It was a slow Saturday morning and I was sitting in my gallery reading the June issue of Aviation & Business Journal. It had an interesting story about Cliff Robertson, one of my favorite actors, and his love for flying. In the article it mentioned that Cliff had once owned three Tiger Moths. He acquired the first one while he was working on a movie in England.
I paused, looked out the window, and said, “Yep.” There sat one of those Tiger Moths on the ramp, not too far from my front door. It’s there most weekends. Nick Baker, its present owner, was wiping the engine cowling down, making sure the plane was spotless while waiting for his next customer.
Nick is a corporate pilot and normally flies a Cessna Citation, but on weekends you’ll usually find him at Cable Airport selling rides in this vintage Tiger Moth. Probably none of his customers know that it was once owned by Cliff Robertson or anything else about its interesting history. To them it’s just a rare opportunity to get a ride in an open cockpit biplane.
The plane, a de Havilland Tiger Moth DH 82A, serial number 82960, was built in 1940 and was assigned to the RAF until 1947. Then it was sold to a civilian flying club and was eventually acquired by Cliff Robertson in 1963. When Cliff shipped it home, he had it completely restored and it was then given the American registration number of N523R. Nick bought the plane from Cliff Robertson in 1987, and spent the next nine years completely restoring it again. Vintage planes like that need a lot of TLC, but that’s what keeps them as good as the day they came out of the factory.
Nick has all the aircraft’s logbooks except for the period between 1940-47 while it was serving in the RAF. Which brings up an interesting question. I know of other U.S. warbirds whose military history is missing. I wonder, was that standard procedure with surplused aircraft to not pass on their military logbooks?
Anyway, the logbooks he does have are very revealing about the aircraft’s history. Charles Lindbergh flew the plane in September 1969, and below his signature with a later date is astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s signature. Nick said also that the plane has appeared in movies.
Like the Tiger Moth, Nick Baker is a native of England. He was born in London and raised in England. When he was 13, he became an air cadet and got his first ride in a de Havilland Chipmunk. Fifteen minutes into the flight his instructor showed him how to loop the plane and then did it himself. He was hooked on flying from then on. In 1980, he came over to the U.S. for a visit and decided to stay. Later, in 1987, when he had the opportunity to acquire Cliff’s Tiger Moth, he knew that was the plane for him.
Cliff Robertson can rest assured that his beloved Tiger Moth is in good hands. It is continuing to bring joy and happiness to another generation that has never known the thrill of flying in an open cockpit biplane.