The Tiger Nine formation team was formed in the summer of 2005 in response to the request for a flypast of nine Tiger Moths at the 25th de Havilland Moth Club rally at Woburn Abbey. Based on a core of former Diamond Nine members, a new team, led by Jeff Milsom, engaged in a series of practice sessions, necessary to achieve the objective of flying the large close formation flypast at Woburn. This was achieved successfully, and was enthusiastically received by the Club, Having risen to the challenge; the newly formed team went on to develop their full display routine for the next season.
The Tiger Moth is rarely the first choice of machine for a formation display, with its sluggish aileron control, low power, poor visibility, lack of brakes and no electric starter, it requires a mature discipline to minimise the risks involved with operating a large group of Tiger Moths simultaneously. There is, however, something very British about doing it the hard way for the sake of it, and having risen to the occasion the newly formed group had a thirst for more. When questioned why they do it, there were a number of different responses all along the line of it being real flying, fun and flying with a group of people where there is great camaraderie.
The simple flypast evolved into the current display, which has been designed to keep the crowd entertained throughout the display. This is the only display in the world to have 9 Tiger Moths in close formation.
An important aspect of the team’s structure is the ability to invite new members and train them to be part of the team.
Potential new members are invited, early in the season, to attend training sessions which concentrate on the basics of close formation. Flown dual initially, in a formation of 2 of 3, these cover joining, keeping position, dismantling the formation, safety and emergencies.
Later in the spring the team meet for the three main practice days, at a private field in rural Wiltshire where they enjoy relatively clear airspace and no circuit traffic. Starting with formations of 3 or 4, to refresh formation flying skills, each practice concludes with a flypast and bomb burst for that section of the larger formation. The first day concludes with all sections flying together in a 9 ship display.
Video recording of the practice formation forms an essential part of the debrief, allowing each pilot to critically analyse his performance, and helps the team Display Authority Examiner to asses the pilots suitability for Display Authority issue and renewal.
The Team Members
1 Jeff Milsom (G-AHOO Green and Silver)
Leader of the Tiger 9. Former RAF Pilot, flew the F4 Phantom from Leuchars in Scotland. Jeff is a British Airways Airbus Captain.
G-AHOO was restored by Newbury Aeroplane Company in 1999 from a derelict airframe which had not flown since 1952. The aircraft has since won several Concourse awards and is based on a private airfield in Wiltshire.
2 Peter Benest (G-ANEM Yellow and Silver)
Peter is a retired BA captain and owner of Tiger Moth G-ANEM which he keeps at a private strip in southern England. He has been flying since 1961 and flying Tiger Moths since 1993. Peter is an instructor on the Tiger Moth and proud to be able to say that he used to be a member of the BEA flying group.
He flies with the Tiger Nine because it is fun. Interestingly his Tiger Moth was recovered from Ireland before it was renovated. It’s history includes being one of the aeroplanes used in the Blue Max film, painted with German first world war lozenge camouflage.
2.Mike Vaisey (G-APLU Red and White)
Mike originally trained as a Quantity Surveyor, and is one of the founding members, and a managing director of Vintage Engine Technology Ltd.
G-APLU was found in a barn near Redbourn in Hertfordshire in the late 70’s. He restored to fly in 1989 from Hatfield. Mike owns the aeroplane with his business partner.
He was invited to join the Diamond Nine formation team in the 1990’s and enjoyed it immensely but it was a major commitment every weekend. There was the great camaraderie of a team, the satisfaction of keeping in practice with formation skills and having a current DA.
Today the Tiger Nine offers the same team spirit and camaraderie and the necessary skills but with a lower commitment and some new blood. Mike has been a stalwart supporter of the de Havilland Moth Club due to his immense knowledge of the Gipsy engine.
3 Nigel Wookey (G-AXXV Military camouflage)
Nigel is a farmer who farms 1650 acres of wheat, barley, oats and beans with a herd of pigs in Wiltshire. He wanted to learn to fly, and took up lessons in 1992. He completed his PPL on Rollason Condors at Thruxton.
Being a farmer, he considered making his own farm strip, but having heard of the damage that could occur with a narrow strip and out of wind landings, he decided to devote a whole field, building his hangar in1992. It is his quiet beautiful private field that hosts the training sessions of the Tiger Nine.
Tiger G-AXXV has been in continuous flying service since it was built in 1943, and spent many years operating in France.
4 Jonathan Turnbull G-EMSY (Brown and Blue)
Jonathan joined the team in 2011 after retiring from Britania Airways. He flies G-EMSY based at Old Sarum near Salisbury.
5 Duncan Green G-AIXJ (Maroon and Silver)
Duncan is a Senior First Officer with British Airways, flying the Boeing 777 on long haul routes. He joined the team in 2009, and flies his father’s aircraft which is another Newbury Aeroplane Company restoration. Being the youngest member of the team is known as the ‘teenager’
5 Jeremy Radcliff G-AHAN (Brown and Silver).
Jeremy is an anaesthetist at Queen Square, London. He has a share in group owned G-AHAN. Also in the group is Anne Jackson, the only current Tiger Moth wing walker in the UK.
He’s been flying since 1982, and has 170 hours in Tiger Moths. He has flies Pitts Special. Why does her do it? “‘cos I’m barmy” was the immediate response, but under further questioning, the real reason emerges- “I like the teamwork”
6 Len Mitton G-ANFM (Yellow and Silver/Polished Aluminum engine cowl)
Len is a retired airline pilot, having flown Britannia’s, 707s, and 747s. He holds the record for length of time owning a Tiger Moth, being one of the first pilots in the ‘FM group. He has been a member of the group for 40 years. He used to take ‘FM overseas and toured Europe in her numerous times.
He was one of the mainstays of the previous Diamond Nine Formation Team
and one of his proudest moments was their final display at Old Warden where the ‘stealth formation’ of 13 tigers was flown.
He continues to fly with the Tiger Nine for the camaraderie and fun.
7 David Wildridge (G-ANEN Red and Silver)
Davids history is connected with Jeff Milsom, leader of the Tiger Nine. David was Jeff’s QFI on Hawks in 1982, later he was Jeff’s first officer on the Airbus A320.
David has been flying for 40 years and first flew Tigers when he was a Cranwell cadet. He progressed through the RAF to fly the Hawk and Tornado. In civilian life he has worked for British Airways, and currently works for the Spanish Airline Vueling.
He enjoys the real flying and considers being part of the Tiger Nine is better than spending money in pubs!
7 Robin Russell (G-ANMY Military Silver)
Robin is an ex RAF Phantom pilot, currently a ferry pilot having retired from Easy Jet where he flew the 737-700.
Tiger Moth, G-ANMY is group owned, with all seven members working for EasyJet.
The group is called the Dog Easy Group, after the original phonetic pronunciation of DE from the aeroplanes military serial DE 470, colours in which it flies today. The aeroplane lives in a private field not far from Oxford.
Why is he part of the Tiger Nine? “Because it is bloody good fun” is the reply!
8 Steve Bohill-Smith (G-AOBX Yellow and Silver)
Steve is a retired British Airways Captain. G-AOBX is a group owned aircraft, owned by six ex Concorde crew. The David Ross Flying group is named in honour of David Ross who bought ‘OBX as a basket case and restored it to airworthiness condition. The aircraft went on to win the Concourse Trophy for best Tiger Moth at Woburn. Sadly Dave passed away suddenly, and Steve set up the flying group in his memory.
Steve has an unusual claim to fame he held a Boeing 747 Display Authority and captained the Oasis 747 which flew in a number of UK air displays in the recent past. He has been flying commercially since 1972 including 6 years as a Concorde first officer.
He has been flying Tiger Moths for 30 years, and considers them real flying, so different from the day job flying “by the seat of your pants”.
8 Jerry Rendall (G-AOBX Yellow and Silver)
Jerry is a retired British Airways Captain flying G-AOBX in the same group as Steve B-S. Joined the team in 2009.
9.Nigel Lemon (G-ANFM Yellow and Silver (Polished Aluminium engine cowl)
Works for a company that sources and maintains helicopters for Emergency services. Nigel is a long serving shareholder and technical officer in the ‘FM group. He is rebuilding a Moth Major in his spare time.
10 Colin Dodd
Colin is the team CAA Display Authorisation Evaluator. He is an ex RAF Vulcan pilot and provides a great deal of support and enthusiasm for the team, renewing Display Authorizations and guiding the development of the display routine.