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DH60M VH-UKC C/N 711-800. The world’s first serial produced Metal Moth. The aircraft won the Australian East-West Air Race in 1929.
Bildet over viser Moth DH60M 125 LN-KFM under Flydagen 2017. Foto: Daniel Karlsson

 

DH60M Moth VH-UKC – The aircraft won the Australian East-West Air Race in 1929

 

The DH60M aircraft carrying serial number 711-800 was first delivered from the De Havilland factory at Stag Lane on March 26, 1929. It was the world’s first serial «metal» Moth, so named because its airframe was constructed of welded steel pipes. In earlier models of the type, the airframe was made of wood.

The aircraft is categorised as a DH60M (M for metal fuselage). The Moth was the forerunner of the DH82 Tiger Moth. Hence the two types share many identical parts, including the metal airframe, the undercarriage, the tail section and the rudders.

This particular DH60M aircraft was delivered to de Havilland Aircraft Ltd. in Melbourne, Australia and was registered on the Australian register as VH-UKC. As the only Metal Moth, it won The Western Australian Centenary East-West Contest that lasted from September 30 to October 5, 1929. Pilot was British aviation pioneer Hereward de Havilland, the younger brother of Geoffrey de Havilland. He used 22 hours, 50 minutes and 23 seconds across the continent.

According to H. C. Miller in his book «Early Birds», the aircraft was «a special Moth, fitted with a racing engine of very high compression».

Shortly after the competition a windstorm blew up. «A strong gust of wind struck two machines UKC and UKJ and mixed them up. In the rebuiling process UKJ requires both bottom wings, as the main spars in each are broken, and UKC requires a top starboard wing, as the main spar is broken on it». New wings were mounted on November 22, 1929.

A few months later, on May 4, 1930, the VH-UKC crashed near Nyngan in New South Wales. The plane was written off and the salvageable parts were sold. There was some talk of attempting to rebuild the aircraft later in 1930, and the question came up again in 1940 before it was finally donated to the Aero Club of New South Wales as a machine for spare parts.

It was not until 1993 that a new attempt to restore the aircraft was again initiated. An effort was made to collect as many Moth and Tiger Moth parts as possible. However, the missing Gipsy One engine proved to be a tremendous obstacle. After a few years, interest in the aircraft waned and the project was advertised for sale.

The management at Kjeller flyhistoriske forening (KFF – Kjeller Aviation History Society discovered the advertisement for the Australian DH60M aircraft and discerned a possibility to complete its restoration to airworthiness. The decision was made to buy the remains of VH-UKC and complete the rebuild in Norway. On January 20, 2006, a large crate arrived in Oslo from Australia on a ship owned by the Thv. Wilhelmsen shipping company.

In early Norwegian aviation history, the aircraft type DH60M Moth had been one of the successors to the Norwegian «Kaje» trainer, and as such was of great historical interest at Kjeller airfield where KFF is seated. In the 1930s, three DH60 Moths were purchased in England, while a further ten aircraft were built at Kjeller under license to De Havilland.

There was great excitement when the crate was opened and the contents taken out. Inside was a complete airframe, fuselage coverings made of plywood, a new stick compartment, eight new wing spars, all rudders, tailpiece parts, propeller, petrol tank, undercarriage, two wheels, tail skid, a number of newly constructed ribs, cowling coverings, engine mounts, several smaller parts, a few of the instruments and more besides. A propeller was also included in the shipment, but this was so antiquated that it was decided not to utilise it in the restoration.

The same building team that had successfully restored Tiger Moth No. 189 to airworthiness now commenced work on restoring VH-UKC in the late fall of 2006. Since many of the parts in the DH60M and the DH82 are identical, many drawings were available to the team from the restoration they had just completed of the DH82 Tiger Moth. Any drawings that were lacking could, in most instances, be ordered from England. An ex-ray inspection of the airframe would also have to be made.

The structure of the airframe consists of a forward and aft section that are bolted together. The ex-ray inspection carried out at the main workshop of Luftforsvarets Hovedverksted Kjeller (LHK), now known as AIM Norway, revealed that there was a great deal of corrosion in the aft fuselage section. This had to be discarded; however, the forward section of the fuselage was approved for use. However, the discovery of corrosion in the airframe was an unsettling surprise and gave rise to concerns that the sections may have been stored under different kinds of conditions.

Fortunately, there was a welding jig at Kjeller from the work that had been carried out on the airframe of the DH82. The team was able to utilise this in welding a new aft fuselage to KFF’s newly acquired DH60M. The LHK workshops provided invaluable assistance in the construction of a new aft fuselage from their welding workshops in the summer of 2010. The restoration team used the original aft fuselage as a template for a number of details during the construction of the new fuselage.

A review of the parts revealed that there was still a good deal missing. Besides the engine itself, which the team already knew was gone, there was no forward seat, the fastening hardware for the two doors was missing, along with engine cowling covers, wing struts, the firewall, the long exhaust pipe, both windshields and more.

KFF managed to locate a Gipsy One engine for the aircraft in Belgium. The engine was duly purchased and sent to Vintage Engine Technologies Ltd in England for overhaul -- the same company that had delivered the engine for KFF’s Tiger Moth 189. The overhauled engine came back to Norway, and the company had also repaired the carburettor as well as modified the crankshafts using four bolts instead of the original two.

The LHK workshops at Kjeller assisted the restoration effort by constructing a new seat for the forward cockpit as well as the locking mechanisms for the doors.

The restoration team had to deal with a new snag when it was discovered that two of the new spars had become bent. They succeeded in straightening one of them, but the other was worse for having been steamed in a metal pipe in the hope of being able to correct the problem.

So the team set to work making templates for wing ribs, and in due course, the ribs themselves. Both of the ailerons in the crate from Australia turned out to be for the right wing only. Fortunately, there was a defective left wing aileron from a DH82 lying in the hangar. Upon repairing it, the team were able to successfully use it in the DH60.

Gradually, as the wings, rudders, elevators and the fuselage were completed, they were covered with Ceconite 102 and the fabric was coated with dope. The dismantled parts of the aircraft were then sent to Gardermoen Military Airbase to be painted by Tor Nyhus.

Tor Nyhus did a first-class job, with work that was just as professional as that which had been done when painting Tiger Moth 189. The aircraft was painted and marked as No. 125, which had been the last of ten DH60M Moths to be built under license at the Kjeller Aircraft Factory (Flyfabrikken) in 1932, and used by the Army Flying School at Kjeller in the 1930s.

The shipment from Australia included wheels of the type that is used on the Tiger Moth. These are 7”x19” balloon tires, whereas the Moth was originally fitted with 4” x 23.5” tires. The team wanted to use the original type of wheels on the aeroplane. In due course, they came into contact with an Englishman who was able to arrange for new rims to be made for the aircraft in New Zealand.

Tires for the aircraft proved to be quite a problem until the team came upon the idea of using the spare tires of a Saab 9000. New engine cowlings were ordered from England, but there were still no windshields. Using drawings obtained from de Havilland Support, the team was able to get new windshields made. Four new wing struts were also made, and the long exhaust pipe running along the left side of the fuselage was made by Juul Furulund and his son Jan Kenneth.

Towards the end of Spring 2017, the restoration was finally complete and the aircraft was registered as LN-KFM. The aircraft was inspected and approved by the inspector from the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority with flying colours.

KFF’s chief test pilot Helge Storflor took off in the restored aircraft for the first time on April 18, 2017 and reported that the aeroplane handled very well. Only a few minor adjustments were necessary. During the official rollout of the aircraft on May 9, it was christened «Juul», in honour of the extraordinary efforts made by Juul Furulund in its restoration, and who, along with the head of the restoration team, Per-Øivind Skarphol, played a very central role in the restoration of this historic aircraft.

DH60M Moth 125 «Juul» has become the oldest aircraft in Norway still flying. With this restoration, KFF has successfully completed the rebuilding of all three main trainer aircrafts used by Hærens Flyvevesen in the 1920s–1930s; F.F.9 Kaje, DH60M Standard Moth and DH82 Tiger Moth.

Text: Per-Øivind Skarphol and Lars Brede Grøndahl

Translation: Jennifer C. Chisholm-Høibråten

Sources: Charles Edmonds, Gipsy Air, Churnside Park, Victoria, Australia

Moth DH60M

Cockpit til Moth DH60M 125 LN-KFM.

DH60M Moth 125 «Juul» LN-KFM (VH-UKC)

The world’s first serial produced Metal Moth from de Havilland Stag Lane in England 26th of March 1929

Winner of The East-West Air Race (from Melbourne to Perth) across Australia in 1929

Pilot major Hereward de Havilland

Rebuilt by Kjeller Flyhistoriske Forening (KFF) at Kjeller AFB, Oslo, Norway 2006–2017

Initiated by colonel Knut Kinne and lieutenant general Odd Svang-Rasmussen

Special thanks to Juul Furulund and Per-Øivind Skarphol

First Flight 18th of April 2017 by chief pilot at KFF, Helge Storflor

Roll-out at Kjeller 9th of May 2017

Photo pilot: Hans Petter Fure in Birddog

Photo: Daniel Karlsson

 

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