Fisher Tiger Moth, Fisher Flying Products Tiger Moth R 80 light sport, and experimental aircraft kit.

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Fisher Flying Products R-80 Tiger Moth

The R-80 Tiger Moth introduced in 1994 is all geodetic wood construction, covered in conventional aircraft covering materials.. Building times 400/600 hours for the standard kitwith the quick build kit, which includes ribs, spars, bulkheads, fuselage side, formers, fin rudder, and stabilizer, etc. taking about 150 hours off the building time. 

Empty Weight: 560 lbs.
Gross Weight: 1150 lbs.
Wing Span: 23 ft.
Wing Area: 170 sq. ft.
Engine: 582/618 Rotax Norton Rotary
Cruise Speed: 90 m.p.h.
Stall Speed: 38 m.p.h.
VNE: 110 m.p.h.
Construction: Wood/Conventional Fabric

It is a front and back seating bi-lane in a tail dragger configuration. Dual center mounted stick and rudder with left handed throttle controls. 

According to the manufacture the craft has been stress tested to +6 and -3 G loads. The factory indicates that over 200 kits have been sold with over 100 now flying.

For more information contact 
Fisher Flying Products

The open cockpit R-80 Tiger Moth is a real throw back to the old days of open cockpit flying. By taking advantage of light strong wood construction Fisher Flying has made it possible to replicate and improve on a well proven design. 

Performance on the R-80 is exceptional, it takes off in less than 300 feet and climbs out at 800 feet per minute using the Norton Rotary 100 HP engine (which I have had some reports on reliability and service). Cruise is an honest 90 m.p.h.. stall speed 40. Ground handling is a little tough since the pilot flies solo from the rear seat and visibility is limited.

The Ultralight Flyer rates

The Factory.................................................... 9.0
The R-80 Tiger Moth....................................... 8.0 

We fly the Norton-rotary-powered FFP Tiger Moth.

The author looks the part in a leather helmet, flying goggles, gauntlet gloves and a silk scarf.

The weather couldn't have been better when I left Denver -- visibility was 75 miles, temperature was 72F and the countryside was a rainbow of fall colors. By the time I landed in Bismarck, North Dakota, the temperature had dropped from Colorado's mid-seventies to the northern Great Plains mid-forties. One thing was for sure, though: It was more authentic. The overcast and damp weather was more like autumn at the Stag Lane Aerodrome in Middlesex, England, where the original de Havilland Tiger Moth was built.

Gene and Darlene Hanson, owners of Fisher Flying Products (FFP), were at the Bismarck Airport to pick me up, and from there we drove 140 miles to their manufacturing facility in Edgeley. This little community is a classic example of a small town in America's rich agricultural heartland.

From this location, FFP markets a number of well-known kit airplanes. Its line features the new folding wing Dakota Hawk, the two-place Classic biplane, and the attractive side-by-side Super Koala. The FFP clan also includes several proven ultralights such as the FP202, -303. -505, -606 and a single-seat biplane, the -404.

The 1,000-square-foot manufacturing facility has to be one of the most well-organized operations of its kind. Vacuum extractors keep dust to a minimum and the plant is squeaky clean. Regardless of the sometimes brutal North Dakota winters, the shop is maintained at 68F.

Shortly after I arrived, Virginia Fischer, staff member in charge of accounting, informed Gene and Darlene that two confirmed orders for FP-202 kits had just come in. That made everyone happy, and it was a cheerful beginning for my visit. In the shop, design engineer Steve Lambert and warehouseman Chuck Dathe were helping a telephone customer who was building a Dakota Hawk. Daine Woehl, assembly technician, was busy trying to finish a quick-build spar for one of the Classic orders. This was not your usual Monday-morning type of workplace; no one was complaining.

At 9 a.m., all of the employees took a coffee break. It was also time for peanut butter, jelly and toast with the Hansons. Was this a North Dakota tradition that I didn't know about? Having coffee with the boss is one thing, but peanut butter and jelly? On toast? And it happened twice that day.

Back in the shop, I was impressed with the quality of equipment and with the pieces being made. All components were fashioned from aircraft-grade materials: spruce, aluminum, steel, and AN hardware. Every wood piece looked as though it had been cut with a new router or a fresh saw blade. I think this says a lot for the high standards set by the owners of the company. I also noticed the pride everyone seemed to have in the FFP products.

Meet the Moth

Our test subject, the R80 (replica 80%) Tiger Moth, is the newest in the line and is available for a base price of $8500. The quick-build version goes for $9950. The basic airframe kit contains all the parts necessary to build a complete aircraft except for paint, wood varnish, restraint harnesses, instruments and engine. All kit parts are pre-cut, shaped, and where necessary, slotted. The hardware includes steel, aluminum, fiberglass and plastic components. Options include Matco wheels, hydraulic brakes, and a center section, 7.5-gallon auxiliary fuel tank.

The factory prototype has a Norton Rotary engine, but other power plant options are available, including the Rotax 582 and 618. Also under consideration is a Subaru conversion. The Norton AEIOOR is a Wankel rotary with twin rotors. lt has a 588-cc displacement and produces 100 hp at 7000 rpm. lt is liquid-cooled and weighs 117 pounds, dry. Carburation is a dual Tillotson diaphragm type with a consumption of 0.5 pounds per brake horsepower per hour at 70% cruise. The Norton has an integrated helical reduction gear system and a torsional vibration damper with a final ratio of 1:2.964. Ignition is dual CDI with two plugs per rotor. It has a TBO of 1500 hours.

As the British would say, the "leading particulars" of the R80 include a span of 23 feet with a total wing area of 170 square feet. The nose-to-tail length is 19 feet with a height of 7 feet. Empty weight of the prototype is 560 pounds and stress analysis testing has determined the gross weight to be 1150 pounds.

The actual DH82a Tiger Moth has a span of 29 feet 4 inches, a length of 23 feet 11 inches, and a height of 8 feet 9.5 inches. The empty weight is 1180 pounds and maximum permissible or gross weight is 1825 pounds.

Initial R80 performance data was based on tests done earlier in 1994 from a smooth grass field. The temperature at the time of testing was 68F and the winds were calm. The takeoff distance was consistently 300 feet and the landing distance was 400 feet. Rate of climb from the 1180-foot elevation farm strip was determined to be 800 fpm. With a fuel capacity of 12 gallons from a fuselage-mounted tank, the R80 should have a range of nearly 300 miles. The original DH82a Tiger Moth has a Gipsy Major inline, four-cylinder engine that produces 130 hp at 2350 rpm. Fuel capacity is 23.6 gallons (19 Imperial).

Tiger Moth photo
The Fisher Flying Products Tiger Moth offers a bit of aviation history in a simple kit aircraft package.

Flying the Moth

The weather remained cloudy and damp throughout my stay in North Dakota. When the wind finally died down and the ceiling lifted, I got my chance to fly the airplane. The family farm has a half-mile grass strip that parallels U.S. Highway 281. Looking around, I was pleased to find it completely open on the south end with no trees or powerlines. The area surrounding Edgeley is ideal for testing a new airplane -- umpteen thousand square miles of landing fields! I like that!

I began thinking of my home base at Greeley Weld County Airport in Colorado, which has a field elevation of 4660 feet. The Edgeley farm strip was 3080 feet lower. On a warm summer afternoon, airplane performance in Colorado diminishes by as much as 25% due to density altitude. My little Classic biplane, with a Rotax 532, has an effective horsepower of about 50 under those conditions. I figured that the R80, with its romping 100-hp rotary (for only 120 pounds of added airframe weight) should climb like a rocket!

I did a careful walkaround and the closer I looked, the more I was impressed with the details of construction. One of the nice things about an airplane like this is you can see virtually every control, hinge, wire and attachment. With the exception of the aileron hookups inside the wing, everything is open to inspection. The checklist was complete and I climbed into the spacious cockpit, a full 26 inches wide. Instrument check controls check--belts and harnesses on, I'm ready. Time to light the fire. The rotary came to life immediately. Although the airframe is made of wood, it was very quiet. I attribute this to the smoothness of the Norton.

After a couple of taxi tests, I spun the R80 around and applied full power. It was like a race horse out of the gate. I wasn't used to that much propeller bite. I couldn't stop grinning. The Norton has a power curve that seems to come on like an early two-stroke motorcycle, although much smoother. I thought it would be jerky, like the Rotax, but I was amazed to find it smooth as silk. The tachometer wound up to 6000 rpm and at full throttle it had a definite, but not annoying, howl. Propeller noise seemed to mask most of the engine noise.

Gene recommended that I maintain a climb speed of 60 mph, and the nose was well above the horizon. The altimeter had been set at zero for field elevation and it didn't seem like 60 seconds when I passed through 1000 feet.

The North Dakota countryside was absolutely beautiful through the silver wings of the R80. I wanted to loop this biplane, but that wasn't in the flight plan. The ceiling was too low for a safe recovery. Another climb, a few clearing turns, and it was time for a little stall work. Power back, hold the altitude. No surprises! At about 35-mph indicated, it was just a straight-ahead mush. I seemed to have some aileron control throughout, and although it would've been more controllable with four ailerons, I felt that it was responding to my input. I did notice that roll was a bit on the slow side even at cruise. If I were building one, I would choose to build the four aileron set up. It's not authentic, but it would make the aircraft handle better, I think.

The R80 cruised comfortably at 90 mph, but it was chilly that day, so I backed it off to 80 mph to cut the wind chill. Shallow turns, steep turns, they were just as I expected. I made a few steep turns, then some slowflight. There was adverse yaw, but that big de Havilland- designed rudder had the authority to bring it right on around. This airplane will make you a rudder-believer.

I decided to go back to the farm and shoot a couple of landings before terminating the test. I set up downwind at 70, base at 60, and over the fence at 55. The first touchdown was on the mains, and it handled beautifully all the way through to the tailwheel touch. I taxied about a quarter of a mile and took off again. This little Moth handles much easier than my Classic. It's solid as a rock. That says a lot as the Classic is known to have excellent manners on the taxiway and when making the transition to flight. My second landing was a three-pointer, and again there were no surprises. It even made me look good. I think the local airport watchers would have given me several 9.5s for those landings.

Looking Good!

As I taxied across the grass field on that gray, rainy day in North Dakota, my imagination took me to a training base somewhere in England. The R80 was stopped midfield and the engine was shut down. I paused for a moment. I had on my leather helmet; I was looking through a pair of English Halcyon flying goggles; my leather flying coat was open. I felt the history, and I savored the moment.

I experienced some of the same sensations when I flew two real Tiger Moths one in England and one in Australia (see the sidebar). Like the DH 82a, sometimes I felt like I was chasing the R80, but that, I think, was more a lack of experience than any fault in either aircraft. Everything else was very much the same.

So, congratulations Darlene, Gene, Steve, and all of you nice people there in Edgeley, North Dakota. I really think you have a winner! KP

The above courtesy: 
From the February 1995 issue of "KITPLANES"
Reprinted with permission from Kitplanes magazine.

Fisher Tiger Moth, Fisher Flying Products Tiger Moth R 80 light sport, and experimental aircraft kit.

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