ZS-FZF is a 1942 Australian built de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth. It was obtained as a bundle of parts in Mozambique by Bob Hay, who sold the remainder of the parts to the Streckers, thereby unintentionally starting their famous business. It was built by Bob under Bok Strecker’s supervision and Bob used it to teach himself aerobatics in the early 1970s.
He crashed his Pitts S-1 Special ZS-FUN following an engine failure during an aerobatic demonstration for a camera shoot during the Great American Air Circus. He was one of the top billed pilots but had now destroyed his mount. The forced landing in between two rows of T Hangers at Baragwanath went well until he came across a ditch which has been dug the day before to add electricity to the hangers. The small wheels were the same diameter as the ditch. He escaped with some minor cuts but a very broken Pitts. Not wanting to let the organisers of the air show down, he agreed to take his Tiger Moth to Welkom for the display.
The display was changed and started at a significantly greater height than he normally would have used, so much so that near the end he felt he still had enough height to do one more manoeuvre. Although he now goes cold at the very thought thereof, he initiated a “falling leaf” (a series of incipient spins which alternate in direction as soon as the one stops).”This will look good!”. The last planned fall developed into a spin. He was just able to stop the rotation and get some airflow reattached to the wings when he ran out of altitude. God blesses some people, and that day he choose Bob. Bob hit the Welkom dam in a nose high pitch attitude but with significant downward vertical speed, and some forward speed. Imagine your chances of unintentionally landing in the only soft spot for probably many miles in each direction – in the middle of winter!
Brian Zeederburg claims he started swimming out to the crash scene in the dam at the same time of the big splash. Bob was knocked unconscious by the compass as the shoulder harness gave way, but was immediately revived by the freezing water. He had by now lost his glasses and could not see much, except brown water with green seaweed. He battled to release the remainder of the harness that was attempting to drown him after allowing him to imprint his last heading permanently on his forehead.
Bob escaped the cockpit (luckily he was alone) and started swimming out to sea, as Brian attempted to call him to shore. Although we make light of Bob’s injuries, they were severe. He and the Tiger were brought to shore by Brian Zeederburg and others in poor shape. While treating Bob in the local hospital, the attending nurse was having a really hard time getting rid of some seaweed in his forehead. Luckily Brian was also there, and noticed her problem. Looking over her shoulder he was immediately able to diagnose the problem – “leave that alone, it’s the stitches from last weekend’s flying accident”.
Having broken his only two aircraft in two successive weekends, he lacked a mount for the impending aerobatic championships later that month. A true test of friendship was undertaken when he was loaned ZS-BUC the world’s oldest Bucker Jungmann for the event.
Back to the Tiger Moth. He painstakingly rebuilt it over the next 16 or so years, resulting in a truly spectacular restoration. It has recognition lights, leading edge slats, flares, brass fire extinguisher and a Morse Lamp. He even had the “pram hood” which covered the rear cockpit with a roof so that the pilot could experience instrument conditions. (I am still dying to try this, but with no artificial horizon it could be interesting). Until recently it also had its original fuel tank, but it became a maintenance nightmare and was reluctantly replaced with a more modern larger unit.
This has to be the world’s most authentic flying Tiger Moth.
At the time of writing she is now owned by John Oliver Gerondeanos.