker MVC, VM., had soloed as a cadet. AVM Parker is the sole MVC recipient from the state and thus the decision was taken to paint the serial on it.

To make the paint scheme accurate, detailed photographs of the Tigermoth in the IAF Museum Vintage Flight in Palam were taken and the same scheme was replicated with detail on this aircraft. Another significant change was in the display location of the aircraft. Earlier the Tigermoth was assembled between the four main support pillars of the Museum. This provided a rather awkward view of the aircraft. Now the aircraft was re-assembled away from the four pillars in one corner of the museum and presents the photographer an uninterrupted view of the complete aircraft.

Thus, HU-838 is now only the second Tigermoth preserved at an Indian Air Force establishment.

[Photograph and report from this page were published in Flypast – October 2002]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *