Last updated 1 July 2021

A celebration of the glory days of Australian aerial agricultural Tiger Moths

Typical Super Spread Aviation agricultural Tiger Moth, pictured at home base Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne in March 1961.
John Hopton collection

          Super Spread Aviation Pty Ltd, Melbourne was formed in 1952 by two former RAAF men Austin "Aussie" Miller and Ernest "Ernie" Tadgell, who wanted to join the growing aerial agriculture business. They started with two Tiger Moths converted for dusting superphosphate and a lease on a hangar at Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne. teThe company grew to become a leading aerial agricultural operator, later introducing EP-9s, CA-28 Ceres and Cessna 180s before standardising on Beavers. However RAAF disposals DH.82 Tiger Moths were the backbone of the fleet for the first ten years, when a total of 28 Tiger Moths were owned.
          Competitive from the start, Super Spread Aviation sent its Tiger Moths with pilots and support crews far and wide. Only a month after the company commenced operations, Aussie Miller wrote off Tiger VH-AMD in an accident while dusting at Oakey Qld on 2 September 1952. They crossed the country to work the West Australian wheat belt each winter season from June 1953 until replaced by EP-9s and Ceres which made the long trek across to the West up until 1964. Super Spread Tigers also carried out ag work in SA, NSW and Queensland.  DCA agreed to reserve the VH-SS_ registration block for Super Spread's use and many of the registrations were re-used by the company on different aircraft. The first fatal accident occurred 19 September 1954 when Doug McCutcheon was killed while spraying at Minyip Victoria in Tiger Moth VH-SSC.
         Rural Aviation Pty Ltd, Adelaide
was taken over in January 1956, adding 4 Tiger Moths, a Parafield office and maintenance hangar, plus an order book of SA farming customers.  During 1957 when extra capital was needed to introduce new aircraft types, a 51% share of Super Spread Aviation was acquired by New Zealand stock and station agents and seed merchants Wright Stephenson & Co Ltd. Then in a 1960 business reorganisation, the original partners Miller and Tadgell sold their shares to Wright Stephenson and left the company, with an agreement that neither would start a new aerial ag business in Victoria within the next four years. Ernie Tadgell moved to Toowoomba Qld to establish a successful new aerial ag company Tadgell Aviation, while Aussie Miller purchased a hotel at Launceston Tasmania. Miller was to reappear in 1965 as Lukey Miller Aerial Services in Gippsland with a Beaver VH-MLB, reforming as Western Aerial Services at Derinallum Vic.

         The Department of Civil Aviation was increasingly concerned by the high rate of pilot fatalities and serious injury sustained in agricultural Tiger Moth accidents compared with other agricultural aircraft types. To protect the pilot's head when the aircraft overturned, in 1960 an approved overturn truss was mandated for all agricultural DH.82s in Australia. DCA later implemented a 3 year retirement plan for the remaining 70 agriculrural Tigers leading up to a final grounding for agricultural use on 31 December 1965. Super Spread Aviation sold its final Tigers the previous year and they went on to long lives as valued vintage aircraft with private owners.

            The standard Tiger Moth overturn truss incorporating the pilot's harness.                
Photo by Neil Follet

        Super Spread Aviation continued to grow, merging with Proctor's Rural Services (Alexandra Vic), Air Mist Pty Ltd (Tasmania and Adelaide) and Robbys Aerial Services (Adelaide).  A major change came in 1963 when Aerial Agriculture Pty Ltd, Sydney took over Super Spread and standardised on DHC-2 Beavers and Callair A9As. Aerial Agriculture's Manager and founder Tom Watson spent 1963-1964 at Super Spread's Moorabbin office to manage the transition. Super Spread continued under its own name for another two decades.
        My thanks to the photographers who took these pictures, especially Neil Follett who dug out so many of his early negatives.

VH-SSA joined the fleet in 1953 and survived until crashing into trees near Skipton Victoria 2 January 1963.
Seen at Moorabbin January 1962 with the pilot's leather jacket slung aross the cockpit.
Photo by Peter R. Keating


This is the first VH-SSB, fleet No.4, photographed at Moorabbin in August 1953 by Eddie Coates

Eddie Coates photographed VH-SSD fleet No.5 at Moorabbin in 1954. It was sold in 1959

VH-SSE with dayglo orange cowling and rudder, fleet number 6, crashed at Myrtleford Vic in December 1960.
Photo by Neil Follett

VH-SSF at Moorabbin in March 1961 was written-off the following year.               John Hopton Collection

VH-SSG at Moorabbin in January 1962 was transferred to associate company Air Mist later that year.
Photo by Peter R. Keating

VH-SSG at Parafield in December 1963 now with Air Mist Pty Ltd, a company taken over by Super Spread.
Air Mist continued under its own name in SA, Victoria and Tasmania.              Photo by Geoff Goodall

VH-SSG at Parafield in September 1964, now painted in Air Mist Pty Ltd markings.
Photo by John M. Smith courtesy SA Aviation Museum

VH-SSH outside the Super Spread hangar at Moorabbin in 1960.                        Photo by Neil Follett

VH-SSH on the grass at Moorabbin in May 1964 with red-doped fabric repairs.
It was sold to Melbourne private owner in December that year.             Photo by Geoff Goodall

VH-SSH at Moorabbin in February 1965 now privately-owned. It was restored back to a two-seater later that year.
Photo by Geoff Goodall

Typical of so many former ag Tigers, VH-SSH went on to a long active life as a valued vintage aircraft.
Seen at Beverley WA in November 1980.                                      Photo by Geoff Goodall

An classic portrait of VH-SSI at Moorabbin November 1962: silver, red lettering and dayglo orange panels.
Photo by Richard Hourigan

VH-SSK at Moorabbin in March 1963. It was sold later that year.                       Photo by Neil Follett

VH-SSM at Moorabbin in 1955, fleet No.16 was sold in 1959.                           Photo by Eddie Coates

VH-SSN was in the Super Spread fleet from 1954 to 1961 when sold.                 Photo by Neil Follett

VH-SSP fleet No.20 at Moorabbin. It was sold in 1958.                                         Photo by Neil Follett

VH-SST at a country airfield around 1958, with Super Spread painted in an unusual style.      Neil Follett collection

VH-SSU at Moorabbin shortly before it was wrecked while crop dusting near Cobden Vic in March 1957.
The pilot received minor injuries.                                                         Photo by Neil Follett

VH-SSW in 1960 as a crop duster.                                                            Neil Follett Collection

VH-FAS came from Rural Aviation in Adelaide which was taken over by Super Spread Aviation in 1956.
Photographed at Moorabbin in July 1961 by Neil Follett

VH-ATE seen on the grass opposite the Super Spread hangar at Moorabbin in 1961 became VH-SSK.
Photo by Neil Follett

VH-BBD came from Rural Aviation, Adelaide. Photographed at Moorabbin in 1957 by Barrie Colledge

VH-BBD at Parafield SA in August 1962 in an unusual green, white and silver paint scheme.
                Photo by Geoff Goodall

VH-BBD back in standard Super Spread scheme at Moorabbin early 1963 before it was reregisterd VH-SSB.
Photo by Neil Follett

VH-BJG fleet no.28 purchased in 1956 crashed a long way from home at Rockhampton Qld in February 1958.
Photo by Neil Follett

VH-AOF was another Tiger Moth acquired in the 1956 takeover of Rural Aviation at Parafield SA.
Seen at Moorabbin in 1958, it was written off the following year.                Photo by Neil Follett

Other Super Spread Aviation aircrfaft types during the Tiger Moth era:

Super Spread introduced the Edgar Percival EP-9 in Australia in 1957, operating four until 1964.
VH-SSV at Moorabbin 1961.                                          John Hopton Collection

VH-SSY at Moorabbin 1962 was one of four Super Spread CAC CA-28 Ceres.       Photo by Neil Follett

Two RAAF disposals CAC Wirraways VH-SSF and VH-SSG were flown on aerial agricultural trials 1954-1956.
VH-SSF seen retired at Moorabbin circa 1958.                                       Photo: Barrie Colledge

A total of seven Cessna 180s were purchased from 1962 as direct replacements of the Tiger Moths.
VH-SSJ at Parafield in May 1963                                                             Photo by Geoff Goodall


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