A surprise gift and a little bit of history
Then out of the blue I get an offer that I can’t refuse, a complete Tiger Cub and trailer hangar FREE. All that and no trek to the frozen North this time, this one is at Eltham less than a hour away. I arrange to go for a look with Joan one evening. It’s dark by the time we arrive but it easy to spot which house, it’s the one with the large scruffy trailer on the drive. We knock on the door and are answered by a short figure with bright intelligent eyes that sparkle at us though he glasses. Hello, he says, I’d hoped that you get here before dark. It’s there he says pointing at the trailer, I don’t know what you are to be able to see, I had hoped that you be here before dark he reiterated. I’m Ken he says shaking hands as we introduce ourselves. We got our little torch from the car and peered into the trailer to reveal a totally complete little Cub her registration GMMKT shining on her tail. She has two flat tyres and some of the fabric seams are peeling, that apart she looks in good shape considering that she has sat in her trailer for better than 20 yrs. Retiring inside we learn a lot more. Ken, it seems is a retired engineer who worked much of the time for the MOD,. he then worked offshore. He still has a JAR PPL which he uses to fly the occasional Cessna.
Ken told us that KT was built by him at the end of unregulated microlighting so there were no build inspections. To gain her permit he sent her to the MBA factory for test flying. While she was there awaiting flight the factory went under. So he brought her home again, then he started his offshore work and so missed the time where Russ Light formed Tiger Cub Developments to support the little biplanes that he liked so much. Russ then moved on to the two seat version, the lovely Sherwood Ranger and poor old KT had missed her chance. A call to the BMAA confirmed there was little or no chance of KT ever getting a permit. As Cubs were a jig built kit though it seemed that she could be used as a source of spare parts in the rebuild of another Cub, KM for instance. So I guess at least most of her would eventually get to fly.
OK, next problem, how to get her home and where was that home to be? Both were solved easier than I’d have believed. Firstly, at Joan’s suggestion I rang Tony HS, Hon. Sec. of the Essex Microlight Club. Tony volunteered straight away and he was perfectly suited to the task. As an enthusiastic caravan owner he had a car that was well matched to the job and had a huge amount of experience at towing large loads. Finding a home for her turned into a simple task, in three days I’d had two offers. Firstly from Rob at London Colney where by removing the wings I’d be able to store her in the back of Robs hangar and the trailer in the trailer park and secondly an offer from Angie to store her at the farm. It really is amazing how helpful people can be.
The big pickup day arrived, or at least the pickup evening. I met up with Tony at the M25 services. It wasn’t until I got there that I remembered that I’d never seen Tony’s car, his aeroplane yes, car no. Still I suppose that is one of the few blessings of the mobile phone. As it happened Tony arrived within minutes of me so we transferred all the bits and pieces that I thought that we might need and set off. This time we arrived in daylight and Tony had a good look inside before we set to covering the whole thing with new tarpaulins. This was because the old ones although still keeping the weather out looked pretty rotten and my imagination had us shedding bits of rotting canvas all over the M25 and the Kent and Essex countryside as we trailed disintegrating flags of cloth like the Black Pearl from the Pirates of the Caribbean. Tony checked out the running gear and we were away. We moved smoothly along with Tony showing his expertise and making it all look very easy. All went well until Tony heard that the M11 was blocked so we headed in from South Weald, neither of us knew this route very well but Tony had his GPS so no problem. As we drove the road seemed to get progressively smaller and the darkness started to descend. We knew we were close but despite the GPS the Navstock Triangle got us. This is the name given to the maze of small roads in the area. They all look similar and wind in unexpected directions, at times it is comforting that the roadside isn’t littered with the remains of lost souls. Tony was the master of the situation and reset his GPS for point that I was familiar with and we soon emerged into country that I recognized and shortly after we turned into the farm where Joan had made us a cuppa. And so another Tiger Cub joined the collection.
By the next weekend I was impatient for a good look at the latest addition to my growing litter. So, it seemed were several others. Rob asked that we let him know when we were heading down and Angie appeared as soon as we started to move the trailer.
With a good look in daylight it was obvious that the ply that the tailgate was made of had seen better days and the ply floor also looked a bit dodgy, so it was going to take a bit of care to ease her out of her cocoon. So some support was given to the tailgate and we pumped up the tyres and moved her carefully backwards using chocks to limit her to a few inches at a time.
Slowly and carefully she emerged into the sunlight for the first time in more than 20yrs. She looked good, apart from the fabric edges lifting that we had already noted and the rubber mountings for the instrument panel had died and the panel hung on its wires and tubes.
Now, all these years after I’d seen the Tiger Cub in the magazine I had the opportunity to sit in a Cub cockpit as this was the first complete one that I’d seen since ogling Bob Adams in GMJSU at Cranfield in 1984. It wasn’t going to be easy as the firm alloy cockpit floor was well forward of the narrow opening.
In the years since I envied Bob swinging into his cockpit I’d put on two stone of lard and acquired a damaged hip. Never mind, there is very little that you can’t do if you want to badly enough, and believe me, I wanted to. On my third attempt I swung in more easily than I’d thought, just a matter of getting the method right.
The real surprise was the amount of room and the shortness of the stick. Everything fell nicely to hand especially the neat little throttle quadrant with its well made friction nut. The only gripe I could find was that to reach the altimeter adjustment was a long reach forward. All too soon it was time to yield my place to the next in line. This was Angie, who swung nimbly into place. Well, maybe she’d been watching me, after all it couldn’t just be that she was younger, fitter and a whole lot lighter than me could it? Next in was Joan who looked quite at home and it was a shame but it was out of the question for Rob to get in, he is a big lad and gallons into pint pots sprang to mind. With the state of the trailer it was going to be a hell of job to get her back inside especially as the tail wheel trolley was rapidly dying. This was partially bad news as without the trolley and with the wings folded the wing tips fouled the ground.
Angie had the idea of putting little KT behind her Yak in the hangar so we pulled the big beastie out and pushed the little beastie in with Rob putting all his weight on the engine to keep the wingtips clear of the ground as the trolley fell apart the more we moved it. As we left she looked almost cute behind the big Yak.
What a shame that she can never fly as she is, particularly as there are many nice touches in the way she’d been made, you could see that there had been an engineer involved. Still, combined with GMNKM that will be one more Tiger Cub still flying.
Postscript: We never did manage to make use of KT. Too many other jobs needed doing elsewhere and I donated her as an SSDR* project to a chap in Northern Ireland.
*Single Seat DeRegulation – see [here] for more information.